Wardrobe Architect Week 11: Planning My Pieces

Two weeks since my last Wardrobe Architect post, yikes! With only a three weeks left in the series including this one, you may well have wondered why I didn’t post on time, especially when I’d expressed so much excitement for planning garments and outfits. I certainly wanted to, but when Wednesday showed up in the middle of the week (as it has a habit of doing) I didn’t actually have a plan. And I knew if I threw together a list of whatever popped into my head while I was sitting at the computer, I’d end up with a list of pieces I wasn’t 100% thrilled about, which is a recipe for a) making a bunch of clothes that I won’t wear, or b) going off the rails and ending up with a closet full clothes that are just as disjointed as I have now. So I mulled it over, looked through my recent pattern acquisitions again, and came up with something that I’m pretty stoked about.


1st Row Four fitted t-shirts: one white, one aqua, one with navy and white stripes, and one red with a white print.  I’d like to try out the Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick Tonic Tee pattern—it’s designed specifically for petites, and it’s free!

2nd Row Two drapey camis made with McCall’s M6359, one in coral and one in yellow. One drapey sleeveless button-down in green; I really like the Portofino shirts from Express, so I’ll keep my eye out for one in a nice cheery Kelly green.

3rd Row Two drapey open-front cardigans, one in navy and one in smoke. It’s a toss-up whether I’ll make these with McCall’s M6084 or buy them from Express. I have two of the latter already that I really like, but I may not be able to get them in the color I want; on the flip side, I know good sweater knits can be tricky to find in fabric stores.

4th Row Three fitted cardigans in green, yellow, and white. I’m knitting the green cardigan already, and will probably knit rather than sew the other two as well. I haven’t picked specific patterns yet, but have plenty of options to choose from in my Ravelry queue.

5th Row A woven khaki pencil skirt made with Simplicity 1465; a knit navy pencil skirt made with Simplicity 1465; and a woven, elastic-waist swishy skirt in some print (not necessarily the fabric or even the color pictured) made with Simplicity 1662.

6th Row A Lady Skater dress, a woven McCall’s M7156, a knit McCall’s M7116 View A, and a knit McCall’s M7116 View C. All of the fabrics are just placeholders, although I’ll probably be looking for things in similar colors and patterns.

7th Row Two pairs of shorts, one in navy ikat (totally ripping off Lauren here) made with the Grainline Studio Maritime Shorts pattern or similar, and one in white, which I already own. Two pairs of leggings, one in smoke and one in navy, made with McCall’s M6173. And—if can miraculously find them in a store, be it retail or fabric—one pair of coral jeggings.

That’s a pretty ambitious list, to say the least. I doubt I’ll get through all of it by the end of the summer. The biggest hurdle will be sourcing and buying fabric and yarn, since I’m trying to sock away money for a big upcoming purchase at the same time. But I’ll go crazy if I don’t have a steady stream of projects, and my wardrobe desperately needs an infusion of new pieces, so I’ll be looking for economical ways to make this capsule wardrobe a reality. I’m open to suggestions if you’ve got them!

Wardrobe Architect Week 10: The Capsule Palette

Easily the best part of the Wardrobe Architect series is the way each assignment builds upon the previous ones. No task feels frivolous, and as I’ve worked through them my confidence in my choices, in my overall direction, has grown. Back in Week 5 I identified a color palette that speaks to me; in Week 6 I organized my palette into neutrals, nearly neutrals, and statement colors; and today I’m going to narrow my palette down to the colors I want to focus on for my spring/summer wardrobe.



White was a given. Next I added Camel, but when I started thinking about the other colors I wanted to include, I realized that Khaki makes more sense, so I made a substitution. Justin suggested adding Graphite, but I went with Smoke instead for something a little softer and, I think, more suited to warmer weather.

Nearly Neutrals



This was a no-brainer: I knew weeks ago that my palette was going to be anchored by and revolve around Navy. I feel happy every time I look at it.

Statement Colors


I kid you not—I agonized over this section at first, which is silly, because the whole point of this exercise is to make wardrobe-building less stressful.

