Archive for the ‘Eileen Fisher’ category

Update your capsule wardrobe

January 15, 2011

Update your basic capsule of stylish casuals for the winter. I’m getting to this a bit late ! but these are ‘transitional’ styles.

In the current Personal Shopper section of the Eileen Fisher site, there’s a .pdf of styles for November to February 2011. This includes a “Cheat Sheet for getting dressed” with 12 items. A basic wardrobe of co-ordinates.

Oh, absolutely everything is black, except the jeans which are dark indigo. Well, let’s ignore that. . . happily we can choose our own best colours. Making everything out of the same fabric would certainly simplify things 😀 but Eileen Fisher adds interest by using both wovens and knits, with a wide variety of surface textures and fibre types.

– – –


Three slim skirts of different lengths

”ef1-11skirts” Eileen Fisher

Three pants of different widths : leggings, slim pants, jeans

” Eileen Fisher

Not much different from the skirts and pants in the Summer co-ordinates, which I’ve already talked about.

– – –

Sleeveless tops

Three sleeveless tops with narrow straps and different lengths

” Eileen Fisher

Again similar to the tops I talked about in the summer.

– – –

Tops with sleeves

And two sleeved long tunics for more warmth.

” Eileen Fisher

Flared and scoop necked, different amounts of flare and different length sleeves. A new pattern needed here.

One problem with mimicking these is the flare shape. A simple solution is to lengthen and flare a favourite top pattern.

Start from something like McCall’s 6244


But if you’d rather have the work done for you, there are some possibilities.

Vogue 8542 has dropped shoulders. Easier to co-ordinate if you level the hem.


Also for knits there’s raglan sleeved McCall’s 6205.

(the neck ring is separate)

While for wovens, there’s Butterick 5390


For more visual interest, there are several tops on the Eileen FIsher main site with draped necklines, and many patterns in that style. A recent one is Very Easy Vogue 8669


Not so convenient for layering under a jacket.

For an independent pattern, there are the striking Alex and Olive tops from The Sewing Workshop.


– – –


And one jacket.

”ef1-11cardi” Eileen Fisher

They’ve chosen a flared long cardigan with neckline band.
The text says it has a peplum, but that isn’t obvious from the drawing. A longer warmer version of one of the layers in the summer capsule.

Which is the most flattering longer length for you ? at low hip, or thigh ?

If you’re larger above the waist or the same size above and below, then the flared shape isn’t essential. And it’s easy to find patterns for straight sided cardigan jackets. Just add length to a shorter style.

Those of us who are larger of hip may need to start from a straight pattern and flare the side seams.

Also adjust the neck band to the right width and sewn down like the Eileen Fisher style, if need be and you prefer that look.

For a knit jacket pattern, there’s McCalls 6084


For an independent pattern, perhaps Christine Jonson’s Swing Jacket 519. Looks as if it would be fairly easy to simplify to a top. (Make the top a smaller size so the jacket will layer over it.)


There are several similar jackets in wardrobe patterns. Perhaps lengthen and flare the jacket pattern and alter the neck band. With small changes, these patterns could make a wardrobe quite like the Eileen Fisher one. Here are a couple for knits.

Butterick 5398


And from Nancy Zieman in McCall’s 6247


Or of course choose your own jacket style. It just needs to be long enough and wide enough and with big enough armholes, to layer comfortably over those long sleeved tops.

– – –

Perhaps the word ‘update’ is misleading. Although the specific patterns I’ve mentioned are recent, they’re current classics rather than trendy one-season-only designs.

If you would like some ‘of the moment’ details, UK In Style magazine February issue goes for :
– white blazers,
– smock tops,
– maxi dresses,
– wild floral ‘garden party’ fabrics,
– big stitch knits,
– lots of added fringe,
– platform sole shoes with -very- high heels.

And of course I have a whole lot to say about the Eileen Fisher capsule as a whole, and how well it meets personal needs. This got much too long, so I’ve made that a separate post.

And if you don’t like planning in detail ?!
Just clarify the spirit of your capsule, as a guiding light that protects you from going too far astray. . .
Whichever way you go :
Happy Wardrobe in the coming year 😀

– – –

Patterns and links available January 2011

Dress in 5 minutes coordinates: layering pieces

July 10, 2010

The Eileen Fisher summer 2010 ‘system’ is a small group of garments which are interchangeable. So you don’t have to think while getting dressed. This post is about the layering pieces (earlier posts were about the tops and bottoms).

The starting point , the ‘system’ which inspired this series of posts, has already disappeared from the Eileen Fisher site. But it’s still full of ideas about how to co-ordinate a small group of clothes.

– – –

Layering pieces


Those are the ‘system’ photos. The flat presentation doesn’t show the styles very clearly, so here are the modelled versions.


– cropped jacket with dolman cap sleeves, high collar, ties, in sequin stretch knit silk.
– cropped cardigan with banded collar, elbow length sleeves, in cotton linen textured double knit.
– shaped jacket with high collar, double layer front placket, shaped waist, flared hem,. in linen jersey.

Light airy summer cover-ups, they look different because they have different body and sleeve lengths and necklines. But they’re easily interchangeable because they’re all have :
– closely similar colour,
– similar fabric type – knits (though with very different textures),
– similar slim silhouette.

There’s a bit of difference in style elements. The vest has a wide neck band close to the neck. The cropped jacket has a narrow neck band on a wider neckline. The longer jacket has a continuous strip band along front and neckline. Only the ‘vest’ has an obvious closure.

It’s the special fabrics which make these very simple garments look luxurious.

– – –

Cropped cut-on sleeve ‘vest’ with tie fastening

I haven’t found any knit patterns close to this. But there are some that could be easy to adapt.

For example, cut down a pattern for a cut-on sleeve knit top such as Butterick 5248. Add a band collar if you like.


For wovens, a clear possibility would be to shorten Burda 7588.


And prepare for the Fall season. This is a short summer version of the shape of the big fake fur vests which are in the Fall collections.

The fur vest in Butterick 5069 (below) vest pattern has a v-neck. McCall’s 5983 has a round neck version in a wardrobe pattern.


– – –

Short sleeved cropped open front jacket, wide neck with band

Cropped jackets with band collars are another theme that continues in the Fall collections.

Again I didn’t find a knit pattern that is very similar, but there are ones which could easily be adapted. Such as the top from the McCall’s 5891 Palmer-Pletsch wardrobe of casuals.


It’s easier to find patterns for these ‘little’ jackets in woven fabrics. The nearest is perhaps Burda 8516. Again shorten the body and sleeves, and add a narrow band collar.


There are also several jackets with similar proportions but more shaped and structured styling, such as Vogue 8398.


– – –

Band edge long sleeved longer jacket

Eileen Fisher describes this jacket as having a shaped waist, but that isn’t obvious from the photos. Add a little waist shaping to the patterns if you like.

There are several knit patterns in this soft style, with a band round the front edge.

Jalie 2919 is for a pleat front knit cardigan.


Butterick 5398 is part of a knit wardrobe. With small pattern changes, this pattern could make a wardrobe quite like the Eileen Fisher one.


For wovens I think this jacket looks close to Connie Crawford’s Butterick 5053, which is simple to make.


– – –

These layers work as alternatives – they all go equally well with the all outfits that can be made from the tops and bottoms.

Why are these Eileen Fisher layering pieces interchangeable ? They all have the same colour, and the same fabric type : knits. They also have the same overall slim silhouette. I think that using the same colour and the same fabric type makes for easy co-ordinates, but they aren’t essential. It’s using different main shapes that makes co-ordination more difficult – not impossible, but more difficult.

I found I had so much to say on this, I’m planning a separate post on it.

– – –

Patterns and links available July 2010
The Eileen Fisher site changes from month to month, so in the long term it’s not useful to give links to it.

Dress in 5 minutes : co-ordinating skirt and pants

June 12, 2010

Co-ordination is the key to dressing without having to spend time thinking about what goes together.

Using Eileen Fisher’s summer 2010 ‘system’ as a guide to a small wardrobe of current co-ordinates : this post is about the ‘bottoms’.

I made some more general comments about co-ordination in my previous post on the ‘system’ tops.

– – –

Eileen Fisher’s ‘System’ and co-ordination

Eileen Fisher

The ‘system’ includes :
– short straight skirt in stretch crepe, with elastic waist, front and back darts.
– cropped leggings in stretch jersey.
– slim ankle jean in stretch denim, with contoured waist, back yoke, rivets, contrast stitching.

These styles are all going to be around for a while. Simple skirts, leggings, jeans : they might be called ‘current classics’.

And these three will obviously make different looks. The three fabrics also have different textures. Anna Johnson in ‘3 Black Skirts’ says you need :
– 1 to succeed.
– 1 to seduce.
– 1 to slob out.
How would you assign these three ?!

The tops in the Eileen Fisher ‘system’ are all very similar (see post).

These ‘bottoms’ aren’t very similar, so what is the key to being able to use them interchangeably ? What are the common features which make for easy co-ordination with a variety of tops and layers ?
– they’re all in the same colour, your best darker neutral.
– they all have fitted waists, which are all at the same level (low).
– they’re all neatly fitted over the hips and thighs, so will be okay under whatever length and ease of top or layer you wear them with.
– they all have the same silhouette, in this case slim rather than big or flared.

– – –


McCall’s 3830 is an obvious candidate for a straight skirt TNT pattern.


Some people look better in a slightly tapered skirt.

Elsewhere on the Eileen Fisher site, most of the skirts are just below knee length, all very classic shapes, either straight or slightly a-line. So use any favourite basic skirt pattern.

McCall’s 3341 is a pattern for a multi-length a-line skirt with faced waistband.


Eileen Fisher’s ‘system’ includes a short skirt. I’ve never had the legs for short skirts (though I regret to say I did wear them in the late 60s / early 70s, as everyone did. There really is no way to disguise the bulginess of my knees.) Personally I think the tops and layers in the ‘system’ would also go with a longer skirt. Some people predict full length skirts are going to be fashionable this winter.

– – –

Waist shaping

This skirt has an elastic waist. Elastic waists gather up fabric, they’re bulky. So how does this skirt get a fairly smooth fit over the hips ?

If you make a garment that you’re going to step into, it will be pulled up over your hips. So it all needs to be at least as large as your hips. This is usually achieved by :
– waist measure plus twice length of opening such as a zip. So long as that is bigger than your hips, you’re alright.
– or, have as much fabric at the waist as needed to go over the hips, and gather that up to hold it in round the waist.

Problem with gathered waist : if your hips are a lot larger than your waist, there’s a lot of spare fabric scrunched up round your waist, which is actually only needed while you’re getting the garment on and off.

Solutions :
1. Put a skirt on over your head. For everyone except inverted triangle shapes, who are larger above than below the waist, this means the waist only needs to be large enough to go over your upper body, not your hips (see ease post).
2. My hips spread 4 inches/ 10 cm when I sit down. So I need at least that much ease at the hips. But I don’t need that ease at the waist for pulling the garment on. Get rid of the excess with darts.
3. Use a low waist style – so the measurement at the top edge of the garment is closer to your hip measurement.
4. Use very stretchy fabric. So it will stretch while you’re pulling the garment on, but relax to closer fitted when you’re wearing it.
5. Use very soft fabric, so the gathers lay flat rather than bulging.

This Eileen Fisher skirt uses most of these options.

– – –


If you fancy the idea of designer leggings, there’s Issey Miyake’s Vogue 1114 pattern. (hips up to 46 inch/ 117 cm)

Most leggings patterns come from companies which specialise in patterns for knits or activewear.

Jalie 2920 leggings are highly recommended at Pattern Review. (hips from 22 inch/ 58 cm to 53 inch/ 135 cm)


Christine Jonson’s leggings in her BaseWearOne pattern are also recommended by Pattern Reviewers. (hips up to 44 inch/ 112 cm)

Kwik Sew have 6 patterns for leggings for adults. They aren’t all reviewed at PR. These add to the size range : Kwik Sew 2835 is for Women’s sizes up to 60 inch/ 150 cm hip (and includes a big shirt.)

I personally haven’t tried leggings yet – I haven’t found any in a flattering colour.
When I do, then I’ll start worrying whether they enhance my thickish legs.

Many people do look good in them, and they’re very fashionable. So give them a try 😀

But make sure the bottom hem hits your leg at a flattering point. As leggings are close fitting, this is even more important than with skirts and pants.

Though they’re made of very stretchy fabric, it’s still good to fit leggings. Any strain lines mean they’re uncomfortable to wear and will wear out quickly. Check if you need crotch extensions, so you don’t feel they’re cutting you in half.

YouLookFab says leggings will be important for the coming winter too.

– – –


Fashion jeans are tighter than pants. They have zero crotch depth ease, and are close fitting on the thigh. The effect is to enhance the view from the back.

Jalie 2908 stretch jeans have high and low rise versions, and are very popular with Pattern Reviewers. (hips 22 inch/ 58 cm to 53 inch/ 135 cm)


Pattern Reviewers also say Jennifer Stern’s jeans have excellent instructions for first time jeans sewers. (Misses pattern size 6 to 16. Women’s pattern up to size 24 W – mixed reviews on this one, not for all body types.)

Jeans aren’t quick and easy to sew. They use special techniques. There’s a lot of useful jeans advice at Pattern Review in a jeans sewalong.

I confess I have never had a back view to enhance, so I wear ‘trouser jeans’. Use a pants style amount of ease, made in denim and with jeans styling elements (back yoke, double top stitching, rivets). I don’t personally think classic jeans pockets are very slimming, see pear shape post.

In the main section of the Eileen Fisher site, there are leggings, jeans, slim pants, straight legged and wide pants, knee length, calf length, ankle length, floor length. So pick what suits you best. Just make sure the hem of shorter pants is not at the widest part of your calf.

– – –

These three styles, short skirts, cropped leggings, and fashion jeans, aren’t the most flattering possibilities for me. Though it’s interesting and useful to work out how they co-ordinate well and are interchangeable. Personally, if I was choosing a similar minimum wardrobe for myself, I would sustitute a longer skirt, and cropped and full length pants.

But this disagreement set me off on a whole train of thought. So I’m writing another post about pant style and body shape – just some thoughts, not complete answers !!!

And my final post in this group on the ‘system’ is about the layering pieces.

– – –

Patterns and links available June 2010.
I suspect on the Eileen Fisher site what these links lead to changes each season.

Dress in 5 Minutes coordinates : Tops

May 31, 2010

Sew in a weekend : dress in 5 minutes.

The key to dressing without thinking, yet still looking good, is a co-ordinated wardrobe. Most of us have at least a few days when we don’t want to think about clothes. And for that we need a small group of clothes that all go together. So we can grab anything and it will work.

We also sometimes feel we’d like to be able to choose a co-ordinated wardrobe without thinking. Or wish someone else would do the thinking for us.

The trouble is this doesn’t work, as we’re all different shapes, different colours, different lifestyles, and different personalities. I’ve found I can’t work from a theory. There’s no substitute for trying things out and looking carefully. From past experience, I know the clothes in the ‘system’ below are not right for me. But it has general ideas which are useful.

This example of co-ordination comes from Eileen Fisher. They’re very simple styles so, using super quick patterns, you might be able to make a capsule from her ‘system’ in a weekend 😀 Though simple clothes do look best in quality materials and quality techniques.

The current (May 2010) Eileen Fisher ‘system’ consists of :
– 3 sleeveless tops.
– 3 bottoms.
– 3 layering pieces.
– 3 accessories : 2 scarves and a belt.

Most of these garments are made from knits. But I’ve had my head full of speedy patterns for wovens recently, so that’s what comes to mind.

(SWAP 2010 recently finished at Stitchers Guild. Very inspirational wardrobes. But not usually quick to make !)

– – –

Sleeveless tops

”3tops”Eileen Fisher

All the tops do need to be suitable for wearing alone, as well as co-ordinating with all the layering pieces.

These three tops are sufficiently similar that they’re easy alternatives. All are sleeveless, collarless, unshaped, and long – either low hip or high thigh.

For a bit of variety there’s a camisole, and low and high necklines. One has neckline embellishment (self-coloured sequins).

There are few patterns just for sleeveless tops. But if you ever buy wardrobe patterns, you’re probably already well supplied with sleeveless top patterns.

Jalie knit patterns are popular. Jalie 2806 scoop neck tops include sleeveless styles.


If you need a pattern for wovens, oop Butterick 4987 is for making camisoles (left below) in 2 hours of sewing time.

Among current patterns, there’s a camisole in the Butterick 4989 2-hour pattern for cascade jackets.

McCall’s 5298 wardrobe includes a low neck fitted top (centre). This pattern isn’t timed, but is quick and easy.

Butterick 5948 is a pattern for 2 hour tops that are not fitted but include a range of necklines and body and sleeve lengths (right).


Or try the Textile Studio – Loes Hinse Tank Top and Shell.


Lengthen all these patterns to mimic the inspiration.

Personally, this sleeveless top is so simple I think I would start from my fitting sloper. At the beginning of the year I launched into developing TNTs, but got bogged down on finding a comfortable armhole. Now I’ve mercilessly scooped out the lower front armhole, I’m close to one that doesn’t bind.

I usually wear sleeves and a collar. But now I have a comfortable sleeveless top and the weather is unusually hot here – perhaps I will try some sleeveless shells !

(The next TNT problem is I have no idea how to get a sleeve head to match my armhole. . . but that’s another story. . .)

The easiest way to have interchangeable clothes is to make them the same shape and colour. But within that limit, there’s still huge potential for an almost infinite variety of embellishments. It’s even possible to morph these simple shells into vests, blouses and dresses. Shirley Adams’ Alternatives 500 Shell series includes add-on pattern pieces. Fun, but a long way from developing a co-ordinated wardrobe. Which is easiest if the components are fairly similar.

– – –


If sleeveless doesn’t work for you, you’ll be pleased to know there are many basic sleeved tees elsewhere on the May 2010 Eileen Fisher site. (Many of these tops are long too.)

Jalie 2805 pattern for knit tees is a favourite of Pattern Reviewers, one of the Best Patterns of 2009.


Or Simplicity 4076 (oop) is in the Pattern Review Hall of Fame 2009, if you like more varied tops. Though these styles are more difficult to combine successfully with a covering layer (I think it would best be simple and plain).


Some other popular patterns are Pamela’s Perfect Tee and Jennifer Stern’s The Tee.

If like me you don’t look good in knits (anything closely fitted makes it obvious how small my bust is), there are woven short sleeved tops in the Butterick 5948 collection of 2 hour tops.

Or try the Textile Studio – Loes Hinse Basic Top.


I look better in these tops if I add front bust and back shoulder darts.

– – –

Cami dresses

Elsewhere on the May 2010 Eileen Fisher site, most of the dresses are ‘cami dresses’, lengthened versions of the simple tops.

Spaghetti straps slide straight off my sloping shoulders, so I wouldn’t be comfortable in this style. They’re minimal garments, not made with the support you get in a strapless formal dress.

If you do like this idea, New Look 6804 (oop) is a 2-hour dress pattern.


– – –

On Trend

If you’re following the Pattern Review Wardrobe Contest for 2010, you need to include something that’s ‘on trend’ as shown in a fashion source. These items show just how easy that is ! You might make a classic tee and refer to the Eileen Fisher site to show you’re current 😀

There are several trends this summer that are relevant for simple tops.

Colour :
Lighter neutrals, such as nude tones or oyster grey, non-colours of beige, stone, greige, light coral, or pale muted pastels.

Minimalism :
One of this season’s key trends is minimalism, and these tops certainly follow that – the simplest of styles made in high quality drapey fabrics.
See ‘Clean Energy‘ at (US Vogue) (“Click for more fashion” to get a beautiful slide show.)

Lingerie look :
Make your top in charmeuse or sheers, with added lace or flounces. Or white lawn covered in heirloom stitching.
See ‘Pastoral Interlude‘ and ‘The Big Reveal’ at

– – –

Co-ordination and personal style

‘Dress in 5 minutes’ is possible because the clothes are interchangeable. Everything goes with everything else, so you don’t have to think or try things out.

Co-ordinating is helped by shapes and lengths, necklines and armholes, and colours. This ’system’ of clothes do co-ordinate, but is this the co-ordination that’s best for you ? I need to adapt the shapes and lengths, and the colours, to be more flattering for my body.

And the clothes also need to work with your personal style and lifestyle. For example, suppose you’re choosing tops for a travel mini-wardrobe. You might need a sunny top and a dressy top, but also a covered up top for visiting places with a dress code.

– – –

Shapes and lengths

This ‘system’ co-ordinates partly because of the similar shapes. All the pieces are simple in outline. They depend on knit fabrics for shaping to your body. If you’re not a straight shape, see my previous post for some thoughts on adapting simple patterns to be more flattering on other body shapes.

Use the high and low necklines that are most flattering for you (see post). Add darts if that works better for you. I need to flare the side seams or add side slits from waist level, so the tops aren’t strained over my hips.

Trinny & Susannah in ‘What not to wear’ have a lot of advice about t-shirt styles for different body shapes.

All the ‘system’ tops are long. That’s because two of the layers are cropped to give the ‘layered’ style. (Two meanings of ‘layer’ :
– a piece that goes over others.
– a look with the ‘layering piece’ shorter that what’s underneath, short over long.)

”layers” Eileen Fisher

Cropped jackets and vests are also a trend for the coming winter.

”me-layered” Me, ah perhaps not. . .

With my short waisted high hipped pear shape, this is not a good look for me. Puts a lot of important design lines across my hips, which is the last place I need to draw attention to. . .

In Trinny & Susannah’s “Body Shape Bible”, they only suggest short-over-long for their Pear shape – long body and short legs. Trinny herself is this shape, and uses the layered look to great effect so she appears to have perfect proportions.

It would be better for me to make these items the other way round, long over short : short tops and longer layering pieces.
But you may be one of the people the short-over-long look works well for.

It’s good to get the lengths right in a wardrobe. It’s also important to co-ordinate necklines, armholes and sleeves. In this ‘system’ the tops are all collarless and sleeveless, so that isn’t a problem. I do prefer to wear a collar. There are 2 easy ways of co-ordinating this :
– tops with collars, layering pieces collarless.
– tops collarless, layers with collars.

If you want sleeved tops that go under nearly all layering pieces, do make the tops with fitted armholes and sleeve heads.

– – –


Co-ordinating is helped by simple use of colour. In this Eileen Fisher ‘system’ all the clothes are neutral colours and accessories are accent colours. There are two main neutrals, a light and a dark. Bottoms are in the dark neutral. Most of the tops and layering pieces are in the light neutral. There is added interest because they have different textures.

What are your best lighter and darker neutrals, and favourite accent colour ?

Personally I don’t look good in strong contrasts, and I wear mainly lighter colours. A light top and dark bottom means there’s a strong line across you somewhere. You need to make sure this is at the right height, and with the right balance of light and dark, to be flattering on you.


I like wearing neutrals, but mainly light ones. The monochromatic look is right for me. And I like textures. But soft florals, and animal or ethnic prints, are ‘in’ this season, if you prefer prints to textures. Or multicoloured abstracts if you like a hard edged look.

Do you know your own ‘colour personality’ ? (see posts on individual colour types in her April 2010 archive). Would you prefer to wear a couple of pastels, or olives and rusts, rather than neutrals ? Nude tones or khakis are very current. So is monochromatic denim blue. Or perhaps you like a variety of strong colours. In that case you may already know that colour-blocking of near-primary colours is ‘in’ this year !

In the Eileen Fisher ‘system’ , the clothes are all in neutral colours. Accessories add life and variety. Scarves and belt are in accent colours and obvious textures – crinkles and weaves. The long scarves (70 – 84 inches/ 1.75 – 2.10 m) have fringed ends. Many are wide enough (20-28 inch/ 50-70 cm) to use as a light wrap. A lot of stylish people round here are wearing these long big scarves to add colour and individuality.

– – – –

These are good relaxed styles. Some of the patterns I’ve mentioned are not timed patterns, but are easy.
Make a ‘capsule’ of top, bottom, and layering piece in a weekend. (More posts, on the Bottoms and Layers.)

So you need a month of speedy sewing weekends for clothes and scarves, and a little shopping for belts if you like them, to get the complete wardrobe 😀

– –

Patterns and links available May 2010