I Want to Be Chic

I’m not one to muse much over my personal style. Mostly, because I think the topic of personal style can be terribly dull. I mean, you know. It’s *your* personal style. Second, I sew the bulk of my clothes so it’s just impossible for me to have the depth of wardrobe I would like. That also means I’m really not interested in purchasing things I could or want to make myself. Having fewer clothes is just a downside to sewing my own wardrobe. Not accepting of this fact, I used to just crank out clothing because I *could*.

Apropos to that, after posting this photo from Santa Fe on my Facebook, I started to wonder about my personal style. Why? Because my very good friend of almost ten years commented, “I’ve never seen you look so chic!”

The thing is, it’s not me. It’s my friend M.

It is not the first time we’ve been confused for each other. I mean, honestly. My boss has Β gone up to her in meetings and started talking before he realized it wasn’t me. Two weeks ago at a fundraiser a woman I *know* asked me if my husband and parents would be coming. M. has been at dinner and had the bartender mention he saw her in the paper after my photo ran. It’s so common I no longer correct people at the risk of embarrassing them.

I know we don’t actually look alike. Same skin tone. Same hair. That’s all people really need though.

I of course called Julia to tell her it wasn’t me. She said she realized it as soon as she got to the next photo and saw I was wearing ‘those hideous Aerosoles’ approved soley for my trip to China. Yes, they are comfortable. And, at least they are red. But, they are certainly not chic.

The point of all this, is it confirmed what I’ve been thinking about my sewing and personal style in 2011. Β I want to be chic. Now, that doesn’t mean that I want to stop looking like I work at an advertising firm. I take a great deal of pride in looking creative yet being no nonsense, professional and reliable. But, I certainly don’t want a long time friend to be startled because they think I look chic.

All this is just confirmation of my December epiphany when I completed my wool coat. I no longer want to sew throwaway clothes. Β I want to make clothes that define me. If I wanted disposable garments, then I should shop at Target. 2011 is the year that I want to adore 99 percent of what I make. And, ultimately, that means I will be making fewer clothes, with better lines, more interesting details and loving them all the more.


  1. First of all, you and your friend are both pretty, but I don’t think you look very much alike!

    I love this idea. It’s the sort of thing I aspire to, but never pull off. I get sidetracked, I run out of time, I just don’t sew that well- yet. I bet you could do it though, you have the sewing skills, you have a great figure, and your hair always looks nice. It seems to me these are some of the crucial ingredients πŸ™‚ Good luck!

  2. Oh how sad to have that sort of comment!It really makes you question your style (or your taste in friends!) I do think that sewing ‘keepers’ will give you more satisfaction.I’m sure I’m not the only person looking forward to seeing your choices.
    And when you learn how to do ‘chic’ could you let me in on the secret?

  3. I just had a similar epiphany, except I set my bar much lower than “chic”; I’ve just decided that I’m too old to be able to get by on the “just rolled out of bed and put on this rag” look, because I no longer look fresh and sweet and adorably unkempt; I look… well, a little haggard and messy.

    I’m one week into my putting on a small smear of makeup every morning, and spending five minutes actually “doing” my hair instead of scraping it back into a ponytail, and I already feel less drab. My next step, like you, is to begin sewing clothing that matches my new outlook.

    You’re a great inspiration, and I look forward to seeing what garments you pick!

    • P.S. Also, I always thought you already WERE chic. I’m sorry you received that kind of feedback, but I feel really bad for your friend; she must have felt pretty terrible when she realized her error!

  4. It does kind of bite to hear it that way, friends being shocked because you look so chic. But it doesn’t really make me feel like I want to be chic :-).

    You’re right about how sewing your own stuff means that you have fewer clothes than other people (if you have a job at least). But you can also think of it this way: it’s more likely that you wear more of your wardrobe. Because it was what you wanted, in the color and fabric you wanted, and it fits you (better than rtw in almost all cases). So sometime I realize I have an acute need for something or other (well, summer pants at the moment) and then I just have to get cranking. But I read with interest all those ‘ecological’ blogs where people are trying desperately to make do with.. about what I’ve had all along. I have gotten more thoughtful about sewing stuff that actually fits into some sort of wardrobe scheme, but I’ll never have tons, it’s fine. Really.

    I do think she looks like you. It’s the smile..

