Fall wardrobe & capsule planning

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By mid-summer, I was pretty desperate for fall to breeze on in and cut the humidity, but now that it feels like fall is in the air, I’ll admit I’m a little sad to see the sunshine waning. But what better way to embrace the changing season than a little wardrobe shift?

I feel like my original notes on using a capsule wardrobe planner to plan projects were rambly to the point of being unhelpful, so I thought I’d share my current wardrobe planning & project planning process in practice, broken into two posts.

Taking Stock

I find it’s helpful to start by getting a full view of what I already have. I printed out the Un-Fancy wardrobe planner (which is called Capsule, but doesn’t necessitate that you actually make a capsule wardrobe, if you’re not interested in that sort of thing) and decided to focus on planning for mid-September through end of November. In this part of the world, fall can be long meander toward winter, or a sudden plunge into cold, so I’m curious to see how well a capsule wardrobe will work. Using the planner, I’m framing the upcoming season in terms of:

  • Weather: I literally wrote “who knows?!” but most likely “crisp, breezy” and mid-70’s to high 40’s over the course of the next few months
  • Lifestyle: the largest portion of my pie chart is working, but I either work from home, at my co-working space, or at cafes, so it’s pretty casual. I want to continue biking and walking to work as much as possible, so that’s a consideration for my wardrobe, and then in my free time I have: sewing/knitting/dyeing project time, exercise and weekend adventures, and lounging.
  • Special events & travel: an exciting work trip to the east coast at the end of October, and then another fun work trip to the Bay Area in mid-November. My goal for both trips is to have a few simple options for looking put-together and representing sustainable fibers/textiles (or at least, not fast fashion).

With these factors in mind, I like to pull all my favorite things from my closet and any storage boxes, and into neat piles on my bed — whatever I’m most excited about gets pulled first, which basically fills the “pieces I own + love to wear” section of the capsule planner, I jotted those down, and then kept adding to the piles. I did this on a Saturday afternoon and made sure to open the curtains wide and put on some music I love, so I can see everything in good natural light and enjoy the process.

Then I turned around to my closet and looked at what was left, which generally fell into two categories: summery things that I want to save for warm weather, or things I’m not excited or able to wear. I made piles for donating, selling, or packing away different items, and then made piles for laundry (hand wash or block, gentle cycle, and regular) and mending to get everything into shape before moving on.

I used the capsule planner to note “pieces I own + never wear” which included two pairs of jeans that don’t fit well (selling & donating them), a vintage chambray tunic that I want to like but have never actually like the fit of (sell if possible), a Hemlock tee I sewed a while ago that has an awkward sleeve fit (alter), and some fancy dresses that hang in the back of the closet (donate and gift a few, keep two I’m not ready to part with).

Lastly, I took stock of the pieces I love and am keeping — do any need mending or alteration? Based on this selection, do I have any holes in my wardrobe? The obvious thing is that my favorite pair of vintage boots (purchased last fall) are totally destroyed and need to be re-soled and likely replaced sometime soon too (a cobbler actually told me that the boots aren’t worth fixing, but I’m unwilling to give in). Less obvious but notable on closer inspection is that my three favorite jeans have all ripped in substantial places in the last 6 months, and each has been mended, some more visibly than others. Since these are the only ones left, after parting with two that didn’t fit well, I want to prioritize more pants and skirts so I have something more durable, and presentable if needed.

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Capsule Planning

Overall, I really enjoyed my summer capsule wardrobe experiment (which I reflected on here), so I’m giving it another shot for fall. I already pulled together some inspiration from the fall styles I’m gravitating toward, but I used the capsule planner to expand it a bit:

  • Word association: layered, casual, creative, contemporary
  • Brands I admire: Elizabeth Suzann (minimal, chic), Lauren Winter (F/W campaign especially – creative, layered), Study NY (upcycled, quirky), Hackwith Design House (contemporary, minimal), First Rite (creative, “cool”), Caron Callahan (utilitarian, interesting)… I save favorites from these talented designers and more here.
  • Brands I draw from to make my wardrobe: Grainline Studio, Sonya Philip, Fancy Tiger Crafts, A Verb for Keeping Warm, Brooklyn Tweed, just to name a few.
  • Colors: neutrals (cream, black, natural/undyed tones) and grays (as noted here), deep indigo, and warm and bright accents in red, maroon, and yellow/mustard/gold tones

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My “top 8” pieces for this capsule are:

  1. Black silk blouse (thrifted)
  2. Ondawa sweater (handmade, details here)
  3. Hackwith Design House tunic (purchased at sample sale)
  4. Linen pocket tee (handmade, noted here)
  5. Khadi Prism dress (handmade, posted here)
  6. Chambray vintage dress (flea market purchase)
  7. High-waisted, cropped jeans (thrifted, modified)
  8. Sven clogs (purchased)

Based on my favorite pieces, what’s working for me? Definitely boxy, loose tops, either cropped or tunic-length; vintage denim and chambray; and details like split side seams, kimono sleeves, or dropped shoulders. Fabrics I love to wear are natural fibers including silk, tencel, denim, chambray, linen, wool and alpaca.

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Since I decided I wanted to go ahead with a full capsule wardrobe, I basically turned everything I had put onto the bed into that list:

  • 3 pairs of jeans & 1 pair of pants
  • 6 dresses (5 made by me)
  • 8 short-sleeved tops (4 made by me)
  • 6 long-sleeved tops (2 made by me)
  • 5 warm layers (all made by me: a cotton knit Linden sweatshirt, Escher sweater, Hayward sweater, Ondawa sweater, and Liv Light cardigan)
  • 2 jackets (1 made my me)
  • 4 pairs of shoes (sneakers, clogs, chelsea boots, loafers)

All of the above steps and contemplation laid the foundation for planning out a few items to add to my wardrobe, which will fit with my fall capsule, my goals of reducing my stash, and my love for making things. More on that next!

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Summer capsule reflection

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What I wore

Looking back, I had a few clear summer silhouettes:

  1. Sleeveless, boxy cropped shirt + high waist + sandals. In heavy rotation were my self-drafted crop top, my blue striped t-shirt, my knit beach tank, mixed and matched with my cut-off jean shorts, vintage linen wide-leg pants, thrifted high-waist non-stretch jeans, and paired with my Birkenstock sandals or Zuzii sandals (which I bought for a wedding and have proved quite versatile).
  2. Breezy dress with pockets + sandals or sneakers. For me, dresses are the easiest thing to wear in the summer, and can be styled a little differently (more casual or a more refined) depending on shoes or jewelry. My most-reached for this summer were my wabi-sabi Dress No. 1, my hacked V1482, and my Charlotte Kan tie dress (see below). I love me-made dresses because I can make sure the length is in my comfort zone, and I can always add pockets.
  3. Wide-legged jumpsuit (sometimes layered under a top) + sandals. For hot and sticky weather, and bike riding all over town, my two jumpsuits were perfect and fun: one is a vintage linen style that I bought on ebay and dyed in indigo, and the other is a black organic cotton Sallie jumpsuit that I made last summer.

And a quick shout-out to a couple of me-made favorites that were in heavy rotation but never got a full blog post: tops and dresses made from Charlotte Kan Pocket-T and Tie Dress patterns:

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From left: I first made the Tie Dress in a linen-cotton blend last summer as a birthday present to myself, and then I volunteered to pattern test the Pocket-T (so I received the pattern in exchange for my review; I used deadstock Cupro from Feral Childe) last July. Last fall I made a cropped version (with split side seams) of the pocket tee in Merchant & Mills Irish linen, and in the spring I used the sleeve shape and waistline to create a heavily modified V1482 (a.k.a. Rachel Comey sack dress). If you’re interested in more details on any of those, feel free to ask in the comments, or let me know if a full post would be helpful.

What I didn’t wear

This summer was non-stop heat and humidity at home, and really didn’t cool down in the evenings at all, as it does in other places I’ve lived. This meant that I rarely/never wore any of my warm layers (light sweaters or jackets) except for travel. I also hardly wore my stretch denim jeans or my Prism dress because long sleeves and pants just never seemed like something I wanted on my body. Since my summer capsule extended into early September, I was able (and excited!) to bring these items into the rotation at the very end of the time span.

I didn’t wear my black high-waisted shorts often, but I still love them so much. They’re just a little too short for riding my bike or workwear but they’re great for going out with friends or dates. I also pretty much never wore my wrap skirt! I need to make it a faux-wrap skirt because it always feels too fussy so I don’t reach for it.

