Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tips for an ethical, mostly-op-shopped, somewhat vintage maternity wardrobe

Pregnancy can be a time to sloth around in trackpants and baggy t-shirts, or an incredibly fun fashion experiment. (Not that there's anything wrong with option one if you want to take it.)

I'm in my thirties, and style guides tell me I should have worked out "my look" by now. I don't think I've got a look, and if I do, I'm not completely happy with it. Whether you have your look defined or not, pregnancy is likely to force you to rethink it for a temporary period. You may as well have fun and embrace it!

My approach to ethical clothing is mostly to buy second hand. While op-shopping allowed me to buy some clothing at very cheap prices, my focus wasn't primarily on saving money.

Realistically, I spent quite a lot on clothes I only needed for a short space of time. But, I would say that I spent the equivalent of buying a small, focused maternity wardrobe of new clothes. New maternity clothes are not cheap!

What op-shopping allowed me to do was to spend that money on building a large and varied maternity wardrobe, taking fashion risks, trying out new styles, colours and patterns, and splurging a little on extra-nice and vintage pieces. 

I could buy things, outgrow them, and donate them back. I could buy clothes for winter, then buy some more for spring. I could experiment with a style, then go out hunting for more items like it. I could buy things that seemed big enough, then go out again to buy more when I got even bigger.

It was fun, and I have rarely enjoyed clothes as much as during my pregnancy. Here are my tips to help that happen for you too!

1. Try things on.

There were some things that even I was surprised I took into the changeroom, but I came up with some winners that way.


Your body is a different shape, and you no longer know what suits you, so be open. Also, I found sizes were very hard to pick, and I took a few fitting risks that paid off too!

2. Belts. All the belts. And try things on with belts.

I feel like some kind of idiot that I didn't understand about belts before. I wore them occasionally to hold up my jeans. My post-pregnancy wardrobe is going to be revolutionised by this discovery.

For pregnancy, they were, if not a life-saver, certainly a dress-saver. I am very used to having a waist. It wasn't always as small as I'd like, but it was always there. Smaller than my bust. Smaller than my hips. Lovely.

Then, suddenly, the waist was no more. Having another point to draw clothes in at made me feel a lot more elegant and shapely. I went with the "above the bump" belting option, and I love it.


This vintage dress needs its waistline hitched up a bit and a belt, and then I love it!

Make sure you take a belt into the changeroom to get the best impression of a dress or top.


This was a "I can't believe I'm trying this on", but I was drawn to the colours and the fact that it appeared to be handmade. But otherwise, basically a sack with buttons. A belt can do some wondrous things.

3. Wear Short Dresses as Tops/Over Pants

Things get a lot shorter when they have a big bump to cover. I wore almost everything over leggings or jeans. Dignity maintained.

Like this short 1960s dress. I paired it with a skirt, capri pants or short jeans.


This one required a quick zip with the sewing machine to lift the waistline and ties up to my raised belly height, but then it became an easy comfortable maternity staple for me.


4. Balance Your Volume

I think I only remember one piece of fashion advice my Mum told me. It was to have volume at one end of your outfit, but not both. Pregnancy forces you to have volume at the top (well, in the middle I suppose), so for the most part I accepted that, and tried to keep to skinny legs.

I did, however, buy one pair of baggy maternity pants, so I tried to wear them with slimmer tops. Here's a look based on baggy pants. I aimed for a 1930s-feel, since they loved their giant pants then.


5. If You Can Sew, Make Adjustments. 
(But be realistic with yourself. You've got plenty of other things to do.)

The main adjustments I made: taking up a bit of fabric at the shoulders of tops or dresses to raise the neckline or waistline.

For this dress, I was willing to go a bit further and shorten the hem so it made a top instead (another example that without the belt is just a tent).


And for the sake of having black capri pants, I put in my time at the sewing machine with a pair of black maternity pants that were pretty hideous in their previous form.


6. Accessorise. Feel pretty.

I started losing my jawline somewhere in the second trimester. My skin was a mixed bag. I chose not to dye my hair. I chose to start growing out my hair. I sprained my ankle. I felt more uncoordinated and awkward than usual. I started making noises when I got out of chairs.

Clothes were a way to compensate for the negative things I felt.

Accessories can draw attention to good things or away from the things you'd rather not think about. They also helped with my hair situation. While my hair was long enough to pull back into a ponytail, but not into a GOOD ponytail, I bought some scarves to cover the back, wore some hats, some hair flowers, and designed a ponytail-flower-cage to cover up the mess.


