Archive for the ‘specific capsules’ category

Wardrobe of relaxed basics

June 2, 2012

It’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee long holiday weekend.

I haven’t got an ideal post for celebrating it – I don’t really write about copying the Queen’s style 😀 Not many patterns for a sheath dress with matching coat. (Saturday she wore her usual coat with pleated ruffle round neck and front edge, attractive and current.) This can be a more interesting look than a suit, especially for a petite. So perhaps start from New Look 6163. Leave off the band collar for a more classic effect.


And she always shines in her ‘Spring’ Colours. Good Luck to her anyway.

I could just go on as usual, and post more comments on Judith Rasband’s summer capsule. Or write about my current obsession – getting basic blocks to fit – which I plan to spend the weekend doing. I’ve chosen instead to post the first of some pieces on relaxed clothes – suitable for a switch-off and laze weekend.

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This post is inspired by The Vivienne Files. Usually I enjoy looking at the ideas there but would never copy them for myself. All those close fitting tees, leggings, short skirts and sheath dresses – not my style at all.

But she (Janice) recently suggested a some loose casuals which I could happily wear. All clothes from L. L. Bean.

In fact I got so inspired by this it has turned into 4 pieces – this on patterns for her basic wardrobe, another on accessories and layers, yet more on big jackets for wearing over loose casual tops, and some comments on simple wardrobe plans.

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Janice talks about building a wardrobe in groups of 4 items, and starts with 2 tops, 2 bottoms. Sleeveless and sleeved tops, gathered waist skirt and capris.

image from The Vivienne Files with permission

Everything in the same accent colour. An interesting idea if you like strong colour in summer. But not essential! Don’t let the colour put you off considering this approach to wardrobe building 😀 Personally I prefer variants around a colour rather than everything exactly the same, and I rarely wear accents.

A bit like Kate Mathews’ ideas for a 6-yard wardrobe, in her oop book ‘Sewing a Travel Wardrobe‘. She uses a jacket, dress, skirt and pants all made in the same fabric, as the core of a travel wardrobe.

Or follow the trendy colour blocking idea, and make each garment in a different strong colour – red, green, aqua, blue, orange, yellow, chartreuse, purple.

True basics, with minimum style elements – co-ordinate easily with almost any other relaxed loose fit styles. Easy to reproduce using Cutting Line Designs.

Cutting Line shell – Pure & Simple


Cutting Line sleeved top – 2 x 4


Looking closely at the photo in the red group, this might be a boat neck raglan top, like a classic sweat shirt. See my post on patterns for sweatshirts and relaxed tees.

Cutting Line skirt – In the Trenches


Cutting Line pants – One Seam – at cropped length


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Janice then adds 4 to the initial group, 2 more tops, 2 more bottoms. Tee, knit cardigan for layering, shorts and pants.

For colour this time she uses a simple medium-light or medium neutral.

image from The Vivienne Files with permission

For the top, use your favourite tee pattern.

If you’re looking for a starter tee pattern, find one with the right level of ease for you. Do you prefer loose fitting knits ? knits which are the same size as your body ? knits with negative ease, that stretch over and emphasise your shape ? Skin fit knits are ‘modern classic’ but may not be your style. Carefully check illustrations of the effect. Best to measure a knit pattern before cutting out, so you don’t get too-big/ too-small surprises.

I’m learning the importance of this from a tee pattern I’m currently trying. This pattern has negative ease over the hips (oh dear, not an area I need fabric stretched over), sleeves so tight I couldn’t bend my average size arms, and a neckline too small for my large head to get through. (Sewing Workshop Trio Tee – use very stretchy fabric.) As always, a huge pay-off for me from making a muslin. (And a huge pay-off from all my previous fitting struggles – I’m merrily slashing around and altering my muslin without concern 😀 )

Plus Janice’s second group includes a classic button up cardigan in a textured knit, perhaps chosen from Butterick 5760.


Pants with waistband, fly, slant pockets – shorts and full length.
Palmer-Pletsch have a pattern for chinos, McCall’s 6361.


– – –

Finally Janice adds 4 more tops – a variety of ‘casual classics’.

Using fabrics which bring together the colours. Here she adds white (use your lightest neutral).
And added interest with multicolour weaves :
– accent-light neutral stripes
– accent-medium neutral-light neutral plaid.

image from The Vivienne Files with permission

Make a big change to the style of the wardrobe by using prints instead of straight line weaves.
This season’s print possibilities : underwater aquas, paisley, Afro, pretty florals, or techno prints that could only come from a computer.
Or introduce a current fabrication : sheer, satin, metallic.
Prints for jackets and pants as well as tops this season.

For garment patterns, repeat your favourite shell and tee.

‘Polo’ shirt with set-in placket in a knit. A couple of patterns :
Jalie 2562


Silhouette Patterns 225 Sarah’s Top has B, C, D cup sizes.


