I've been thinking about the details that set my favorites of the clothes I've made apart from ones that don't feel "right." Consider this the first in a series of my style principles, illustrated.
When I think of my ideal style, it's very unembellished--very austere and 90s minimalist. My style reality has a lot more frills and ruffles, but when I sew my own clothes, I try to make the embellishment count.
I love lace and piping inserted into seams, fullness from bias cowls at the neck or armscye, and godets inset into sleeves and skirts. Soft pleats are a restrained alternative to ruffles, if the latter makes you feel like a cupcake (, if that's a bad thing).
If you don't mind looking like a cupcake: Katherine Hepburn as Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story
When sewing my own clothes, I try to learn something new every garment (makes for slow sewing, but also rewarding). I've got my eye on the following techniques for the feminine details in my fall sewing:
Kimono sleeves with gussets, with a cowl neck--this looks so sleek and seamless;
Double-needle pintucks down the front of a cotton batiste blouse;
Some kind of ruffles, using my new-to-me ruffle foot;
Long sleeves cut on the bias.