I even dressed nice for the gardening sometimes! (Except for the shoes, of course.)

The other great thing about accessories is that they will still be good post-pregnancy, so you can feel even less guilty about buying them (if you're the guilty-feeling type).

7. Be Willing to Make Mistakes

I bought some things that were not a good idea. But they cost me a few dollars. I can shrug that off.

I bought some things that were a great idea at first, but showed my ignorance of just how big I was going to get. That's ok! They were cute while they lasted. Some have gone back to the op-shops, some have stayed for post-pregnancy.

8. Explore all Vintage Eras, and All Sources of Inspiration

If you like vintage styles, maybe you have favourite eras already, but why not use pregnancy as an excuse to try some others? Your shape is changing anyway, so you may feel differently about how they suit you.


And although there are some cute vintage maternity styles, don't just focus on them. Look at non-maternity outfits and translate them.


I decided to have a bit of fun channeling this outfit from my great-grandmother in the 1920s.



I think I did ok! Long strand necklaces, however, don't hang very gracefully over third-trimester tummies though, I have to tell you!

Bonus tip that I DIDN'T follow but should have: 9. Buy Maternity that Works for Breastfeeding

At about 7 months I realised that since I was planning to breastfeed if I could, I might actually need to access my breasts. Probably something I should have though of earlier! It would have made my maternity wardrobe a bit more lasting.

I mean, it gave me an excuse to buy more clothes, but I wasn't as energised for shopping by that stage, so it would have been better to have thought about it back when op-shopping was all I wanted to do.


Luckily some things are going to work anyway. Like this dress that actually does untie completely at the front there.

For some more maternity style, with a vintage flavour, I recommend checking out the following blogs:

Betsy's Baby - Gorgeous vintage maternity outfits, including many outfits sewn from vintage patterns. Also, now that the baby has come along, she's showing off post-baby looks, and wrote a great post on shirtwaist dresses for breastfeeding.

Lavender & Twill - Bonita is currently pregnant and looking adorable and chic in vintage and vintage-style outfits. Great inspiration!

Do you have any maternity style tips to share? Or op-shopping tips in general?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

My handmade maternity tops: 4 versions of McCalls 6576

I mostly sourced my maternity wardrobe second-hand, but I did buy one vintage pattern and have a go at sewing it. I flipped through dozens of vintage sewing patterns at a shop in Canberra and found what I wanted - a maternity pattern in my size. (I actually got a bit bigger before I made it, but there was plenty of ease and it still fit well.)


I made the middle view. Here is my first version, in classic cherry-print cotton.


This one is still probably my favourite and got the most wear! I pretty much always paired it with this red belt and cropped jeans, but played with other accessories a lot. Below I'm wearing my dad's 1971 "Winter Swimming Club" jacket. Go Cronulla Polar Bears!


Despite some struggles understanding the facing steps and learning how to sew a blind hem and a lapped zipper, I was very happy with how this pattern turned out.


It was, however, a bit pinchy around the arms by the end of a long day. In version two, featuring strawberries, I tried enlarging the armholes.


Somehow they seemed to be still much the same, and in any case I realised that my maternity bras sit very snugly in that area anyway, so I went back to the original armholes in version 3.


I made a plain black version because I was inspired by another vintage maternity pattern to wear this over a black-and-white polka-dotted blouse in the op-shop just that week. To make sure the blouse would show at the neck, I lowered the neckline. This adjustment worked, but not over the blouse! Still, the neck is much more comfortable in this version. So I kept that change for version four.


Version four is the bright, springtime look! I love this too, although the fabric was a bit harder to work with, and the facing doesn't like to stay flat and well-behaved like the others. Maybe that explains my sour face here!


At this stage, I could only just get my growing hair into a stubby little pony tail, so I made a flower cage to cover it up! It was pretty much impossible to wear this top without some kind of hair flower.


Aww family photo! These are my gorgeous siblings.

I did buy more fabrics, and even contemplated trying one of the other views, but as I was looking at only having a couple of months left to wear them, I decided to stop myself!

So, if you can't tell, I loved this pattern. If there is a next pregnancy, I look forward to wearing these again and making some more!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Sisterhood of the Travelling Hat: Join us!

I would like you to introduce you to the little hat that will travel the world!


