Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Capsule wardrobes and other planning

Several bloggers I follow posted recommendations for wardrobe capsules, or are sewing a planned capsule.  This is a new thing to me, but it's even got its own Wiki.  I am impressed with their discipline and ability to commit to a plan, but it made me reflect on how my approach to sewing changed over time.  When I started sewing I picked patterns for clothing that I knew I couldn't buy in a store, either because it was beyond my budget or because stores close to me just didn't carry that kind of clothing.  So I ended up with almost all statement pieces and vintage inspired dresses.  This is fine and fun.  It's not so fine when you finally grow up and get a professional job, and need to not just dress the part but try to look a little older than you appear.  My genetic luck (I know some of you will groan, and rightly so) means that people often think I am 10-15 years younger than I am.

I've only recently embraced the idea of a tried and true (TNT, appropriate acronym) pattern, which I now see is a great way to build up a basic well-fitted wardrobe.  I've also realized that a basic wardrobe is just that: button front shirts, pants and skirts in traditional colors.  The me of even 3 years ago would have scoffed at this idea.  But now I like the idea of a wardrobe capsule because it seems like that is just the next step in developing a basic wardrobe.  The formula I've seen is essentially the following, where the tops and bottoms are in complementary colors to allow for endless mixing and matching:
3-5 tops + 2-4 bottoms + 1 dress (optional) + 2 pairs shoes

Pattern companies also think in this formula, but whenever I look at their wardrobe capsules I get stuck in the idea of it being too formal, it being too vacation oriented, or just more of a look than I want to commit to.  Here are a few examples of these wardrobes, that seem to be sewing on a theme.

Vogue 2779.  It's hard to imagine these pieces in fabrics other than the satin, lace, and sequins, but I guess this could be made from linen and jersey for a summery casual wardrobe.

Vogue 8641.  This one IS in linen and jersey.  And I guess made up in satin and linen it would look a lot like 2779.

I like this capsule (Vogue 8679) quite a bit.  The pieces are basic but there's still a statement piece (the jacket). 
But it looks just like this one, Vogue 1132, which has a similar jacket and skirt.  Oh I see the difference: the skirt is longer and the jacket is shorter.  And it doesn't come with a pattern for the shirt.  That's sold separately.

I've never had a wardrobe plan before and don't think I'm going to pick up a wardrobe pattern anytime soon.  As I said, I've always thought in terms of individual pieces.  But a few days ago I took the step towards a plan.  I bought a lime green embossed cotton for a skirt, turquoise stretch twill for a new pair of skinnies, and various gingham shirtings to make some summer shirts and match with the bottoms.  

I have some questions for my readers:
  • Do you plan your wardrobe?
  • If so, how do you stick to your plan?  I've often gotten distracted or end up repurposing a fabric for another project.  
  • How do you keep your clothes from all ending up one color or style?  Or do you prefer that (I'm not one to judge having been on the opposite end of the spectrum!)


  1. That first wardrobe makes me think less of a wardrobe and more of a boudoir. Maybe it's just the fabrics though. I've never really been able to get "in" to those wardrobe patterns though, usually they just have one thing that is OK and everything else just doesn't suit my fancy, so I look elsewhere. I do love the idea of a few pieces that mix/match to create several different looks, I just haven't done a good job of making one of those yet. I'm trying though! :-)

    As for all one color/style, I don't intend for that to happen, but I do seem to really like teals/blues/greens.....

  2. Interesting how similar those 2 sets of patterns are. I love the idea of capsule wardrobes, but I am useless at sticking to them and also end up making pieces just to go with things rather than pieces I really love. I'm just not that good at putting separates together which is partly why I now love dresses so much - the worst that can happen is I need a new pair of shoes which is a nice problem to have!

  3. I can relate to everything you've just written! What's fun to sew and what is useful in the closet are often two very different things. I like the idea of a capsule wardrobe, but I've never come close to pulling one together. At the moment, I don't work so I can schlep around in jeans or flit around in fantasy dresses if I want to. So there is no discipline on me to pull it together what so ever!

  4. I thought about capsule sewing for a while, but now I just sew what I feel like, to keep the sewing fun.. I have never used a wardrobe pattern but often think I should. Maybe PR needs a wardrobe pattern contest...if they haven't had one already.

  5. If you sew enough garments within a limited colour palette, eventually you will have a wardrobe capsule. I have to have fun with my sewing and planning is just too constraining.

  6. I don't really have a plan, although sometimes I think I should! Every time I have bought one of those 4-in-one patterns I have not made up more than one or two items, and not to match each other either... oops! But when I buy fabrics I do spend some time thinking about how something will fit in to and match other items already in my wardrobe.

  7. I gotta point out that the Vogue wardrobe patterns represent more non professional lifestyles that the wardrobe patterns of the other companies. As an example, B5147 has gotten a lot of love on PatternReview and on certain blogs. And its love from women who sew for working in an office, like Carolyn and Sheila. I actually started sewing because I was having a hard time finding professional clothes in fabrics that I like. Now that I've done lots of gray and navy blue basic items, I'm trying to have more fun and use more color; or do neutral colors in more interesting shapes.

  8. For the first time, I am trying to sew a wardrobe. I picked one inspired by a RTW group that I really liked. All the fabrics are different but work together so that you can do several different styles/looks. So far, I've stayed motivated because I'm excited to have a group of garments that create so many different looks!

  9. I like the IDEA of a wardrobe capsule and am totally impressed by those who can come up with a plan and execute it. However, I am limited by both time and ability, so it's not going to happen for me. I do consider how a piece or the fabric will work with other items in my existing wardrobe, and tend to stick to black, grey, red, purple/blue. Another point, my need for professional office type garments is minimal, so if I have a couple suit-appropriate tops that cover the tattoos, I'm good on that front.