Skip to content

It might seem hard to believe, but I did not always dress in bright colors and loud patterns. Once upon a time, I disliked having photos taken. When I was pregnant with my daughter I wore black yoga pants, which really were sweat pants with a fancy merchandising label. There’s nothing like regurgitation and lack of sleep to make you not care about clothing. Except they were a staple well into the toddler years as well. 

Knitting Pattern Links take you to
Garter stitch scarf (own pattern) in La Gran Mohair by Classic Elite; Knitting Pure & Simple # 9725 Neck Down Cardigan by Diane Soucy in Manos del Uruguay Wool Classica; Dress no. 2; Pants, pattern forthcoming

At some point I transitioned to black linen pants. I looked in thrift stores and online for pairs that had forgiving elastic waists, as well as a size a range that could accommodate me. The gravitation to darker colors was an effort to camouflage my body. I did not like the way I looked and certainly did not want to call attention to myself. Getting dressed for special occasions was a particular chore, with rejected pieces of clothing piling up on the bed.

Acer Cardigan by Kirsten Kapur in Beaverslide Merino Worsted; Shirt no. 2; Dress no. 1; Pants no. 2

In 2002 I learned how to knit, which in turn led me to the online world of blogs and photo sharing sites like Flickr. I joined a group started by Tricia Royal, called Wardrobe_Remix, which was a place for people to chronicle what they were wearing in their daily lives. I made the scary leap of taking a full length photo and putting it on the internet. I was buoyed by the positive response and made many wonderful friends. Several years later I began sewing, started sharing those clothes and here we are now. 

Radiance Shawlette by Tina Whitmore in Knitwhits Freia Handpaints Ombre worsted; Knitting Pure & Simple # 9724 Neck Down Pullover for Women in Pigeonroof Studios Superwash Merino Worsted; Dress no. 1; Pants no. 1 

I share this backstory, because I subscribed to the idea that a particular number on a scale or dress size was required to feel good about myself, when actually the exact opposite turned out to be true. I decided to wear those things I was avoiding. As my confidence grew, I went brighter with the colors and bolder with the prints—Hello Polkadots! I found what clothes I liked to wear and slowly grew my wardrobe to suit my needs. 

Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies in GGH Via Mala; Dress no. 2; Pants no. 1

If you’re waiting around for some contrived notion of the right time, don’t! It might never happen. Have fun and wear what makes you feel good.

Save it for later. Keep Sonya’s recommendations handy in your MDK account. Here’s how.

About The Author

Sonya Philip is an artist, designer, teacher, and the author of The Act of Sewing. She has made it her mission to convince people to make their own clothes, by teaching classes and selling patterns. When not covered in bits of thread, she can be found knitting another shawl or cardigan. Sonya lives in San Francisco with her family and their scruffy terrier duo, Willie and Hazel.


  • I certainly know the feeling of rejected pieces of clothing piling up on the floor and ended up feeling so stressed!

    • Oh Annie, it is so stressful! That we do that to ourselves. UGH

    • Another inspirational article! I’m so grateful to you!

  • I so needed to read this today! I haven’t seen for myself in years, and I’ve only been knitting hats and scarves for myself, even though I’m not going anywhere, lol. I think I’ll invest in a few extra skeins so I can make a sweater in MY size! Thank you fir for posting this.

    • You’re so welcome Maria! And YES to those extra skeins of some lovely yarn to make yourself a sweater <3

    • I’m there too. Thanks for posting this. It helped me a lot.

      • You’re very welcome!

  • We know how we get vitamin D from being out in the sunshine, right? I feel like I have a dose of vitamin D when I read your columns, Sonya. I love seeing you in ALL the photos. And you inspire me. I’ve been waiting for something to kickstart me into knitting another sweater – your photos today have done the trick. Thank you so much.

    • Martha! That is the sweetest thing ever. Thank you so much. So happy to hear I bring some sunshine into your day.

  • Beautiful!

    • Thank you Gale <3

  • Whenever I open my MDK e-mail and see Sonya, I get excited. I love the clothes and the colors and the attitude and everything! Thank you for getting my day off to a very good start.

    • Thank you so much, that just tickles me to no end reading this!

    • Me too – I said YAY! when I saw it was Sonya today. Good to see you this morning (says me, wearing grey sweat pants, burgundy T-shirt, black vest, ….. And crayon-bright rainbow-striped socks.) I love wearing bright socks! My partner shakes his head, but they make me feel happy.
      Thanks for the color-burst, Sonya!