Well, only if you like polo tops of course. For some reason I feel ‘no never’ about them – too many associations with high-school sports perhaps 😀 Though I do like a lowest layer with a collar. So I would replace the ‘polo’ top with a collared blouse in a woven.

Big shirt which can be worn alone or layered – many possible patterns, even a men’s shirt.
There’s the shirt in Butterick 5760 mentioned before. Or a new big shirt from them, Butterick 5773.

Or, staying with Cutting Line patterns, use The Blouse Perfected.


Louise Cutting also has a ‘big shirt’ pattern coming out this summer.

I like the big shirts from Rag Merchant, which have softer corners and some added ‘crafter’ design interest. Here’s their Back Country Shirt.


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Use quality fabrics : linen, sheers, satin, light textured knits or stretch lace, pretty or striking prints. Fabrics for work, relaxation, special occasions. Add your favourite embellishments. Wear these relaxed shapes without looking like you’re on a camping trip 😀

Janice is always good on accessories. But this post has got very long, so I’m putting them in a later post.

And relate your choices to your own tastes and needs. Even in summer here I usually need an added layer. It’s the ‘essential fifth’ for me – the initial core 4 plus layer. So I’ll suggest a range of jackets for a different look to these relaxed basics.

Or perhaps you only wear dresses and can ignore all this. (Here’s the start of a series from The Vivienne Files on how to accessorise a basic dress.)

Or perhaps like the Queen you prefer tweeds and a Barbour when not on show.

Are these clothes in your style – a quick make for an easy-wear collection ? or too casual and shapeless for you to be happy in 😀

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Links and patterns available June 2012

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A summer capsule

May 19, 2012

Image consultant Judith Rasband has suggested a ‘casual classics’ summer capsule of 6 items (in an e-mail dated 30 April 2012).


This capsule immediately caught my eye because each item has interesting style elements, rather than being the simplest possible basic. Because of that, I don’t think these tops and jacket could be worn in all possible layering combinations. But they do give style effects from formal to casual to dressy.

How about patterns for these ?

As often happens, I’ve found I’ve got so much to say on this, I’ve divided it in sections :
– this on patterns for the original capsule.
– a second post on variations in style (Variations on a summer capsule).

– – –

Drape front shell


Vivenne Westwood sleeveless top with ruched and pleated front, and side zip fastening.

Many patterns for a simpler version of this, with drape neckline but not so closely fitted it needs an opening. Here’s new Vogue 8816.


– – –

Smock top


Paul & Joe Sister top with lace yoke, gathered lower section, three-quarter puff sleeves, buttoned opening down back.

Again I would be more likely to wear a looser pullover version of this. I need layers even in summer, and I wear loose smock tunics.

There used to be several top patterns with yoke at mid-armhole height, now they’re more difficult to find. Try Butterick 5217 – gather the lower section instead of pleating. Or keep the pleats if you prefer a flatter effect. And lengthen the sleeves.


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Big shirt


Madewell shirt. With ‘boyfriend sizing’ it can be worn alone or as a shirt-jacket layer.
So why not use a man’s shirt pattern. To get the over-sized effect, don’t choose a style which tapers to the hips.

Here’s one of several men’s shirts from Kwik Sew : Kwik Sew 2000.


The drawing is tapered but the pattern isn’t.
Add large chest pockets if they look good on you.
I like rounded corners and some pretty trim. More difficult to sew, but a better look for me.

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Alberta Ferretti cropped pants with side buttoned opening.
Personally I look short legged in a cropped style. But ankles are a focus this season.
And the last thing I need is a row of buttons drawing attention to my high hips.
So use your favourite basic pants.

– – –

Long swirly skirt


Target maxi knit.
I don’t wear knit skirts, they cling to every bump on my hips and thighs. And that waist swathe would be best avoided on my high hips. . . But I do love swirling around in a long skirt, even though it’s not practical for my everyday.

Look for something fitted over the hips then flaring out.
Many gored skirt patterns with this shape, but this is simpler. Simplicity 4881 for wovens – extend it to ankle or maxi length.


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Safari jacket


G-Star lined safari style blazer with interesting pocket detail.


Basically a classic notched collar fitted lined blazer with added pockets.
So add bellows pockets and zips to your favourite blazer pattern.

Here are my blazer posts on style elements and sewing advice.

Personally, my favourite safari style jacket is more like a big shirt with convertible collar – perhaps Kwik Sew 3534. (I would leave out the epaulets and cuffs.)


– – –


2 pairs of flat shoes – ballet flats and sandals.
Wedge heels would also work with this group.
Rasband has chosen leather, but the current rope trim and fabric upper sandals would also co-ordinate. Or fabric rather than leather ballet flats.

Big bangle and belt go well with safari styling. These are bigger and more aggressive than I would wear. (Never a big belt across my hips 😀 ) You could use softer or more ornate styling for jewellery and belts, especially if you don’t use a strictly blazer type jacket, and you round off the corners of style elements.

Rasband doesn’t show a bag, but this is a good group for wearing with a big fabric bag. Perhaps the new Marcy Tilton Vogue 8823.


– – –

I have a second post planned on choosing a wider variety of styles for a similar capsule, and for making your look ‘this season’.

Enjoy your clothes choices for a mild summer 😀

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Links and patterns available May 2012

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Hey, on Friday this blog passed 250,000 total visitors. Many thanks for all your interest

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The Classic Style

April 20, 2012

The ‘Classic’ style is well known and popular. Many basic wardrobe plans are based on classic styles.

Judith Rasband‘s simplest wardrobe cluster is a group of 5 items.

Her March 2012 newsletter makes the case for wardrobe basics very clearly, These simple clothes with very few added style elements are mainly what is called the ‘Classic’ style.

Buying into fashion lines that feature garments with simple design lines is the smart way to dress.  These clothes are called “basics” because you can build most of your wardrobe with them.  With simple design lines, basics don’t call a lot of attention to themselves.  Basics don’t have design lines that fight with other garment’s design lines.  Most basics don’t go out of style.  You can find basics that are affordable.  Some of my favorites are
basic blazer and bomber jackets,
basic V-neck tops,
basic sport [band collar] and camp shirts,
basic straight and flared skirts,
and basic straight-leg slacks. 
With a wardrobe built on basics, you can afford a more complex or decorative garment once in awhile because it will go with most of your basics, adding a surprise element to your usual looks.  Building your wardrobe on basics is the way to go! 

Rasband counts a style ‘basic’ if it’s so simple that it will co-ordinate easily with pretty well any other style. So, for example, a ‘basic’ top co-ordinates with almost any skirt or pants style.

One of each of her basics would give you a ‘cluster’ of 5 items, perhaps as many as 10 different outfits.

Basics which include a blazer jacket also make good business wear for many people. Their simplicity means they don’t draw attention to themselves but do look efficient.

Perfectly Packed suggests a basic business wardrobe of 8 classic items :
suit fabric : blazer jacket, straight skirt, pants.
dressier fabric : zip-front jacket, sheath dress.
lighter fabric : sleeveless top, a-line skirt (together make a 2-piece dress).
shirting fabric : shirt.

I reckon you can make 21 different outfits out of these, enough for every day of a working month. Add another blouse or shirt and that adds 9 more combinations.

Similar classic styles make the basis of many other published wardrobe plans. Such as Nancy Nix-Rice’s basic wardrobe, newsletter issues 21 – 28.

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Reproducing the basic classic wardrobe

You only need a couple of wardrobe patterns and 4 fabrics.

Butterick 5760


darkest neutral suit fabric : jacket, skirt, pants.
lightest neutral shirting : shirt (shorten dress).
(the knit cardigan gets mentioned later)

Butterick 5147


mid neutral dress weight : top, a-line skirt.
mid neutral dressy fabric : jacket (made without collar and with zip front), sheath dress.

– – –

‘Modern classics’

There are versions of the classic styles which look more ‘modern’ because they are crisp, close fitting, a little edgy.

The Vivienne Files frequently suggests basic minimum wardrobe groups in ‘modern classics’ style.
For instance some of her recent posts are on wardrobe groups consisting of neutrals plus one accent colour :
– 5 core dark neutral garments (for her that’s usually 2 tops, 2 bottoms, dress),
– a couple of white or light neutral tops,
– an accent jacket,
– 6 other garments in accent colour.
That’s 7 neutral garments and 7 accents.

Example here. And some of her other posts : one, two, three.

This modern take on classics includes many knits. Her basics include tees, knit classic cardigans, and leggings as essentials.

Tees, both fitted and looser and longer. Many tee patterns of course, one is McCall’s 6491.


Knit cardigan closing to neck, see Butterick 5760, first pattern mentioned in this post.

Slim pants pattern by Palmer-Pletsch, McCall’s 6440 (seams down back, 4 hem styles).


Leggings : McCall’s 6360 is one of many leggings patterns, 4 styles 4 lengths.


The ‘modern classic’ style is essentially sleek and close fitting, crisp in wovens. If you’d like to explore beyond Big 4 patterns, look to :
Burda Style downloads

Notice I don’t call these ‘young classics’, as anyone can wear them if you’re the right shape 😀

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Doesn’t mean of course that you have to wear these styles, or be limited to colours of black, white, grey, and denim blue. . . [aargh, eek]

As frequently happens, I find myself thinking about classics because many people write about them, even though I never wear them myself.

