Madame Frump No More


When I was a young lass toiling over catalog page layouts amid the design-y and stylish citizens of Williams-Sonoma / Pottery Barn HQ, I used to spend a lot of time and effort on my appearance because everyone around me sashayed about in beautiful attire. One of my good friends and co-workers — he of the vintage couture connoisseurship and wearer of thrifted Ferragamo loafers — would appraise my daily outfits and give me a thumbs up or down. We had the sort of honest and hilarious relationship that was blatantly modeled after Sex and the City, except I wasn’t as cool as Carrie and he was way cooler than Stanford (though technically, we both wanted to be Carrie). One day, when I was developing what seemed suspiciously like pink eye and generally felt unsexy and un-urban, I showed up to work in a pilled, shapeless sweater and baggy pants.

My friend’s hands flew to his cheeks and he uttered in horror, “Ay Mamacita*, what happened? You look like… Madame Frump!!”

*He was from the Dominican Republic

Fast forward many, many, many years, and I am Madame Frumpin’ it hardcore. I look like that illustration above on a good day. At least that has a sporty vibe and is acceptably like the ubiquitous “momiform”. I did rustle up deeply hidden energy to wear normal clothes on the few occasions I was meeting people for the first time or for special events — it’s always a good idea not to be mistaken for a homeless person. For most of the last six months in particular, though, I’ve been reaching for pretty much the same three t-shirts and stretch pants. The other issue is that in my enthusiastic embracing of the KonMari method before I got caught up in deadlines, I’d vigorously emptied out my closet. You’d think that if I kept only what sparked joy, I would look presentable, but no, apparently dumpy clothes light me up. Perhaps in the chaos of this last year, I yearned for comfortable and forgiving garments with elastic waists.

BUT. No more, I say, no more!

Now that I’ve cleared away most of the bookishness haze and I actually have a manageable to-do list, I’m eager to revamp my handmade wardrobe. Would this be considered completely non-essential? Yes. But I am a staunch believer in the power of clothes and have had a perennial love affair with them. I’ve experienced how differently people treat me depending on how I’m dressed (let me tell you, the dirty tee and leggings combo doesn’t garner a lot of respect), but more to the point, I’m acutely aware of how I feel in clothes. Beautifully-made, well-fitting clothes are inherently uplifting and confidence boosting. And who doesn’t want a more positive and self-assured person around?

Of course, it’s going to take me a bit or maybe a lot to get to the revamped, lovely me-made wardrobe of my dreams, but I’m prepping my fabrics, sorting through my patterns, firing up my sewing machine and iron.

Goodbye Madame Frump, hellooooooo….well, something better, I hope.

Stay tuned.


24 thoughts on “Madame Frump No More

  1. Oh man, I hear you. Since I started working rom home, i’ve gotten SO lazy. I was actually thinking to myself this week, “You are throwing out all your gross comfies and replacing them with pretty comfies OR ELSE!” When I was in NY this week, I left my friends place to get us bagels in my pj pants and he looked at me like I was deranged but I honestly didn’t even care. Can’t tell if this is a bad thing or not? Also, I feel special that you put on nice clothes for me 😉

    1. Ha! I haven’t been caring much either which is definitely a mixed bag. And of course I ditched my t-shirt and leggings for you, Heather! 🙂

  2. I agree completely… I’ve found that even jeans and a tee can look so much better with a cardi and scarf. And it’s comfy and chic! 🙂 I’ve been working on my me-made wardrobe. Although I’m sewing myself a flannel shirt and found out as I put on the first cuff last night that I must have fat wrists (cuff is too small)… so I’m off to JoAnn’s this morning since I’d used all the fabric cutting it out!! Oh, well. It will be fabulous when I’m done!! 🙂

    1. Ah, the scarf + cardi power duo — I’ve got to incorporate that more! I’m absolutely sure that your flannel shirt will be amazing, Kristi. How very Pacific Northwest of you :-).

  3. Hello, Sanae! It’s nice to catch up with you. Glad to hear your book is done (or close to?) and that you can now focus on yourself.

    I enjoyed reading the story of Madame Frump! It is so true that people treat you differently depending on what you look like. While I used touches of the KonMari Method, I did not go to the extreme and throw out anything that did not immediately spark joy. That is because we sewists can refashion so I took that into consideration and that was a good thing. Enjoy your journey to Madame Chic! 😉

    1. The book never seems to end, does it? I’m told that I have just one more review, but little questions and updates keep cropping up, so I’m not entirely certain when I can definitively say it’s complete. At this point, though, I’m feeling WAY more relaxed :-). Glad you liked the post, and yes, Madame Chic!! That’s what I need to be! Thank you, Melissa!