      • Thank you so much. And let’s hear it for bright colored socks!!

  • Wow! Gorgeous and inspiring photos. Plus you sure live where there are some great murals! Thanks so much for all your words of wisdom – maybe I’ll move on from greys to, say, navy blue – how wild is that!

    • Thank you Ginny. And yes, San Francisco has a very rich mural tradition. And as for the move to navy blue – baby steps!

    • p.s. I’m going to print out a couple of your photos (lots of ink color!) and post them on my bulletin board for daily inspiration. Thank you, Sonya.

      • I am so incredibly flattered <3

  • Thank you thank you thank you! You inspire me

    • You’re very welcome Whitney!!

  • Such a timely article for me, as it reinforces a resolution I made just yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised to realize how much progress I’ve made in getting out of the habit of asking myself, “what will people think if I wear this?” I resolved to ask myself only two questions in the future: “do I like it?” and “do I think it’s appropriate for the activity/event?” I think I’ll add a third: “Does this make me look happy?” Such an inspired question!

    • Oh Andrea, that’s SUCH a good resolution! We really need to get out of that mindset of what other people think. I’m honored that you’d add does this make me look happy. <3

  • Now THIS is what “self-care” looks like!!!!! Brava Sonya for writing and MDK for publishing this!!!! This is exactly what I needed to read…every day. And also I love your pictures as fun creativity. But your message is crucial and welcome. How wonderful MDK sees the importance and fun of this message.

    • So happy to hear Jane! And yes, it is something we need to remind ourselves daily, because the messages we get from media and advertisements all want to pitch to our insecurities. Self made wear = Self care

  • LOVE this! My outfit today is an homage to your style.

    • I love this so much Max!! xo

  • Your column truly an inspiration. I am ready to knit a new sweater and even sew a dress. You have given me so much to ponder. To paraphrase Patty Lyons,”Knit and Sew On!” I look forward to your next posts.

    • Thank you Pam, it makes me happy to hear my words have resonated with you. And yes knit and sew on!!

  • Ahhhh, love this and your style, Sonya!

    • Thank you Kim!

  • This is my first time reading Sonya’s articles. It really hit home and made me feel I need to be happy and okay with who I am. Thank you so much.

    • You’re very welcome. It’s an important switch to flip, being okay with who you are. It takes time, but making nice things for your self is definitely one way to express the love.

  • Always love to read Sonya. You are a joy to look at. Love your choices. You have given me permission to do what I want and what makes me happy.
    Thank you.
    Love today’s murals.

    • Thank you Jane, that makes me really happy to hear! So glad you enjoyed reading my words this month.

  • Help! I don’t sew but would LOVE to wear dresses like you wear, Sonya. Where, oh where can I find clothes like this to buy? I would wear them in a heartbeat!

    • Cal Patch, who I learned to pattern draft sells some ready to wear clothing. Other great choices are Secret Lentil and Specks and Keeping.

    • Flax clothing ( does some silhouettes a lot like Sonya’s, and in fun colors and patterns. And Sonya sells patterns too!

  • Great art! Always a happy surprise!

    • Thank you so much!

  • YOU INSPIRE ME! I’m so tired of my mostly black wardrobe!!!! I love colors!!!! Who gives a f if I’m big???? <3

    • You should go for it Brooke! I’m a firm believer in bright colors as mood enhancer.

  • Sonya, you go girl! Inspiring read. Thank you.

    • Thank you Jeanne, so glad you enjoyed it.

  • You are my style icon. I’m learning to sew because of your patterns and those of Jacquie Cieslak’s. I can’t wait to wear clothes that reflect me and are comfortable because they fit!

    • Thank you so much! And yes, Jacquie’s new book is wonderful. Making clothes is such a gift to yourself.

  • Every outfit you have ever posted is the most exquisite composition. Perfectly balanced, composed, perfectly proportioned, always a touch of surprise. Huzzah, carry on in joy.

    • Thank you so much. Love your sentiments here, I totally will carry on in joy!

  • I want to make all those beautiful things! This was an inspiring read.

    • You can and should – go forth and make!

  • Gorgeous! And seeing you wear what makes you happy makes ME happy, too!

    • Thank you so much!!

