Wardrobe Architect 10 & 11: The Capsule Palette & Planning Your Pieces

Yes, I’ve merged episodes 10 and 11. Why? Two reasons: every time I tried thinking about 10, my thought process went via 11; and since I’ll be NaNoing next month, who knows what kind of condition I’ll be in for sensible forward planning by then?

Brawling or Fighting Men in Medieval Dress or Costume
Bright red with pale pink! And lime trim! With bright blue sleeves and a clunky anklet! Wardrobe genius.
The task (I was going to say the main task, but there is only one) for episode 10 is to select a capsule palette from your chosen colours for your next season’s wardrobe. Since, as previously mentioned, I’m not looking to revamp my wardrobe twice a year in perpetuity, I’m going for one capsule-sized wardrobe that will just keep working forever (with natural die-off and replacement).
I call it “ambitious simplicity”.

The task for episode 11 is basically to match up your chosen garments with your chosen colours.

So here’s how I see this working. The two long, full skirts would both be dark browns, but probably of different hues or textures. Neutral, is the main point.
Also neutral: the coat, the jacket, and the four sorts of footwear, plus the other kinds of things you only want one of, or want to wear with everything (see Miss Silver’s sixth precept).

Elin Wägner och namninsamlingen 1914
The three warm woollies – the shawl, the cardigan and the waistcoat – would be in the near-neutrals: mahogany, forest green and aubergine. Mahogany shawl, I think; forest green cardigan and aubergine waistcoat. (Or possibly vice versa.)

The half dozen long-sleeved shirts could be any colour, but it’s the best place for statement colours: rich reds, hazel, plum, deep rose, buttery yellow. Any Of The Above, in fact; or even the ‘metallics’ as long as they’re not actually shiny. I love deep gold and coppery bronze but I don’t care for glitter. I could even add other colours if I felt like it, as long as they work with dark brown and at least one of the near-neutrals.

Thus, each outfit would consist of a colourful shirt, a warm woolly that goes well with it (e.g. deep rose shirt with aubergine waistcoat, hazel shirt with forest green cardigan, rich red shirt with mahogany shawl), and a skirt – plus coat, shoes etc – in the classic brown that goes with everything.

Friedrich Eduard Meyerheim Heimkehr vom Feld 1849
Goat optional.
The three summer dresses would be best in lighter colours, to reflect the summer heat. Buttery yellow, deep rose, and perhaps calico or hazel. Making sure that the shawl would work with any of the colours would ensure a warm layer was available if the evening turned cold, and of course the brown sandals will work with any of them.

The downside of all this is how far it is from my actual wardrobe. But at least it gives me something to work toward! Little by little, as my present wardrobe wears out, I can add items that fit the plan, whether bought second-hand, made myself, or ethically acquired new.

How do your colours and garments match up? Feel free to take a couple of months over this – we won’t be moving on to the complex question of accessories (the last step!) till December.

How Many Clothes?

How many garments do you own?

footwear (shoes, slippers etc)
accessories (scarves, hats etc)
underclothing (socks, undershirts etc)
formal wear/wedding dresses
nightwear & dressing-gowns
fancy dress costumes (unless you wear them on other occasions; I’m not going to judge)

items you seldom or never wear (besides those for the special occasions mentioned above)
items currently in the wash (or piled on the end of the bed or other item of furniture)
outer layers (cardigans, jackets, coats etc)

Continue & Comment

Introducing Upskilly & Stuff

Imagine the splendid freedom of being able to make your clothes be whatever you wanted. It’s something I’ve wanted to be able to do for ages. But while I’ve made a few ill-fated sorties in that direction, I never really got anywhere, and only recently did I realize why that was.

A Parisian seamstress suffering from anaemia is pale and Wellcome L0032772
The problem, I found, is that most books on sewing (of which I have several) are more or less an archive of techniques. Undeniably useful, but one cannot wear techniques. I needed something which would take me step by step from simple to complex – a road map, if you like.

The library books I browsed which were aimed at beginners sometimes aimed to do just that, but there was still a problem. To put it frankly, I wouldn’t wear anything in those books even if it did come out right.

This isn’t really their fault. I’ve aged out of their target audience, and, more to the point, I’ve never really worn what’s “in”. I don’t want to be mutton dressed up as lamb. I’d rather be hogget dressed up as… er, eccentric.

But most of the clothes I’ve seen in learn-to-sew books seem to mimic as closely as possible what you can get in the shops (sometimes “customized” with random bits sewn on or fraying or other laundry-problematic effects).

Of course, I can’t expect a book to be written for me, tailored to my own wardrobe wishes (as wonderful as that would be). So instead, I sat down and wrote a list of all the things I’d need to learn to do in order to make the kind of garment I want to wear. Seams and sleeves and set-in pockets and what have you.

And then I did a bit of research and figured out what simpler garments use those skills, adding another skill here and another one there.
The result: a list of ten projects to see me through a year from “sew a hem” to “sew a dress.”

Arbo-Syende pike i hagen
She’s confident. Don’t mess with her.
Now, you may not be interested in sewing a dress, but the beauty of the idea is that you can identify your own target garment and make your own skill list. Each month, I’ll announce what I’m planning on making and the skills I expect to learn from it. If that aligns with your skill plan, feel free to join in, or follow along with a different project that works toward your target.

At the end of each month, I’ll report back on what I did, how it went, and what I learned. And I’d love to hear from you, whether in a comment or in a link to your own posts.

Don’t let a paucity of resources stand in your way. Not having the largest budget in the world myself, I’m mostly going to be using what I’ve already got: odd bits of fabric, old clothes, recycled or thrifted sheets, and my trusty cast-iron hand-crank sewing machine (which I must remember to oil before I start).

Alexey Akindinov. Seamstress. 2000
“Seamstress”, Alexey Akindinov, 2000
As far as patterns go, I’m going to be using some I already have, finding some which are free online, and possibly even creating some myself, with the help of an old copy of Pattern Drafting for Dressmaking by Pamela C. Stringer. I may or may not end up buying any – we’ll see how it goes.

Now, some of you are probably wondering what’s with the title of this post (and, indeed this series). The more obvious names were already in use, so I decided I’d go for something rather more eccentric, playing off the culinary phrase “skilly and duff” – skilly being a savoury gruel and duff being a dumpling to boil in it, and the whole being the sort of thing a swashbuckling seafarer would eat.

A pirate wears what she chooses! Yarr…
Moving our skills up the ladder is the means to our end (I loathe the word “upskilling, but somehow “upskilly” is fun), and “stuff” is an old word for fabric used for making clothing. So there you have it: Upskilly & Stuff (US&S for short).

So, starting at the very beginning (a very good place to start, I am reliably informed), in January I will be making a kerchief or bandanna.
Skills: measure, cut, and hem. Bring on the hypotenuse.