Archive for April 2011

Your personal basic wardrobe plan

April 29, 2011

What are your most basic wardrobe needs ?
Long Holiday Weekend thoughts, and appropriate when the son of someone who was famously stylish is getting married today.

I’ve been reviewing what people suggest for wardrobe plans. The same items keep being mentioned as essential, many of which I never wear (Little Black Dress, blue jeans). And some of the things I always wear are never mentioned (lots of layers). Most of the plans aren’t relevant to other people round here either. (I did see someone wearing a black blazer ten days ago, though it was silk and unstructured. Yesterday there was an edgy one lined with stripes and worn with leggings. Not, I suspect, what the people who say you must have a black blazer are thinking of.)

My reactions helped me recognise my priorities, so here they are in case they help you too.

Of course wardrobe planning is more effective when you know your most flattering colours and shapes. And your personal style. And the needs of your lifestyle.
And after a classic closet clearout, so you only have things you love which are flattering and in good condition. (YouLookFab has a new post on closet editing.)

This is about how many clothes and other items you need, so you can fill in the gaps. (I’m surprised to find how many things I wear all the time, yet never think of having more than one of. . .)

– – –

Here’s a list of basic types of garment :

coat, raincoat, cape.
casual jackets such as knits, shirt jackets, shrugs, or hoodies.
pullover layering tops, such as sweaters, tunics, or overblouses.
sleeveless tops and camisoles.
casual tops.
short sleeved tops.
blouses, shirts.
pants, crops, shorts.
jumper dresses.
protective clothes, such as aprons, coveralls.
special requirements for hobbies, sports, work.

Here’s a wardrobe.pdf of the list, to download and print.
Wheee, I’ve learned how to include a pdf 😀

– – –

Suggestions for using the list :

Add notes on the list if there are items you want to expand to make more distinctions, or garments you want to add.

Cross off all the items which you never or very rarely wear.
Cross them off thickly so you can’t read the words.

Use the left margin to write in these numbers.
For the remaining items :
do you wear them daily – mark with a 4
do you wear them weekly – mark with a 2

Anything worn less often – mark with a 1 if it’s essential even in a minimum wardrobe.
Otherwise leave it out.

The 4, 2, 1 tell you how many of these you need, minimum.

Have you got a clothes ‘signature’ – something you always wear or would like to wear ? Do you usually wear one type of garment, or perhaps one colour, or a type of fabric, or a type of trim. Or your signature might be a style element, perhaps a type of collar or pocket.

Put a special star by your ‘signature’ 😀
If you like to wear a ‘signature’, this is the first item to pay extra attention to, and expand beyond the smallest practical number.

A separate part of the plan :
Make sure you have an outfit for any rare event that may happen without much warning.
For example I’m retired and only wear casual clothes. But I make sure I have one outfit for a very formal daytime event such as a funeral. And one outfit for a very formal evening event such as a black tie dinner or concert. (We do have those here, and they’re in buildings with minimal heating.)

– – –

And that’s your own personal minimum wardrobe plan, the fewest clothes to cover your needs.

Have you got those numbers of items ?

Better than nothing.

Are they flattering and in your style, items that you love ?

Do they make outfits ?
Or preferably co-ordinates – do all 4 items go with all 4 items in another group ? such as all tops go with all or most bottoms, all or most layers ?

What does that tell you about your priorities for adding to your wardrobe ?

What colours, fabrics, styles would be best for adding outfits ?

Are they items you would enjoy sewing yourself ?

Are you going to buy or sew ?

– – –

For me it did make a difference to make a written version.
I’m surprised how quickly it focussed attention on what I need.
But I am a ‘seeing things written in front of me’ person.

You might like to make separate lists for summer and winter.
Or for work clothes separate from casual clothes.
Or for special evenings. Or for pool/ beach.
Or halve the numbers for a travel wardrobe.

Um, do you need separate lists for what you actually wear now, and what you would like to wear. . .

– – –

I crossed out over half the things on the list.

