Why Japanese Pattern Books Rock

The minute I dug into my first project from Happy Homemade Sew Chic, I remembered all the reasons I admire Japanese culture and style. Simply put: simplicity rocks.

A slice of the freshest salmon, resting on a little bed of vinegared rice. A painting that’s as much about the white space as about the painted image. An wooden box, carved so that the wood grain is the only decoration you need.

A Japanese-American friend of mine explained the Japanese aesthetic to me this way (I’m paraphrasing here): “We’re a small, island nation. We don’t have a lot of natural resources or a lot of space. So, we use what we have, always using the best quality and the best craftsmanship. We value simplicity and elegance.”

Isn’t that refreshing? The French chef takes that piece of salmon and concocts some 10-ingredient sauce to drown it in. The Japanese chef knows that the salmon can stand alone.

The “Dress with Front Tuck,” has three pattern pieces, plus bias binding for the neckline and armholes. That’s it. The most complex pattern in Happy Homemade Sew Chic, for a three-tiered skirt, has 10 pieces, mostly just rectangles folded into shape. No pattern requires a zipper or a buttonhole. I don’t even see a dart.

When you wear these clothes, you shine through. Your beauty. Your character. Your quality.

Isn’t that scary? Aren’t we used to hiding ourselves behind labels, behind structure and padding? We seek clothes that hide our flaws – a protruding tummy, fluffy thighs – and in the end w

e just hide ourselves. We seek clothes to express who we are – designer purses, $200 jeans – and what do we really express, beyond our wealth or our spendthrift ways?

That’s the appeal for me of trying this look. I may make fun of it, but that fun comes from deep admiration.

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