Initially I was thinking Red, Mustard, and Kelly Green, but I felt like I needed a fourth color and I couldn’t settle on one that matched enough of the others. I entertained the idea of adding Purple, but the truth is, while purple used to be my favorite color, and I have several pieces of clothing and jewelry that are purple, I find it difficult to pair with other colors. (This is probably because I’ve avoided yellow for a long time. I thought I couldn’t wear yellow because I’m a fair-skinned blonde, but I’ve since been disabused of that notion by my dear mother and husband.) I’m happy to have a few special purple pieces, but I just wasn’t excited by the prospect of making a bunch of things in that color.

Next I considered Powder Blue, Mint, and Petal Pink. I consider them all solid spring colors, and I’d definitely like to have them represented in my closet, but as the high heat of summer approaches, I’m craving bright, peppy colors instead of pastels.

I started to wonder if I’d made a horrible mistake when assembling my initial palette, since I was no longer feeling certain about the options I’d given myself to work with, and then I found Crafting a Rainbow‘s Me-Made-May 2013 wrap-up, which included a palette with several of the colors I’d been considering, plus a few I hadn’t thought of. So I shamelessly lifted some of her choices. (Thanks, Gillian!) Suddenly, everything clicked into place and I felt confident once more.

With that solved, I assembled a final palette showcasing the colors I’ll be aiming to work with over the next few months:


Seeing it all in one place makes me so excited, I kind of want to squee. I’m already daydreaming about the outfits I’ll be able to create, but I’m resisting the urge to purchase any fabric or yarn until I’ve got a more concrete plan. Soon, soon…

Wardrobe Architect Week 9: The Capsule Wardrobe

Like Sarai, I was initially skeptical of the capsule wardrobe, a collection of 20–33 items of clothing that function as the basis of your wardrobe. Her issue was a lack of confidence and, as a result, enthusiasm: she was never sure if she’d picked the right items to make up her capsule wardrobe, so she tended to deviate from her plan, which perpetuated the issue of having nothing that went with anything else.

My issue, which stemmed from a misunderstanding of how it works once assembled, was concern that it would stifle creativity, both in dressing and in shopping/making. Since capsule wardrobes are often talked about in the context of minimalism, there’s a lot of stress on “paring down” or “purging,” and an unspoken expectation that once you’ve completed your capsule wardrobe, there’s little need to buy or make new things except for special occasions. In fact, there’s nothing left to do but cycle through perfectly mixed-and-matched outfits every day and breezily exclaim about how much easier it is to get dressed and how much time you’ve saved (or something like that).

Of course, none of these things are entirely or necessarily true. The truth is that a capsule wardrobe doesn’t have to be the end of your wardrobe unless you want it to be. It’s simply the thing you’re trying to match up to when you’re considering buying or making a new garment and ask yourself, “What would I wear this with?” It would, in theory, provide most or all of the pieces you needed if you had to make an emergency weekend trip and had 15 minutes to pack your bag.

To get the most out of a capsule wardrobe, you can and should set your own rules. The number and type of items isn’t something to be handed down by an “expert;” it varies based on the number and variety of activities you’re regularly involved in. You can re-visit and tweak your capsule wardrobe at any time. You’re not even limited to a single capsule wardrobe—based on your climate, you might have two, three, or four capsules to reflect the seasons.

And the best part about it? Having a capsule wardrobe is not incompatible with sewing frosting, or splurging on the perfect accessory that only matches one outfit. The capsule wardrobe is a foundation that you can build upon with more unusual or niche pieces. It’s not all-or-nothing. Whew!

With that said, here are some silhouettes that I’ve been thinking about for building a Summer 2015 capsule wardrobe:


Following Sarai’s example, these aren’t the exact outfits I want to make or the colors I’d want them in—for instance, I’m not sure if I’m keen on the neckline of the dress, but it was the best example I could find of a fit-and-flare dress with a circle skirt not modeled by a person—but I think they capture the spirit of the things I like to wear in late spring and throughout summer. I’ll probably throw in drapey cardigans as well. (The only reason I didn’t include them here is that I thought of them after I’d already started to put together my collage and didn’t want to disrupt the symmetry.)

