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Feb 23, 2013

Peter's Wardrobe Makeover or The Virtues of Sewing With a Plan

Friends, I don't know how many of you will remember this, but three years ago to the day, Cathy gave me a complete wardrobe makeover.  (It started here, and you can see the highly successful results here.)

While a few of the outfits didn't really work for everyday dressing, I'm still wearing most of these garments, including the flowered pants, gray leather jacket, maroon sweater, white linen pants, winter white desert boots, and many more.

We started with a basic palette based on colors I liked and already had in my wardrobe and took it from there.  But three years ago, most of the garments were not things I'd made.  My "new look" consisted primarily of stuff we thrifted at the Salvation Army or things I owned from H&M.

I'm not much of a planner, as you well knowSo while I've made some outstanding garments, I often have a hard time putting together outfits.  I have a lot of individual items that don't go with any others.  I've never sat down and mapped out a sewn wardrobe for myself. 

I'm viewing my induction into the Mood Sewing Network as my opportunity to alter my sewing habits and, for the first time, plan.  I want to make clothes that not only look good, but also look good together. 

I spent a few hours in Mood yesterday, primarily to hunt fabric for my jacket project, but it got me thinking about the larger picture.  For those of you who've never been to Mood, it occupies a huge multi-floor space in the Garment District and they have (seemingly) everything.  For the first time, I can shop knowing that regardless of, say, the shade of shirting I want, I will find it.  It's so outside my normal experience!

A bit overwhelmed at the possibilities, I came home with just a pocketful of swatches.  But the visit created a shift in my thinking, hence today's post.   My choices (so far) can be organized into three groups: 1) cheerful spring colors, 2) metallics, and 3) Scandinavian prints.

1) I want more clear, bright colors in my wardrobe, and I was drawn to these solid cottons: sky blue sateen, teal shirting, royal blue brushed cotton, and lavender twill. 

 These colors remind me that Spring is on its way -- I hope!

2) I don't know what is drawing me to metallics; my experience with metal has been limited to belt buckles.  I don't actively follow men's fashion trends but exploring online, I did discover that metallic fabrics for men are showing up on the runways more frequently (for what it's worth).

I'm more of a silver than a gold person.  Denim jeans with a silvery sheen?  Linen jacket either splashed with silver or woven through with metallic thread?  Could happen.

Not metallic but with a holograph-like glow is this Mark Jacobs polyester and silk print.  Are daisies too feminine for menswear?  I'm not so sure anymore.  This is the fabric that might drag me out in the rain and back to Mood today.

3) I love Scandinavian textiles, which always look contemporary yet slightly Fifties/Sixties too.  These bold prints are hard to capture in a swatch, unfortunately, and most are unavailable on the Mood website.

The swatch below is part of a design including birds and trees trunks.  It would make an incredible topcoat.

I love this mid-century modern chair linen print (from the home dec dept.) but in person I found the scale too big for garments.  It would make fabulous draperies, however!

Many other graphic designs caught my eye, among them this zagzag.  

Truly an embarrassment of riches!

Readers, that's where things stand right now.  I created a Pinterest board specifically of men's fashion I find appealing in some way, which will give you an idea of which way the wind is blowing.  (Feel free to blow the other way.)

In closing, do you choose your garment sewing projects around a planned wardrobe or do you just sew whatever strikes your fancy in the moment?

Do you find sewing with a plan cramps your style, or rather frees you from the situation of having a lot of clothes but nothing that goes with anything else?

Finally, metallic fabrics: do you wear/like them?

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. I have made so many 'orphan' pieces that just don't go with anything else in my wardrobe. A year ago I decided to start planning a bit more and got lots of good ideas from The Vivienne Files, one of her posts shows how to build a core wardrobe, some great stuff. Anyway, now my sewing is much more more coordinated - but that's not to say I don't go off at a tangent now then ..... or quite often.......or whenever I'm distracted by lovely fabric that has nothing to do with my 'plan'.
    I love that Marc Jacobs fabric!

