Archive for the ‘specific capsules’ category

Change in proportions

October 27, 2012

One of my key garments is a shirt-jacket. I had fun recently looking at older shirt-jacket wardrobe patterns on Etsy. There were dozens of very similar patterns published in the 70s to 90s.

Here’s one from the 70s. McCall’s 3280, 1972.
(Goodness, that summer I bought this house, so lived on crusts for several years. And I finished my thesis. It wasn’t a time I was thinking much about new clothes !)


This look was popular for decades. A recent pattern like this was only discontinued a short time ago, Butterick 4811.


In the late 80s to 90s, there was also another popular look for unlined casual jackets – oversized and collarless. Here’s McCall’s 7501, 1995. Huge oversize supported by huge shoulder pads, worn with a small skirt or full pants.


So, what is it about these styles that makes them look not quite up to date ?

Well, some designers have been showing oversized jackets in recent seasons, but usually without the huge support structures, and worn with slim pants or leggings. You Look Fab has a post about these here. Jackets like this haven’t reached this suburb (except for the students who buy men’s overcoats from the charity shops).

These days there’s so much freedom in fashion, you can find at least one designer who uses any given look. I’ve tried to focus on what’s frequently seen.

Here’s what I might replace those looks with.

New wardrobe pattern for wovens, Butterick 5821.


For a less casual jacket look, use the wardrobe jacket, but thigh length and without the hem casing. Add a waist casing for this season’s waist emphasis if that suits your body shape. Lots of seams for adding hip width if you’re pear shaped.

Or Nancy Zieman’s knits wardrobe McCall’s 6247.


I want a shirt-jacket wardrobe so would add McCall’s 6606, especially lower right.


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What are the differences compared with earlier styles ?
Ignore the curved versus straight style elements, a matter of personal style.
I think the key is proportions and silhouette.

Shirts and tops

Shirts are now often not mid hip length but low hip or thigh length.
Several common proportions :

The trendy shirt look is slim with slight waist shaping, such as Butterick 5678.


A narrow belt at waist is ‘this season’.

Or oversized but without the huge shoulder pads, such as Katherine Tilton Vogue 8748.


Or for overlayers, try the indoor poncho look in a woven fabric, see McCall’s 6603.
Actually, in the trendy mail order catalogues I’ve received this season, there have been knit sweaters this shape and ponchos, but not shirts. (The ‘arty’ catalogue always has an oversized shirt.)

Both slim shirts and big trendy tops are worn with slim pants/ skirt or leggings.

The current casual shirt look is looser fitting, as in McCall’s 6606 shown with the wardrobes above. Straight not shaped to the body, but not very loose fit. Even the new Palmer-Pletsch unisex shirt (McCall’s 6613) has 4 inches of ease not 8.
Worn with straight or boot-cut pants.

The ways style elements are used to emphasise the shoulders has also changed.
We no longer wear :
– huge shoulder pads or very dropped shoulders,
– wide spreading or high collars.
These days unlined casual jackets rarely have shoulder pads. And shirt and notch collars are usually not emphasised. Instead we have :
– yokes or epaulets,
– fitted or slightly dropped sleeves.

Shoulders dropped well down the arm are coming back as they’re essential for over-sized styles, but they’re not generally used. Though dropped shoulders are featured by some boutique designers – like the Katherine Tilton shirt – as arty rather than trendy personal style.
Raglan sleeves rather than dropped shoulders are currently used on gear for easy movement like sweatshirts.


Skirts are now usually straight or slightly tapered (pencil),
or subtle rather than full A-line.
Knee length or shorter, or below knee, or calf length.
Or short and flirty pleated (one of the very, very few styles I think is best worn only by the young).

You can wear a full skirt if you like the ease of movement. Make it in soft fabric so the silhouette isn’t wide and stiff (unless you’re going for a vintage look), and wear at lower calf length with a fitted top.
Such as Butterick 5650.


Pants are now usually slim,
or straight,
or boot cut rather than flared.

All styles in new Butterick 5818.

You can wear very full or very flared pants (with a high-hip length top) if you have the body shape for them, but happily we haven’t got to wear them if we haven’t !

P.S. Lovely new post by Imogen Lamport on what is in/out of style – letting go of trends.
Key question : “Could you go into a store and buy a similar garment today (if not, it’s gone out of fashion) ?”

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Nowadays there aren’t many full wardrobe patterns in shirt-jacket style.
There are many patterns for shirt plus pants. Add a simple top, and a skirt if you wear them.

Would this be a good casual look for you ? – or do you feel as miserable in a shirt as I do in a blazer 😀

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Links available October 2012

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Style interest from accessories rather than clothes ?

