My Handmade Style: Sallie Oh

From vintage chic to clean modern shapes, how do these seamstresses create and communicate their own unique style in their projects? What and who inspires them, from film and music to everyday life. And what’s their dream outfit?

I’m really excited about my guest this week (actually – when am I NOT excited about the guest?) but seriously, I have a huuuuuuge blogging crush on this woman. Houston-based Sallie of SallieOh drops in to talk about style, and readers, this woman has it in bucketfuls. Read on to find out how she comes up with her gorgeous looks again and again… 

Sallie Oh

I know it’s difficult but in this series I’m asking bloggers to describe their style, if they can. How would you define your look?

Well what’s so difficult about this question is that there’s actually two of me. There’s the Sallie that lives in my head, and the Reality. The Sallie that lives in my head has amazing style. She wears lots of classic pieces with a really modern cut or fabric, but incorporates a lot of avant-garde pieces in there that give everything a bit of artistic drama. And she has really really amazing shoes.

But the reality is more of a mish-mash of holdovers from the poor college days, some respectable but boring remnants of an ill-fated corporate job (in which I often got the “dress code” talk from my boss) and then my sewn wardrobe, which aspires (at best) to the Sallie-in-my-head!

Where do you find your style inspiration and how do you channel that into your me-made wardrobe?

I have a lot of sources for style inspiration. It’s hard to pinpoint just a few because I feel that what I generally do is saturate myself with images and then somehow mentally sort through them to figure out what will work for me. Then I usually delude myself into thinking it was my idea all along and that I am, of course, a genius! But really I look at a wide variety of blogs – probably evenly split between style blogs and sewing blogs (a perennial favorite is Closet Visit – I love the voyeuristic quality of snooping through someone’s closet, and all the women featured have such an individual look) and I also do a lot of virtual window-shopping. Occasionally I meander through images of the runway shows, or hit up sites like Pinterest. And since I like to find things that I can make I spend a lot of time looking at sewing patterns and trying to imagine how they might work for me. I think we can all agree that working with sewing patterns sometimes requires quite a bit of imagination to get your head around the often-unfortunate “envelope” images!

As far as channeling that into my me-made wardrobe – I’m really an advocate for grounding everything in practicality. As awesome as the Sallie in my head is – I need to keep in mind the real necessities of my day-to-day life. And so when I start to think about what item I want to sew next to add to my wardrobe I really think long and hard about what I reach for again and again – especially on those days where I resent the need to even put on clothes (let’s be real here, that’s, like, every day!)

Are there any particular designers that you use for inspiration?

I’ve been known to go to this one particular store when I head into “the city” (Houston) that carries a lot of young, mid-range designers: Rachel Comey, A Détacher, Electric Feathers, Suno, Isabel Marant… And I like to try on the clothes and examine them and basically be that annoying shopper who spends hours in a store and then walks out empty handed. It’s like playing dress-ups. But I get a lot of inspiration from there. In general I like to look at small designers who are making artful clothing that is wearable, yet pushes the limit somehow.

If you had to select one self-stitched garment that really encapsulates your style – what would it be and why?

Well now that’s like asking me to choose a favorite child!! Hmmm… let’s see here…. I can only pick one? I’m actually going to say my ikat McCall’s 6553. The silhouette is the kind of thing I dream about and the pattern feels funky but also sort of laid-back which works with life. It dresses up well and it’s also a great no-brainer for when I need to look like I tried but actually I just rolled out of bed (like today, for instance!). It’s proven to be a very hard-working dress. And I like that.. It also doesn’t hurt that I get tons of compliments on it!

Ikat dress

I’d also give a second and third place to my jeans and my Rachel Comey for Vogue white top.

Sallie's jeans and Rachel Comey for Vogue top

Do you ever take risks and experiment with your look? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

I really feel very passionately about wearing what makes you comfortable – and I don’t mean comfortable like you’re in jammies – but comfortable in your own skin. Clothes should just highlight the fact that you’re already gorgeous – and if you feel self-conscious you won’t be giving off your best vibes (for lack of better phrasing…) so perhaps that means I’m not particularly risky? I think maybe I sometimes put together outfits or make a certain garment that I know others may not like, but that I think will make me feel good – so in that way perhaps I’m a risky dresser. I risk getting weird looks from other people! But it usually pays off in the end. My ikat dress was like that – I worried that maybe the print and the voluminous silhouette would be too big of a statement for the people in my daily life, but it turned out to be the most highly complimented me-made item in my closet to date!
That being said, it definitely took me some trial and error and a bit of brutal honesty to know what makes me comfortable and what’s outside of that comfort zone, which leads me to…

Is there anything you wish you could wear but can’t? 