Hmm, my favourite layering pullover tops and shirt jackets aren’t even mentioned in most wardrobe plans. At work it was always a turtle-neck cashmere sweater, or unusual blouses and watches. They don’t get much of a mention either.

Everyone’s needs will be individual and special. The numbers and types of clothes you need are very different for a person who lives in tees and jeans compared to someone who moves between gym, boardroom, opera. That’s why most published wardrobe plans are disappointing. Of course it’s marvellous if we find one that works for us. But I usually feel they’re devised for someone who has a different lifestyle, different personal style, different shape, different colouring. . .

Some wardrobe proposals are specific about styles and colours. Others are more general. The ones closest to my needs are Eileen Fisher’s capsules (many posts here), and the Sewing Workshop layering wardrobe (here’s my post on that). Many people with more classic taste love Tim Gunn’s 10 essential elements. (I haven’t seen his book.)

Here’s an example of how to be flexible with other people’s ideas. I can adapt Tim Gunn’s list to my own needs quite easily :

Trench Coat [mine has a button-in warm lining]
Jacket / blazer [no black or tailoring for me]
Bonus trendy item [for me a layering tunic or shirt jacket]
Sweatsuit Alternative top – comfortable fabric [for me a thick sweater or fleece]

Dress Pants
Jeans [chinos for me]
Sweatsuit Alternative bottom – comfortable fabric [cords for me]

Classic Shirt [several]
Any Occasion Top /cashmere sweater

plus not for me :
Day Dress
Basic Black Dress
Instead I’d add an essential padded vest in winter.

Someone in a hot climate who loves dresses would make very different changes to this basic list 😀 Perhaps :

Trench Coat [light rainwear or a trench styled jacket]
Jacket / blazer [light evening layer]

Jeans [crops or shorts, in light fabric]
Sweatsuit Alternative bottom – comfortable fabric [skirt]

Classic Shirt [blouse]
Any Occasion Top
Sweatsuit Alternative top – comfortable fabric [camisole or halter top]

Day Dress
Basic Black Dress [black only if it makes you look your best]
Bonus trendy item [dress]
Dress pants [replace with workwear dress]

These things are aids, not set in stone !

Do a search for ‘wardrobe basics’ to find many more possibilities. If you search for ‘wardrobe plan’ you get all the entries for all wardrobe contests at Stitchers Guild and Pattern Review – inspirational for style but not a wide range of garment types !

– – –

How about the same planning for accessories :

hats, caps, head coverings
gloves, mittens
scarves, snoods, neck rings
pantyhose, tights, stockings
flat shoes
heeled shoes
purses, handbags
totes, baskets, backpacks, phone and laptop cases
eyeglasses, sunglasses
pins, brooches
special accessories for children, hobbies, sports, work

Here’s an accessories.pdf

What do you absolutely have to carry with you ? What is the most effective way to carry them all ? (extra pockets in clothes ?)

Have you got a ‘signature’ accessory ?
Some of you may want to list many different types of shoes or bags or hats 😀

How well do your accessories co-ordinate with your clothes ? can you make outfits including shoes, plus bags, scarves or whatever else you wear and carry ?

Do you ever go straight from work to a dressy evening out ? You might think out accessories to achieve this, as part of your wardrobe plan.

– – –

And here’s an underwear and nightwear list :

camisoles, tanks, shells
full length slips/ petticoats
waist length slips/ petticoats
briefs, panties, etc.
‘long john’ tops and bottoms
night gowns
pyjama tops
pyjama bottoms
bed jackets
bed socks

Here’s a lingerie.pdf

Make sure you’ve got everything you need to wear under your main outfits. Are any of your clothes transparent ? Underwear needs to co-ordinate too. What do you not mind showing ?

– – –

Of course when you’re filling your wardrobe gaps, it’s best if the new items go with at least two items you’ve already got. Make sure you end up with wearable outfits. For many people, co-ordinates are better still, but often a goal to work towards rather than something achievable quickly.

When you start it can be discouraging to realise how far you are from your best. Remember Princess Diana took several years to transform from frumpy to her own style. She certainly didn’t get it right every time.

Have a Happy Holiday weekend getting a clear idea of what you like and need.
What are your priorities ?
Choose beautiful flattering patterns and fabrics and start sewing.

Make Sewing and Wearing A Pleasure 😀

– – –

Links available April 2011

– – –

To get to main blog, click on red header.

= = =

North American independent pattern designers

April 22, 2011

Here’s a fun way to spend a Happy Holiday Easter Weekend 😀

A list of all the North American ‘independent’ pattern companies I’ve found. Except I haven’t included ones which only have 1 or 2 patterns. Or aprons, or bags, or for children, or all the patterns for historic specialists or lingerie.  Or people who re-design sweat shirts. I had to stop somewhere ! I don’t think it’s humanly possible to make a complete list – companies are always coming and going. At least one has changed URL recently. And there’s one I can’t remember the name of. So if you know any I’ve left out, please tell me.

The smaller European pattern companies I know of are listed in this blog right hand menu.

Discover new delights 😀

– – –

Akasha – Andrea Steele               

Alternatives – Shirley Adams

Amy Butler

Anna Maria Horner

Back Porch Press

Batik Butik – the Bali collection         

Birch Street Clothing

Brensan Studios

Brown Paper Patterns – Barbara Allen

Carol Lane-Saber designs

Christine Jonson Patterns

Classics, The – Cecelia Podolak               

CNT Pattern Co.

Colette Patterns

Country in the City

Cutting Line Designs – Louise Cutting

Cynthia Guffey

Dana Marie Design Co. (was Purrfection) – Dana Bontrager

Darlene Miller

Dawn Anderson Designs

Decades of Style

Design and Planning Concepts – Nancy Mirman    

Dos de Tejos

Elements – Linda Kubik


Fashion Patterns by Connie Crawford

Fashion Sewing Group – Nancy Erickson

Favorite Things

Folkwear Patterns

Four Corners

Gail Patrice Design

Grainline Gear – Lorraine Torrence

Great Copy                                                   

Green Pepper                                              

Hot Patterns

Indygo Junction

Islander – men’s shirts


Jean Hardy – equestrian

J.Stern Designs – Jennifer Stern

June Colburn Designs

Kayla Kennington

La Fred – Fred Bloebaum

Laughing Moon – JoAnn Peterson

Lila Tueller Designs
see lower right menu

Lingerie Secrets – Jan Bones

LJ Designs – Lyla Messenger          

Loes Hinse Design

Lorraine Torrence Designs

MacPhee Workshop – Linda MacPhee

Maggie Walker Design

Mary’s Patterns

My Sister’s Patterns

Paisley Pincushion

Pamela’s Patterns

Park Bench Patterns – Mary Lou Rankin

Past Patterns – historic

Pattern Studio – hats and gloves

Pavelka Design              

Petite Plus – Kathleen Cheetham

Quilted Closet, The – Elaine Waldschmitt

Rag Merchant – Jill Mead                         

Ragstock – Deborah Brunner

RDKC – Rachel Clark
ReVisions  – Diane Ericson            

Round Earth Publishing – martial arts and cosplay

Saf-T-Pockets – Marsha McClintock        

Serendipity Studio – Kay Whitt


Sewing Workshop, The – Linda Lee

Shapes – Louise Cutting and Linda Lee

Silhouette Patterns – Peggy Sagers
Stretch and Sew – Ann Person

Suitability – equestrian

Taylor Made Designs – Cindy Taylor Oates
pattern books listed in menu at right

Textile Studio Designs
The King’s Daughters – Modest Sewing Patterns

Threadbare Patterns – for shaggy plush felt

Trudy Jansen Design

Tu-RIGHTS – for special needs

Unique Patterns – drafted to customer’s measurements

Victoria Jones Collection – Hawaiian

– – –

Have fun finding designers who share your personal style 😀

With special thanks to other people who have made pattern link lists. One was from the ASG, another I saved 3 years ago has no name or source with it.

I’ve written two previous posts on independent pattern designers.
The first suggests European sources for North American patterns, plus a little about pattern magazines.
The second focusses on new generation designers.

If you want patterns for historic re-enactment or cosplay, here is a place to start : Great Pattern Review, or their earlier sources of patterns.

For a list of software companies, see my pattern making software post.

Enjoy !

– – –

Big Companies – in case you don’t know where to find them 😀

Burda (Germany)
Kwik Sew
Neue Mode
Simplicity – New Look

– – –

Links available Easter 2011

Strong colour

April 16, 2011

Do you look good wearing the strong yellow of Easter chicks ?

Many trends this season are more about colour and prints than shape (see trends post).

Strong pure colours are important : red, blue, yellow, plus the intermediate green, purple, orange. All in bright versions, not with a little white or black mixed in to soften their impact.

Colour reproduction on my screen isn’t good so this may not look ‘primary’, but hopefully you get the idea. Drawing the colour wheel this way shows it may be a good idea to choose the right red or green. Though the best colour may only be obvious if you’re clearly either cool or warm in colouring (which I’m not).

One way of being super trendy is to wear three or four strong colours combined. With each garment in a different colour. Or several colours in one item, perhaps body, sleeves, and neck band/ collar/ cuffs in different colours.
See on Hyper Color.

Or two colours, one of the strong colours combined with white.

Well, colour blocking has been suggested by high fashion magazines for some seasons now, but I can’t remember seeing anyone wearing these tropical colours in this quiet suburb in this cool rainy climate 😀

Care with strong colours

If you can’t decide whether to wear bright colours and bold prints, they’re probably not for you. Have a look at Nancy Nix-Rice’s excellent articles, 7, 8, 9 on colour and 10 on prints.

Perhaps you can wear one or two of the strong clear colours, but not all of them. I can wear red, though reds with a touch of blue, not a yellowy red (odd, as I’m mainly ‘autumn’ in colouring). Other strong colours completely overwhelm me.

White is also a key trend this year, but it’s too ‘strong’ for many people. Does it help if you wear a white slightly tinted with blue, or white tinted with cream ?

A touch of strong colour

What if you don’t look your best when wearing strong colours or strong contrasts ? Would you still like a little trendy brightness ? Add it in bag or shoes. Just not near your face.

Or use it for trim, perhaps binding, piping or frills. Personally I think that makes a garment rather inflexible about what it will combine with. So don’t use it unless you have several items this will look good with.

Pantone colours for this season

Here’s the pdf of Pantone’s colour suggestions for Spring 2011.

Goodness, you can even get a Pantone app. . . though it needs accurate colour pick up from your mobile phone camera.

Happily Pantone are aware that some of us need muted (with a touch of grey), or paler (with added white), or more subtle mixes. They don’t include all those brights. They choose colours with names like :
Coral Rose (“sophisticated orange”)
Honeysuckle (not sure what they mean by this, perhaps it’s a problem with colours on my screen, UK native honeysuckle is rose-red and cream.)
Peapod (yellow-green)
Blue Curacao (related to turquoise)
Regatta (blue)
Silver Cloud
Silver Peony

Look also at the colours mentioned by the designers in the pdf, who use more colour names, and wonderfully luscious sounding colour combinations.

Pantone colour predictions for the coming Fall are also more muted.

So if you’re a ‘Summer’ or ‘Autumn’ feeling left out by the high fashion brights, not to worry. There are many other attractive colours relevant for this season.

Some Soft ‘Summers’ like the top-to-toe ‘nude’ shades that are another fashion theme. This is a grayed palest pink, Pantone’s Silver Peony. Another colour we can’t all look good in. Would it help if you use a muted bluey pink, or a muted peachy pink ?

Or try the palest most washed out shades of denim blue.

For Warm ‘Autumns’, refer to Pantone rather than Vogue ! The simple colour wheel doesn’t work well for browns.

– —

If you’re like me and the season’s brights and nudes don’t make you look your best, just stick to your most flattering colours, and choose to ignore being trendy about colour this season 😀

– – –

Links available April 2011

Jackets of the season – cascade, revers, asymmetric

April 9, 2011

Some of us only feel happy if we can wear a structured crisp jacket with shoulder pads on even the most casual occasions. Others, me included, are miserable if we have to wear anything like a blazer, even if it contains not a smidgen of interfacing. Most people are more flexible and come somewhere between the two !

In this season when the notched collar blazer fills the fashion magazines, what can we wear instead ?

All Eileen FIsher‘s jackets are current classics, so can be worn for several years. This Spring season she picked 7 jackets to emphasise. Three are notched lapel collar blazers, see my post, and 2 have a shawl collar, see my post on them. She also picked two less formal styles : a cascade jacket, and a collarless jacket with revers. And in the catalogue there are several styles with asymmetric front opening.

(All these styles were available at the beginning of the season. Some of them are already no longer on the Eileen Fisher site.)

– – –

Cascade front

Eileen Fisher

There are several ways of designing cascade fronts. (There must be technical terms for these things, but I don’t know what they are. The books on pattern making I have don’t mention cascade style.)

The first issue is whether the upper edge of the cascade is short or long.

Two download Shrug patterns for knits show the difference between the two front lengths, a high/ short cascade which draws the eye up, and a long cascade which draws the eye down.

Sewing Workshop’s new eShrug pattern (left ) has a high cascade length.

Or there’s Hot Patterns free Cascade-cozy shrug (right), with a long front.

(not correct relative sizes)

Most knit cascade patterns are the longer style, like the shrug on the right but with sleeves. Eileen Fisher has that style in her winter and spring catalogues. (P.S. here’s a tutorial on adding long sleeves to the Sewing Workshop shrug.)

This season’s cascade jacket for wovens from Eileen Fisher has the short upper edge.

Then below the short cascade, you have a choice of the lower front dropping down, as in the black shrug, or cut away as in this season’s Eileen Fisher woven version (first photo).

Last summer Eileen Fisher featured a short cascade jacket with longer lower front. Here’s my post on her Summer 2010 capsule. I suggested Butterick 5472 for copying that version.


The lower cut away is like some of her more structured jackets for this season, see my posts on the notched collar blazer and the shawl collar jackets.

There’s a new McCall’s 6333 wardrobe pattern with a short cascade which is cut away below.


Release the darts and lengthen about 4 to 8 inches / 10 to 20 cm around the bottom edge (and omit cuffs) to mimic Eileen Fisher’s version.

– – –

Collarless ‘revers’ style

Eileen Fisher

Collarless jacket styles are more frequent in the shows and pattern catalogues this year. This one has a button at waist, and the X-shape opening, cut away below the button.

Here’s a new Palmer-Pletsch pattern, McCall’s 6329.


Many good opportunities for fit.
Add a waist level button, and perhaps cut away below it.
If you’re going to cut away, notice the X-shape is made by the fold line of the revers, not the cut edge. So there’s a curve in the pattern piece around the button area.

– – –

Asymmetric opening


These Eileen Fisher’s examples show much variety in style details : buttoned and zip closures, fitted or semi-fitted, narrower or wider collars.

Leather asymmetric jackets with zip closure are sometimes called biker or aviator jackets. Biker style is more edgy in black with exposed zip pockets. Aviator ones have shearling lining.

There are a couple of popular patterns for this style.

Sandra Betzina Vogue 1198, with zip closure.


Widen the collar and use buttons instead of zip to copy some of Eileen Fisher’s style options.

And Kwik Sew 3827. This has an angled front. The vest version has hidden button closure.


– – –

I’ve picked out some themes, but there many other current style choices. On the Eileen Fisher site there are also trench coat, parka, zipped knit hoodie, some soft hoodie vests. So you can enjoy jackets in your own style this season.

On The Shopping Forecast site (currently discontinued) the jacket styles are very limited – nearly all are notched collar blazers, with a few trench styles and jeans jackets. All current classics. If you want high fashion this summer, ironically this isn’t the time to go wild with your jacket shape (though you might want to with the colour).

There are good patterns for all these other styles if you prefer them. So there’s an idea for yet another jackets post 😀

– – –

Patterns and links available April 2011