September 28, 2012

Many of us focus on clothes with interesting style elements – each garment is different. The pattern companies encourage us in this, so we go on buying more patterns. And many of us like to make something ‘different’ each time we sew.

But there’s a completely different approach to ‘looking interesting’. Janice of The Vivienne Files has one of her thought provoking pieces, on a ‘creative’ group of people who wear ultra-basic clothes, and add all the interest with accessories – scarves, hats, belts, jewellery, eyeglasses, gloves, socks, shoes. . .

Here’s her post. She picks a basic wardrobe to use as an ‘unnoticed’ background for interesting accessories.

Emphasise the quality – this needn’t be a way of looking cheap and scruffy.

These base garments are very simple to copy.

The wardrobe

Janice picks 12 items, in 4 groups of 3 :

Sweater knits – turtleneck (UK polo neck), classic twinset – all in black
Cashmere to underline the quality. There’s a lot of poor quality cashmere in catalogues and on-line – feels worse than good merino wool. You do need to touch and handle it to find the good stuff. Only then do you understand why cashmere is such a prestige fibre.


Crew neck tees – white, grey, black


Shirts – white, chambray, and shirt jacket in denim


(Judith Rasband in a recent e-mail advocated classic denim shirts and relaxed fit white silk shirts as good additions to any wardrobe this season.
P.S. Janice has multiple other outfit suggestions for wearing a denim shirt, here.)

Pants – chinos and slim jeans/ pants – tan, black, dark indigo


(Several stylists recommend adding to your jeans this season.)

Photos from J. Crew – of course you can get similar basics from many sources.

(P.S. This wardrobe has focus on cool colour – blue. Janice has now posted a similar basic wardrobe in warm colours here. It’s a bit short on layers for me – I would add a tan shirt-jacket.)


Even for the most basic styles, it’s a good idea to use recent patterns – for current proportions and shoulder shaping.

(I’ve assumed you buy the sweater knits.)

Crew neck tee (instead use your most flattering neckline).

Kwik Sew Kwik Start 3766.


Palmer-Pletsch new unisex shirt (make a larger size with flapped chest pockets for a shirt jacket), McCall’s 6613.


Many other shirt patterns available if you want something with a bit more individuality. And many independent designers have tee/ shirt/ pant patterns with interesting details. But that isn’t the point here. These clothes are background – basics which don’t draw attention, so they don’t distract from the individual choice of accessories.

Chinos, Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 6361.


Slim pants and jeans, Butterick 5682.


Or use Wendy Mullin’s Sew U and Sew U Home Stretch pattern books – she’s an example of a designer who aims for a ‘creative’ customer group.  Her books are about being creative with clothes, but the starting points she gives are the most basic styles.


Classic shirts and jeans can be quite challenging to sew. It’s possible to start with similar but much easier styles, such as beginner patterns :

Kwik Sew Kwik Start 3475 camp shirt.


Kwik Sew Kwik Start 3314 elastic waist pants with side-seam pockets.

Does this idea appeal ? or does the thought of having to wear such simple casuals appall you 😀 Don’t forget people using this approach look much more interesting than the clothes in the basic wardrobe, as they add their individual accessories.

Getting style interest by wearing the simplest clothes and adding all the creativity in accessories is the opposite of all the books and independent patterns which tell you how to use a simple starting point to make a wide variety of clothes styles.

There are of course many ways of adding more variety to a small group of clothes. I have a post planned on some of them.

Also very easy to change this clothing group to different personal styles, by changing the shirt-jacket to a more arty or prettier jacket style, or replacing it with a blazer. Post planned on this.

If you do like this approach – what are your favourite accessories, to add interest to these very basic clothes ?
I have a post planned about accessory styles.

Well, are you an accessories person ? Have you got a closet full of bags, or shoes, hats, scarves, belts, gloves, statement jewellery. . . Would these simple garments be a way for you to build the most basic of wardrobe starting points, to use as background to all these exciting elements ?

Or perhaps you’re someone who has difficulty picking up any interest in accessories, and find clothes with minimum style elements very boring 😀

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Patterns and links available September 2012

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Wheee – 150 posts (since August 2009).
As I don’t include huge photos, videos, music – I’ve only used 0% of my allocated blog storage space ! Efficiency habits go back not just to the days of dial-up connection, but 30 years ago to my first ever personal computer (a Commodore PET) which had 32k of memory and no hard drive. . .

Thanks for your continuing interest 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

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Variations of the relaxed wardrobe

June 23, 2012

Following on from the 12 clothes Janice of The Vivienne Files suggested as a relaxed starter wardrobe, she added a group of 4 accessories. And I need to add some layers as I don’t live in a hot summer climate.

