I was looking through past photos for a 2018 year in review, but instead I got inspired to share tips for making your handmade clothes work for daily wear.
Although I never made a formal pledge, I’ve hardly bought any clothes since I started sewing a few years ago. Exceptions are: graphic tees, leggings, and socks. It took me a few years to get there, but everything I wear everyday was made by me.
Listen, no humble-brag intended here. Its been a long road and I’ve learned so much about my own style in the process. I was never into fashion – I actively railed against it in my youth, for which I blame internalized misogyny – and never really had a ‘style’ so I had alot to learn! Since sewing, my style has emerged as a mix of masculine and feminine, which represents my personality more accurately than ever before. Wearing my handmade items makes me feel so confident, pretty, or powerful.
Without further ado…
…here are my tips for creating a practical, everyday handmade wardrobe.
Create a set of core garments- things you know you like and will wear, basic staples upon which you can build outfits. Which for me are plain skirts and pants, button-up shirts, and solid-color cardigans. I can wear these items nearly any day of the year and they alone can make a great outfit (pants+top+cardi=ootd). With core items like these, you can quickly incorporate new hand made garments into your existing daily wardrobe.
My trio of Wembley cardigans – in blue, purple, and dark grey – go with just about anything. I’ve worn them with long-sleeve shirts (where the cuff of the shirt sticks out from the cuff of the sweater, which looks pretty cute!) and they’re perfect over a sleeveless dress. Each took just a couple of hours to make but they get worn almost daily in Spring and Fall! Having one cool color, one warm, and one neutral makes them very versatile.
Basics may not be as exciting to sew as a fun party dress, but the feeling you get wearing them more than compensates!
Color cohesion: before selecting a fabric ask yourself if it will match anything else you already have. If not, reconsider the colorway. This is another reason to make a neutral skirt/pants and a neutral sweater. Having those items make it easier to welcome a new color and wear it right away.
Choose fabric/ colors you LOVE, even if you have to stash them for a bit (budget permitting, of course). I love looking at my closet and seeing all my favorite colors! It’s brimming with purples, blues, and greens.
Garment type considerations: have you worn it before or do you wear it often? Or have you always wanted to try it? Don’t be scared to take a risk but maybe use cheaper fabric or muslin first!
i.e. high-waisted skirts or pants. I thought they would be tortuous until I made a high-waisted skirt and realized how comfy and chic they can be (leaving room in the waist for eating and sitting)!
Climate: Super important- also pay attention to what you gravitate towards during climate extremes. i.e. in general, I don’t like super loose clothing. But in the peak of summer, I crave loose dresses. It took me a couple years to realize that, however! Now I have 3 loose dresses that get heavy use from July to August. I’ll be adding more this year (and shorts! I’m woefully low on shorts!).
Look for wardrobe holes…if you’re getting dressed and say “oh, if only I had ______…” then make that thing! Make it next! Make it now!
My personal progression started with elastic waistband skirts (2 rectangles with pockets; I let the elastic do the gathering for me). I made them with brightly patterned quilting cotton on the outside and lined them with a coordinating solid. The moment I donned that first skirt, I was so happy, I wanted to make all my clothes forever.
That was summer and by fall of that year Seamwork Magazine had started. I’m not their biggest fan these days, but back then they were just what I needed. I began making dresses, sweaters, and blouses. I learned a ton of techniques, too.
From there I discovered other indies like Deer and Doe. I still remember waiting excitedly for my first patterns to arrive from France. Now I frequent alot of indies and I make my own patterns!
Most of the items I made in my first year have long since been donated, except the aforementioned cardigans, and that’s okay. As I become more skilled, I’ve replaced those with better made, better fitting clothes. I’ve also honed-in on the garments that make me feel powerful or lovely, or both. These are the items I keep reaching for in the mornings.
Here’s the dirty secret- nothing I’ve ever made has been perfect. Sometimes, you have to live with your mistakes and wear them proudly; and most mistakes go unnoticed by the general public. Same goes for fit issues. If its not horribly glaring no one’s gonna notice.
Remember…it will take time to accumulate clothes for wearing everyday, but once you have core set of items you will feel more confident in your abilities. And one glorious day, you’ll look at yourself and realize you made everything you’re wearing!
As you keep building your skill sets, your mistakes will be fewer, your fit will improve, and before you know it you’ll have a fab closet full of custom garments to wear each day!
Do you have any tips to add? I’d love to hear how all of you manage your wardrobes!
Thanks for reading ❤