I got stuck after two silhouettes, even though I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with so few, so Justin very helpfully suggested #3. That, in turn, reminded me that a coworker had been wearing an outfit very similar to #4, and I took notice of it because I liked it so much, so I added that as well.

Reviewing everything together, I feel like I have solid options to work with. I can hardly wait to start matching silhouettes to colors and patterns so I have a guide for future fabric shopping and sewing projects!

Wardrobe Architect Week 8: Hair, Makeup & Beauty

Now there’s a loaded topic if ever there was one. Rather than waxing philosophic about the whys or why nots, let’s stick with the facts: what I do, what I don’t do, what I’d like to do, and, let’s be honest, what I’d like to do but probably can’t be bothered with. Sarai provided a very helpful list of nine questions as a jumping off point, so I’m going to start with those and see where it takes me.

1. What hair style has been most flattering and comfortable for you? How did it make you feel about yourself? Did it invoke any of the words you came up with in our core style exercise?

Apart from growing my hair out until I could sit on it and then lopping it all off when I was nine—I got a pixie-ish haircut that was wedge cut in the back—I’ve kept my hair between shoulder and chest length all of my life. Anything shorter than that doesn’t feel like me, and any longer than that is just too difficult to manage. I love layers but don’t wear bangs. My two favorite haircuts looked like this:


If I could master doing my own hair, or had unlimited access to someone who would do it for me (a girl can dream!), it would look like this:



Long hair has always felt versatile to me, which is why I like it. Want to keep things simple? Blow it out straight and wear it loose. Want to exude classic elegance? Pull it into a sleek bun or French twist. Want to feel glamorous? Style it as a cascade of curls or waves. Too tired or too busy to fuss with it? Messy buns and claw clips are your friend.

My favorite hairstyles, on good hair days, make me feel like a supermodel. Or a superhero. I feel unselfconscious, feminine, poised. I’m ready for anything. Bring on the wind machine!

2. How much makeup are you comfortable with?

If I feel like wearing makeup, then I’ll do a full face: primer, foundation, powder, blush, eyeshadow primer, eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara. (I seldom wear lipstick, even with a full face, but that’s mostly because I haven’t found the right shades yet or the best way to get it to stay put.) But most days I don’t feel like wearing makeup. Even with some practice, I’m not as fast as I’d like, or as creative, or as skillful, and most mornings these days I’d rather hit the snooze button.

This is something I’d like to change, though. I like the way I look in makeup. I like the expressive potential. And some days, I like that it feels like armor against the stresses of dealing with overbearing sales people or socializing with strangers. I—and this is just me talking about my personal experience, not making normative statements or passing judgment—see wearing makeup as another component of feeling put together in my daily life. It’s another element that gets added up with dressing well according to a sense of personal style, being prepared, speaking confidently, and acting decisively. Not wearing makeup isn’t a pass/fail switch; it’s just one more thing that can add to or detract from my sense of being capable of getting my act together. Since it’s a thing that takes time and attention, the fact that I have makeup on means that I deliberately made time for it and gave it my attention.

3. How does your makeup and hair reflect your personal style? What do you feel they say about you and your aesthetics?

My hair and makeup routine are about 50% there in terms of reflecting my personal style. I’ve found the length and general style I prefer for my hair, and feel comfortable trying variations within those parameters. Likewise, I’ve found a couple of color palettes that work well with my complexion and my favorite outfits, and I’ve begun experimenting with different combinations of things like eyeshadow and blush.

Thus far my attitude about hair and makeup has been pretty flexible: I don’t like to agonize over either, and I’ve been okay having a couple of days a week where I put in little or no effort. They’ve reflected my belief that I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to, and that applies to both ends of the spectrum: I don’t have to wear makeup (or fancy clothes, or a perfectly coordinated handbag) if it feels like work instead of fun, and I don’t have to feel guilty if I want to lavish time on myself to perfect a look (via makeup or aforementioned clothes and handbag). I’ve more than proven to myself that I’m comfortable keeping things simple even when those around me are decked out; now, I’d like to take everything up a notch by learning to consistently execute my favorite looks.