Why yes… yes there is! I often find that anything too sweet or girly just doesn’t look quite right on me. As much as I love demure little peter pan collars and bows and puffed sleeves and dainty little prints on others – it just looks all wrong on me. Like I’m a 40 year old, hard-living, street-walking woman playing the Lolita. Just kidding. Not really.

I think it took me a little while to figure out that a vintage or rockabilly look was not my friend – which was a bit of a letdown because I generally love the look on others. But once I figured it out it was like a huge liberation! I don’t have to dress that way! I can dress alllll these other ways!

I think this is also where knowing your own body comes into play too. There are certain silhouettes that just aren’t particularly becoming on me. I’m so over trying to beat myself into somebody else’s shape so I can wear a certain type of clothing (if that makes sense) I’d rather just skip the drama and focus on what I know is flattering. And usually it involves something that doesn’t make me feel bad about my 3pm chocolate fix or my love of bread.

What would be your dream outfit, existing or otherwise?

This is probably very unexciting – but my dream outfit would probably be some sort of loose draped or flow-y dress in a breathable fabric (hello silk!) and a solid color that hits at about my knees. A pair of really great architectural heels that look like a work of art and a large necklace and/or bracelets with some color. Hair up (the hair’s always up). Lipstick optional.

If I had 10 versions of that outfit I could be set for the rest of my days!

What other sewing bloggers would you recommend for great individual style?

Oh gosh! There’s just so many! I’m not sure anyone does the vintage look better than Gertie (Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing) or Casey (Elegant Musings). They’ve really owned that one. I really love the clean modern and slightly playful aesthetic of Jen from Grainline. You can always tell an Oona make from a mile away – that girl knows how to work with fabric, color and texture! I think Mokosha’s got a great eclectic look – and really knows how to mix colors and patterns. Others that are really up there for me (told you there were a lot!) Heather Lou (Closet Case Files), Carolyn (Handmade by Carolyn) Novita (Very Purple Person) and a new one I just came across (courtesy of Heather) Otga Hasbold (Otga Hasbold), and of course Peter! (Male Pattern Boldness)

…Okay seriously I’m just going to start naming every sewing blogger ever! I get very excited by the continuing diversity I’m seeing develop within the sewing community. It’s such a wonderful way to develop your own individual style!

Joanne, thank you so much for asking me to be a part of such a great series of posts. You are a great inspiration to me and to so many others! I hope one day our paths may cross in real life. At which point you better be guarding that parrot print Salme dress with your life because I still have designs to steal it! Maniacal laughter…

Just kidding. Not really.

Yikes! While I try to extract a hysterical Sallie from my wardrobe, I really hope you’ve enjoyed her thoughtful answers. If you didn’t know this amazing seamstress before then I am delighted to be your introduction. Simply stunning. Thanks Sallie!

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16 thoughts on “My Handmade Style: Sallie Oh

  1. Wow, there’s so much here to digest (thank you, Joanne and Sallie) with so many fabuous outfits and links.

    But mostly I’m stuck on the fact that it is possible, yes, I’ve seen proof, to sew a real, rugged pair of jeans!

    You’ve enlightened me. Now I know what to do.

  2. Oooh, I’ve been a huge fan of Sallie’s for a while now so thank you both for this interview!!! Sallie’s style is one that I greatly admire and would love to adopt if only I had the figure!

  3. Sallie is my girl and it was rad to hear her articulate her steez so articulately. She definitely has one of my favourite senses of style in the sewing world – totally unique and intelligent and quality obsessed. And she’s also hilarious and beautiful and I wish we lived next door to each other but that’s a whole other story. Thank you for this interview!!

  4. Jane, thanks for introducing me to this lovely blogger! Sallie – I totally get what you’re saying about Sallie in your head and real Sallie, I get that too… :) Fab makes and a gorgeous interview! x

  5. I LOVED reading that interview. Sallie has such an awesome individual style and her responses were so fascinating because she clearly knows herself well and expresses herself so coherently. I’m so into this series, getting inside these bloggers heads is a real dream come true. xxx

  6. Pingback: Pixie Dust » A Fashionable Stitch

  7. Pingback: It Just Isn't Me - The Finished Garment

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