This Sunday Brunch jacket, made by June Beetle and found on our Flickr group, demonstrates the “see the child first” principle nicely. The colors and print are flattering without being overpowering. And that muted yellow looks terrific on her!
You undoubtedly know by now that Oliver + S designs feature classic, simple styling with clean lines and not a lot of unnecessary ornamentation. By designing this way, I’m trying to create beautiful clothing that doesn’t call attention to itself but that highlights the charms of the child who is wearing it. When I select fabric, I go for the same effect.
There’s been a trend in the quilt industry over the last several years toward very bold, busy, colorful prints. Many prints today are actually printed in 10 or more vibrant colors. While I like some of these prints, I tend to shy away from the loudest, boldest, most colorful ones when I make Oliver + S garments. A lot of these prints, when turned into dresses or tops, scream “Look at me! I’m a print by Designer X!” I don’t necessarily want to dress my child—or anyone’s child—as a walking billboard for a fabric collection or designer of the moment. When you dress a child in a garment made from a very busy fabric, you run the risk that the child will get lost behind the print. (And if you combine two or more of these prints in a single outfit…well, it’s all exponential, isn’t it?)
I’d be willing to bet that you noticed these two adorable sisters before you saw their sweet matching Birthday Party dresses, yes? Dresses by A.J.Jacks, one of our Boutique Sewer Program participants.
I also worry that many of these bright, bold prints won’t age very well. We all have some cringe-worthy photos of ourselves as children, don’t we? Take a closer look at one of those photos. Chances are the clothing hasn’t aged well because the styling of the garment or the print of the fabric is overly complicated or very “of the moment.” In designing Oliver + S garments, I’m consciously trying to achieve a timeless style. When viewed two decades from now, a 2009 photo of a child wearing an Oliver + S design shouldn’t cause anyone to say, “What is that you were wearing?” or “What was your mother thinking, dressing you like that?” (I can say this from experience because I have plenty of photos of myself from the 1970s that elicit just those sorts of comments. What was it with those purple bell-bottom jeans with the silver rivets down the legs?) Rather, someone should say, “Hey, you were a really cute kid.”
The beige ground and clear-but-muted plum, mustard, and other colors in this 2 + 2 Blouse look wonderful on a toddler. Sewn by Angela Maureen.
So when I’m selecting fabrics for making my own Oliver + S garments, I tend toward the more subtle and sophisticated prints. Although it goes against the grain of a lot of what’s being done today in the home sewing industry, I think subtle and sophisticated work exceptionally well for children’s clothing. The fabrics don’t have to be loud and bright to capture people’s attention. I would rather let people notice the clothing after they see the child wearing the garments.
I think you’ll also notice that high-end designers are using more subtle and sophisticated prints these days. And this isn’t to say that we need to be afraid of color. I love color, and I’ll talk more about it when I discuss some of my other fabric selection principles in future posts.