Conscious Incompetence

This photo was taken last Friday by the very nice Leslie Dela Vega, of OZY, for this article. She was super-nice about taking photos, and I hope I was nice back, even though I really really hate having my picture taken.

I’m glad she took this photo, even though I don’t think it’s all that flattering, because now I can show you this style of dress I’ve been working on, badly!

So for year and years and years I’ve been doing really only minor alterations to patterns, switching out a skirt here, adding pockets there. But lately I’ve been SERIOUSLY modding patterns, and doing it … badly. In other words, I am at the stage of “Conscious Incompetence” as laid out here.

The dress above (in a just-enough remnant of Liberty poplin) is the bodice from Simplicity 1577, with added length (and sadly, added girth, more on that in a minute) and the skirt from Simplicity 5238, with added front-slash pockets AND added girth AND added depth of front pleat AND a slight adjustment to the back skirt length to account for some junk-in-the-trunk issues.

If you can ignore the fact that I’m pulling the side seams askew by shoving my hands in my pockets like that, you can see that this dress is still a little off. I don’t think I’m good at the alterations I’m trying yet, and it’s irritating. I know that the only thing to do is to DO IT MORE, and PRACTICE MORE, and READ MORE TUTORIALS ON THE INTERNET, but … I don’t have that much time, and I had to update my wardrobe a bit because of some aforementioned girth issues.

[Short aside on girth issues … I had some back/hip pain, which led me to start lifting weights to strengthen what they so cheerfully call my “core”, which always makes me think of nuclear reactors, somehow, which led to me slacking off on running, which means … girth. Back pain is mostly gone, hip flexor pain is mostly gone — if I don’t do stupid things — and I now can back squat and deadlift 200 lbs, always fun at parties … but I’m a good bit heavier than I’d like to be. All my extra fat seems to have huddled in my midsection for warmth and protection.]

And it’s remarkably hard to find instructions on how to adjust bodice patterns for a large waist! It’s not quite just adding inches to the side seams, somehow. I think there must be some way to add to the center front and back as well without messing with the bust darts too much, but it’s eluding me (and my large library of alterations books). Conscious Incompetence, again! Anyone have any hints, pointers, lovingly-created diagrams?

After doing about half a dozen of these full-teardown altered pattern mashups, I think I really, really have to put in the time and effort to make a sloper. (And relatedly, start running again!) I think a lot of what I’d like to make would just be easier if I were working from a sloper, instead of sort-of-sloping-off a bodice pattern I like. Any pointers to the most painless sloper creation, while I’m here asking for helpful suggestions?

I’ll try to get a few more pictures taken this weekend of some of the other teardown/mashups — I’ve done three now with a collar (pattern reference eluding me at the moment), and two with the bodice from this pattern (the no-collar version), which is really nice.

As abashed as I am about the not-quite-rightness of these new mashup dresses, it is a little exciting to be trying new things again. I love a challenge, even when I’m not exactly rising to meet it …

Hats, Ranked By How Much I Enjoy Seeing People Wearing Them


  1. Church Lady, in Church Crowns-style hat. Bonus points if the hat is part of a monochrome ensemble, where the hat was clearly decided upon FIRST.
  2. Old dude wearing a Kangol. Extra points if it’s with a suit and tie.
  3. Unironic Stetson, when paired with a belt buckle that was achieved through some display of testosterone.
  4. Smiling baby in sun hat. (Tied with cranky baby trying to pull sun hat off and throw it out of the stroller.)
  5. Tween or teen in ironic-cute animal, cartoon, or cartoon-animal knit cap. Earflaps optional, but appreciated.
  6. Full-on vintage perch hat with veil.
  7. Queen Elizabeth II’s hats. All of them. But this one in particular.
  8. Dude in a porkpie hat who knows it’s faintly ridiculous, but is okay with wearing it anyway. [NB: this set should include all wearers of porkpie hats]
  9. Doctor Who in a fez.
  10. Everyone, in propeller beanies.