On making a cohesive wardrobe (or not) – Part 1

Now I make and have a lot of clothes. You all know that! But I still find that I get up in the morning and can’t find anything to wear so I just end up wearing the same jeans and t-shirt over and over again!

This is one of the biggest problems I have as a sewist, or more accurately as a person. My tastes can vary a lot and so do my choices which makes having a cohesive wardrobe very difficult! I tend to pick out fabrics and projects that I love the idea of but aren’t necessarily things that I would wear on a regular basis. Let’s face it, I’ve made a bundle of evening dresses over the years and have nowhere to wear then to!

With so many wardrobe building projects out there at the moment – #sewmystyle with Bluebird Fabrics, #wardrobebuilder with The Petite Passions, Pattern Review’s Sudoku challenge etc. – there’s definitely a movement towards creating capsule me-made wardrobes. And I so need one of those!

So what do I do? What’s the best way to start streamlining my choices to make clothes that go together?

I thought I’d start with the Wardrobe Architect which was run on the Colette blog in 2014 and 2015. They had a series of posts with exercises to complete with the goal of helping you work out a capsule wardrobe designed just for you.

I tried working through the worksheets and posts but I found I couldn’t seem to answer them well at all.

Makes me wonder how well I know my own style!

So I thought I’d try to tackle it from a different angle.

I started by listing what I wear everyday – not just items I like but what I actually wear. It was mostly a list of dungarees, jeans and plain grey t-shirts…

From that list I picked out words that described my current everyday wardrobe. I got slouchy, casual, loose fitting, comfy, grey. Not the most inspiring list! (I also realised not a lot of my makes made it onto the list – I think I make a lot of occasionwear and summer clothes so not the best for the current miserable weather we’re having right now.)

But what did I want it to be instead? I’d always thought of myself as being more of a modern chic girl, picking out more classic and sophisticated items with the odd splash of quirky in there for good measure but it seems the reality is far far away from that!

So the real question is how do I get to that from what I currently have/ wear? It couldn’t be a case of just chucking out everything I have and getting new ones that “fit” with my new ideas – it wouldn’t be reflective of me as the person I am now, just an idea of what I wanted me to be. I imagine I’d just end up going back and digging out the last pair of jeans and t-shirt I had hidden in the back of the wardrobe…

I planned to go through Pinterest and Polyvore and find new (or old) styles that appealed to me and with each item ask myself these questions:

-Where am I going in this outfit? And be realistic…

-Have I worn something like this before? And if so, do I still wear that item or not? If not, why not?

-Does it show off parts of my body I’m not comfortable with? e.g. Chunky thighs, upper arms etc.

-Is this the right silhouette for my body type?

-Am I comfortable in this? Comfort is key after all!

-Does it go with items I already have or do I need to buy a dozen other things/accessories to wear with it?

-What does this item say about me?

What I want to achieve from this exercise is to be able to create a core capsule wardrobe that could be worn and maintained for more than just one or two seasons. I’d look to add to this “core” with some seasonal makes.

I’m giving myself a couple of weeks to come up with new ideas and plans. Come back and see how I do! (But don’t get your expectations up. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out!)

Do you have a set style and find it easy to maintain a “capsule wardrobe”? Or are you a fantasist seamstress?

I’d love to hear any tips and stories from you!






  1. I have been addressing this on my own blog for the last month or so. I’ve not finished curating my me-made wardrobe yet but I have a definite idea of my style now. Go have a read if you think it would help!

  2. I’ve been thinking along these lines for the last year or so. I’ve found the Stylebook app really helpful in figuring out what I wear the most, and concentrating my efforts in those areas (not party dresses, no matter how much I like to dream!). I also make a note when getting dressed if there are any items I find myself wishing for. At the moment it’s lots of tees!

    1. That’s me! I’m totally distracted into making lots of party dresses which are then never worn…

  3. I’m an impulse sewer, but I do know what colours will work, and what doesn’t [well, I’m nearly 57, I bloody well should by now!] However, I do like to try shapes that are out of my comfort zone, so I’m currently embracing the art teacher chic style, and I’m loving it. I allow myself the fantasy outlet by making steampunk outfits in crazy colours and fabrics, like an Edwardian Cycling outfit in African Wax print.
    Sometimes I sort my wardrobe by colour, to see what’s missing. Based on this, I’m about to inject several red items into the wardrobe, to liven it up a bit. I’m LONG past the stage of a wardrobe of black and grey, I think that is mainly something you go through as a youngster! lol