Does the classic style make you feel your best ? or make you feel constricted and constrained and unable to be your true self ? It’s very interesting this. The Vivienne Files recently posted on her everyday basics here. I actually shuddered. She loves these, but if I had to wear them I would find it completely soul destroying. Even if they weren’t all black, they’re the wrong shapes and fabrics for me. Fascinating that people can be so different.

For those of us who never wear classics ? We have to do a bit of thinking outside the box to work out how wardrobe plans like this match up with our own needs.

I have a whole lot of reactions to all this, some of which I’ve cycled through many times before. As usual I feel so strongly about this I found myself writing several hundred words, so it’s become a separate post (here).

There’s much to enjoy here. I’m fascinated by clothes and style, and I enjoy looking at and thinking about the classics. But it’s definitely not a style for me to wear myself !

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Patterns and links available April 2012

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Classics for workwear s/s 2011 : jacket, accessories, wardrobe

June 25, 2011

Another set of current classics for wearing to work
With slight tweaks to show they’re ‘of this season’.

I talked about the shirt, dress, skirt, pants in a previous post. Here’s the jacket and accessories, plus some comments on a wardrobe. And some variations on the classics approach.

– – –


There’s also a photo of a black one.

I’ve made many comments on blazers already.
See my posts on blazer style elements
and on patterns for last winter’s workwear.

– – –

Notches, this season’s gimmick ?

‘This season’ tweak : the turned in notch collar.


This version of a notched neckline first appeared on runways a couple of seasons ago.

Originally made in a similar way to a blazer but with the collar turned in.
McCall’s 6206 has this collar, though not at all a blazer shape.


Happily there is an easy way of getting the notch. A neckline band with a break in it, shown clearly on the white shirt with black band.

– – –

Colour and accessories

The In Style clothes are all black white and tan, with one red jacket.

All the colour is in the accessories – the clear colours of this season’s colour blocking. And accessories are the easiest way of looking trendy/ current when you’re wearing classics.

A big slouchy bag,


Perhaps Hot Patterns HP1023 Handbag Heaven Metropolitan Homage Tote.


Complete your outfit with wedge heel shoes with thick soles.


If those aren’t your style, wear ballet flats, kitten heels, or knee high boots with open toe and heel.

Blue, green, red, purple. Orange and yellow are also strong colours of the season.

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Wardrobe plan ?

With one each of the original In Style items (shirt, shirtdress, jacket, pants) that just makes 4 possible outfits.

If you made a shirt and matching skirt, instead of the shirtdress, you’d have 2 tops, 2 bottoms and a jacket. 5 items and 8 possible outfits.

Add a blouse/ top and the pleated skirt into the mix, and you get 18 outfits from 7 items. Nearly a month of work days.

Add another jacket (cascade, revers, or asymmetric). Makes 27 different outfits if all 8 items co-ordinate.


These blacks and whites don’t match up properly, but hopefully this gives the general idea. Use either blue whites or cream whites. And choose between black and navy.

If you don’t look good in black, white and tan ?
Choose your own favourite neutrals.
Many people, me included, don’t look good in dark colours. Many don’t look good in white. So think of darker and lighter of one neutral. And add a different neutral in between.
Cheer yourself up with colourful accessories !

It’s especially important to wear colours that make your skin tone look good, if you want to look effective. ‘Washed out’ is not a powerful look !

So this group makes a fairly obvious wardrobe.
But if you’d like other wardrobe planning suggestions for work, here are a couple.

Perfectly Packed has a ready-made working travel wardrobe of 8 pieces. Includes casual and more dressy items. Look at the interesting choice of fabric and colour to vary the styles. Add colour or go from work to evening by changing jewellery/ scarves/ shoes. She suggests adding a casual shirt, jeans, and a light sweater to cover even more possible occasions, all in one carry-on case.

You could make this combination yourself by adding a shirt to many wardrobe patterns – check the shirt collar goes with the jacket neckline/ collar. Easy if you use classic jackets such as blazer/ cardigan/ revers styles.

For Business Casual ideas there are several capsule suggestions from Imogen Lamport. Tailored jackets and formal shirts are replaced by more drapey styles in her Relaxed Business capsule, and by knits in her Business Casual capsule.

– – –

My related posts for the winter season, on In Style workwear classics were :
vest, blazer, coat
and skirt, dress, pants, shirt.

How could you soften (or sharpen !) these, if pure classics are not your style ? Most of the shapes are fairly relaxed for a casual look. Use tighter fit or more extreme shapes and sharp angles to look more edgey. Add softer trim, rounded corners, jewellery, scarves, for a prettier effect. Many ways to hint at your own rather different style.

For some other seasonal ideas, look at In Style magazine site’s more general suggestions for this spring-summer.

Or You Look Fab’s Must Haves for the season.

Look good and yourself, as well as effective, at work 😀

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Photos from UK In Style magazine

Patterns and links available June 2011