  2. I usually only make things that I need or want that are useful. I don't make clothing for myself, use to for me daughter. The other day I went through my small supply of vintage patterns and found a really cute pattern from 1978 for a baby or toddler. Cross over dress and it is cut out in one piece with lining. It requires button holes. Never made button holes. So I got out the sewing machine, practiced and practiced. Made one dress, loved it, braved the button holes and they came out perfect. Now I can't stop making these little dresses. Go figure! They are of no use to me, but you can be so creative with them. Now to tackle the matching pants.

  3. Honestly most of the time I'm just inspired by the fabric, or I have a specific wardrobe item in mind and look for a fabric to make it happen. Love both the metallic denim and the flowered fabric you found--hope you go for it with both of them!

  4. The discipline of actually planning things out is good for me. Last summer, I sat down and planned out summer wardrobes for the girls and then spent three weeks sewing like a madwoman to make all of them. Usually, though, I simply go with a whim and sew what I want!

  5. I do like metallics although they are not durable and loose their beauty quickly well because I find the metallic ink washes out in the laundry pretty fast. Dry cleaning might forestall that a bit but I try to keep my dry cleaning to a minimum.

    1. I can see that happening if it's just a metallic finish; I wonder if that's also true for metallic thread.

    2. Old metallic fabrics usually had to be dry cleaned, and the dry cleaning dulled them permanently. The new fabrics seem to be mostly washable and, from the ones I've had, don't dull. Wearability? Well, guess it depends on what you're making. A hint of shine is always fun!

    3. I've also had metallic sequins dull if they are hit directly with steam from an iron, so I guess a pre-wash on a swatch is never a bad idea!

  6. Hmm, that's a really good thought. I guess I aspired to make pieces I think will stand the test of time. I figure if I'm going to take the time to make it, I don't want something that's going to be dated in a year. Oh, and I shamelessly buy those "wardrobe" patterns because I'm cheap, but I don't think that's what you mean.

    Living in a small town, I don't have a lot of choice as far as fabric goes and shipping makes ordering online for one garment really cost prohibitive, so I just buy what strikes me and hope for the best.

  7. I had a shirt made from cotton/metallic - blue cotton weft, red metallic warp, which was beautiful. However, the armscyes were itchy as all get-out from the cut ends of the metallic threads poking into my skin. If you do sew with metallics, I would highly recommend finishing your seams with some sort of enclosure method, like a Hong Kong finish.

  8. I've had successes sewing with a plan and also without a plan. But without a plan is a gamble. I have a couple of meticulously made, beautiful jackets that are orphans, and, sadly, they have hardly been worn. Never again! I've just begun testing a chart I devised to help me plan and sew a beautiful wardrobe I'm dreamed about, with menswear for my husband, too. I actually enjoy planning and think it can be every bit as creative as the sewing. I will be posting my results, good and bad, on the blog I just started. I will be following your progress with deep interest!

  9. When I was working, the rule I stuck by was everything had to go with everything. I travelled a lot and usually took a man's overnight case. Amazing what that thing could hold and so much better than what was available for women. So, it was 3 piece suits with a minimum of 3 tops to go with each, the suits in fabrics that allowed the jacket of one set to be worn with the pants of another set. Dresses to go under that also co-ordinated, and dresses that stood on their own. It's not as much fun sewing like this, but it does the job. The other thing is that it often mean buying all the fabric for a couple of suits at one time which can be expensive.

  10. Daisy jeans this year(to answer your toile effort)!

    Could it be time to engage Cathy in a tri-annual update? Send her to Mood with some pin money, and see if she doesn't enhance your "coordinated new Peter" efforts and outcomes.

    She has such an eye.

    Sign me,

    A man on the Lane train

  11. I don't sew my wardrobe anymore. When I did, I didn't match up anything. I made dresses, which stood alone, and basic skirts or slacks that went with any top or jacket I had. It was pretty boring now that I think of it. Now I just sew for the kids, the special occasion, or for lounge wear. I have been inspired to make a white shirt... we'll see if the urge manifests.

  12. This year I have been trying to sew with my normal life in mind. But it does make things kind of less interesting. I do have the habit of adding projects at the last minute for crazy close deadlines. These between projects keep the creativity and fun going!