  4. I have a fairly capsule closet, but I have two capsule. One is very goth in red and black that gets pulled out around fall. The other is very boho, “I’m going to hit up a renaissance festival” with creams, greens and brown that gets tugged out in spring. They do serve all seasons, but I’m currently seeing when I wear each piece. Since I have two capsules I do have specific rules; natural fabrics, fitted waists, covering from knee to above the cleavage line, lots of layers, etc. I found this out by starting with a few key pieces that I loved and added thrifted clothes to test out styles and fit. Maybe a good place to start is an interesting pair of jeans or pants? It could be interesting because of color, print or texture (my personal fav). If you go to tops, I can see where there are a million possibilities.

  5. This sounds so dull, but my most heavily used makes are rather plain basics. They were sewn just to fill a gap, but they do give me satisfaction every time I wear them now. My fancier makes only have occasional outings so I’m trying to convince myself to make plainer things for a while!

    You could make some nice alternatives to your fall back jeans and tee, and it would be really useful to cover those, but that’s only part of the story. You have some lovely dresses that you look great in, you need varied challenges to keep your interest in sewing, and you’re young and experimenting with varied looks. All good reasons to get used to wearing different styles, and getting comfortable with them!

  6. Thanks for writing about this, Emily. I have similar wardrobe dilemmas (though not quite the same since I haven’s been sewing for as long as you have). I’m trying to focus my sewing more on useful basics. What helps me, somewhat perversely, is that I’ve never been good at shopping. I don’t have many truly beloved RTW clothes in my wardrobe, just a precious few that are really worn at this point. I mostly have ideas about what I’d like my wardrobe to be.

    This post from Anuschka Rees addresses the problem that comes with having wardrobe aspirations: there is a gap between those ideas and what we’d actually be comfortable wearing. With this is mind I’m slowly trying to expand my comfort zone so I can imagine truly wearable everyday me-made clothes… and then wear them. It’s a work in progress. Is it a definite style? Not yet, and it may never get that constrained, honestly.

  7. What works for me is to embrace the fantasy sewing to a limited extent and wear the results anyway. I don’t make party dresses any more but most of my jeans are metallic fabrics, for example. Admittedly it helps that my day job has no dress code whatsoever. The key seems to be to pick fantasy styles that are actually comfortable to wear. I try never to make anything without pockets and that helps a lot with wearability.

    Good luck, I will be following with interest!

  8. For years I was a fantasy sewer, but faced the exact challenge you mentioned – some days all I craze is jeans and a slouchy shirt. So I’ve really been putting effort into slowly filling my drawers with clothes, not just the hangers. Its not always as exciting, but in some ways it feels more rewarding to everyday get up and want to put on me-made jeans and tops. Good luck with creating your capsule wardrobe!

  9. Interesting post and question. I’m a by day wearing jeans/trousers girl who loves to combine that with tops and Chanel jackets, sweaters, tops and stylish cardigans, blouses and finishing that with a mannish styled coat. I call it ‘my old school clothes’ style. That’s my style and that are the clothes that make me feel comfortable. I’ve two dresses and three LBD. The three LBD are my favourite dresses. I love wearing them at dinner party’s, birthday party’s and weddings. So all my makes (I started sewing my own wardrobe almost three years ago) are made of patterns and fabric that represent that type of clothes.

  10. I share a similar problem of preferring fancy sewing to everyday sewing, however I’ve noticed that putting in the time to make “basics” is so satisfying afterwards. It helps me feel less slouchy in casual clothes because now I’m finally able to get a little excited about them. I took a lot out of Colette’s WA, and have recently been reading The Curated Closet. Its like a vamped up version of the WA, more involved. I recommend it!

  11. This is a great post! When I started sewing I would make random pieces that I felt inspired at the time, but ended up with lots of day dresses. Now I’m trying to think about what fabrics will go together as I buy them and to make more of the patterns I wear very often. I also think sometimes the ‘capsule wardrobe’ challenges can be not so helpful if they aren’t your style or encourage you to sew suff you don’t really need. It’s all about pairing down your wardrobe to interchangeable outfits after all. Good luck!

  12. Obviously the way you show your body is entirely and uniquely up to you but as an owner/operator of chunky thighs myself I actually think short shorts are really flattering (I like them with a cuff or another hem detail)!

    1. I think the same! Sometimes it just about proportions – longer shorts just look weird on my length of leg…

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