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What I made (and what I didn’t)

  1. Just before I officially committed to my summer capsule, I made a self-drafted crop top and it was easily a summer fave (also made one for a friend), worn alone or layered over a jumpsuit or dress.
  2. At the start of June I also finished knitting a lightweight shawl, which I intended to wear for my brother’s wedding but didn’t really end up needing. I think it will be great for fall and spring layering though.
  3. In June I made a rather wabi-sabi Dress No. 1, which exceeded my plans and expectations in how fun it was to make and wear (dressed up for a friend’s wedding, as well as my brother’s wedding rehearsal party, and dressed down for daily wear).
  4. In July I braved the unending humidity to draft and stitch my “Best Woman Dress” (full post coming soon! Inspiration post here)
  5. For a quick travel project and stash-buster, I knit a bright red Diode hat
  6. In August, I cast on a new sweater for my partner as part of the Fringe & Friends Knitalong.
  7. In the very first days of September I finished a set of silk Lakeside Pajamas

I had hoped and planned to draft and sew a tunic that I had envisioned when I received a beautiful piece of khadi from A Verb for Keeping Warm as a Me-Made-May contest prize (which I didn’t even realize I had entered!). I can see how the tunic would have fit into my capsule and silhouettes, but I didn’t necessarily feel that it was glaringly missing. I just didn’t have time, and I’m sure it will still be inspiring next spring/summer.

I also didn’t finish the Penny Raglan I had planned. I actually started making it, and it’s not too far from being finished, but I just don’t think I’ll wear it. I love the penny raglan shape but I made it out of a linen-cotton blend curtain I found at Goodwill, and it’s too sheer for my comfort level. I’m debating between tossing the unfinished garment in the scrap bin, or finishing it and giving it away.

Looking at this list, I essentially made one garment per month, with one smaller project added in or wrapped up. It’s really helpful for me to better understand my pace so I can be realistic with planning my projects and purchasing supplies, and it’s also nice to realize that I posted about nearly all the finished garments here.

This feels good as in the past I’ve been somewhat on the fence with blogging, but I’ve really been enjoying it as a writing outlet and a place to record notes (like this post, which has been a running draft for several weeks now) and inspiration. Sometimes I just don’t want to spend any of my free time on a computer (since my work involves a lot of screen time — that’s why my tactile hobbies are so nourishing for me), and other times I’d rather move into the next project instead of re-hashing what I finished, but I value the opportunity to appreciate each project and learning process.

10 x 10 outfits

What I learned, and notes for next year

My biggest takeaway is that I actually didn’t feel limited by my capsule wardrobe — I had plenty to wear, and even felt a bit more adventurous trying to experiment with new ways to wear what I already love.

Toward that end, I played with styling by trying a 10 x 10 challenge while on a 10 day trip, and it was really fun! I love layering and that can get tricky in the summer. Honestly, I have no issues with repeating outfits, but the 10 x 10 challenge to make 10 items feel like 10 different styles was really interesting and showed me that my clothes have greater versatility than the way I typically wear them. It also allowed me to pack a light carry-on and still dress appropriately for a few days at the beach, a wedding weekend, and a few days in New York City. I thought about doing a full post on it but then I fell behind (and subsequently gave up) photographing the 10 outfits. The items from my 10×10 experiment are featured in the collage at the top of this post, and the first two looks are shown above (travel day and beach day).

Part of what draws me to the capsule wardrobe exercise and using capsule planning to pare down my project list a bit, is that I get stressed out when I’m growing my stash by buying things I don’t have time to use or make. My summer capsule was successful in helping me hone in on a projects I really wanted/needed to make, and stick to working through my stash!

To be completely transparent, I did buy a few things during this capsule stretch, like the Lakeside Pajamas and Penny Raglan patterns. And when I visited Fancy Tiger Crafts I bought lots of underwear elastic, and two cuts of hemp knit for shirts for Jenn. But I didn’t buy any new fabric for my own wardrobe. And I fought a very intense urge to throw my plans (and budget) out the window to make a stripey Fen dress — that was a fascinating rollercoaster of desire to witness within myself, and might become its own post soon.

My summer capsule wardrobe also affirmed my love for jumpsuits: if I had to live with only one item of clothing, it would probably have been my indigo linen jumpsuit this summer (it’s a vintage Flax jumpsuit that I bought on Ebay and overdyed at home). I recently read an interesting post on the question of whether a love of styling is at odds with a minimalist approach to fashion, and the author brought up how garments that are versatile don’t have to be basic. For me, jumpsuits are a prime example. You know all those “wardrobe essentials” lists on Pinterest and in fashion magazines? They often include items I don’t own or rarely wear, like a classic blazer or pencil skirt, whereas because I love the jumpsuits I have, they’ve become essentials.

A few notes for next year’s warm season:

  • My Nisolo sandals are really a half-size too big, and wearing them in very wet grass for an evening didn’t help that. It might be wise to replace them.
  • I’m pretty good on lightweight sweaters — I have three that I love, which cover different shapes, and meet my needs for this climate.
  • I love my Zady linen tee but it shows wear more quickly than other items, so it would be a good item to duplicate. Either with another of the same – maybe in black or stripes so I don’t need to worry about staining so much, or I could knit a similar shape in Quince & Co. sparrow (I’m looking at you, Moon Tee).
  •  I think another shift dress in place of my Prism dress would be good, and especially one with pockets — I’m head over heels for Lily Schlosser’s Fen dress in stripes, so that might jump to the top of my spring/summer list for next year.

So there you have it – my first official capsule wardrobe and wrap-up. I plan to keep going with this pattern for a while because I’m enjoying it and I think it’s a valuable tool for my goal of a maintaining a small closet. What do you think — are you interested in a capsule wardrobe, would you try one? Do you plan your wardrobe and/or projects in other ways? Do you love having an expansive stash?

Fall style inspiration

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Layers

I know, shocking — fall inspiration & excitement over cool weather layering possibilities. After a hot and humid summer across most parts of the country, I think this is a daydream shared by many. I’m looking forward to the usual suspects in denim, linen, wool, tights, and boots, but perhaps some new proportions this fall & winter. A bit lagenlook, a bit ’90s nostalgia, a bit of exploration and play for a contemporary mix.

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Beanies

Because I really miss wearing hats, and also just generally being wrapped in wool. I just finished knitting the bright red Diode hat (left), which was a seasonally inappropriate summer project but a satisfying travel knit and a terrific shape and fit. Coming out of storage will be my Lilian beanie (middle) and my Jul hat (right) which to be honest needs to be re-knit at a smaller gauge because I never swatched and it has grown a lot in size. For me, hand knit accessories are a great way to top off (pun intended!) a neutral outfit and wardrobe with bright colors, and it’s also much easier and less resource-intensive to dye a small item a bright hue than to tackle, say, a vibrant oversized sweater (for Diode I used madder extract, for Jul I used fresh coreopsis flowers).

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Warm neutrals

My warm weather color palette skews more toward cool colors, lightwashed indigo and white. For fall, I’m looking forward to drifting back to neutrals and a bit of warmth: grays, darker blues and black, rich browns, and apparently, I’m very drawn to that peachy nude (in inspiration images 1, 2, and 5 above). At first I thought I have nothing in that color in my stash or closet, but then I remembered the bag of avocado pits in my freezer… maybe a cool weather dye project will make that happen. (My previous avocado pit and iron dye experiments shown above).

p.s. I haven’t written off the end of summer — in real life, where it’s perfect bike riding weather, or in terms of writing here — and still plan to post about my best woman dress and reflect on my summer capsule in the coming weeks.

Summer Capsule

1-DSC01556.JPGTo start small, to keep things within reason without feeling constrained, is that too much to ask, of a closet?

A capsule wardrobe seems like a good test for this; a barometer. A few weeks ago I used the Un-fancy Capsule planner to lay out my plans for summer projects, and so I decided to try out a true summer capsule, full of handmade, secondhand, and ethical pieces.

In the planner, you start by picking out eight pieces you love to wear, which came to me quickly since these were already in heavy rotation:

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  • linen crop top (me-made, upcycled)
  • linen jumpsuit (secondhand, overdyed in indigo)
  • cutoff jean shorts (secondhand)
  • linen tee (from Zady)
  • Hudson pants in woven tencel (me-made, deadstock from Feral Childe)
  • striped tee (secondhand)
  • sack dress (me-made, fabric from Fancy Tiger Crafts)
  • Huarrache sandals (not pictured; from Nisolo)

As I’ve said, whether or not you actually want to create a capsule wardrobe, the Capsule planner results in a really helpful guide for making or shopping for clothes. The “top 8” exercise in particular is pretty genius — it’s almost like a mini capsule, and it serves as an intuitive foundation for color palette and silhouette. Clearly I’ve got a blue/white/neutrals thing going this summer. And a linen thing. A serious linen thing.

Moving on from that, the activities pie chart, weather/climate notes, and list of pieces I rarely wear, really helped me narrow down my closet. I set a few spring pieces aside for fall because I knew the Midwestern humidity was coming, and placed a few pieces in my “studio” for dye projects or the scrap bin.

Capsule planner in hand, I laid out my summer wardrobe:

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  • 5 dresses
  • 2 jumpsuits
  • 5 short sleeves tees/tops
  • 2 long sleeve (3/4 length) tops
  • 4 sleeveless tanks/tops
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 2 pairs of lightweight pants
  • 1 skirt
  • 3 sweaters (1 pullover, 1 cardigan, 1 shrug) + 1 lightweight Linden sweatshirt
  • 1 jacket
  • 3 pairs of shoes (2 sandals, 1 sneaker)

= 33 pieces

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with room for:

  • 1 new dress (wabi-sabi Dress No. 1 )*
  • 1 new tunic (self-drafted)
  • 1 new pair of shoes (for the wedding, then casual wear)
  • 1 fancy dress (for the wedding, not sure it’s really a full fledged part of the capsule)
  • 1 new shirt (upcycled linen/cotton penny raglan)

excluding:

workout clothes, underwear, sleepwear, and what I consider specialty items for specific activities (like gardening, dyeing, etc — basically, my very beat up overalls, a smock, and a flannel shirt)

Does the number matter? I didn’t really try to restrict my closet, and ended up in the range of 35-40, which seems to be a common capsule number. Perhaps it’s more about perspective — there isn’t a mountain of clothes hiding behind this summer set. This is just about half of my wardrobe, including all shoes and outerwear but excluding the same things as above. I feel good about that, since I live in a climate with very dramatic, even diametric seasons, so it would make sense that about half of my clothes are suited for warm weather and half for cold.

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On the one hand it seems there are more and more people embracing capsule wardrobes, and on the other hand it seems like there’s some polite backlash and already many people who have done capsules and are moving on to a less-restricted closet. In my humble opinion, as an observer and now, I suppose, a participant, I think it’s all good.

The tricky territory with capsules, that I have observed, is either the process merely supplants a regularly shopping obsession with a periodic shopping frenzy, or perhaps by not carrying over more items, the result is a very compartmentalized closet, not a cohesive wardrobe. I’ve also read frustrations that capsule wardrobes encourage a misconception that there is somehow a perfect capsule wardrobe, and that seems like a dangerous quest (emotionally) to attempt.

For me, for now, I plan to use capsule-ing as a tool to fully enjoy my wardrobe while taking good care of it, to make new items from stash that will fit in with my style, to choose secondhand first, and to move slowly, ideally replacing things as needed (or before they wear out) rather than adding more and more.

And I hope to use the capsule framework to reflect at the end of each season on what’s working, what didn’t get worn, and what’s worn out, and use that to guide my project planning.

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*clearly I’m posting these out of order as I’ve just been jumping around whenever I have time and feel like writing down some thoughts. I finished Dress No. 1 and posted it here.

Capsule planning as project planning

IMG_0081As makers, we can have total freedom over what clothing to create and wear. But do you ever feel like:

  • It’s a fine (and sometimes frustrating) line between fabrics, patterns, and projects you love the look of vs. fabrics, patterns, and projects you love to wear 

— and/ or —

  • There are so many good sewing projects out there, or waiting in your stash, that you can’t just pick one to start, and you end up not making anything! (decision paralysis)

These are common challenges for me, and conversations I see popping up on social media, and I think it comes back to planning. If, like me, you enjoy planning out your makes and are looking for tools and tips to help with that process and help align your projects with your stash and your style, then may I introduce you to: the Capsule planner.

I think the beauty of the planner is that the steps aren’t revolutionary — the same type of steps that you’ll see in the Wardrobe Architect series or the Into Mind workbook, but instead of months and chapters of planning, it’s super concise. (I completed it in just two short sessions, over breakfast before work). I love planning projects but I can easily get stuck daydreaming and sketching, or conversely overwhelmed by all the great pairings of stash materials + patterns + shapes I’d like to wear. This capsule planner by the blog Un-fancy provides helpful guidelines and keeps the process confined, so you can move onto wearing (and making!) your capsule. The basic steps are:

  • Define your timeline (a season, a few months, even a specific travel period)
  • Assess your climate & lifestyle needs over this timeline
  • Pick out your 8 favorite pieces for this type of weather & lifestyle, and also note what pieces you haven’t been reaching out
  • Use those lists to brainstorm what’s working for you and what’s not, in terms of color, material, fit, etc.
  • Use the above exercises to inform a color palette, shopping plan, and budget

If you’re looking for more in-depth exploration to help identify your personal style, I think a more involved planner would be really beneficial. But if you’re looking to try a capsule wardrobe, or just find some peace in planning out what to make or buy, I’d recommend this one. (it’s free!)

The thing is, whether or not you plan on “capsule-ing” your closet, you could use this guide to make your sewing, knitting, or shopping more considered, and ultimately, I think (I hope!) make your closet more satisfactory. As I went through the planner for my summer closet, I came up with a few quick tips for adapting the capsule wardrobe planner for a handmade, me-made wardrobe:

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Use it (re)assess your stash

Writing out some style parameters, a color palette, and “what’s working” or not working for me, immediately made me think of my stash. How well does my stash (both fabric and yarn) reflect what I want to wear, or need to wear to suit this season? I actually took swatches from my stash and scrap bin to make my color palette, and then I also wrote down some natural dyes that fit my palette so that I have options in mind for modifying things in my stash or secondhand fabrics I come across. For example, I love the vibrancy of cochineal pink, but when I look around at my favorite things to wear (and the resulting color palette), cochineal pink really doesn’t go. But the blush pink and peach of avocado pits complements my palette, which centers around un-dyed cream/white, indigo, warm browns from cutch and pomegranate, and the range of grays from tannins + iron.

Personally I’m at a point where I feel uncomfortable at the thought of my stash growing any larger. Even though I’m focused on summer sewing, the capsule planning process (and more broadly, my efforts to keep a small closet) has helped me part with some fabrics that weren’t going to see the light of the project table any time soon. If you’re looking to de-stash, this planning process could be a great place to start!

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Use it to become a better maker

I’m pretty aware of my favorite pieces of clothing and could write down my “top 8” with little hesitation. But the “never wear” section? I blanked. I changed it to “rarely wear,” since things that are truly unworn are probably sitting in the scrap pile or someone else’s closet at this point, but when I took a hard look at my closet I realized that the things I’m reaching for the least are handmade pieces from my early days of sewing. The common themes are ill fitting and poor finishing, which I realized could not only free up space in my closet but could serve as valuable feedback to become a better maker. As I sew this summer, I’m using these “rarely worn” pieces as a good reminder that I need to make muslins or double-check measurements, and not skimp on seam finishes.

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Use it to prioritize your projects — both new makes and mending

For sure, I still get the urge to make all the things, but as I planned my activities & special events over the next three months, it seemed like such a busy time! So I used the shopping list as an abbreviated “making list”: I know that I have to prioritize making a dress to wear in a wedding, and then I picked 3 other items to make that will fit in my capsule. Of course, I have longer term projects like my One Year One Outfit pieces and my Tamarack Jacket, but I’ll keep those moving slowly ahead when I have time, or after I finish my priority items.

The “rarely wear” section also becomes a good “at a glance” list of what to mend, alter, upcycle, or dye — which for me is a good way to keep on sewing or knitting while not going overboard on the number of items in my capsule/closet.

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Use it to inpsire & budget for styling your makes & building skills

For me, the “brands” and “budget” section of the capsule planner seemed almost irrelevant at first. Of course, you can list your favorite pattern designers as your go-to brands (I did), but then I realized that brands can reveal more than a shopping list — an aesthetic wishlist. So I listed some of the brands I admired and thought about some of the reasons why I like their designs: high quality natural fibers, simple and timeless shapes, the color palette, the styling — all inspiration for my summer makes. (See more on my “sewing inspiration” pin board, if you’re curious).

And since I’m committed to using my stash, I don’t need to budget for new materials, but I realized there were a few special items and experiences I wanted to add. Going through the events, travel, and activities balance for summer really helped me crystallize this list. The big one for me is that my brother is getting married (in just a few weeks!) and while I plan to make a dress for myself, I want to complete my look with a (rather overdue) hair cut and a new pair of sandals, and if there’s room in my budget then I’ll spring for a pedicure and some makeup too (I have a running wish list of non-toxic options, but would love any suggestions if you have favorites!).

With summer travel and special events, my budget is pretty full, but in the future I think the budgeting section will also be a great place to incorporate classes and skill-building. I’ve been investing in textiles classes (most recently, weaving) and natural dye books and materials for the past year, and the cost can definitely add up. But framing them in the context of the span of a season, and in lieu of shopping, could be a great aid in allocating those funds.

So those are the modifications that came to mind for using capsule planning as a vehicle for planning all my sewing, knitting and dyeing projects. Of course, it’s my first time “officially” planning a capsule wardrobe, so I’d love to know if you have experience with this type of exercise — any and all suggestions are welcome!

Small Closet Chronicles: Resources & Inspiration

 

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Ok, so I’m finally back with more on why I’m interested in maintaining a small closet of intentional clothes. It seems like the term capsule wardrobe is everywhere these days, and while the principles of a capsule are straightforward, I love to see how people approach the concept in practice and make it their own. In my own personal capsule trajectory, I started with attempting to define my style through the Wardrobe Architect and Into Mind resources, and then have continued to seek tips and inspiration as I’ve come across a variety of blogs. Here are the resources I’ve found helpful and continue to enjoy:

Wardrobe Architect by Colette Patterns – a really comprehensive series of exercises to define your style and approach what you sew by understanding what you actually wear. Admittedly, I didn’t make it all the way through the many parts, but I’ve recently been enjoying Christine Hayne’s version.

Into Mind – a blog with a minimalist approach to fashion and a trove of tutorials for weeding out what you wear and don’t want, and building a thoughtful closet. Her book, Curated Closet, is due in the fall and should be a good read too.

Un-Fancy – a capsule wardrobe blog that seems to have taken the internet by storm! Caroline has so much helpful, and un-fussy information that really breaks down the steps of making and wearing a capsule, and I think her story of finding her personal style is really sweet.

Project 333 – possibly the start of the capsule wardrobe revival, with a beautiful blend of substance behind the style, and how living with less can be freeing. There are so many derivations of Project 333 out there, but you can still take the original 333 mini-courses for a foundational understanding. I loved hearing Courtney Carver, Project 333/Be More with Less founder on this episode of the Conscious Chatter podcast, and I hope to make it to her Tiny Wardrobe Tour next week!

My Green Closet – a YouTube channel with videos about making, wearing, and reflecting on a Project 333-style capsule wardrobe. Erin’s approach really resonates with my own (limited shopping, prioritizing secondhand and DIY) and I just think her video style is lovely.

Growing a Minimalist Wardrobe by Reading My Tea Leaves – a helpful and down-to-earth series by one of my favorite bloggers, which is not quite a capsule approach but a holistic way of slowing building a meaningful, wearable, less wasteful wardrobe.

Lean Closet by Style Bee – this is a more recent addition to my blog feed, but I’ve been interested to see how Lee, a fashion blogger, is scaling back on consuming fashion and working on cultivating a “lean closet” which is still super stylish

Lifestyle Justice – a blog on ethical style and other lifestyle topics, with an interesting “un capsule” approach to a tightly edited wardrobe with very slow, considered additions

Slow Fashion October – a month of meditations on materials and making, hosted by another favorite blog of mine, Fringe Association. I didn’t end up posting much in this space for the Slow Fashion October prompts, but I participated in and loved the conversations happening in social media, and am looking forward to it this year!

Stash Less by the Craft Sessions – a challenge for those of us who adore and perhaps hold onto materials a little too tightly, this framework and the series of posts by Felicia Semple is one of my favorites — a constant source of encouragement

One Year Wardrobe by Rebecca Burgess/Fibershed – a local capsule, in a way! Fibershed is now an educational non-profit (and I work on some of the projects, ergo am completely biased) but began when Rebecca challenged herself to dress entirely locally for one year, connecting with farmers and artisans to build a closet that would work for her needs and climate. You can still read the blog archives from the project (linked above) and read more about the trajectory in this Seamwork Magazine article, which just goes to show how small closets can have a big impact!

Even though I find a lot of parallels and crossover between these approaches and frameworks, I still love reading about them and how different people tell their story of minimizing or capsuling their wardrobe. Do you have any recommendations or inspiration for a small closet?

Toward a Small Closet

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about size. Specifically, closet size. I’ve been steadily making most of clothes for the past two and a half years, which has been super rewarding as a creative outlet, a way to challenge myself to learn new things, and a way to feel good in my clothes and express myself through my style. It has also been an amazing portal to deepen my understanding of and appreciation for slow fashion, and a lens for thinking critically about the current fashion system — the #2 most toxic and harmful industry worldwide.

Something that comes up a lot in conversations about “what you can do” to change the status quo of fashion is the “buy less buy better” adage. My takeaway is that by growing a wardrobe slowly, we can choose longer lasting pieces and likely spend more per item (which can help bridge the gap for internalizing the costs of clothing production) but get more out of them (reducing the cost per wear as well as textile waste). I wholeheartedly agree with this as a guiding principle, but for a while when I started making clothes I wasn’t necessarily following it.

Even as my sewing and knitting skills improve and shave time off the process of making clothing, I still feel like my handmade garments are a slow and lengthy production. And I think this is a good thing because it automatically slows the pace of growing my wardrobe. And yet, sometimes a new pattern comes out or a new (or secondhand find) fabric catches my eye and I feel like I need to whip through a project right away, or I see someone sharing a recent make on Instagram with a comment along the lines of “love this pattern, definitely need 10 more!” and it always makes me pause — do I really need this new item of clothing superfast, or does anyone really need TEN of the same basic tees/sweatshirts/dresses? 

So I’ve been thinking about slow growth, appreciating what I already have, and being intentional with what I make. This illustration by Sarah Lazarovic really hits the nail on the head:

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Between a big closet cleanout, a smattering of Wardrobe Architect exercises, a cross-country move, and 2 me-made-Mays documenting what I most love to wear, I’m finally coming to a place that feels like a good balance of a small, curated closet with just a little room to grow, and plenty of room to breathe (by the way, Jenn and I share a closet so mine is the left side of the photo above, and about half of the dresser drawer space).

No doubt this evolution has been informed by the “capsule wardrobe” movement, and more recent approaches like the “minimal wardrobe” or “lean closet” framework. This past fall I actually went so far as to use the capsule wardrobe model to plan out what to wear for my first cold winter in several years, and I fell in love for a few reasons:

  1. It was immediately reassuring to know that I had enough winter clothing to layer and enjoy the cold weather
  2. It was a good motivation to put away summer clothes and really embrace the cold instead of trying to layer warm weather prints under heavy sweaters (fun in early fall, not so much in the depth of February)
  3. I could easily identify a few gaps in my wardrobe and that helped me focus my “making” time budget as well as my spending budget
  4. I had no stress about “nothing to wear” because I could quickly, and mentally sort through my options
  5. It was a lot easier to take care of my clothes and keep them orderly, which was soothing since my bed faces my open closet storage
  6. I like a good challenge!
  7. Bringing out my spring clothes was like seeing old friends and going shopping, without spending any money!

With one extended seasonal wardrobe exercise down, I’m thinking of approaching the capsule wardrobe concept with a little bit of flexibility within each season and a lot more holistic contemplation to make sure all items in my closet are interchangeable and well loved.

There are plenty of great terms out there that capture this clothes-minded sentiment: lean, minimal, capsule, conscious, curated, even un-capsule, and so I’m just going to term this series small closet chronicles. Because my closet space is small, and I think my handmade, intentional wardrobe can be too. I’ll be discussing, documenting, and reflecting on it here.

In my next post I’ll share a few resources for different approaches (like those coined by the above-listed terms), and what I’ve found useful or gleaned from them, and then I’ll dig into how I’m putting this into practice. I hope you’ll share tips & thoughts on intentional making and slow fashion too!