  5. You know all Black people people look alike! I find you to be very chic. Chic is in the eye of the beholder

  6. OK, I’m glad I’m not crazy because when I saw the first picture I was like, “Wait, that isn’t Cidell!” Good, not crazy.

    I think you are chic. But this is from a woman whose footwear is a step below aerosoles.

    • And me, not crazy, and I don’t even know you.

      The flipside to that sort of comment, of course, is that when you *do* wear something out of the ordinary then people really notice it! I would hate to look chic as a matter of course and then have an ‘ordinary’ day when everyone notices how emphatically not chic I was looking.

      That’s my excuse, anyway…

  7. I think the b&w coat you are wearing is completely chic! Did I miss something? OK, *maybe* your aerosoles aren’t chic, but I hate to admit that since I wear those shoes ALL the time. But I guess that my aesthetic isn’t chic, so much as funky/cool (I hope). πŸ™‚ But I do hear you.

    I agree with marie-louise. You and your friend have a similar smile and, at least in those pics, build. But you don’t look the same.

  8. I really enjoyed our talk about this yesterday – forgot to mention that when I was in my mid-20s I got obsessed w/ the idea of sewing a ‘trousseau’ or (since I wasn’t engaged / in a relationship / or even had a boyfriend) more accurately a wardrobe of ‘wear-forever’ clothes. Hmmm… blog challenge???

  9. Whenever anyone sees another super pale redhead they tell me they saw someone who looked “just like me”, so I GET that. I do think you are chic, I love all the clothes you sew. Your blog inspires me to sew things I love and not things that are just quick and functional, whether or not I am successful…. well nobody is perfect:)

  10. While you are both beautiful, and she IS very chic (and has AMAZING HAIR) , I didn’t think she was you for even a second. I have also worked with someone who I was confused for all the time (and vice versa), we both had big eyes and brown skin so it was enough. I would stop customers and let them know they had the wrong person and they didn’t believe me at first.

    I have this realization about my wardrobe every year. I want to stop dressing like I did in high school. And be a little more adventurous in what I sew this year.

  11. I SO love that M is rocking the gray in her hair. Mine is concentrated in the exact same spot and I’ve been debating if I should start dying my hair because I thought it instantly aged me. But it doesn’t age her, she’s in her thirties, right? So if she can look hip, stylish, AND young with it, why can’t I? Yeah!

    By the way, you are most definitely stylish too.

  12. Yes, it’s definitely the smile. Think you are very stylish with the clothes you made till now. Though I can see the aspiring to a style you really, really love and wear. My problem often is sewing things that in the end I don’t wear often enough. Looking forward to seeing what you will be doing.

  13. LOL-OK, I guess it’s just me then, my first thought was “wow, she looks a lot like Cidelle, I wonder if they’re cousins or something?” But-she’s taller, has a more boyish figure, longer hair, with the awesome gray streak that I LOVE, and her lips and brows are less full, plus her nose is much different. You could pass for cousins, possibly sisters, but I don’t think I would mistake her for you.

    LOL at Rachelle up there-yeah, I’ve decided that a smidge of makeup does this grandma a world of good, as my skin, while great for my age, certainly isn’t the dewy smooth canvas it used to be and needs a bit more work!

    • OOPS-just saw all the other comments that also said they didn’t think it was you in the picture…

  14. I will have you know that I think your style is chic! I brag about you to my friends (and Granny, too)! I wish I had your mad skills to look 1/2 as good as you do (the body is in need of a personal trainer/drill instructor).

  15. This is an interesting subject, and I totally agree with you about taking more time to make those garments that you are 100% in love with. I waffle on the “chic” thing, too, because, like you, I sew most of what I wear. I don’t always make great design/fabric choices, and it doesn’t always fit the way I’d like, but I know for a fact that there is not another person out there on the planet that has what I do in my closet. And after all, I do sew because I want to be myself – individualistic, with my own look that I’m happy with – instead of that damn cookie cutter “chic” label. I don’t own an IT bag because I hate to look like I’m copying everyone else or trying to fit into a certain “style” grouping, and I don’t own that distinctive trenchcoat for the same reason. I’m not in a financial/social position to set trends like the trendsetters do, but I sure as hell follow my own style and anyone can jump into Lake Ontario if they don’t think I’m chic because I don’t follow what all the big fashion guys are defining as “chic”.

