When I asked Tabitha if she would be my model this week, she was quite snippy with me! She said that in the past I haven't listened to her about what she feels good wearing, or what really allows her to express herself. She told me she would model for me, but that I should just pick an outfit I like and not try to make it about her expressing herself, because it was really just about me expressing myself. What she said really hurt my feelings, because my greatest passion when it comes to clothes is helping people use them to show the world on the outside who they really are inside. At first I thought I would stop asking Tabitha to model for me at all. But I talked to my best friend about it (because I talk to her about everything!), and Charlie said she thought I should listen to what Tabitha was saying and let it help me be a better stylist, rather than feeling badly about it. I realised that Charlie's advice was good, and Tabitha's complaints were fair. So I swallowed my pride, went back to Tabitha's room, and asked her if she would pick the basics of her outfit herself -- whatever she wanted to wear -- and I might perhaps offer just a couple of suggestions about styling it up. Graciously, Tabitha agreed. And would you believe, it worked! Together we put together an outfit that was really and truly about Tabitha, but also a refined twist on what she might wear every day.
The original outfit that Tabitha chose began with what looks like her ribcage T-shirt. It's actually a T-shirt dress -- just a straight T-shirt that comes so a bit above the knee. Tabitha was going to wear it with destroyed grey jeggings, this flannel tied around her waist, and black Doc Martens. I'm going to be honest: I kind of hated it, because I would never ever wear it myself. I started to realise how Tabitha must have felt about the outfits I picked for her to wear, and I felt pretty ashamed of myself as a stylist.
I actually love the hand-painted ribcage dress, honestly. I thought it would work beautifully with some super-feminine styling as a memento mori (a Victorian thing that reminds you of how fleeting and precious life is), but I wanted to work with Tabitha's choices too.
I decided the best place to start looking for inspiration was in Tabitha's own closet. That's where I found this completely amazing black crinoline. Tabitha said she wears it under a couple of her dresses when she has to really dress up for some reason. I suggested that she try wearing it OVER the T-shirt dress, as a skirt. Tabitha loved the idea!
I really felt strongly that the nearly all-black look needed some colour, so I reached for the flannel Tabitha had chosen. Tabitha agreed with the decision, because even though she loves all black, she was concerned that the super-ruffly 'skirt' needed something to balance it out and make it less 'girly-looking' (her words). I love that this flannel shirt is cut in a fitted modern style, not the long, shapeless flannels of the '90s. It makes all the difference in ensuring that Tabitha's outfit looks put together rather than sloppy.
The short skirt provided the perfect opportunity for Tabitha to show off this beautiful pair of hand-knit knee socks that I borrowed from Charlie. (Charlie's mom runs a knitting shop. She has hand-knits stashed everywhere in her room. It's like a treasure hunt every time I go in there, I'm telling you!) Tabitha reached for her trusty Docs, but I suggested these mary jane-style sneakers instead. They show off more of the socks, and they also fit in perfectly with the outfit's very-casual/very-dressy contrast.
Both Tabitha and I are so happy with the way her look turned out! Tabitha feels completely comfortable in this outfit. She tells me she would wear it almost anywhere she needed to be a little bit more dressed-up than usual. I think she looks really cute and put together, and when I look at Tabs in this outfit, I immediately see my friend, not just her clothes.
I'm grateful to Tabitha for being willing to work with me again, and most of all, for being willing to teach me the most important lesson a stylist has to learn: it's not about me, it's about the person I'm styling. If I can't make them look themselves-but-even-better, I've not done my job. It was a painful lesson to learn because I really hate to admit when I'm doing something less than perfectly. But owning up to your failures and mistakes is the only way to get better and do it right the next time! Have you ever had to learn a hard lesson from a friend?
Ribcage dress and flannel shirt: The Doll Designer
Crinoline: Argh, I cannot remember where I got this! It's not from Etsy or eBay; it was an independent online shop. I bought it at least three years ago. They had crinolines in a ton of different colours. It's the most beautifully-made crinoline I've ever seen for dolls. If you know of an online shop that sells doll crinolines, please post it here and I'll update the post if we figure it out!
Knee socks: Hand-knit by me