On architecting a wardrobe


Spring has officially sprung with the change to British Summertime, and I have the seasonal jetlag to prove it. I took the stolen hour as a prompt to go through my wardrobe and, while optimistically making the switch from winter to summer clothes, do my usual biannual review. You know the drill - sorting through everything while questioning what should remain. (Does this still fit? When last did I wear this? What in the name of all that's holy was I thinking when I bought it? How do you get sweat stains out of silk?) (No really, how do you get sweat stains out of silk?) I ended up with four piles: Storage till next seasonal switch, Charity shop, Beyond all hope and rescue, and a brand spanking new one tentatively titled "Alterations???????".


This year I did my review with the Wardrobe Architect project in mind. I've been kind of following along the posts, and really enjoying other people's thoughts prompted by it, as well as this blog that it's referenced, but am admittedly very behind in terms of doing the actual exercises. However, what I have done has been pretty useful food for thought. It's helped to re-ground me, aesthetically speaking, from something akin to a Pinterest-induced tailspin of sartorial chaos. Of course there are certain silhouettes that I like and find most flattering on my body, and it turns out that I have a particular, surprisingly narrow colour palette that I stick to quite religiously. One silhouette that I keep clearly being drawn to, especially for work, is a looser top with a more closely fitting bottom. (So, definitely a lot more pencil skirts in my future, then.)


Interestingly, thinking through some of this stuff helped me realise that my problem with getting dressed for work in clothes that feel good lately, has been partly due to the fact that I deviated from my favourite silhouettes a couple years ago when I went through a bit of a career shift (and associated professional identity crisis) and overhauled my wardrobe to suit. It's not all terrible - I now really love boxy tops and loose blouses, which I didn't know suited me in my previous life as a fitted tailored shirt kinda gal - but there are now rather enormous gaps in the areas where I got it wrong.


The main one of which is fit. My word, I have been wearing a lot of poorly fitting things for a long time, people. (Like pretty much all my trousers. It's no wonder I own so few - fitting my thighs and waist into the same off-the-peg garment seems to be akin to rocket science.) But often I've not quite realised because in many cases the fit is just slightly off. It's been kind of revolutionary to see how big an impact relatively small changes in fit can make to how I feel in an item of clothing, which is something supremely obvious but which I'm only really getting my head round since sewing my own clothes. (I can be pretty slow where the supremely obvious is concerned.) For example, I already own a number of pencil skirts, in keeping with the fact that they form part of that preferred silhouette of mine, and for the most part I like them. But it was only after making the Charlotte skirt that I realised how none of the store bought ones I own really do sit at my actual waist, even though many of them are designed to, and (surprise!) how much better they look when I pin them so they sit where they should.


Now can I be bothered to do all the faffing about required to make small adjustments to a large proportion of the garments I already own? Well, it depends on the garment. A couple years ago I also started abiding by the mantra "less but better" when it came to shopping, so if an item I own is well made in a nice material, then yes, I might. But if I know it cost me £20 at Zara (my Achilles heel, that store) and is 90% synthetic fibres, and has already been well worn... probably not. Anyway, a more streamlined work wardrobe might not be a bad thing for decision making at 6am, and it's all good impetus to sew the things I need.


 Going through the exercises also made sense of a few other deficiencies. The fact that I am completely sorted where summer casuals are concerned but suck heinously at stylish layering options makes a huge amount of sense when you consider that I grew up in the tropics and have been basically resisting the very concept of cold for the last decade and a bit. I'm tired of chilly shoulders, y'all. And part of my issue with finding things in my closet that make me feel really good when I wear them has been unsurprisingly due to, well, issues with how I feel about my body. There's a whole lot of obscure, navel-gazing, tiny-violin backstory, but the most obvious link is that I seem to have been buying things on the slightly larger side to compensate for weight fluctuations and simultaneously hide my figure, when once up on a time I used to be the Queen of Bodycon. It turns out that I actually quite like a looser silhouette sometimes, but it's high time to find a more flattering and creative approach to using it.


On the plus side, I am very clear about my preferred colour palette, and it's easily visible in a glance at my current wardrobe. I love blues, particularly rich hues that fall somewhere between indigo and navy, and I'm an enormous fan of coral and orange. I sit squarely across that blue-orange segment of the colour wheel and I love it. My favourite neutrals are greys, and the spectrum of "nudes": beige, camel, tan, blush, peach, champagne, and even pale gold. Also, leopard print - totally a neutral, don't listen to anyone who says otherwise. Apart from these, there are also small hits of green and fuschia in the summer, teal and wine in the winter, summer whites, and evening blacks. My relationship with prints is less clear. I LOVE them, but have been shy about buying and wearing them. I am very ready for that to change.


