Sewing for the seasons


So let me start by saying that in Puerto Rico it’s basically summer all year long. There not like a really big different in weather from season to season, it might get a little breezy during Christmas season and that’s about it. Unless you live in the mountains, in the central part of the island, I’ve heard it gets cooler there but I wouldn’t really know, I’m from the North Coast a town called Manatí and as a kid I remember going a lot to a beach called “Mar Chiquita” It was close to our house so it was out go-to place.


(Picture from www.discoverpuertorico.com)

I really miss the ocean breeze, the sand, that salty smell and collecting seashells. Not having a beach has been one of the hardest things when I moved to Texas. I come from being surrounded by water to what is known like "the planes" but hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.


So when you have a tropical weather, all year round, you don’t really have to dress according to the season because climate doesn’t really change. I would wear lots of summer dresses, tank tops, jeans and mini skirts. I had my fashion phases where I would dress all Gothic with bustiers, mesh tops and Gothic boots from Hot Topic and that black eye liner that would smear as the day went by and then you just looked like you had black eye but Hell I thought I was killing it.Now remember, this in bright day light, in the freaking heat of Puerto Rico, okay? and no, I'm not sharing a picture of this stage in my life.


Moving on, Let me tell you how even though I always wanted to be a fashion designer, I didn’t get started sewing until My twenties. Economy really dictated the clothes I would wear, and I was never really interested in trends, (OK, maybe the Gothic phase was a trend) but other than that, I wasn’t like dressing from the latest fashion from the stores. I was never in boutiques, or any of the sort but I remember clipping pictures of dresses in magazines and pasting them over construction paper, and I had many sheets that I would later organize into a binder just to look at. I really enjoyed looking and clothes and going through my own little book of curated fashion made with Elmer's glue. This gives you an idea that being fashion designer has been a dream since I have memory (I mean I was drawing things I wanted to wear since I was 8 years old)and my mom still has those drawings but like I mentioned before, I didn’t start sewing until after I was married.


How I started sewing is really funny because I was talking with my husband, who’s an artist (Noin Rivera) and I told him I would love to translate his paintings into clothes but I didn't know how to sew. Then I remembered that as a kid, my mom took me to a school and I remember seeing sewing machines, long tables and dress forms. My mom showed the teachers all the fashion sketches I had made, but nothing happened after that so I called my mom and I told her if she remembered this place and sure enough she did. I asked her what happened that I never went to the school and she told me she couldn’t afford it at the time and I felt so bad I even asked. I asked her if she remembered the name of the place, maybe the school was still open and she said "let me call you back". A couple of minutes later she calls me back and she gave me their information because, after all these years, my mom kept their business card. All those years, and My mom still had Dasan's Fashion Academy business card. I could not believe it. (Thank you mom!) So I hung up and I hesitantly called, thinking its been so many years I doubt they would still have the same phone number or maybe they weren’t even open anymore but guess what? THEY ANSWERED. I mean was this meant to be or what? That’s how as an adult, I started learning patternmaking and sewing!


I loved making chiffon kaftans, and I particularly liked using kit fabrics to make a lot of maxi dresses and I never really had to think of “seasons”.

When I designed I was never really worried about what fabrics should I use for what seasons, because it really didn’t’ matter, at least to me! The same maxi dress I was wearing during the summer I could wear during winter time so designing around seasons was not really a thing. Yes, the fashion shows were still ran by seasons but that didn’t mean that you would see really warm fabrics during a winter fashion show. I would design and make whatever I wanted to wear, without thinking what fabric was best for the season in terms of weather. This means I never touched flannel, wool, or any of those warm and heavy fabrics. Never made a scarf, a hat, gloves, ponchos, none of that. When I moved to Texas, I quickly learned that this state’s weather is BIPOLAR. I had no clue how to dress for the damn weather. Now I had to get a coat, gloves, scarves, hats, apparently there is a thing called leg warmers and I would freeze my legs before I learned what fleece leggings were…I mean just a pain. Now mind, you this was not the first time I have been out of the island, I did live two years in Japan when I was 17 and I experienced winter there but by that time I didn’t know how to sew, winter’s wasn’t really so bad and I just bought whatever the PX had which is the store inside the military base. I wasn’t in the military, that was just my trial marriage, let’s leave it at that.


Fashion in Japan was exquisite AND expensive, so there wasn’t much that I bought there but I regret sooo much not saving my pictures other than in myspace because when I lost my account I lost all memories of Japan. But I Vividly remember the street style fashion, they used a lot of layers and knee high stockings and I could make a whole other episode based on Japanese fashion.


