An actual capsule wardrobe, like it or not?!

Tired of having nothing to wear despite spending sooooo much time behind the sewing machine, necessity became the mother of invention and I embarked on putting togther a ‘self sewn’ capsule wardobe. Not everything in my capsule is self sewn, some is purchased and most is really old. It’d be hard to accuse me of having a clothes shopping issue! We’re currently living temporarily in a house that will soon be demolished and some of our gear is in storage which means I already had to cull clothing – it’s not pretty, literally or figuratively!

I’ve accessed a tremendous number of resources in this journey, find them listed and linked at the end.

Andrea’s Fair Fit mini course helped me define my style. Finally, years after pinning ‘stuff’ I honed it down to a few cherished images and tried to percolate some kind of style from that. Her point – the more specific your design voice, the more niche your ‘market’ will be. Now there are definitely bloggers who have a very specific market, but to my eye, the more specific a style, the more caricatured the clothing and I’m constantly annoyed by blogs clearly designing to increase their market share – blah, gauche! Where’s the authenticity? Isn’t that what we’re all trying to find? Readily identifiable styles don’t really appeal to my aesthetic, it’s just not right to be boxed in, captioned, defineable. But never say never right? If you see me with a beehive and cat eyeliner next week, I’ve turned!


It was a surprise to me that I like classic styles because I have always tried hard not to be classic, classy yes, classic no!  How I love hippy/boho, but when I wear those clothes I feel like a technicolour heffalump, a far cry from the will ‘o’ the whisp whimsy I’d hoped for . Tailored clothes suit me, nice pants, lovely jackets but they need to have a twist so as not to look too stitched up and serious, perhaps I should just get a job!

On the other hand special occasion gear should be a spectacle (thanks for noticing that point Kate). I like to stand out from the crowd and be noticed for all the right reasons (not all the time obvs, I’m not a total narcissistic clown!). But the thing that seems to define my ideal self sewn wardrobe is a penchant for hand stitching. I am actually a little dissapointed when people don’t notice that what I’m wearing was made by me!! I know that can be a pat on the back for some peeps, but not me! I like it when people comment on my clothes and they very often don’t if they perceive them to be RTW. Perhaps our friends are too polite to comment on my crappy wardrobe? Regardless, I think, hand embellishment defines my self sewn wardrobe. But again, I cannot possibly wear only clothing that is hand embellished – that’d be too full on, and too work intense!

I had some works in progress (WIPs) that all happened to be leisure wear, they needed to be finished. So the task started with a 3 x 3 sudoku incorporating those. A 3×3 eased me into the process and made a lot of sense. It’s comprised of 3 tops, 3 layers and 3 bottoms. My very favourite long sleeved white t shirt from American Vintage yesterday bit the dust and can only be worn under something now – yikes – more limitations.

3x3 leisurewear sudoku

I don’t necessarily think I got it right or had any clue, so I consulted The Vivienne Files and followed her step by step ‘starting from scratch’ for a more complete approach to the big picture. This is what I came up with:

Capsule suggestions from The Vivienne Files

Now it’s quite possible I hate the capsule idea, or I may be capsularly confused because crikey, I can’t wait to move out of this winter stuff. I have monumentally failed to include my favourite light marle grey cashmere jumper which I would happily live in. I guess it seemed too obvious and boring?  Compounding the problems of the larger capsule (above) – I’ve lost a bit of weight and my new maroon skirt is a bit big, all my jeans are gross, stretched out, too big. My chic black leather leggings that cost me a small fortune now feel too big. Some of the items are waiting to be made so they’re missing from the wardrobe (gotta have goals) and some I long to replace because they’re old, pilled and worn to holes.  I’m afraid to wear the silk Tahari shirt because it’s ‘too good’. The navy suede jacket has been worn for about 15 years and now smells musty (so I don’t wear it), but I’ve tried specialist dry cleaning suede in the past and it didn’t go well.  I’m feeling deprived and limited so have resorted back to wearing what’s in the robe actually.

Perhaps trying to force oneself to try new things should not be a recommended capsule wardrobe strategy! This caspule stuff is hard enough, “go easy on yourself” would be my newly informed suggestion!

Some of the items in the caspule I already own – phew! The rest, I need to make myself, ho hum. In order to stop the capsule from being boring to make, I aim to spice it up. The french jacket is done and frankly fabulous. So should I still be making items for the current season which is scheduled to end in 4 weeks? Or should I be starting to make for the upcoming spring season? This is a serious dilemna. My winter capsule has never been completed, which has made dressing options limited. I’d love your input.

Thanks go to Seamsalright Joyce for a push to explain a little more about my capsule wardrobe. I’m often afraid to bore readers with explanations – I like pretty pictures!!

Capsule Links

Un-fancy blog, thought to be the original ‘capsule’ inventor though many have layed claim to that status! This link takes you to a free downloadable.

Fair Fit Create a Clothing Collection. The price has unfortunately gone up, Andrea’s free courses are great and her blog posts are excellent too.