    You’re a young, fit, beautiful woman, and you need to stand up for your own style and tell those other people that think you don’t fit the “chic” cookie cutter hot-of-the-press style that you’re quite happy to be the only one that has your look and that’s all, thank you very much. πŸ˜‰

    ‘Nuff said.

  16. Sing it!

    Just because you *can* doesn’t mean you *should*. I like your purposeful sewing: how smart. I feel the same way most of the time. I should sew things I want and need and will wear.

    Good luck.

  17. When I saw your headline “I Want to Be Chic” on my blogroll, I instantly knew this post was generated from being in Santa Fe with that friend of yours I met in Baltimore. Well, in my book you already ARE chic, so you don’t have far to go. But I think your goal of “making fewer clothes, with better lines, more interesting details and loving them all the more” is an excellent one. Here’s to that. (I just have to throw in here that you seem to have a lot of really attractive friends, based on the two I met in Baltimore: This friend we met at the restaurant, and Skinny Ballet Chick.)

  18. I read your post just as i was wiping the newest patch of spit up off my shoulder (I care for my 3 month old grandson on a part time basis). I’d like to be chic, too but it’s sort of hard with the spit up marks, you know? But anyway, I think you look very chick – red shoes, black and white plaid coat? heavens!

  19. Goodness – I have this issue also! I am in my mid-40’s and haven’t adjusted to the number yet. Some of my clothing and shoes are purchased purely because they are comfortable, which is sometimes a pure necessity at this age. But, I look in my closet and see “frumpy.” I’m sure it’s not a requirement to be frumpy when you 40, but I haven’t figured out what to do about it. I think it takes more thought when you don’t automatically fit the “consumer norm” that wears only RTW, is young (this one just applies to me!) and can sacrifice comfort for style. Your post got me thinking about this. Thanks!

    • I was so confused at first – I didn’t think that top picture was you. Glad I’m not completely losing my brain. πŸ˜‰
      I think this sounds like a great goal for 2011. You make some great clothes and I don’t think it will be difficult for you to fine tune things just a little to make really special garments. If the recent coat and tux pants are any indication of where you’re headed, I can’t wait to see the results!

  20. Well, I think you’re chic. I admire and envy your style, but I agree about the red shoes. Comfy, sure, but not chic. I’ve had similar feelings to you. I have a colleague who throws on a dress and a pair of ballet flats and looks like she stepped out of a magazine. I spend ages choosing an outfit and putting on my makeup and it never looks right. Maybe I’m just getting old, but you, lovely lady are still GORGEOUS.

  21. She has a bigger smile, and you have prettier eyes. But at first glance, it’s an easy mistake to make. And I think your wardrobe is beautiful and timeless, even if it’s not “up to the minute”. Of course, I’m known as a “crazy old bat” anyway.

  22. Yes, your hair and skin color is part of it, but to me, what really makes you look alike are your smiles. Identical!

  23. Ditto what Trena said, all of it. I wear Birks, which might not be as geriatric as aerosoles, but they’re certainly fuglier. There’s little hope for me.

    I saw that first pic too & said, hey, that’s not Cidell! But, I can see how you’d be confused for each other at first glance. Your smiles are very similar.

  24. Ouch! I think you are chic. But this is coming from someone who still wears some things from high school.

    However, regardless of your starting place, there is always the potential to be chic-er. I’ve been working on this myself, and while I am not there with my home sewn clothes, I’m thinking of trying to make this a goal with what I make, and have been trying to break down the mystery into component parts. I suspect that the most important things you’ve got covered—-confidence, posture and fabulous hair.

  25. Ummm… you and your friend look NOTHING a like. But I guess it takes a “certain eye” to realize that. You both are pretty though!

    I completely understand what you’re saying. I had that epiphany a few years ago. I put in A LOT of time sewing. I SHOULD be making things that are fabulous and that I’ll love! Of course I make a couple of trendy garments that are ridiculously overpriced in stores and would never dream of buying (unless I came into unexpected wealth), so I sew them. But I love my pieces that will be with me for years to come the most.