All this to tell you that I did experience change of seasons before coming to Texas but never had the experience to sew for the seasons and because this was new to me, I didn’t know how to plan for it. I had some ideas, but the seasons would pass and I would never be able to sew something for that season. I would get lost in trying to find the correct materials, I didn’t know how to design and draft patterns for winter season and with my crazy work schedule, I didn’t have time to plan anything and seasons just kept going but this will be my first year trying to sew according to the season. This means I’m learning about wool, and fleece, flannel and all these other warm fabrics that I will learn how to use thanks to the indie patterns which were such a discovery for me! They are so much better than your regular Big 4 because there is a community based around these indie patterns and if you ever get stuck, rest assured you will find help for that specific pattern and the instructions are easier to read. It was a game changer but I had a problem with Aesthetic.


I feel like At some point when I came to Texas, I lost the concept of what my aesthetic was. I was working two jobs, I did 68 hour work weeks for like a year and a half and obviously, that didn’t give me too much time to myself, right? so I just had my work clothes.My new lifestyle was 95% work so I lived in a polo and dickies for what felt like forever. The clothes that I had I brought from Puerto Rico, I felt like I outgew the style. It became even worse when I had my son, then I was just lost in motherhood and I felt like all I was a mom, in breastfeeding- friendly tunics ALL-THE-TIME. I felt like I lost my identity, my fashion sense, my aesthetic, whatever you want to call it. I lost it. I wasn’t sewing and sewing is a huge part of my identity. I wasn’t putting too much effort on how I dressed because I was too busy being a mom. Now please don’t take this the wrong way, I love being a mom but I also love being myself and I’m not going to apologize for that.


When I went back to work, I quickly realized that I was at war with my closet and my body, so now it wasn’t only a matter of sewing for the Going shopping was a nightmare because I felt like nothing fit me or looked good and I Knew the solution was to sew. I had to sit down and plan a whole wardrobe for my new body and make myself clothes that made me feel good. No here is the thing, when I sit down to plan I felt LOST. I didn’t even know what I liked anymore! I knew I wanted to feel good, be comfortable, cute but I didn’t know how to get there because I didn’t know what my current aesthetic was. So what do you do when you don’t know something? YOU GOOGLE IT, right? So I went to google and started looking for inspiration and I found myself reading about capsule wardrobes and then I found this book called “the curated closet” and that was an eye opener. I learned that my closet did not fit my lifestyle anymore and that is what I needed to change. My closet was not practical. I quickly identified the pieces that I was missing, threw away or donated anything that no longer fit me or just didn’t make me feel good. I had deiced I wanted to make myself a capsule wardrobe and focus on quality, cohesion and practicality. This is still a work in progress, I haven’t started sewing the pieces yet because I still have some planning to do. I also joined the program “Design your wardrobe” by the digital magazine seamwork and it has definitely helped me so much in identifying my likes and dislikes. Now that I’m 31 I gravitate more towards simple fashion, and earthy colors, monochromatic looks. I’m petite so I feel like if I wear two high contrast colors I’m going to look shorter or cut myself in half. I like organic shapes and small prints but I also like African print turbans and beaded necklaces. I have learned to design with purpose and has been a major lesson for me. I had so many impractical things in my closet, like why would I need a sequin dress, that I could not even wear a bra with, a very low back and a slit? I mean, it was just going to sit there unless I was invited to that imaginary Oscar's party.


Anyway, if you are going through this, you definitely need to study yourself. Take some time to know YOU. I definitely recommend you read the book the curated closet and do some of the exercises, they’re really helpful. Get a journal and start clipping pictures if things that bring you joy, textures, colors, silhouettes, create a mood board on your journal or a digital one. Here is mine:


Does your closet really fit you lifestyle? Sometimes we have a closet full of clothes and NOTHING to wear. I went from Mrs. Island girl with the flowy dresses, to work uniform of polo shirts and pants to $5 dollar dresses to be in the house all dayand nurse, Then t-shirts and pants to work, and now, I’m finally on the right path to re design my wardrobe, be more intentional and have my closet serve me. Not the other way around.

I’m telling you, this journey is beautiful. Take the time to notice yourself, take pictures of your outfits and learn what you tend to gravitate towards to. Define your style, invest time and thought in developing it, selecting the perfect garments, be really picky with your closet, as Marie Kondo would say “does it spark Joy”? Experiment, try new things, Think about what your clothes say about you, make a list of things that you like. Specific things like : v necks, lace detailing, palazzo pants whatever, you name it. However, the most important aspect is to build a wardrobe that actually fits your life. Like, I said, make your closet serve you.

I’m only starting this Journey, heck I haven’t even made myself a item for fall but I understand that this is a slow process, because its intentional, it has a purpose, it takes time and IS OK.



© 2020 Karla Menendez