So here are additions to my pattern suggestions in my previous post on this.

Here’s Janice’s starter group of four, as a reminder of the style. (clothes from L.L.Bean)

image from The Vivienne Files with permission

She has posted another version of these casuals, for the whole summer, here and here.

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image from The Vivienne Files with permission

Janice is always good on suggesting accessories. Here she completes the casual red group by adding hat, scarf, and choice of tennis shoes or flip-flops.

Changing the scarf and shoes is an easy way of completely changing the look of an outfit of simple basics.

I usually carry a straw basket, and they would work well with this group. Or a fabric tote/ messenger bag/ backpack. Make them with your scraps 😀

How about new McCall’s 6577 for both hat and tote.


UK Elle July 2012 issue has a big fabric hat in pink and white stripes 😀

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Add a layer – many options

This capsule is very oriented to summer wearing when you only need only one layer, with occasional use of a knit cardigan or shirt-jacket for cool evenings. See my previous post for pattern suggestions.

I don’t live in a hot climate, and need a layer. When you have a layering piece to work with as part of your outfit, I think the layer you choose can make a big difference to the overall style.

Continuing with Cutting Line patterns, for a layering jacket that closes fully there’s Pure and Simple.


If you’d like your capsule to have ‘sports luxe’ style use a hoodie – see my sports luxe post for patterns. Or a stylish new pullover hoodie for wovens, Butterick 5791


For a softer style I might choose a cascade/ drape cardigan. Definitely not a fitted blazer with this wardrobe – these clothes are too relaxed 😀 If you like the notched collar effect, choose an oversized boxy jacket to go over loose fitting tops. So many BMV patterns have appeared since I last wrote on big jackets, I’m planning a separate post on cascade and boxy styles !

For a more unusual look, Eileen Fisher this season frequently uses a poncho as her covering layer, in a gauze, mesh, or a very light knit. Cropped to elbow and waist length.

For a pattern, cut your own rectangle by direct marking on the fabric. Or possibilities in new Butterick 5790.


Or what Eileen Fisher calls a ‘box top’, basically a poncho with side seams. Simply sew up the side edge part way.

Eileen Fisher March 2012

Or try Elizabeth Gillett’s ‘jacket’ version, new Vogue 8820 View C.


For outerwear I would of course choose a parka. See my post on parka patterns. Or Sewaholic Patterns’ new Minoru jacket is popular.


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A vacation/ holiday group

This red relaxed group could make a good holiday-vacation travel wardrobe.

Add an outerwear jacket to carry on the journey, swim suit and pareo, some camisoles or shells (one in a dressy fabric) – none take much packing space.

Plus another layer in flat-packing style which could double as a robe. Such as a kimono (see my post) or caftan. Or another style made from rectangles.

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Widening the style reference for your summer wardrobe

Janice of The Vivienne Files followed her post on building a wardrobe of red relaxed clothes with a related group in black and grey. Those are closely fitted styles, including a blazer, slim pants, leggings, and short tight skirts. More trendy-edgy than many of her recent selections, she calls them ‘less conservative’.

Perhaps she and I use the word ‘conservative’ with different meanings – for me it is a rather negative word ! I don’t think the clothes in the red-based group are ‘conservative’ in the sense of old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy. I think of them as the simplest of relaxed basics.

In fact June 2012 UK Elle has a lead article on ‘sports luxe’ – now called ‘haute casual’ to make it look new – so perhaps we wearers of these relaxed shapes are ahead of the game 😀

Think of the black and red groups as week/ weekend, city/ suburb, or town/ country selections.

Janice has several more posts illustrating her theme of building a wardrobe in groups of 4 :
camel and grey
teal and navy
These are also more trendy and stylish.
The ‘red’ group I’ve focussed on is best for relaxed wear.

These wardrobes all have the same basic ‘Four by Four’ plan : one group of 2 tops 2 bottoms in one main colour, another group of 4 in the second main colour, a third group of 4 tops in mixed colours with added accents, plus 4 accessories.

This is a very simple wardrobe building scheme. My final posts inspired by this wardrobe from The Vivienne Files are planned to be about simple personal wardrobe building.

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Many more variations possible by changing the colours, fabrics, prints, jacket and accessories – for different looks from the same group of simple shapes. (I’m planning a post on this season’s colours, prints, fabrications.)

Which would be your favourite style choices for colours, fabrics, layer and accessories, for adding your personal touch to these casual basics 😀

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Links and patterns available June 2012

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Variations on a summer capsule

June 9, 2012

I wrote a previous post on patterns for the summer capsule suggested by image consultant Judith Rasband in an e-mail dated 30 April 2012.