  26. We probably shouldn’t tell the chic Ms. M, because it might hurt her feelings, but you’re actually better looking…

  27. R, I think it’s the accessories…not your clothing. When I looked at the first picture, I thought why is R wearing boots and those kewl JackieO shades? That’s when I realized it wasn’t you…oh and the streak in her hair was a giveaway too. You have on a great coat and comfortable shoes…it doesn’t scream chic…but it does say R. To me it’s accessories + garment I love = chic outfit. It’s a total package and I think you are well on your way to getting there.

  28. I think you are chic! (You made tuxedo pants.) Your choices of colors and prints make bold statements even when you choose classic styles. I know it’s you judging you, but it’s not fair to judge based on a picture taken on a day when you chose to be comfortable.

    There are times to be practical, comfortable and chic. If you’re saying you want to sew more of the latter — ok, but that’s not the same as saying you are not chic.

  29. I think you look a lot chic-er in your coat (shoes notwithstanding) than she does (not to put her down, she looks great). This would be a comment my DH who has no idea of fashion or style would make. To him, a trench plus all black would equal chic. That is not my opinion at all; I think your more unusual coat that suits you very well and reminds me of a well-dressed era, the 60s, is much more chic. Regardless, I like your new sewing/clothing resolution!

  30. I would say it’s a lot more than the hair and the same skin tone. You two have similar chins, face widths, noses even the distance between the eyes is similar too. It’s no wonder you two are confused. Cidell, you need to use this very interesting situation to your advantage more!

  31. Ugh, I’ve had something similar happen – an Asian gal works in my building, a few floors below my office, and I swear we are the only 2 Asians in this entire 14-story complex. We look nothing alike, imo (different build, different height, different hair, different style, different ethnic background), but dayum, people confuse us.

    OK, re personal style. I’m in the same boat as you, except I can’t even sew. How to go from practical to chic? I have business formal and business casual at work, and I have t-shirt/jeans (Momwear) at home. I’ve gathered up a list of style bloggers and am trying to figure out how to translate what I see into what I wear.

  32. Okay, that was odd. I know I can tell black women apart — I am one. πŸ™‚ So reading this post, my first thought was — “Wait, but… that’s not her! Or… is it? NO NO I AM NOT CRAZY.”

    So good, I’m NOT crazy. 1. Your friend is beautiful, and so are you. 2. You don’t look like interchangeable twins, for Pete’s sake. But you could easily be sisters, and that’s more than hairdo and skin tone — you have similar things going on in the nose and in the upper half of your smiles, though her face is slightly rounder and yours a teeny bit more square. 3. I personally think you are both chic, in different ways! Me, I’d probably go for your more relaxed look, and 4. It’s always such a pleasure to see lovely, stylish black women on the Internet! It cheers me up. So thanks for that. πŸ˜€

  33. (You look more alike in the indoor closeup, and far less alike in that outdoor shot!)

  34. You are already chic! And while you and your friend could be sisters, you really don’t look the same. But you are chic too!

  35. I read your blog all the time and the reason I do is because you are so CHIC.

  36. I think that’s a great objective, and I’d love to know how you define your own personal chic and watch how you achieve that!!

  37. I’m feeling that way too! Perhaps it’s the zeitgeist of now; I’m not sure. I find myself trolling around various fashion blogs looking for advice, I’m working up to a MAJOR wardrobe cleanout and I’m starting to sew again after many years of not doing so. I’m really tired of buying what’s available in my size and paying serious $$$ for stuff that I do not love and doesn’t even fit all that well. I’ve even gone so far as to re-analyzing my “colors” (did you know that it isn’t just the 4 seasons anymore? I sure didn’t.) Well, at least you got mistaken for someone who has some style; that has NOT been my experience….and I’m changing it. Email me if you’re interested in some of the “chic-ing up my stuff” links I’ve compiled, and good luck!

  38. “I will be making fewer clothes, with better lines, more interesting details and loving them all the more.”
    Thanks for the mantra. I am printing this out and sticking it to my sewing room wall. I have a picture of my ‘personal style’ in my head but it seems to get lost in the rush to make the quickest, easiest thing that will fill the current panic gap in my wardrobe.

  39. I had to comment on this post because I’ve met “M” and while I do think she is very pretty, she’s got nothin’ on you πŸ™‚ I think your smile is one of the prettiest I’ve seen. And I don’t think you guys look alike. Man this brings back some fun Baltimore memories…

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