The Vivienne Files, a fabulous resource for all things capsule, but wow, I especially liked Finding your favourite colours.

Use less blog from Denmark, gorgeous Signe has a lovely honest voice, accent and style. Also on You Tube.

Curvy Sewing Collective ‘Is a capsule right for you?’, a question worth asking!




Add yours →

  1. This is really fun, Lesley, and food for thought. I don’t know if I can commit enough to be a capsule sewing person, although I was thinking the other day that I inadvertently do capsule dressing through the way that I group things with each season (and in the case of the current season, by buying – several pairs of jacquard trousers (different patterns) and a couple of jackets, all in shades of navy and plum, that look great together and with my rather vast collection of light blue shirts…). I like your colours very much (of course I would!), and I am especially intrigued by the French jacket (when will we get to see it?). I find it difficult to sew for a season that is about to end, but you’re likely more disciplined than I am. Is it more important to you to stick to plan or do you need some spice?

    In terms of standing out from the crowd, I understand. I generally think of myself as not wanting to be noticed much, and I’m definitely a classic dresser, but at the same time I try to wear things that are not run of the mill, at least some of the time. I never require spectacle outfits anymore, but I remember that my most successful “evening out” outfits in the past were still classic, but they were in colours or styles that were absolutely perfect for me – e.g. a long column dress with a low back but still conservatively draped front (i.e. full bust coverage), in forest green; a tuxedo jumpsuit in black; and a red silk shift dress. I think embellishment is a fabulous way to stand out from the crowd and it’s something to aspire to. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Such a kind and thoughtful comment Steph – thanks. I think i’m up for some basics, the french jacket may have sapped all my decision making for a while!! Hope to have it up really soon, but i need a willing photographer !

      • Basics are good. I have thought for a long time that it would be really cool to be a seamstress who perfects basics, e.g., who makes make the perfect, customized white tee (in my case grey), the perfect everyday jacket, etc. Look forward to seeing your projects! (I actually started working on a pattern today, for the one and only summer dress I will sew this summer, then I’m on to autumn sewing I think.)

  2. I found that once I started making my own, I was making things that I wore a lot and I dont need to make/acquire as much as I used to, I like this as it indicates how practical making my own has been – although if i had to start counting or charting it… I may question why I am keeping the red tweed trousers that are now too small (a girl can dream) – re your suede – have you tried brushing it and putting out in the sunshine, and or freezer – and then a dose of fabreze or the vintage favourite of vodka and water spritz? (I used be rather suspicious of fabreze until my niece took up irish dancing – and as the costumes cannot be properly cleaned I usually put it out to air (UV) and have fabreze to hand – especially useful when having to alter these costumes!)

    • Hey, excellent point about the Febreze. I use vodka and water as ironing water sometimes too! Its a goody that $120 jacket bought so long ago I must make an effort with her! A big pat on the back for making practical clothes, I’m naturally more of a magpie and just love spangles and baubles but hate wearing them! It takes ultimate self control to make the basics I think – but sooo worth it.

  3. I love this whole capsule wardrobe movement. Your blog post was brilliant! Like “Use less” you too have a fresh voice spiced with some soulful self deprecation that is always rather delicious to read 🙂 I think since I made a commitment to sew all my own clothes and keep all my season’s clothes in a closet I share with my husband (I used to store out of season clothes in a different spot) my amount of clothes has naturally shrunk. The process made me become very much more circumspect in what I THINK I need. By limiting our available space for clothes and shoes “real estate” extremely valuable and by committing myself to constructing all my own clothing I’ve had to consider much more carefully what I actually wear. I’m 62 years old so I’ve had many years to ponder what I like to wear (which has changed surprisingly little over the years!) what I believe looks good on me and collect items that I love too much to part with and haven’t after many, many purges! Never before however has it been so easy to buy inexpensive clothing. It never fails to shock me to see jeans less expensive than I used to pay for jeans in 1974. Never mind all the other items I could add to the list which is why this movement is so important. I even watched a brief news mention the other day on how profoundly cheap fashion is contributing significantly to pollution (I’m Canadian) and thought wow this whole movement is even making it’s way into the mass air waves! YAY!

    • Oh yes Kathleen, the amount of clothing consumption happening is quite frightening. Strangely my son’s friends (who mostly work in left wing politics in Canberra) seem to be blissfully unaware of their consumption. Going shopping is a weekend activity and I just don’t get how this gels with their world view? Though I can see how they need more clothes for more varied activities since they work a day job and party at nights 😉 Isn’t it mad how some jeans cost more than a week’s wages and others less than a cheap ‘n’ cheerful meal – makes no sense! But I’m not guiltless, my fabric archive is quite substantial and not getting any smaller! … and thank you 😉