    1. Yay, thanks Fiona! I have been dying to get back into sewing for myself…I have a little more cleaning and organizing to do to make the house feel habitable again, but I bet by next week I’ll be a sewing fiend 😉

    1. Well, it’s always a special event when I get to see you, Morgan! Are you back?? I want to hear all about your adventures!

  4. Haha! I love this so much! Good luck on your adventures. I can’t wait to see where they lead. I too am taking the time to think before I sew and it is a fun exercise!

    1. Impulse sewing is definitely my M.O. so yes, I want to approach this “transformation” from frump to non-frump a little more intentionally. Excited for you too, Em!

  5. I love Madame Frump! And Dump the Frump is too precious too! I don’t know what to say about your look, because you haven’t shown yourself around here in months. I am sure you are not looking as frumpy as you imagine, but I can imagine getting rid of all my nice clothes and sticking with the baggy dumpies. I can go overboard on chucking stuff out. I did not get on the Mari Kondo bandwagon. I figured it was a big new years de-cluttering trend. First I would buy the book, and have to get rid of that, and then I saw some hardware stores selling stuff to help with our de-cluttering, so I would have to buy and then dump my de-cluttering paraphernalia. I also inherited this itch to get rid of things from my dad, my husband inherited some pack rat tendancies from his parents, but I am not allowed to chuck out his stuff. Reading such a book would just get me into a lather of frustration.

    I am so glad to hear that you are going to put some time into making yourself some clothes. Make some really great stuff that makes you happy! You can still wear your comfy clothes. Don’t get rid of those and create the need to make more. After all, while you are sewing you don’t want some tight waistband bothering you. Congratulations on your finished work and best of luck for all the bits that need finishing. I have been loving your illustrations lately. I have been inspired to paint a bit too, or watercolour a bit too. It is a hard to keep it up though.

    1. Good advice on keeping the comfies for sewing up my upgraded wardrobe, Max! 🙂 I’m glad that my instagram doodles encouraged you to pick up your own brush – I love that!

  6. Oh, awesome!! I can’t wait to see what you make. I wish I would make more time for garment sewing. I’d love to revamp my wardrobe too. Good luck!

  7. I am so proud of you for your book accomplishments. I am also interested to see what you come up with. I have had intentions of making my own clothes, but life has been too overwhelming and I am giving myself a break from those expectations. Who knows what will happen next…?

    1. Thank you so much, Beccy, it’s an enormous relief to be done with the book. Yes, giving oneself a break is VERY important and if the clothes-making turns out to be too much, I’ve already given myself permission to give up ;-)!

  8. Oh, yes! I totally agree on the power of clothes, especially for your sense of self. I’ve had periods of dressing down and periods of dressing up, currently I’m a weird mixture of both, completely casual with jeans and AllStars one day, full on business look with high heels, patterned stockings and pencil skirts the other day. Though the contrast may be a bit extreme, it matches with my life and I love to dress up for the occasion, wether that occasion is a business meeting or a walk in the woods with kids & dog. For a few years, especially since having kids, I didn’t go into extremes, always taking the middle road with jeans and a turtleneck. And though I still wear jeans and turtlenecks a lot, I try to intentionally choose them now and love how dressing up for the occasion helps me to get my mind in the right set immediately.
    Looking forward to seeing what creations you come up with!

    1. I love that you’re seamlessly integrating casual AND business wear into your regular routines, Nienke. I think the “intentional” part is key, and that’s the direction I’m trying to go toward. 🙂

  9. A few months ago i ditch some confy clothes, and got some new ones, i miss the maxi skirts but being 158cm and 75kg they didn’t do me justice. And i’m starting to use makup, you really get another treatment from people, thats wrong but just the way it is. So lets play along! Hugs

    1. It’s fascinating to see how a swipe of lipstick and a little extra care in our attire can affect other people’s reactions, isn’t it? I agree that it’s unfortunate how people are quickly judged by appearances, but at the same time, I believe the way we clothe and present ourselves to the world may be a deliberate form of self-expression. At the end of the day, I just think clothes are fun! Hugs back, Silvia!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *