Tag Archives: wardrobe architect

The tyranny of a handmade wardrobe

Image from BurdaStyle

For as long as I’ve known him, which is nearly 10 years, the husband has been giving me a very hard time about the state of my wardrobe.

I’ve know women who have snuck bags of clothes into the back of the wardrobe and burnt the receipts in the vain hope of their other half not noticing that they’ve been shopping again.  I am not one of those women.

Neither am I one of those women who struggle to fit another thing in the cupboard and have no idea what delights lurk at the back of the closet.

Nope…I’m the girl with 6 things in her wardrobe and who, when an event comes up unexpectedly, genuinely has nothing to wear. I’m not even kidding!  I can wear a pair of jeans and 3 tops to destruction…and frequently have.  That’s why tumble dryers were invented!  And why hubby has been so frustrated with me!

Whilst I can in clear conscience say that during the early years of our relationship our finances meant that it was more important for the kids to be clothed well and for the husband to be kept in suits than for me to have an outfit for every event; or that, at 5 foot 7 and plus sized, clothes shopping isn’t the most fun because I sit squarely between standard and tall sizes and, well, everyone over a size 14 knows how tricky finding your size on the rack can be, these were really nothing more than excuses for not having anything to wear.

No. In reality, the single most significant contributor to the lack of clothing in my wardrobe is one small and seemingly innocuous phrase.

“I could make that.”

I could make that blue instead of lime green with pink dots. I could make that cheaper.  I could make that with a better fit.  I could make that better quality. I could make that and people in Bangladeshi sweatshops wouldn’t die so I have clothes on my back.

I could make that.

Except…I have 2 young children who have faced challenges due to the circumstances of their births.  Boy didn’t sleep through the night or past 5am until he started school.  It’s only in the last 3 months that he regularly sleeps past 6.30am. He used to sit and scream for hours on end.  Hours. I’m telling you…that makes for one tired mum!

Except…For the early years of their lives I was studying to finish my degree.  Then I was doing up the house.  And doing it again.  And now I’m studying to become an accountant.

Except…my husband works away from home all week.  He leaves at 6.15 on a Monday morning and gets home late on a Thursday evening.   It used to be Sunday to Friday.  This is bliss!

Except…I have a home to run and family and friends.

Except….

Now don’t get me wrong.  My life is exactly how I want it to be.  Well…apart from the husband working away bit, but we’re a team and it’s the nature of his work, so I’m not complaining.  And my kids are champions to have come through some much.

But adding to everything the desire to make every. single. item of clothing I wear. And for the kids too.  It wasn’t my greatest idea!

Let’s face it, though.  We are surrounded by people who do this.  Who sew fabulous garments one after the other.  Who have drawers full of beautiful handmade lingerie.  And stunning hand knit sweaters.

We are reminded that oftentimes the clothes we can purchase are made with the sweat and blood and lives of people who will never have the luxury of choosing whether their wardrobes are handmade, ethically produced and locally sourced. Sadly the tone is often one of reproach towards anyone who strays from this path.

I hasten to add at this point that I’m not advocating mass consumerism.  Regular trips to the shops is not my idea of fun.  I have never and will never purchase a thing from Primark.  £2 t-shirts cannot be considered a Good Thing for anyone.

I still want to get to a point where I’m making more than I’m buying. But let’s get real.  At the moment this ain’t gonna happen.

Over the last few months, however, as my thinking on this has shifted, I’ve been making a few strategic purchases.

So now, if the hubby wants to take me out to dinner, I’ve got a couple of nice dresses that do the trick.  Coffee with friends…jeans and a cute top.  Ditto cinema dates or a day out with himself.

I have cosy boots to do the school run and cute loafers for a lunch date.

It is wonderful.

I used my Wardrobe Architect knowledge to ensure that everything goes together. And something quite marvellous has come out of this.

I now have a very, VERY clear idea of what I want to sew. I know what it is I reach for in any given situation.  I know what colours garner the most compliments and what shapes I feel most comfortable in.

This has been a revelation.  Not only is this one less thing to stress about, but it’s also given me a plan for moving forward with my sewing.  I promise to share that soon in another post.

The moral of this story is that whilst the goal of a completely handmade wardrobe is a worthy and worthwhile aim, it’s ok if life prevents you achieving that right now.  It’s ok to cut yourself a little slack and shop a little.  Who knows…it might be as revelatory for you as it has been for me!


Why a fabric stash doesn’t work for me

Over the last year I’ve been gradually whittling down my fabric stash.  Some of my lovely readers have bought patterns and fabric from me…thank you.  Some of it has been donated to the local charity shop.

Destash-2-1

Needless to say my stash is considerably smaller than this time last year.

As we’ve been packing up the sewing loft ahead of its conversion to a bedroom, I’ve also taken the time to sort the remaining fabrics into “summer fabrics I’ll sew now”  and “winter fabrics that can go to the storage locker”.  The majority of the winter fabrics are also fabrics that I want to wait to sew until I’ve got the new sewing room set up and all my tools and books out of storage and available to me for more complex garments.

This change of sewing venue has definitely had something to do with this new found love of a stashless state. My new sewing room will be about a third of the size of my old one. Necessity is the mother of invention, or, in this case, the mother of all stash clear outs!

Another impetus for permanently reducing my stash is the work I did with Wardrobe Architect and the realisation that a lot of the fabrics I had were unsuitable because of the changing needs of my wardrobe.  I had been buying fabrics with my head still firmly in the corporate wear camp, whereas what I actually wear on a day to day basis is jeans and a top. I need more of these in my wardrobe and all my planned upcoming sews for myself will be items I’ll actually wear.

But the main reason I’m determined not to build a large stash again is the two blouses I showcased in my last post.

The blue is a fairly recent purchase, definitely this year.

The yellow was a gift from my lovely husband in 2012.

In 2012 I was a dark brunette.  Now I’m very light blonde working my way back to my natural colour of badger grey.  Had I made this blouse in 2012 the strong colour-way would have looked stunning against my dark hair.  Now, its still a very pretty top, and I’ve had several unsolicited compliments from folk who aren’t family members and therefore obligated to be nice, but the blue is by far the better colour on me.

I’ve very little summer fabric left in the stash…one piece of which is another bold yellow piece that I bought whilst still dark haired.  The jury is out on that piece at the moment. I’m not sure if it will stay or go.

But the fabric I’ve bought since the change of hair colour is all differing shades of blue, because blue is definitely the colour for me.  And not only does it look better but I feel really confident in blue.  Which can only be a good thing, no?

IMG_0002_edited-1

I love how even after all these years of sewing I’m still learning something new with every item I create.

And whilst a well stocked stash might be just the thing for some sewers, for me I’d much rather keep it to just the next couple of projects.  Not only will this reduce erroneous purchases that I then need to sell on, but it will also, hopefully, help me build a coherent wardrobe of garments I’ll actually wear that work together to create cute, versatile outfits.

I rather like that sound of that!


Grainline Linden….relearning a sewing lesson.

Wadder alert!

Whilst I love sharing things that have gone swimmingly…I think it’s also good to share the stuff that doesn’t quite work.  

I’ve learnt from this project…maybe someone else will too.

::  ::  ::  ::  ::

I’ve had my eye on the Linden pattern since Grainline initially launched the pattern.

Linden

I love traditional sweatshirts but they don’t love me…I’m the wrong shape for them. Despite this I had high hopes of Linden opening up lots of opportunities for sweatshirt love.

Sadly…I don’t think it’s going to be the case.  Be warned…this ain’t pretty!

Cue massively unflattering photos.

Cue massively unflattering photos. Not helped by the sweater being dragged back by my hands…but you get the picture!

I’m going to start out by saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this pattern. It’s my first Grainline pattern and it’s immaculately drafted and the instructions are really clear.

This is a clear case of hope triumphing over experience.

I know that raglan sleeves aren’t the best for me because I have sloping shoulders that don’t support the top of the sleeve.

I know I need to be cautious of scooped necklines…if they’re loose then they tend to slip and slide.

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I knew I needed to do a FBA and that would involve adding a bust dart.  In this case it’s still a tiny bit long and a tiny bit low.  Which would be hidden in a plain fabric but isn’t on this striped fabric.

IMG_0603

The fabric comes from the “what the hell was I thinking pile”!

And I know I just need a bit more shape in a garment.

Whilst this is undoubtedly a trainwreck of a garment, it’s all good! This has been a great and worthwhile process for me.

Over the last year I’ve gained quite a bit of weight….you can hardly have missed it. Mostly this has been driven by medication impacting on appetite, quite a bit of it steroid based because of my repeated bouts of bronchitis and accompanying chest infections.

(Cue too many cakes and too much pasta!)

These chest problems have also severely limited my ability to exercise, as has a very frozen shoulder for the last 6 months.

My changed shape size has undoubtedly knocked my sewing mojo.  I’m not overly inclined to sew for myself at this size as I’m determined that this isn’t a permanent state of affairs. Getting back to full health/fitness is a huge priority for me.  It seems such a waste of fabric…which is frankly crazy.  I still need stuff to wear…

My judgement as to what suits me is also off at the moment.  The photos above evidence that.

However….I do know that I’m glad I tried this pattern.  I bought it on sale and the fabric was very inexpensive too.  So it was an experiment that cost me a little money, a little time, but has taught me to really trust my instincts.

If I listen to myself I know what suits me.  It comes back to the work I did with Wardrobe Architect last year.  I need to revisit this because, even with this fuller shape, the principles still apply.

So that’s what I’m going to do.  I spent some time this past week sorting fabric and patterns in my stash.  Some are to go into storage until I have my new sewing room up and running, hopefully by the end of the year.  These are mainly lovely vintage winter fabrics…I see some beautiful jackets in my Winter 2015 wardrobe.

Others are patterns that I’m planning to build my Summer 2015 wardrobe around.  I have a few fabrics that I’ve been hoarding for too long….and a pile of patterns that had me exclaiming over and over again “oh!  I’d forgotten I had that!”.

It’s time to build a plan, I think.  I’ll be back with that soon….and a much more successful make!


Wardrobe Architect – Colour…Solids…Prints

wardrobe architect header

Wow, this post has been a long time coming.  Not only because I’ve been letting my thoughts on the topic percolate, but also because I hadn’t got a clue how to make the lovely little colour visuals to go along with it! You’ll see below that I’ve got a handle on that now…I’m currently working on improving my graphics skills.  More on that at a later date. For now…back to the matter in hand.

The Wardrobe Architect sessions on Colour, Organising Your Palette and Solids & Prints have been astonishingly revealing for me.

Historically I’ve been tempted by shiny, pretty fabrics as much as the latest “must have” pattern.  And, for me, this has been at the root of the lack of style cohesion.

Why?

For several reasons.

…When you have a lovely collection of pretty fabrics in different prints and every colour under the rainbow….nothing goes together.  Individually they are all lovely. Together it becomes a hot mess.

…Not all of the pretty fabrics really suit me.

…This lack of suitability means that the fabric doesn’t get sewn up, or, it does and the garment is an immediately fail because it feels off.

I’m as guilty of this with RTW as I am with fabrics.

So I flicked back through my blog posts and through my wardrobe and chose the outfits/garments that:

…Are the ones I reach for first when I open the wardrobe door.

…Are the ones that every time I wear them I receive a compliment…not always on the actual garment…most often of the “hey, you look really well today” variety.

…The ones that make me feel really good when I wear them.

Doing this flicked a lightbulb in my head.  And suddenly it became really easy to identify “my” colours.

Neutrals – the basics that go with just about everything.

WA 1 - Neutrals

Nearly neutrals – like neutrals but have a little more visual impact.

WA 2 - Nearly Neutrals v.2

Statement colours – “have a lot more visual weight, and they tend to make clothing more recognizable”

WA 3 - statement colours v.2

 

Metallics – “act like neutrals but have a bit more spark to them”

WA - Metallics

But what about prints and patterns?  I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty print.  They’ve not always been the best purchase for me.

Again, it’s become surprisingly clear.

I love a good polka dot and a strong stripe

Checks and “twee” florals are less my style.  (Hey…look…”my style”…it’s working! 😉 )

Bold and modern prints and florals…oh yes please.

Geometrics….not so much.

Image from The Village Haberdashery

Image from The Village Haberdashery

What surprised me the most is that this isn’t a big list.  I think I’d always thought that if I had a wardrobe full of clothes of the same colours, it would all be a bit bland.  In reality it’s completely the opposite.  Not all navy trousers are the same!

Having a wardrobe of garments in colours that make me feel good, in the silhouettes that I love to wear, and which can easily mix and match will be liberating and exciting.

Surprisingly this all fell into place for me last week.  I was trying on some tops and knew that a tunic silhouette with a 3/4 sleeve would be worn to death.  I picked up half a dozen in the colours I now know work for me, and then it was a simple issue of fit.  Whereas clothes shopping is usually an exercise in frustration and futility, within 30 minutes I’d tried on several pairs of jeans and a handful of tops and walked out with one of each.

Painless.  For the first time ever!

Next time I’ll bring the series even more up to date with my thoughts on planning my Autumn/Winter wardrobe.  I know it’s summer, but I’m working my way through stash fabric at the moment…the stuff I do want to wear.  Clearing the decks so that I can plan my next steps without fabric/pattern guilt!


Wardrobe Architect – proportions and silhouettes

wardrobe architectMy, I’m so behind with posting on this topic, and for no other reason than, once again, I’ve found the subject matter so very challenging.

Anyone whose followed my blog for a while will know that there have been some spectacular hits and misses when it comes to flattering shapes and silhouettes in the clothing that I’ve sewn for myself.

The biggest hit so far can only be my Giverny Liberty print dress:

giverny liberty print

This “ensemble” was an epic fail and soon relegated to the charity shop:

purple knitsThis issue of fit, proportion, shape and silhouette is one of the biggest challenges I personally face as a seamstress.

Yes, I have a long, long way to go with my skill-set, but it doesn’t matter how well you can sew if the clothes you are producing don’t flatter you and your figure.

Taking aside the colours of these outfits, which is, of course, a whole new post in itself, the shapes and silhouettes (s&s) are such a contrast that I feel they really illustrate why I’ve struggled so long and hard to formulate this post, and to narrow down the s&s that really work for me, and that I want to sew going forwards.

I’d downloaded the worksheet that Sarai created for this, but still I struggled.

I needed to do this visually and spent quite a bit of time wishing I had the graphics skills to whizz up some fancy schmancy illustrations.  But I don’t.

And then I ventured across to Polyvore.  Oh my word.  It’s nearly as dangerous as Pinterest. But mightily useful for helping me to visualise this process.

I did realise that I could quite easily be sucked in and spend another month faffing about with this.  So I gave myself some strict constraints:

  1. a tight time window
  2. to follow my instincts
  3. to choose s&s that flatter my figure
  4. to choose s&s that I actually wear
  5. to not be swayed by fabric choices
  6. they must fit my key words: Modest :: Comfortable :: Simple :: Polished :: Classic
  7. they must be lifestyle appropriate

Much easier!

And to make it even simpler I selected the black colourway for each section to make the silhouette even more pronounced.  We all know how hard it is to make the details stand out in a black photo, don’t we.  I only reverted back to colour if I couldn’t find the shape I was looking for in black.

So…that’s the why and the how…here’s the bit you’ve been waiting for.  Unless of course you’ve lost the will and pootled off to play on Polyvore yourself, or grab a glass of wine.

Or both! 😉

my trouser silhouettes

my dress silhouettes

my dress silhouettes

my tops silhouettes

my tops silhouettes

my skirts silhouettes

my skirts silhouettes

my coats silhouettes

my coats silhouettes

my shoes silhouettes

my shoes silhouettes

This is nothing short of enlightening and may revolutionise my sewing (and my shopping) going forwards.

At the risk of becoming all ‘corporate’ on you…the findings of this ‘enquiry’ are as follows:

  • Looking at this it becomes abundantly clear that if I perfect the fit on a small     number of garments I need never buy another sewing pattern again. I no doubt will…but I could quite easily use this small collection of perfectly fitted patterns to create outfit after outfit after outfit that look great and work for my lifestyle
  • I also became aware that I have two quite distinctive seasonal preferences. Cold weather it’s all about the trousers and tops.  Warm weather…I love a dress.  
  • Once I’ve cracked the suite of master patterns, it will be easy to tweak details and to make each garment an individual piece.
  • Roisin and Carolyn already know this…and to be fair I knew this too at the back of my head, I just didn’t listen to the voices!
  • Shopping for light weight knitwear will also be easier.  I need to concentrate on getting the basic shapes in place in fine yarn in a range of colours.
  • All of this applies to knitting too.  Hopefully I’ll make fewer knitterly mistakes that are so costly in terms of time and yarn.
  • I’ll save money on buying patterns that don’t fit this remit and so languish unloved and unused. 
  • I’ll save time fitting patterns that are never going to work.
  • All this saved time and money can then be spent on making things that do work for my lifestyle, that work together to give me more outfit options, that fit and flatter my figure as I work to get healthier, and that make me feel pretty smashing into the bargain.
  • I need to identify a suite of patterns that reflect these thoughts and which will become the backbone of my wardrobe.  Patterns that can be fitted to perfection and then made again and again…quickly, simply, perfectly.

This is something I can get excited about.

This is the solution to lack of sewing mojo!

What do you think?


Wardrobe Architect – thoughts on my style

waheader

I’ve finally completed the first two worksheets in this series and have been more than a little surprised at just how difficult I’ve found the process.  I’ve also found it nigh on impossible to write a coherent post on the topic. 

Having written and deleted several drafts, it dawned on me that actually, I’m overcomplicating the results of my contemplations and there are, in fact, just three main reasons why I haven’t ever defined a style for myself.

The first is that it’s never been a priority.  As long as I was reasonably appropriately dressed, what mattered most to me was getting stuff, whether it was working or raising kids, done.

Secondly, I, like most other women, have stupid hangups about the way I look. And the stupid hangups stop me wearing what I want.  Which, if you think about it, is really, really, well…stoopid.  Because as long as the style is flattering for my shape, I can pretty much make anything I want to (and if I haven’t got the skills yet…hello, tailoring…than I can crack on and learn them).

Thirdly, I’m a big scaredy cat when it comes to dressing outside my comfort zone.  I look at certain styles that I’m pretty sure would suit me but just think “nah…I’m to fat/short/tall/old/whatever” and stick to the same old frumpy stuff.

The thing is…when you write it down it all seems a bit lame (and there’s The Husband again, rolling his eyes.  Pack it in, Mr!).

So now I’d got the dumb stuff out of the way, the stuff I already knew but wasn’t really admitting myself, it was time to ‘fess up to what I really do want to wear.

A quick peek at my Pinterest boards was really all it took.

PicMonkey Collage wa1

My ideal style falls into two categories, really.

Slim trousers/jeans with a tunic top and a slouchy cardigan for cold/wet/dreary days.

PicMonkey Collage wa2

Dresses with a fitted bodice, full skirt and a shrunken cardigan for warmer weather. I do wear dresses in winter but absolutely loathe tights/holdups with a passion. They are so damnably uncomfortable.

PicMonkey Collage wa3

This is all well and good, but I needed to encapsulate this into 5 words.  Not quite so easy.  I would say that my ideal style nods to 1940’s/1950’s Italian and French style.  Paris in the springtime.

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The Amalfi coast in June.

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I like to look feminine, and whilst I don’t like frilly/girly clothes, I’m not full on Sophia Loren va-va-voom.  I like clean lines and I’m fond of a good print.  My clothes need to be washable (I’ve got kids and a dog doncha know) and modest (I’m not flashing the goods to the world at the school gates).  I’m always on the go so I need to be comfortable.  But not so comfortable that I look like I’ve given up completely.  Which, I’ll admit, I sometimes do at the moment (lets add loungewear to the list, shall we).

It’s also important to me that whilst I look pulled together, I’m not wandering around looking like Daphne Guinness (who is simply fabulous, btw).  

Source: Vanity Fair

Source: Vanity Fair

I totally admire the chutzpah it takes to wear high fashion, but I want to subscribe to the “fashion fades, style is eternal” school of thought, and have a clean and appropriate look that says “hey, I’ve made an effort but I’ll still play Lego on the floor with your kids, and yes, I’d love to go for coffee with you”. I want to be focused on living my life rather than fidgeting and pulling at my clothes because they’re too outré.  I also want them to be timeless…the sort of clothes that I can wear day in day out and they’ll stand up to the passage of time.  The sort of clothes that I can add to piece by piece until I’m never stuck for something to wear and can pull out a complete and polished outfit at the drop of a hat.

PicMonkey Collage wa4

Speaking of hats…I’ll probably need to learn the art of accessorising too, n’est pas?

When you actually start to write it down, the ideas begin  to crystallise.  If I had to choose 5 words to encapsulate the style I’d like to have they would be, in no particular order:

Modest

Comfortable

Simple

Polished

Classic

I think I might be on to something here!