Wonder of wonders, with a change of jacket and colours this is a capsule I could wear myself. So here are some comments on alternatives :
– A simple variation with a different jacket.
– For a different style, base your 6 item capsule on a wardrobe pattern with added items.
– Different colours.

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Change the style of the capsule by changing the jacket

With a softened jacket this capsule could work well for me. I might choose a cascade or funnel collar in a more drapey fabric. Especially as I’d rarely be wearing a jacket over only one light layer.

It’s surprising how big a difference changing the jacket and accessories can make to the general spirit of the group.


Drape cardigan from Jigsaw (sources of other items in previous post).

Without accessories and another strong colour this group could look rather dull and unbalanced. But that’s easily changed, and the whole capsule does look much softer. A scarf would be a quick option for brightening it up.

Though of course you haven’t got to dress bright if that’s not your style ! I’m not comfortable in strong contrasts or accent colours, but I do like the character given by interesting style elements, textures and trims.

Many jacket patterns in cascade or drape style. McCall’s 6444 (left) and McCall’s 6084 (right) are possibilities.


So make 2 jackets and 2 groups of accessories and get an even wider range of style options 😀

For related style inspiration, look at this season’s style summary pdf from Eileen Fisher.

As with Judith Rasband’s capsule, you probably won’t get 100% successful layering combinations. But still a good range of choices. In winter I would want to wear all these layers at the same time. In summer you get 3-4 different 1-layer looks from Rasband’s group (with each bottom), plus options from layering the blazer or big shirt over the other tops.

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A different starting point for 6 items

If you’d prefer a bigger style change : add a big shirt or a cascade/drape jacket to a wardrobe pattern with 5 items. These are what Nancy Nix-Rice suggests when adding “extras” to her core wardrobe of classics.

Here’s a post from The Vivienne Files about using a shirt to make many different outfits.

In another message (10 May 2012), Judith Rasband suggests a 2-piece dress which looks like a shirt-dress. Make your favourite shirt pattern, and a simple gathered or pleated skirt – easy to move in. Both in the same fabric. Add a belt to disguise the waistband.

Or choose your own group of 6 items, perhaps with guidance from ejvc’s ‘free choice’ summer 6PAC at Stitchers Guild.

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Your own colours

Rasband chose classic colours for these enduring styles.

These colours are not best for me. So generalise :
light neutral : top (white)
dark neutral : top, pants, skirt, accessories (navy, navy-white stripe)
accent colour : jacket, accessories (rust)
bright accent colour : top (yellow)

Or use the colour allocations suggested by ejvc for her summer 6PAC at Stitchers Guild. Make slimming columns of colours at the same level of intensity.

Or perhaps you like to start the other way round : make the basics in accent colour and add a few neutrals, as suggested in this post by The Vivienne Files.

Or of course if you love colour you can make everything different and use no neutrals at all, as in many current outfits 😀

At first I added a section here on this season’s colours, prints, fabrications, but that’s really a separate topic, so is another post.

Which are your most flattering neutrals and favourite accents ?

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Add a scarf

It’s easiest to test if colour options work for you by trying a scarf.

Long thin scarves which can be wound around loosely in many different ways are not too warming for a mild season. An accessory not a necessity, and very current.
Wearable with most tops and layers. People round here use them to add accents and individuality to all their neutrals.

Make it yourself – though at 2 to 2-1/2 yards/ metres long they’re fabric extravagant. Cut a 15-18 inch/ 40-45 cm strip for the scarf. Or the right width to crush down to 3-4 inches/ 10 cm of effect if it’s a springy fabric. Practice your rolled hemming, and use the rest of the fabric for a top !

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So many possibilities. And why be limited to just one of each item 😀

Most capsules are easy to extend by adding camisoles, tees, jeans. A classic knit twin set. A long ‘boyfriend’ knit cardigan. A short skirt and tights/ leggings. A sheath dress. . . Wear only these and you’ll look ‘modern classic’. Pick one or two and they’ll fit in with many styles.

On the other hand, those are all popular choices because they have few style elements so are easy to co-ordinate. If you like the clothes in Rasband’s group because they have more interesting style elements, perhaps it’s easer to organise your no-need-to-think wardrobe in terms of outfits. Instead of trying to pick a small group of items which all work as no-fail co-ordinates. Some wardrobe advisers suggest you take photos of your outfit combinations, so you don’t have to remember what works with what. Or make a written list – personally I find pictures easier.

Which are your favourite choices for summer 😀

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Links and patterns available June 2012

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