In Sewing

My Personal Uniform, My Ideal Wardrobe

I feel like I should follow up a little bit after my last post (wow what a response!): I didn’t mean to make it sound like I absolutely hated everything I made, or didn’t value what I learned, because that’s just not the case. I did make some things that I call my favorites and I’m very proud of them (this dress, and this dress, come to mind), but I can’t love those things because they don’t fit as nicely as they should, and I never wear them. I sewed a lot of “closet trophies” in 2013 and that’s not what I need in my life. It’s embarrassing when you explain to people that you practically sew for a living “but oh… no I’m not wearing anything I’ve made right now”. That’s not who I want to be, and it’s why I sound so hard on myself lately in regards to my sewing. I just know I’m capable of better and I need to prove it to myself, not anyone else.

So taking what I learned last year, I know I need clothes that are practical, wearable, washable, and slightly utility. I’m pretty much describing a uniform – My personal, everyday uniform. That’s what I need to sew in 2014.


I may have been unclear about this after we last left off, but I never intend to give up 1940s sewing! I just need to pick more sensible vintage patterns for my lifestyle. Many of you wanted to know what this “uniform” of mine looks like, and I can basically sum it up as “1940s Tomboy”. The outfit I wear most consists of jeans (recently I’ve been obsessed with Freddies of Pinewood), a button up shirt, a cardigan, and some kind of hat or head scarf. That’s pretty much what you’ll see me in all year round. I attempted to sew this uniform last year but because of poor fit, poor fabric quality, and poor seam finishing techniques, these things never get worn. I KNOW I’m plenty capable of making my own shirts, but I’m not brave enough to knit a sweater yet, and sewing my own jeans doesn’t really appeal to me. But, there are plenty of other things I can sew myself to build a small, mix and match, tried and true, quality wardrobe, and I plan to do just that with my proposed Twelve Pattern Challenge (more on that in a second).


Tasha recently shared an excellent post about her feelings on building your ideal wardrobe. She brings up a good point that you first need to decide what you don’t like about your clothes, before you can really fill in the gaps and make what you like. That’s something I guess I never really bothered with before. I’m always drawn to beautiful 1940s dress patterns so I sew them up, fall in love with the finished dresses on a hanger, but then awkwardly try to climb into them as they get stuck around my head and I’m fighting to get them over my chest (yes it feels like THAT much of a fight, haha!).


So here are some wardrobe epiphanies I had recently:

  1. I like dresses, but NOT when they’re the pull-over-your-head kind. I like wrap dresses and shirt dresses.
  2. If I sew something that I can’t throw in the washing machine, I’m probably not going to bother washing it, so therefore I’ll never wear it. I want to branch out and sew more types of fabrics this year, but I also need to be choosing the ones that are machine washable.
  3. I made two cotton dirndl skirts in 2013 that I wore quite a bit, but I always had a hard time matching them with tops because I have a lot of prints. I’m attracted to prints, what can I say, but I can’t really wear my prints with other prints. I need things that go together well.
  4. I need some comfy lounge pants to wear around the house, but ones I won’t be embarrassed to wear outside when Lucille wants to go for a walk. I don’t like sitting around in jeans, so I really need some pants that are both comfy to wear and don’t look like pajamas when I leave the house in them.
  5. Jackets! I really want to sew a jacket.

After spelling this all out, it’s becoming more and more clear what I really NEED to sew for myself. If I add these needs, plus a few sewing wants, my twelve patterns practically picked themselves. So back to my Twelve Pattern Plan that I mentioned earlier:Β I’m basically challenging myself to pick just 12 patterns to sew from in 2014, with the idea that those 12 patterns can be mixed, matched, and altered to build my entire wardrobe.


I have my 12 pattern plan almost solidified and I feel SO GOOD about it already! I’m going to explain all the rules/guidelines I have for myself in a later post because it’s becoming quite the involved challenge, but this is the basic breakdown of my twelve patterns in my “bank” of things to sew: 2 skirts, 2 pants, 2 shirts, 2 dresses, 1 jacket, 1 blazer, 1 handbag, 1 loungewear set. Sounds pretty well rounded, right?

This 12 pattern idea already feels SO MUCH more fun, more focused, and more successful than my sewing ever was in 2013. I can’t wait to get started!

Happy New Year!

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  • Great wardrobe. It reminds me of old golden times. You are looking really pretty in this outfit. Thank you for sharing this post.