4. How much product do you want to own? Do you like collecting products, or would you rather just have a few essentials? How much bathroom clutter are you OK with?

Moderation rules when it comes to my beauty products. I’m not a collector, but neither do I find minimalism particularly appealing (and I have no interest at all in enforcing an arbitrary minimalist policy). I gravitate toward the practice of having a core group of products that I keep coming back to, supplemented by a small, changing collection of products that I’m trying out or only using seasonally/sparingly/for specific occasions.

5. What requirements do you have for the products you buy? Do you stick with all-natural products? Are there ingredients you avoid?

My only requirement for beauty products right now is performance: I choose whatever does the best job for me. Sometimes this is an all-natural product, often it’s not. I’d avoid any ingredients that irritated my skin, but I’ve not found any yet that produced a severe reaction.

6. What colors feel best near your face? How do they relate to the color palette you created?

I love how teal makes my eyes look more blue, which is probably why it’s included in my color palette. Rose gold and peachy shades were a surprising discovery for me, although for now I think I’m more comfortable with makeup in those colors than clothes.

7. What colors never look right near your face? What colors have you tried and given up on before?

Cool pinks and purples don’t work for me, at least not in makeup form. I’ve always viewed yellow and orange clothes as suspect, although that stems more from a fear that they’ll look bad than from any bad experiences.

8. How much time do you realistically want to spend getting ready in the morning?

About an hour, including time to shower, dress, brush my teeth, do my hair and makeup, and find my shoes, which are never where I thought they put them.

9. What types of scents do you gravitate towards? Do you wear perfume? Other scented products? What do you feel the scents you like communicate about your personality?

Fresh, crisp scents are my favorite. I like the smell of clean cotton sheets, fruit (except peaches), foliage, and delicately scented flowers. I avoid anything that smells like baby powder. I don’t care for spicy fragrances and heavy florals; anything too rich tends to feel more mature (if you know what I mean) or more sexy than I care for and not really me. I like perfumes that convey youthfulness without being overly sweet. While I want my clothes to communicate that I’m a bit polished and classy, I want my perfume to suggest that I’m not fussy or forced.

Of these questions, I found #2,#3, and #8 most helpful to think about, but I’ll admit I’d never even thought about #9 and scents as an element of personal style before. Which question do you find the most interesting? Do you think about your beauty routine the same way you think about your wardrobe?

Wardrobe Architect Week 7: Exploring Solids and Prints

If you explore my closet, you’ll find a lot of solids and very few prints. While I don’t think I’ll ever have Oona’s flair for mixing patterns, I would really like to add more of them to my wardrobe, because wearing an outfit consisting entirely of neutrals always ends up feeling unfinished when I do it. (I know, I know, texture and accessories are the name of the game with neutrals. I don’t have enough of those, either.)

If my current wardrobe is any indication, my favorite pattern is dots. I like small- to medium-sized dots, and prefer even arrangements to random ones. I’m iffy about spots.


Blue with White Dots // Aqua with Gold Pin Dots // Red with White Dots

A close runner-up to dots is stripes. I’m pretty open about them: skinny or wide, balanced or unbalanced, monochrome or multicolored—it’s all good with me.


Navy and White Stripes // Purple and White Stripes // Grey and White Chevron

Behind dots and stripes you’ll find tartans, madras, and checks. I’m pickier about these; I tend to stay away from anything too traditional in favor of brighter and more graphic designs.


Lime Madras // Navy and Purple Plaid // Teal, Black, and Blue Plaid

Trailing behind are geometric and floral prints, which I take on a case-by-case basis. I don’t care for ditsy florals or prints that are too messy or chaotic. Paisley, however, is one pattern I often come back to.


Blue and Green Paisley

I’m not much for novelty prints, although I’m not silly enough to believe there aren’t ones out there that could change my mind and jump into my cart. No reason to tempt fate by claiming I’d never buy them, right?

Eventually I’d like to have something like a 70/30 or 60/40 mix of solids to prints, but for now I’m just looking forward to expanding my horizons beyond a few dotted t-shirts.

What’s your favorite print? Least favorite? What’s the craziest novelty print you’ve ever seen?