Planning your Handmade Wardrobe

We've all been there, you're happily browsing through Instagram when you spot a beautiful summer dress, made in a swoon-worthy fabric and it jumps to the top of your to-make list. We make it up, put it on and twirl around...and then never wear it again. Usually because, sadly, it doesn't have a place in our day to day wardrobe.

As it is currently Fashion Revolution Week, we are focusing on sewing in a more sustainable way. So today, Alex is going to talk about identifying the gaps in your wardrobe (handmade or otherwise) and planning your sewing projects to fill those gaps.

Now is a great time to refresh your #memade clothing collection. We all have a little more time on our hands now, with the chance to dedicate some of it to our hobbies. Rather than jumping straight into sewing up a storm, I want to encourage you to find out what garments you actually need in your wardrobe, ensuring that these will then become long-lasting staples.

With sustainability in mind, it is a good idea to get as much use as possible out of every garment that you own. We all love a twirly dress, and I'm not saying you can never make those one-off pretty garments for special occasions. What I am going to encourage is that you consider each make that you have planned, and the place that it will have in your wardrobe. I recently saw a pattern for a gorgeous wrap playsuit and had a vision of it made up in a palm print jersey and worn on a golden beach. The problem is that I don't like wearing shorts, I hate flying and the feeling of sand stuck to me makes me want to cry. So in reality that summer playsuit was only ever going to be worn as PJ's... not the best use of my money, resources or time.

Identifying the gaps in your wardrobe

With most of us having more time on our hands, this isolation period is a great opportunity to refresh our wardrobes. I know that many people are using the time to have a clearout of their old, unwanted things. How about instead of just throwing away of clothes, take stock of the things that don't work for you and figure out why. For each item in your wardrobe, ask yourself these questions:

1: Do you like the garment?

2: Do you wear it?

3: Does it fit?

4: Does it flatter?

5: Does it make you feel good?

If you can answer yes to all the above, then great, but if not, what is it that doesn't work for you? Is there a hole that means you don't wear it? Is it a little too big in the waist meaning it doesn't feel good? Evaluate whether you can change the items you already own before you banish them from your wardrobe forever. If you can, try and breathe some new life into your wardrobe (keep an eye out later in the week for posts about mending, fitting and embellishing clothes).

Once you've taken stock of what you do and don't enjoy in your wardrobe, have a look to see if your wardrobe feels balanced. Do you have lots of tops but very few skirts? Do you have a lot of dresses and no separates. Use this to inform the makes that you plan over the next few weeks.

Deciding what to make

Perhaps the most important thing to consider when planning your wardrobe is choosing a colour palette. By that, I don't mean having clothes in only three colours, but identifying the colours that you wear most and that you feel good in. By choosing fabrics that fit into this will ensure that you actually wear the garment you have put all that effort into making.

When I look at my wardrobe, I can see that my colour palette is mostly neutral, with some rich jewel tones added in for colour. From this, I built this palette and made myself a Pinterest board.

Pinterest is a great online resource (however beware of falling into a Pinterest rabbit hole!). By creating this online mood board, I am able to refer back to it when I'm fabric shopping and remind myself of what I like and what I actually wear. I have also made other Pinterest mood boards like this to help me choose sewing patterns. Try to be realistic and true to yourself and your individual style, as much as I love the way pencil skirts look on other people, they're not my style and so I will avoid them when pattern shopping.

Another great resource is to catalogue the patterns that you already own. With many of us using PDF patterns on a regular basis, it can be hard to remember what you have when they are all stored neatly into a file on your computer. Pinterest has lots of printable templates and planners to help you organise your patterns (and your life). I find that having a list of all of my patterns with images means that I don't double buy or forget the patterns in my collection. I made myself a fancy sewing planner for mine, but a notebook or ring binder works just as well.

Planning each make can help you to focus on what to do next. I usually have a running wishlist of projects in my head, but by writing them down I can see which of them I want most and, most importantly, which ones will work best for me and my style. To help with this, I have also designed a project planning sheet, based on some that I have seen online.

We have made this available as a free printout (just click on the image below and enter promo code FREE at checkout). This free resource can help you to visualise what your pattern will look like in the fabric you have chosen. There is also space to list the things you need to buy, and things you already have. That way, when you come to making, all of the hard work is done for you, and you won't find yourself suddenly needing to go on the hunt for that one notion that you forgot to purchase. It is also a great place to note down any changes or hacks that you make to the pattern, as a reminder for next time.

Buying what you need

I try to think of that playsuit when I am buying my fabric and supplies. Like a lot of you, I get an inbox full of e-mails every day with the new releases from my favourite fabric designers and retailers. I recently saw a beautiful tropical print fabric, slightly more expensive than I would normally go for, but still within my price range. I was planning to treat myself to a couple of metres. It was in the basket and just as I was about to buy it, my Mum peered over my shoulder and asked "ooh, what's that going to be, I've never seen you in anything like that?". The honest answer was "I have no idea". Like the voice of my conscience, she reminded me that whilst it was gorgeous, I would never, ever wear anything made from it. So I took it out of the basket and went back to my sewing planner. I looked at my pallette and realised that the colours I wear tend to be more muted with a focus on graphic prints rather than busy ones. I had a browse around and found some gorgeous navy linen that I fell in love with. I have a plan for it and I know that my money, time and effort will not be wasted making up something new to wear.

I really don't want this post to feel like I'm up on my soapbox. I have my own fair share of never-to-be-worn clothes languishing in boxes under beds. I have, however, made a concerted effort over the last year to plan what I'm making and be less wasteful in what I make for myself. I hope that this inspires you to have a think about what to make, get some Pinterest boards made and then stock up on beautiful, curated fabrics to match your collection!

Don't forget to share your selfies with the "I Made My Clothes" banner from the last post, and remember to tag us and Fashion Revolution Week if you decide to have a close clearcut or use the free planner pages.

Keep Safe and Happy Sewing, Alex from the Sew Creative team x

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