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  • I can relate to your epiphanies, as I found myself sewing things in my first couple years of sewing that I was attracted to but never got worn – now I do mini seasonal capsule wardrobe planning and I’m constantly revisiting my actual NEEDS πŸ™‚ I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out for you – I think you’ll be much happier when you can wear your hard work more often ^__^

  • Yay! I can’t wait either! Most of my sewing experience is with pre-1900s clothing, so it’s always a bit intimidating thinking about sewing my own wardrobe of things I could wear outside and not be stared at! This is very inspiring though and I’m excited for you. I know I could try to sew some more things for myself to wear – including a 1940s dress I meant to sew last year for your cotton challenge and wasn’t able to manage. πŸ™‚

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  • I’m really excited about this! I think you’re going to make some great stuff this year! I love the idea of defining your uniform and working towards building things that work with that. I always struggle with sewing for my real life, instead of my fantasy life where I mostly just go to cocktail parties in 1964. I think it’s OK to indulge in stuff that you sew for the fun of it or just because the patterns are gorgeous from time to time– it wouldn’t be very fun to only sew buttondown shirts– but you don’t want to have a closet packed full of clothes you never wear (definitely guilty of this).

  • Fantastic post! I look forward to watching the progression!

  • gilliancrafts

    You are really making me think about how many pattern I have as the core of my wardrobe – How many would I need to happily make clothes if I was starting from scratch? I can think of 8 I wear on pretty constant rotation… with maybe two more I could add in for loungewear? As it happens, just before your posts I was considering challenging myself to use a pattern a month too… except for me the challenge was going to be stretching myself to use MORE patterns, not less!
    That’s the beauty of sewing – we all approach it in such different ways!

    • gilliancrafts

      Oh man – after writing that comment I suddenly started writing a blog post about my essential patterns! Totally different than the ones you’ll choose, but the good news is that apparently buidling a wardrobe from about 12 patterns is totally do-able! πŸ˜‰

  • I’m (obviously as you already know, lol) very excited to see where you take your plans with your 12 pattern challenge! I’m also looking forward to following along with you as you work on refining the fit on those patterns, too. I’ve been overall pretty happy with the fit of things I sewed last year, but I know there’s always room for improvement, and I too will be paying a little closer attention to that this year, especially as I plan to sew a few more dresses and those tend to be my fitting downfall. πŸ™‚

  • A perfect wardrobe from twelve patterns, I like it! You are going to know those patterns inside and out and make some beautiful pieces. I’m most looking forward to seeing the cool modifications you come up with!

    I’m very curious about what you are going to use for loungewear. I’m in need of some lounge pants for the same reason (walking Frankie). I get kind of embarrassed when I get caught walking Frankie when I’m wearing old faded pink leopard pajama bottoms :/

  • This sentiment seems to be running rampant through the sewing community– I know I feel similarly. I’m doing a Weekender Wardrobe challenge, which is sort of the same idea as your 12 patterns. I don’t think one pattern wardrobes really existed in the 1940s, though! It seems like everyone’s sewing resolutions include wearing more handmade and making more practical, quality sewing choices.

  • Wow, you’re pretty much voicing my own thoughts about my projects this year! I’m in the same boat, and I’m loving your 12 pattern idea! I may have to jump on board, too!

  • 12 patterns sounds like a fantastic plan, I am right there with you about being more careful to consider styles and fabrics that are more like my daily uniform! Thank you for introducing Freddy’s Jeans too!

  • Great thoughts, Rochelle! I feel like building your ideal wardrobe is ALWAYS a work in progress! I’m constantly asking myself, “What do I ACTUALLY wear day in and day out?” and then, the next, more difficult question: “Does what I wear on a daily basis reflect me as a person?” It always feels like a balancing act between the reality (I work for a small nonprofit where I have to be able to move around and get dirty at a moments notice, and I like comfort… THERE! I said it!) and the ideal. I really like your idea of creating a daily uniform – I think we all have them – it’s just a matter of shaping that uniform to allude to the ‘ideal’ version of ourselves. And that’s what’s so great about sewing! You have so much more flexibility in terms of fabric and fit and style! Good luck with your wardrobe goals!

  • Sounds like a great plan and v exciting! I learned a lot about the clothes I actually wear day to day when I did me made may for the first time this year. Since then I have sewed fewer dresses and more separates in plain colours and knits. You could totally knit a jumper (or sweater!). The skills are no different to a hat!

  • One of my favourite makes of yours last year is your New England dress – it is so pretty and looks so well on you! I am quite excited to see what patterns you choose and to follow along with you.

  • What a fantastic idea. I think I need to do something similar… Good luck!!

  • I can’t wait to see the beautiful clothes you make. You remind me of my mother when she was young and all the wonderful dresses she wore everyday. Needless to say I learned ironing at a very young age. This year I am going to go through all the old pictures and share some of her for you and all your followers to see. Keep up the good work. Sew a little everyday, it will get you a long way. Cheers, Shari.

