A good wardrobe pattern for a core wardrobe ?
Wardrobe pattern books are inspirational, but once you know how to make very simple changes, you don’t need a book to get an easy group of co-ordinates. Just start with a wardrobe pattern.
Most wardrobe patterns are for a ‘Core 4′: top/dress, jacket, skirt, pants. All items with a closely similar look.
Wardrobe patterns which include patterns for more tops or layers are much more powerful as the starting point for a core wardrobe. Because they can give more variety of looks.
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An example pattern
I often like McCall’s wardrobe patterns. They’re rare but stylish. I find the recent one particularly inspiring, McCall’s 6519.
This pattern doesn’t use the same style for both top and dress. It has two different underlayers.
My focus here is general issues about expanding to a wardrobe from a single pattern, with this pattern for the examples. I don’t mean to imply that everyone should use this pattern as their starting point ! These styles wouldn’t work well for all body shapes or personal styles. Do you think these styles would look good on a Rectangle ? an Inverted Triangle ? an Hourglass ? With my small bust and large hips, these aren’t the best style elements for me. I don’t look good in flat notched collars, or boxy jackets, or full pleated pants. Close fitting knits don’t flatter me. And I need tunics and vests in my basic wardrobe.
But this pattern makes a good foundation for thinking about wardrobe building.
Modern styling and some interesting style elements.
And hurrah, they’ve been generous : there’s a size 14 in the pattern envelopes for both larger and smaller sizes.
And hurrah again, they’ve put the finished garment measurements with the website pattern information. McCall’s used not to do this.
They made it in red, white and blue.
Fashionable colours this season. (Election in the US, Olympics in the UK.)
But not flattering for all of us.
So think of that as : accent colour, light neutral, and dark neutral.
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The base items
For their examples McCall’s made :
Jacket : accent colour, solid, woven
(Unlined, edge-to-edge front. Shoulder dart under the collar, so it’s more shaped than the line diagram looks. Slight side-seam waist indent, not as much as suggested by the photo. 3/4 sleeve.)
Dress : 3 colours, large scale print, knit
Skirt : dark neutral, solid, knit
Top : 2 versions : one in dark and light neutrals, small scale print, woven; second in light neutral, solid, woven.
Pants : 2 versions in the same 2 fabrics as the top.
That makes 7 garments in all.
Which combined without the jacket make 7 different outfits.
Add the jacket to each, makes 14 outfits.
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I think the key to the success of this McCall’s wardrobe pattern as a base for wardrobe building is that it includes 3 different tops. So different items in combination have different effects. Helped by accessories, you can go from business-like to casual with only a few garments.
Not many patterns like this, but I have found a few.
These ’5 item’ patterns work well for Judith Rasband’s minimum ‘cluster’ of 5 garments (in ‘Wardrobe Strategies for Women’).
If you prefer more classic styles, new Butterick 5760 has two overlayers. A notched collar princess blazer, jewel neckband knit cardigan, and band collar shirt/ dress, as well as skirt and pants.
Wonder of wonders, rare in a wardrobe pattern – an underlayer with sleeves.
In their look book BMV add a shell in an accent colour, and jeans. 8 different items in all, a good basis for a short trip wardrobe. (Shirt, dress, shell, formal and casual jackets, skirt, pants, jeans.) Add a ‘dressy’ top if the trip includes a special occasion. More ideas on styling for a business trip at this wardrobe site.
Simplicity 1945 is a softer group for knits, this time with two underlayers. A raglan sleeve top with cowl neck, and a set in sleeve top with side drape front. Plus a simple jacket with cut on sleeve and cascade front. Pattern also has simple skirt and pants.
Add another jacket with a higher cascade collar, or a v-neck cardigan with banded neckline, for another group of looks. Or a light high-necked top to layer under those tops. . .
For a more ‘dramatic’ look there’s Vogue 8718 – with 2 very different underlayers (and a peplum jacket ). The top with sleeves is a knit.
A version of the jacket with flat not ruched sleeves would add an ‘everyday’ look.
If you like ‘vintage’, Simplicity 2154 is another pattern with a choice of overlayers giving a good variety of looks, a 60s ‘Jackie O’ style.
Lengthen the top for a dress. Make another top without a bow.
Add pants with a slightly tapered leg, perhaps Colette patterns Clover pants. This style is from the days when people rarely wore jeans (and pants were’t allowed in good restaurants), but capris would be acceptable casual.
For the simplest of relaxed casuals, there’s Park Bench Central Park, which has three overlayers !
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Finding a good pattern to start from isn’t the only question about building a wardrobe from a single pattern.
I have other posts planned, on how the shapes and ease of the styles in the McCall’s pattern work together as co-ordinates.
Then there are the very simplest strategies for adding items to make a minimum wardrobe.
Change fabrics : see my post on Kate Mathew’s wardrobe plans.
Change lengths : for inspiration look at patterns which include multiple sleeve and body lengths. See this post (also includes another 5-item wardrobe pattern). Or Butterick’s ‘The Cut Line’ patterns which work as tops, tunics, and dresses.
Change pockets or trims : see that post again.
Change necklines or remove collars : see my post.
Add basic patterns with minimum style elements : see my power of the boring post. (Also in that post, an example of building onto a 5-item cluster of separate patterns.)
These hugely expand the range of options you can get from one pattern starting point. As well as the sewing interest. And without needing to know anything fancy about pattern making
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Patterns and links available March 2012
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