      • PsychicSewerKathleen 31/07/2017 — 8:36 am

        I’m guilty of a crazy fabric stash too (blush, ahem!) and a pattern line up that would make any fashionista jealous. I think the internet is probably my biggest weakness when it comes to that and perhaps for so much more consumption in general 😦 I think it does begin with consciousness though…and I believe it’s we’re all a work in progress as we figure out a way to limit ourselves somehow. There are barriers we can put in place for ourselves though that I think help…like fixing and valuing what we already own to make it last longer, refusing to go into debt for anything (I think debt is probably the very worst polluter globally) and making ourselves donate to a charity every time we purchase something. Those habits I’ve found tend to help 🙂

  4. Great! Wow, you are really on to a big project here! I totally get everything your saying, and your links really helped me to think about your question- ” Is a capsule right for you?”
    Let me back up a bit. After reading the free on line from Fair Fit you posted in your blog, I have decided to slow down, think more…but frankly I didn’t get to the plan more, till now. I think I would like a capsule wardrobe ( from your curvy link) to nail my personal style and have higher quality garments. I also fall into the ” new season of life” as most of it is leasurely walking the dog, but in public, not the woods.
    With my little “dog walking collection”, I’m choosing more by, location, and weather…not so much what goes with what, but as I know my colours, they pretty much go together anyhow, (and I decide what pattern as I go along. )However, I’m not being too picky with colour and my skin tone, after all, it’s walking the dog and I’d like to sort of coordinate with his colours, mostly by contrast because he is warm, I am cool, but we both share white! Ha ha! Perhaps that will change as I get more items completed, we shall see.
    The viviennefiles, looks kind of…well too much thinking ! Like you, after I finished the Madison Ave cotton top, I was so decisioned out, I thought I might never sew again! I questioned myself, is this Really how I want to sew? Turns out the answer is yes! Good to know, but the next garment will be simpler, cause I need the rest!
    I realize I only really want to sew for the dog collection for summer spring and fall, and I will buy some off the rack for instant gratification. Winter, I only need coats, which I don’t feel like sewing, but I will knit hats, mitts, scarfs and socks.
    So Leslie, back to you. Your sewing is so high in quality! You have such a joyful happy personality, and a lot of class…I’m excited to see where your plans take you! Lots of work, but that’s never stopped you before. I have totall faith you can create fun, wonderful ,classy ,capsule garments, that I for one will be envious of! Bring it on! …show me the way!
    Joyce from Sudbury

    • Firstly Joyce, I have to say – what a bloody beautiful dog you have – a real beauty! I do think those smaller sudokus are easier on the brain and of course we should/could alwasy shop our current wardrobes before embarking on a sewing spree. Yes, I like that there is more thought needed. It seemed ridiculous for someone sewing as long (off/on) as I have to be churning out stuff I don’t like wearing becaise it was overly influenced by the latest indie pattern release. Sone of those are great but for the most part they’re quite samey.
      I alwasy maintain I’m not a trained fashion designer, so can’t fully expect my ‘collection’ to look like that – let’s face it, judging by the sale racks, even they get it wrong and also they don’t have to wear the stuff!
      BTW – not to put a spanner in your works, but my Grainline Cascade coat has been the most worn item every. single. day. since we moved offshore – brrrrrr! Good luck with your decisions mate 😉

  5. My capsule wardrobe plans were usually “why don’t I have a black top”. Then I fill in that gap. I am trying to stick to some appropriate for me colour combinations now and just recently I have been concentrating on some appropriate for me styles. Thanks for the links. I always love reading about what others are getting into!

  6. You have put a great deal more thought into that than my usual scattergun approach. I’m very impressed – even if you did forget your favourite sweater.
    I’m planning a capsule travel wardrobe for later in the year. I really need to follow your lead on planning. (I will email separately 😃)

    • I think travel is when this method really shines Kim. However, when I get home from travels I can”t even look at anything I’ve worn on my holiday because I’m so tired of seeing the same old thing. That doesn’t bode well for capsule dressing perhaps??

  7. This really got me thinking. I’m wanting clothes that make people look twice but in a good way, not weird just interesting. Even if they’re ‘basics’ they can still be original and unique. I’m on a routine of sewing outfits rather than just one offs (apart from dresses) and will definitely consider this approach. Thank you.

  8. Well Leslie, I bet your head is spinning!!
    I really don’t know the answer to the capsule wardrobe, but I do know that once I find a shape that flatters and fits comfortably, then I make versions over and over, and it can take a lot of sewing and fiddling to find those pieces.
    What I’ve learnt in the last year is that the students I work with love the fact that I’m in wearing clothes I make and they especially love the remakes?
    Funnily though, as seems to be the Fashion thing, the majority of fashion staff I work with wear, of course black, always black, and it’s a bit infectious!
    I’d say, enjoy the angst, it’s all good fun anyway and keeps the mind brilliantly active. X

    • I’m going to write 100 lines “I must make a pattern more than once if it’s a winner”!! I’m so easily distracted, that rarely happens! I’m absolutely sure you’re a great inspiration to your students. I really found my teacher’s dress style quite demotivating at times – same old black pants white tee shirt!!

  9. Have been considering doing a 30 day wardrobe capsule in September. Read it here! xx

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