  • Happy new year! Your 12 pattern plan sounds really interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works for you!

  • Joan

    Spot on! I made my own wardrobe list last spring, and tried earnestly to stick to it. It has helped incredibly with both modern and vintage wardrobe building. Sure, dresses are exciting and fun, but no, you don’t need 5 of them. I find the separates to be much more useful. In your new list-how about making a skirt suit? That would knock out one of the skirts and the blazer and, since both made of the same fabric, they’ll be easy to mix with other items or each other. I think it must have been a wartime staple-they are so common!
    Kudos! Once you find what you don’t like, you can dive into what you do! Oh, and don’t be afraid to go back and tweek something you love “but for” one thing. It’s fiddly, but so worth it!

  • I love your approach. Look forward to seeing the results!

  • You know I look it at is a process. I’m sure that you learned a lot about technique and “how to sew” last year. It’s amazing the amount of experience you can gain from one pattern. Looking forward to seeing you “New Year” patterns:)

  • spinneretta

    This sounds so exciting to me πŸ™‚ I know I lived in my 1940s dresses all summer, but since it got colder, I’m wearing my vintage fashions less. Of course, some of that might be due to a little too much Christmas pigging out :p
    There is a 1940s pajama pattern I dearly loved and wanted to get. It would be lovely… you could watch the Thin Man movies with Myrna Loy for loungewear inspiration (she has some fabulous outfits :p ) and look into those lovely beach pajama styles too. Yes… those are the ones *I* like anyway :p I like your challenge though, I think I should look into a similar plan πŸ™‚ Maybe you should do a monthly roundup of the like-minded bloggers LOL
    Can’t wait to see which patterns you have picked though!

  • My Sewing Suite

    Thank you for posting this, I am feeling like I have beautiful things but nothing to wear, I realize I need to focus on more basics, and I like loungy things for hanging around and watching movie but I want to look dressed. I look forward to reading more. Happy New Year!

  • I think it’s a great idea to evaluate and work towards building your wardrobe. I set a similar goal for myself in 2013, and I’m still chipping away at it. I have a difficult time keeping up with myself when it comes to my style evolution, but getting real about what I wear and being honest with myself about my ideal wardrobe did help to shape my year in sewing during 2013. Best of luck!

  • I’m glad I’m not the ONLY one whose uniform is the “1940s tomboy” style. That and a little bit of rockabilly. {I’ve been really fond of it as of late.} I have loved your tomboy looks and look forward to seeing more.

  • Maybe do one of the dirndl skirts in a soft denim or chambray? Then it’s like jeans but a skirt! πŸ˜€

  • What a great idea! I may just have to make this one of my sewing goals too – that and to always make a muslin so I’m not surprised how the finished garment turns out. I can’t wait to see what your finished wardrobe looks like!

  • A 12 pattern wardrobe sounds like a great idea, and I can’t wait to see what you do with it. I’d have a go if I had 12 patterns traced…

  • love love LOVE this idea. I tend to make things that I will wear since i have a pretty harsh editing process before I even buy, but not many things in my closet “go together.” I need to work on making pieces that work together as a wardrobe set. That is my main sewing goal for 2014.

  • This really expands where you were going with your last post (which I didn’t take to mean that you were kicking 1940 fashion to the kerb!). It sounds manageable and more importantly, fun! Thanks for being so honest with these posts!

  • What exciting, wonderful wardrobe goals! I love shirtwaist dresses so very much, too. They’re an absolute must in my wardrobe, especially because I find I can usually wear them no matter what state my health in in (because they’re not too clingy or heavy and can hide bloating so well, too). You have such an inspiring, awesome sense of style and I don’t doubt that you’ll succeed at all of these goals and soon have a wardrobe that you are truly content with, honey.

    β™₯ Jessica

  • How exciting this is, can’t wait to see your challenge unfold!

  • Congrats on your new focused perspective! I can’t wait to see what you come up with this year having just come across your blog yesterday πŸ™‚ xx

  • I’ve really enjoyed these posts and your reflections sound so sensible! The idea of choosing a set amount of patterns based on what you actually wear really appeals to me. Can’t wait to see your 12 patterns!

  • I love the idea of the 12 pattern challenge! I tend to use the same 3-4 over and over, but that’s just because I’m too lazy to bother tracing and fitting anything new πŸ™‚

  • Hi,

    I too am redoing my wardrobe – quality over quantity. My wardrobe is about to get emptied cause there is so much crap in there – nothing goes with anything. I too am looking at a wadrobe hat can be mixed and matched – both work and pleasure, with maybe a few extravagances in there..

    Good luck with it all.