  • You are a breath of fresh air….love your happy, colorful clothes❤

    • Thank you so much Ellen!

  • Thanks for the inspiration, Sonya! Being happy is a focus for me. I want to make and wear garments that give me energy.

    • Yes to this Marian! Energy is important, I think we can really get some from bright colors and fun prints.

  • I entered pandemic isolation AND stopped smoking a year ago, the result being weight gain that has left me with not-too-many things that fit me, since I had purged all of my “big” clothes a few years ago while in a smaller phase. My wardrobe is thus pretty distilled and I’ve really appreciated what I have that feels OK and looks OK. I rarely feel great about how I LOOK, but am NOT wearing anything that doesn’t FEEL good. Have a pair of your #1pants ready to cut out and am excited about making sweaters that fit me. Today it’s nice soft cropped jeans and a tee that must be at least 10 years old from when Target had really nice clothes. It has beads and sequins sewn on that have lasted intact all these years; it’s kind of a miracle t-shirt.

    • I hear you about looking and feeling good Leslie. I know the two are linked. And it’s a really nice feeling when favorite clothes can last. Hope you enjoy making the pants and that it’s the first of many pairs!

      • OMG. I should have told you this, too. I made another pair of #1 pants (ahem, too small now) but my extremely sassy granddaughter, at age 4 or so, made this comment. (B_____, do you like the pants I made?) She squinted and pondered, and finally said “dem is not pants. dem is pajamas” making me love her all over again. My mother wears them now.

  • Yay, Sonya! Love your beautiful colors. You are an inspiration!

    • Thank you, you’re very kind!

  • Love your bright colors! You do look happy!

    • Thank you so much Alice!

  • Do you ever teach workshops on combining patterns and colours? I love the way you do it but when I do it things don’t look so deliberate- I look more like nothing else was clean that day.

    • I haven’t in a long time Pamela. I always suggest that people start small with accessories. Also taking photos of what you’re wearing when you feel like you look like a million bucks. You don’t need to share it on social media unless you want to. Just starting an album on your phone or computer is fine, then try and replicate the elements of what works for you. And also, you’re name seems so familiar! Did you have kids at Elmwood School?

  • Thank you, Sonya. Your outfits are lovely, colourful and original, and suit you very well. They really cheered me up. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you so much Carole!

  • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    I am sorry to be the bearer of the bad news in otherwise gashing comments, but girl- you look hideous. Literally as a result of somebody’s hallucinogenic trip… Maybe some sense of taste is required before starting to teach other how to dress…
    • It makes me *very* happy to see Sonya wearing these combinations of prints and patterns, and judging by the comments it makes a lot of other folks happy, too. Most importantly, it makes *Sonya* happy, and she is simply suggesting that we all think more about choosing to wear clothes that make us happy. She isn’t telling you to copy her style, she is just saying we all might want to spend less time dressing to seek the approval of others and more for what makes us happy ourselves. Hard to argue with that concept if you ask me!

    • Wow, my first troll! Even with a pseudonym, you’ve revealed a lot about yourself by taking the time and energy to leave a comment like this. Hope you can find some happiness.

  • You have certainly achieved your goal.

    • YES, I’m a lot happier than I was fifteen years ago!

  • How wonderful to read this today. I love your colors and I want to dress like you every day. Plus I am gratified that you have have knitted Knitting Pure & Simple Dian Soucy patterns — my absolute favorites.

  • Hi Sonya! I do love your style and even sewed a couple of your Pant #1s before I realized that I’m actually happier in tighter pants. You mentioned that special occasions were tough for you…what DO you wear to a fancy wedding or something? I can’t find things that seem like “me” for dress-up.

  • Great point! Thank you.

  • Love that you arrived at this philosophy which developed in me at a young age. We were poor so I didn’t have many clothes, but I certainly tried to make them count even hand-me-downs. Choosing clothes to make me feel better has long been a yardstick for me.

  • I’m 68 years old and my mother is appalled by the way I dress because I don’t own any panty hose or high heels/pumps. I dress for comfort. It is amazing that I always look good and comfortable.
    Thank you for these positive articles:)

  • “Does This Make Me Look Happy?” is one of the all-time great headlines. A few years ago, I started tutoring young children. And I started dressing brighter and happier for them. Without realizing it, I think I was asking myself this question. Now I can ask it in so many words. Thank you, Sonya, for your glowing example. Beam on!

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping