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The word ‘authentic’ seems to have lost a lot of currency with the social media shorthand of hashtags, but despite this, I believe clothing is a way of communicating our authentic selves. This is done by wearing clothes we feel good in, not simply look good in. It’s lovely to receive compliments and I make it a habit to let strangers on the street how much I love their outfit or a particular piece of clothing.

Sonya is wearing: 100 ACTS OF SEWING Shirt no. 1; Dress no. 1; and Pants no. 1.

We are collectively trained at an increasingly early age not to trust our own taste. There’s the dizzying merry-go-round of changing styles, with retailers and fashion magazines trumpeting what is all the rage from one season to the next. That ‘must have’ item becomes dated within months or weeks and maybe you didn’t even like it in the first place, but there it is stuffed in the back of your closet. So how can you remain curious and eager to explore when there is a chorus of voices telling you they know better?

Sceles sweater by Anna Maltz in Shibui Twig; dress (own pattern); and Pants no. 1.

First, remember those rules are there to be broken. Exploring new ways of doing things or “unventing,” in the word coined by Elizabeth Zimmermann, applies to the way you think about getting dressed as well as how you approach knitting. How to unvent your wardrobe: slowly, in small ways, and making things with materials you love.

Forest Canopy Shawl by Susan Lawrence in Kaalund Enchanté; Tunic no. 1; Dress no. 1; and Pants no. 1.

Back To Black (And White)

Last month was my love letter to the vibrant hues. Now I am taking it right back to the basics. When you think of black and white in the context of clothing, it’s a classical combination, say a Chanel jacket. However, black and white also has the tendency to look a lot like a uniform. But in a field of black and white, a small pop of color can have a big impact. A bright scarf, necklace, or a pair of red shoes are all ways to inject some saucy fun into a neutral palette.

dress (own pattern) and Pants no. 1.

Wearing prints sometimes is challenging enough. Combining different ones, or “pattern mixing,” can be downright intimidating. The idea of purposely clashing might be a bridge too far; we all want to avoid the “got dressed in the dark” look. Making color act as the unifying element can take away some of the fear. Here’s where black and white prints really have a chance to shine. Mix up stripes, matching horizontal with vertical or narrow with large. Play with the scale, pairing a tiny polka dot print with larger ones. The addition of a garment in a solid color helps to anchor the whole ensemble.

Boneyard Shawl by Stephen West knit by Steven Ambrose in Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rocks Lightweight; dress (own pattern); Pants no. 2 (forthcoming pattern).

Experiment and enjoy wearing your clothes in whatever color, size, pattern, or shape. Find the combinations you love.

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.


  • talent freedom joy These are some of the hallmarks of Sonya’s style. I have set off on my own version of 100 acts of sewing while also incorporating inspiration from the sophistication of Sonya’s artwork. I am lifted and inspired thanks to Sonya Philip.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. I know who to call on to write a blurb for a book – FRONT COVER! And I’m happy to hear how my own making has inspired your own.

  • Joy! I love your posts. They brighten my day.

    • Thank you Donna, so glad you enjoy my posts!

  • Love Sonya, love her look, love her patterns, love her outlook!
    Thank you, Sonya.

    • Awww, thank you Jane! You’re very kind.

  • I credit Sonya with my returning to sewing some of my own clothing about a year ago. After today’s post, my appetite for something black and white is whetted! I need to go fabric shopping! (oh my).

    • Hurrah for sewing! That’s wonderful to hear and YES there are so many great black and white prints out there.

  • Let me join the chorus of people who simply love your style. I am a relative novice to creating garments, and I’m hoping you can share some information about the fabrics you chose. I love the drape on all of them.

    • Thank you very much! I’m writing up a post on what to look for in fabrics and where to get them on Facebook – planning on posting it next week. If you click on my bio there’s a link to my page.

  • “We are collectively trained at an increasingly early age not to trust our own taste.” This one definitely rings true to me. Why do we trust the taste of people whose job it is to make us BUY! MORE! THINGS!?

    I’m 35 and I think I’m only just figuring out what I actually like to wear. Lots of white, black, grey, navy, and RED, it turns out.

    It also turns out that I don’t constantly need NEW clothes when I have ones that really suit me. (Take THAT advertisers!)

    I think I’ve been inspired by watching my 3-year-old daughter pick out her own clothes without any fear or self-consciousness. Prints with crazy prints! Colors with crazy colors! Same sweater every day for 2 weeks! Dress shoes scuffed to oblivion!

    And she always looks exhuberantly wonderful and totally herself.

    • Yes, I totally agree with you Katie! I had a very similar experience watching my kids get dressed when they were toddlers. And three cheers for wearing party shoes for every occasions and not just the fancy ones ❤️

  • Love this and 100 Acts of Sewing. Sonya’s patterns were my first successful entrance into garment sewing. So intrigued by the upcoming pants no. 2!!

    • I love, love, LOVE that Lori and yes, I am working on that next pattern.!

  • I used to sew but don’t have a machine now. Yet I have gleaned very helpful tips from Sonya just on how to combine & coordinate my readymade clothes into great outfits. I especially love this post on black & white – every one of her outfits are amazing! Thank you!

    • Thank you so much Traci! I hope you can find yourself a machine. Sometimes stores or maker spaces have drop-in studio time where you can use their machines and more importantly, spread out on large cutting tables.

    • You can find a basic sewing machine for cheap on Craig’s List or at your local Goodwill. I saw two “oldies but goodies” both in cabinets at Goodwill last Friday. (No, I was not tempted, I already have 2 machines and a serger) A few years ago my son scored a serviceable machine on Craig’s List for $10. It cost about $100 to get it up and running but still that’s a great price. Plus the holidays are coming up and everyone will have machines on sale. All you really need are straight and zigzag stitches, and maybe a buttonholer, when you get back into it.

      • Really great advice Barbara, I do love my older machines. I have three vintage Singers – built to last!

  • Oh the joy! Sonya’s fashion sense, eye, and joie de vivre are an inspiration.

    • Thank you Misa!

  • Why, I cut out two Tunic No. 1s just yesterday and will be sewing them up later, and there are two lengths of linen blend fabric in my stash just waiting to become a Dress No.1 and a Tunic No. 1. I’m confident that there will be a red pocket on at least one of those. Still not brave enough to go print for Pants No. 1 but I might get there.

    Eager to see the new Pants pattern.

    • Hurrah for all the making ✂️ and YES to the red pocket!! Believe it or not, it took me a while to make patterned pants, my first few pairs were solids. I particularly like linen or linen blends. I’m working on the new pattern, should be ready in the next few weeks!

  • My fabric is all washed and sorted and traced patterns have been made. Ready to SewSewSew!!

    • Hurrah Elaine – ready, set, STITCH!!

  • I love your color sense, and I love your black and white sense, too! Thank you for sharing your great sense of style and these joyful, handmade clothes with us!

    • Thank you so much Laura! There are lots of great graphic black and white prints to choose from – stripes, dots and everything else ❤️

  • Sonya’s attitude towards clothing is so refreshing and joyful! I’ve been knitting and crocheting for several years, but only took up sewing a few months ago. I’ve made handbags, pillowcases and coin purses so far, but she gives me hope that I can make great outfits with relatively simple looking patterns. Her pattern mixes are so fun. 🙂

    • Oh Wanda, that’s so kind of you. It’s a short leap from accessories to garments. I like to say my patterns are simple and I let the fabric do most of the talking!

  • Love your style as much as your backdrops!

    • Thank you so much Laura, I am very lucky to live in a city with a rich tradition of murals.

  • I am so happy to see more news of you! Your Dress No.2 is more go to, tried’n’true favorite.

    • THANK YOU and that is so great, it’s wonderful to know that Dress no. 2 is a favorite ❤️

  • I love your look!! I get inspired by your choices of color, pattern and style! I am not a skinny-mini, and you have given me the courage to start making my own clothes again and to think outside the box. I would love to spend the day sewing with you! I’m sure my head would explode with possibilities!

    • Oh Cheryl, I would love to spend the day sewing with you! So happy to hear you’re inspired and hurrah for courage – make what you want for your body. Happy sewing ❤️

  • My mother used to compliment people on their “costumes”. I sometimes use the same word when I complement people on their ensemble.

  • how do you make pant No. 2

  • You are just absolutely SO gorgeous, not to mention the inspiration drive boost your creativity has given me. Thank you for what you’ve given this world, yourself, and others.

  • Extra lovely !!! Colors are truly needed in every wardrobe.

  • I love your designs. So fun looking
    .3 years now. I can not knitt
    Much but designs are very incurring.

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