    And I think you could totally pull off metallics! Maybe not a shirt or jumpsuit in all metallic, but used as a highlight, maybe cuffs or pockets? Could work...:).

  13. I do more sewing for my kids than I do for me right now and because of that, I've started to see the merits of sewing with a plan. A few years ago I did a wardrobe for my oldest, centered around a gorgeous Liberty lawn in shades of mulberry, orchid and - believe it or not - a chartreuse color. She wore the blouse and tunic that I made from that lawn for 2 years. I made leggings, a skirt, pants and a couple of shirts in various colors from that palette and she got quite a bit of wear out of it. Since she has a terrible time figuring out what to wear, I think it made her life easier. Her younger sister, though, gets a lot of hand-me-downs, so when I make her something, I don't usually take into consideration what's already in her wardrobe.

    My son, otoh, can go through more than one shirt and pants in a day, so I like to have things that go together; if he stomps in a mud puddle and splashes his pants I can just reach into his drawer and grab another pair without worrying whether it will go with his shirt. I almost always do a wardrobe plan for him. Just the other day I was at my kids' gymnastics lessons and I spent the time going through my back issues of Ottobre, writing down patterns that I liked and doing quick sketches based on fabrics that I have and colors that I frequently use for him. His wardrobe consists of a lot of browns (doesn't show the dirt as much), various shades of green, and orange/rust. The orange is usually reserved for shirts, though I have some orange twill that's going to be some shorts for this summer. Many people don't use orange but I like it because I can always find him in a crowd if he runs away from me (he's 3).

    For me, I don't always make a wardrobe plan but Colette patterns has done a couple of sewing challenges that were wardrobe/palette oriented. I planned on doing one last spring/summer but then I got sick and we moved and I just didn't have the time. But I have all kinds of fabric and patterns to do it; I want to make them eventually but it won't happen this year, since none of the garments are maternity and wouldn't fit right. So I'm waiting until spring/summer 2014.

  14. Peter: You're looking awesome in those shots! I esp. love the one with the glasses and the flower pants. You're channeling Stanley Tucci - which is always A-plus in my books!

    I do some sewing with a plan and some sewing cuz I feel like it (want the challenge, like the pattern - even if it's not outrageously practical). Since I have a pretty well-balanced wardrobe, that doesn't want for much, most of my sewing is to make things that I like, rather than need. Mind you, occasionally (in order to maintain that balance) I do have to make the basics. That's when I sew with a plan.

  15. My goal for this year was to sew with a plan. So far the plan has not happened and has already been changed. Well, maybe not so much changed as re-arranged? New pattern acquisitions have led to me to re-think what exactly I am going to be sewing for myself, though the pieces I have sewn so far this year are definitely filling wardrobe holes, or at least being worn quite a bit. So, I guess I have to say I think it is good to take an assessment of what you want/need in a wardrobe and then plan to make it. But I also have to let the plans morph and change as the mood strikes otherwise I end up not wanting to sew anything.

    Oh, and I root for the metallics - depending on the fabric they can be a pain to sew, but they look awesome!

  16. This entry caught me off guard.
    I guess, I NEVER sew anything with a plan in mind. Mostly, I am inspired by a certain fabric, buy it and later figure out what to do with it. Which means I have a lot of different (sometimes eclectic - think daisy print jeans)pieces in my closet.
    Yet, I find myself wearing all of it frequently - especially after I get some staples (basic t-shirts, regular pants) to go with them.
    Having unique pieces in my wardrobe is part of my reason for sewing. And yes, there is the occasional one that was fun making but never got worn.

  17. Printed on metallics will dull and wear off eventually now matter how you launder them. It is the abrasion, not the cleaning product. I will buy printed cottons with some metallic printing for blouses if I think I will still like them when the gold or silver is gone. The silvered denim I have seen is attractive, but I do not trust it. A few years ago I picked up several pieces of blouse or shirt weight nicely drapey fabrics of cotton with shiny nylon threads running through it, giving it a very metallic look. Not scratchy, and more durable than actual metallic threads which can break easily. The effect is similar to dupioni.

