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The Selfish Seamstress loves exploiting her readership as an idea factory. And you’ve all been bending to her wishes so well in the last few days that she’s going to issue yet another challenge.

Now that she’s on the verge of wrapping up one cheerful print project, she’s contemplating future such conquests. And she could use some design help. What, dear readers, would you do with this?

For those of you who hate it, the incorrect answer is, “Burn it.”  For those of you who love it, another incorrect answer is, “Send it to me!” Don’t be silly.

I’ve had this bold vintage border print cotton in my stash for a while and I adore it, but I’m always at a loss as to what to do with it. It’s a little bit 70’s, a little bit art nouveau, ever so slightly kimono-flavored, and so very different from anything else I have. The fabric is fairly lightweight, but not floaty, and  it’s about 45″ wide.  I don’t have too much of it, maybe 2 yards or so.

So what should I do with this? The pattern is so huge that I want to avoid too much piecing, and of course I want to preserve the border-y-ness of it. A maxi-dress is the obvious choice, but I’m not so keen on hippie-style dresses for myself. Any ideas, my clever readers? Patterns or styles that jump to mind?

[UPDATE: Oooh, the suggestions are rolling in fast- thanks!  One clarification though- the picture above shows the whole width of the fabric- it’s not folded lengthwise.  The white is only on one edge. So something like a knee-length skirt or sheath (especially on my short little legs) would be almost ALL border and barely incorporate the blue, even if I cut off most of the white. Sorry, I should have wrapped the fabric around myself to give you an idea of just how deep that floral border is (and I think Katherine is right- now that I look at it, they do kind of look like nasturtiums, not poppies!)]

A friend of mine once remarked that physically attractive women could be divided into three categories of attractiveness: Beautiful, Sexy, and Cute. I don’t think this is the only possible way of dividing the space, but it seems as reasonable a taxonomy as any. I also don’t think it’s quite so simple, as I find that women generally possess all of these qualities in different measures and ratios, and perhaps some even in equal measure. But I think my friend’s point is rather valid that for many or most women, one of these qualities is more dominant (Primarily Beautiful, Primarily Sexy, or Primarily Cute) than the others in their attractiveness. (I think the same taxonomy could also be applied to men, but I think people use those words differently when talking about men, so I’ll just ignore the topic of men’s attractiveness for this discussion.)

If the Selfish Seamstress may be so bold as to assume that she is at least somewhat attractive to some person somewhere (and we are talking about being attractive on the outside, as everyone knows that on the inside the Selfish Seamstress is purely hideous with no redeeming inner beauty), then she would have to also (somewhat grudgingly) place herself squarely in the Primarily Cute pile, rather than the Primarily Sexy or Primarily Beautiful pile. Moonfaced, round-eyed, and no larger than your thumb, this seems the most obvious categorization.

So why am I thinking about this today?  Because I’ve recently purchased some awfully cute prints (contrary to popular belief, the Selfish Seamstress does not hate prints):

That’s an Amy Butler polka dot cotton, earmarked for a light spring trench jacket.

That’s a bold floral Amy Butler cotton sateen in a light decorator weight, intended for a simple 3/4 length coat, to be worn with the simplest of sheath dresses and updo. (Sigh.  If I must be forced to admit it, I got the idea for such a coat after seeing a floral coat on some random lady on some random TV show.  She’s NOT my style icon, but I just like the coat, okay?)

This was a vintage find- 8 yards (!!) of cotton with a French market scene border print, destined to become a sundress with spaghetti straps and a full, full skirt. I would love to find a cardigan in that shade of French blue to belt over it. 

So what was the point of that whole prelude about cuteness?  Simply that I think that if you fall into the Primarily Cute bucket (not literally fall into a bucket of cuteness), you have to take especial precaution with your cute prints. A tall, skinny, exotic model can make a pink flowered chiffon Anna Sui babydoll dress look chic and edgy; the same dress on the Selfish Seamstress would look as though she had indeed stolen it off of a baby doll. For me, it is imperative that a cute print be paired with a sophisticated or even austere cut, unless I want to look like a giant toddler. 

Particular details of cut about which I have to be careful: the aforementioned babydoll silhouette, puff sleeves, flounces at the hem, Peter Pan collars, empire waists, a-line dresses (a-line skirts are ok), bows. Most of these I think I can pull off in some cases with a sophisticated or plain fabric, but you won’t catch any of them stepping out with any of the prints above. Incidentally, I would also warn the ladies in the “Primarily Sexy” category to be careful when pairing cutesy print + cutesy cut.  Could end up looking a little costume-y, if you know what I mean.

In any case, prints are still a gamble for me, and even sticking to simple fitted bodices and tailored trench details don’t guarantee that the garments I have planned for those fabrics won’t be flops. But I guess that’s just trial and error at work.

How about you?  What elements and combinations do you love and what do you know to stay away from?

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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