As per the plan I announced previously, she's going to visit interested hat lovers across the globe, be worn by stylish ladies in different outfits, and have lots of photos taken of her.


I went for a tilt hat style because they are flattering, easy to wear and somewhat versatile in terms of suitable eras (compared to a cloche or whimsy, for example). I was aiming for 1940s in my inspiration, but I think it could work with a range of periods, and indeed modern or "vintage fusion".


The body is blocked on a vintage hat block I picked up recently, from black thermofelt. Although a very modern invention, thermofelt is lighter, and will return to its blocked shape more easily than regular millinery felt, making it well suited to travel.


The attachment is of a figure eight style, which is easy and comfortable to wear, and stays securely on the head without the need for hat pins. It also makes the hat suitable for any head size and doesn't require a particular length or style of hair.

(The figure eight will sit better on real heads than it does on the mannequin, unless you also have solid bumpy hair.)


The hat is trimmed with white velvet berries (that I made) and blue velvet leaves (that I purchased).


The first five photos show different views of the way I designed the hat to be worn, but the angles and orientation can easily be changed to suit the wearer. Worn further to the side, as above and below, makes a subtle change from some angles...


...but a significant one from other angles.


I prefer it tilted above the right eye, but it could also go the other way if it works better that way for some people (most people do have a natural preference, and hair parts have a big impact too).


Critics so far rate this hat as intriguing!

I know many people expressed their interest in the previous post, but if you could comment again with your email address, or email me directly at tanithrowandesigns@gmail.com, that would be awesome. Also, please feel free to pass this on to other people you know that might be interested. The more the merrier, I'm sure!

Open to everyone everywhere. So far I know there was interest from the USA, Canada, and the UK, as well as Australia, and I'd love to have as many interesting places on the list as possible!

I plan to send it to the northern hemisphere first to catch wintery weather as much as possible (I know I should have gotten started earlier!) before returning here in time for our winter.

Please note that there is a lot going on in my life at the moment and I may take longer than usual to respond to comments or emails, but I will, I promise!

Update: The hat has now left for Europe and then on to North America, so I have closed new entries for those places. Since it will be back in Australia last, I am still happy to accept interest from fellow Aussies (or perhaps New Zealand...), so feel free to get in touch still if you are a local :)

Friday, 7 November 2014

Halloween Photoshoot

Not much to say about these images today. Except that I love them so much! Mel and Dee did an amazing job taking these photos of my Halloween whimsies, with elegant but spooky style.

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and fun Halloween!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Custom Maternity Dress by Manic Pop

Earlier in the year I did a collaboration with Nicole, designer at Manic Pop. I sent her a hat designed for her, and she designed and made a dress to go with it.


I love so many of her dress designs, and this one, named the Tanith Arrow Dress, is probably now my favourite! I was very tempted to get one for myself.

By the time we finished our collaboration, however, I was pregnant, and sensible enough not to order a dress that I wouldn't fit into for a while, if ever, since I don't know what size I would return to after the baby, or when that might happen!

So I asked Nicole if she would make me a maternity dress, and she jumped at the challenge. We exchanged ideas, she sent sketches, we played with colour palettes, and here is the result, my lovely custom-designed maternity dress!



This is at about 37 weeks. This dress is a maternity variation on her sunrise panel dress. With stretch knit fabrics and plenty of room in the skirt, it has been comfortable and stylish all the way through to the ginormous end!



With subdued colours, it worked beautifully in winter with dark leggings and boots, and now is translating into our very warm spring thanks to the light and cool fabric.


The idea was that I would design and make a hat to go with it, but it didn't happen. So I finally got around to doing a photoshoot without a hat and with a couple of vintage hats.


This one featured in one of my 1950s photoshoots, but I think it is comfortably suited to the 1960s-modern look of this dress, as well as a great colour match! In fact, ridiculously matchy!



This one I picked up for $10 at the end of a market on a whim, because I thought it had a cool trim. I wasn't really sure what to do with it, but it goes beautifully with this dress!



It definitely needs the hair-pulled back style to work. Luckily I could sort of get my hair back by this stage! It doesn't like to stay that way, unfortunately.


This last one is a special pose. It immediately precedes me saying "Hold on. I've just seen the scariest bug in the universe." I think it was some kind of wasp.


Thanks a million to Nicole for making me this awesome dress! Maybe next time I will actually get around to making a hat to go with it (but maybe not).