  18. My wardrobe epiphany happened about 15 years ago when (after years of budget professional buying followed by several years of wearing clothes based on pregnancy comfort and access to breastfeeding) I decided to purge everything that I didn't feel wonderful wearing. That left me with about a dozen pieces in very specific colors and shapes. I now only buy, make or wear jewel tones which I refer to as "fruit" or "sorbet flavors" of raspberry, blueberry, lime, grape, cherry. Even though a sea green or a slate blue looks good on me, nothing comes home outside the clear palate. Those colors go in about a 3 year cycle, so I have to shop more in some years and never buy anything other times. (OK, never buy retail).

  19. I did once sew with a plan (in the 60's), but now sew what I love, even if it's a denim skirt, I want to love it. After all, my fascination about sewing is for me to enjoy. I do have some violet/white stretch denim, with SILVER threads as thin stripes. And, I have a T I bought at a charity shop years ago. It has silver paint on it, and sequins (T is white). Quite surprisingly it has not dulled, or cracked off, and is often complimented. On fabric choices and clothes, actually what we buy works with more of what we have. I too love berry tones, lime green, mulberry, violet. Add black and cream....
    Cathie, in Quebec.

  20. Warning - woven fabric with a metallic lurex thread through it can be itchy on the skin (so I've found at any rate). Sarah

  21. I've been on a metallics kick lately and so far no problems with fading or dulling as long as they don't go in the drier. (I had a RTW metallic knit top lose it's metallic in the drier).

    I love that you are going to do some wardrobe magic! I admire those who can stick to a plan. I can't. LOL

  22. My sewing plan is to make a work wardrobe- dresses, matching skirts, jackets, and blouses, etc. Before getting my job I went through a long spell of unemployment and I am still terrified that one day this job will evaporate too (on the plus side, I think my relatively brief tough times give me more insight into my grandparents depression era cheapness that just seemed wacked out before). When I saw how much nice work clothes cost, I decided I had better work on learning to sew. It helps keep me focused so I don't try to make every burda magazine pattern. The other restrictions in the plan are: no sleeveless and only rich colors. I am tired of washed out lifeless taupe neutrals. Bring on the purple.

  23. Over many years I accumulated a wardrobe of bits and pieces without having given any consideration to how they might go together. The outcome was that many of them didn't (some also didn't fit but that's another story). So last year I devised a 3-step plan to sort it out once and for all.

    1. Donate to charity anything that was no longer useful. This would leave me with items that: I liked and would wear; could be refashioned into a different garment; or would make useful references for future sewing projects (construction, finishing techniques etc). Items in the last category would eventually also be donated to charity.

    2. Plan a complete practical wardrobe taking into consideration what I need (what I do, where I go). This involves research (magazine stash, internet), sketching out complete outfits (colours, styles, including accessories) and procurement (patterns, fabrics - metallics have not featured to date). This is where I'm at right now and I have no intention of going anywhere near the shops until I have a clear picture of what this wardrobe will look like. It won't be large, rather a small, considered collection of good quality garments on high rotation.

    3. Sew any missing pieces.

    The blue sky plan is to make all of my clothes over time (excluding underwear - couldn't be bothered) using ethically sourced materials where possible.

    Spud from Down Under

  24. Congratulations on joining the Mood sewing network. I look forward to seeing you sew with better quality fabrics.
    I used to sew fancier clothing than my lifestyle warrants and so I had to buy a lot more every day stuff than I do now. Except for the occasional special event I have learned to sew for my life. I do plan though I don't always follow it. I am a list maker so lists of garments to sew are a natural for me. I also sketch things I want to make. Since I have been making plans I've also bought fewer pieces of fabric that don't fit into my wardrobe schemes.

  25. I've started with making a plan, which I've been following, and then allowing myself to deviate from it every once in awhile keeps me from getting bored with it.

  26. Peter, you look awesome. Shouldn't you have a booth or something at the Brooklyn Flea? We were there mid-January and totally thought you ought to be there :).

  27. Ok. So here's the thing.
    Please have MPB day on the weekend of 8 June. That's when I'll be in town.


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