Going through this exercise has been a helpful breather. For pretty much the first time since I got to grips with my sewing machine in January I am completely between projects. There's nothing cut out, nothing on the go, just a bunch of patterns and piles of cloth scattered about, waiting... While it's been so good to just dive in and make things (and get over the fear of ruining nice fabric), it's really useful to pause for a moment and take stock.


So where next? Well, I'm pretty set for frosting but I need good, solid, stylish cake, you guys, and lots of it. Which is good, because I love cake. There are a lot of obvious gaps in my work wardrobe, so I'll definitely be tackling them first. I'm a big fan of skirts and dresses, so quite a few of them are in order. I expect I'll be trying out the Ginger, Chardon, Belladone, Kelly, Ludivine (which is free!) and maybe the Cami when I feel brave. (Collars! Aye aye aye). Also, England's dicey summer weather requires options for leg coverage but I'm not ready to go near trouser fitting for quite some time, so I plan to make all the maxi skirts. (Preferably in waterproof material... Yes, English Summer, I know your tricks.) And perhaps eventually some tops to go with all those bottoms, and one day maybe some nice layering options, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.


I've also got a tropical holiday coming up in May, so obviously I'd like to make a thing or two to wear on it, because fuck yeah handmade clothes. So those will be battling for priority with my work needs, but at least now I feel like I've reduced my mountain of possibilities to a molehill of potential actualities. And, hopefully, come one step closer to a wardrobe that makes it easier to look and feel pretty damn good more days than not.



14 comments:

  1. There is much loveliness in your palette! I have billowy top/fitted bottom syndrome too. My clothes resemble gaudy windsocks.

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    1. Thank you! And ha! Gaudy windsock is a brilliant description for how I look today. :)

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  2. I literally LOLZed at the phrase 'architecting a wardrobe'. Dubious phraseology aside. I very liked this post. I need to architect my wardrobe again, I haven't done it since that massive purge I had years ago.

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    1. The OED says architecting is totally a word, I totally checked. And, well, architecting a wardrobe *is* dubious, so, yes exactly. ;) A wardrobe purge feels really good, though, highly recommended.

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  3. Also, fucking excellent tights!

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  4. Ooh, lots of good links here! There goes my lunchtime.

    I can't sew for toffee, but I love the way you write about it.

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    1. Aww, thanks, lovely. And Into Mind is a fabulous blog, I thought you might like it.

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  5. What a great analysis! I especially like seeing how people plan their wardrobes differently around their climate. Summers in the Midwest, where I now live, can be scorchingly hot and very humid, whereas in the winter is is bitingly cold. I used to have a seasonless wardrobe with pieces I could mix and match, but it's becoming clearer now that I really do have the necessity for separate clothes for the winter and summer. However, living in the U.K., I imagine your summers are very different! I look forward to seeing your makes for this season. Are you doing MMM'14?

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    1. Learning how to dress seasonally has been a big challenge for me, coming from the tropics. I think I'm still getting my head round it, over a decade later! And I wish I could do Me Made May, but I literally have the 9 garments I've posted (well, I lie, I have another, very similar Coco dress, so I have 10) so I'd need to recycle them way too much to get through a whole month. Unless I get a move on this month! We'll see. I'm certainly emphasising my own makes in the things I'm wearing already. I can't help it, I'm so proud of them! :)

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  6. I can't click on the links because it will just send me into a tailspin of jealousy that I can't make pencil skirts...but I think I'm going to get rich and then hire you to make my clothes and plan my wardrobe, mmk? Such style, and such great choices.
    I also am awful at dressing seasonally, and I have always lived in a place with seasons. I don't know what my problem si.

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    1. Thank you, that's very flattering! But you'd need to have a lot of patience for me to dress you as I'm so slow. ;)

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  7. I REALLY need to have an overhaul of my wardrobe, I just never get round to doing it. I'm with you on the loose top/fitted bottom silhouette - I don't really go for lose fitting things at all, but I have one loose fitting RTW top which I've started wearing with a denim pencil skirt, and I LOVE it. So I am going to venture out and make some loose fitting tops, and some pencil skirts to go with them :)

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    1. They can be really flattering! I think it is all about pairing them wisely though. I think that silhouette would look great on you.

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Who, me?

Who, me?
Hi, I'm Ellebougies. I'm brand new to this sewing lark, but boy am I ENTHUSIASTIC. I also enjoy knitting things. One day I'll stop whinging about the weather.

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Work in progress...