Thursday, December 7, 2017

How to Fit Your Handmades into Your Wardrobe

Like a lot of people, I’m often pulled in by the “oooh shiny” phenomenon in sewing. How many times have you sewn something new, only to have it languish away in your closet? And how often is that because it doesn’t go with anything? I call these pieces “unicorns” although I’ve also seen them referred to as “widows” or “orphans” (too depressing for me, I’d rather imagine my closet full of mythical creatures!). Recently, I’ve tried to be more mindful about the new items I sew and how they’re going to work with my current style. I’ve developed a few steps to help eliminate these beautiful, but not-so-useful, unicorns!

Listen to the fabric
Everyone is different in the way they purchase fabric, but I think all sewists tend to buy faster than they can sew! Inevitably, we end up with stash fabric that loses its original purpose. We know we want to use it, but we can’t decide how. When I run into trouble is when I attempt to force certain fabrics to do certain things, just for the sake of using it up. For example...

...I bought this open knit jacquard many years ago, because it was cool. That was the only reason! I had two yards, which meant I COULD do many things: dress, cardi, skirt, top. But due to the open nature, I kept getting stumped. A top or dress would need lined. For years (literally) I debated about what to do with it. In the end, it was so simple! A lightweight, lacy knit could really only be a cardigan. Once I listened to the fabric, I had my answer.

Look for inspiration
After deciding on a style for your fabric, I find it helpful to browse photos of what your finished garment might look like. Going back to my example, I knew the fabric wanted to be a cardigan, but I couldn’t picture how a navy and white striped cardigan would fit into my wardrobe. What would I wear with it? I pulled up Pinterest and did a search for “navy and white striped cardigan”.

Most of my results were actually navy and white striped shirts with cardigans of other colors. But there were enough real-life examples to give me an idea of how to wear this particular style. Overwhelmingly, they were worn with plain colored shirts underneath, typically white or navy, or sometimes grey or black.

Next I asked myself, do I have these plain shirts? If I have them, is this a look I want to wear? Does the silhouette work for me? If the answers to these questions is no, then you have some more thinking to do. If the answers are yes, then you can feel fairly confident in moving on to choosing a pattern and making your garment. Pairing the right fabric to the right pattern is an art in and of itself, and it's not something I'm going to cover today. I will assume you've chosen the right pattern to meet your fit needs and to match the fabric you've chosen (you can see my full review of the cardigan sewing here).

Mix and match
Once you've finished your garment, don't just toss it on a hanger and wait around for the day you want to wear it. I admit, I'm completely guilty of this habit! After I finished my cardigan, I attempted to just throw it on top of an outfit, and I realized that it simply didn't work. I decided to slow down and invest some time into figuring out exactly how to wear and style this item.

I went back to Pinterest to remind myself of my original inspiration. I pulled out all my solid colored tops and tried different colors underneath until I found what looked best.

I paid attention to the necklines. I also swapped out different cuts and washes of jeans. Finally, I tried different shoes and various styling such as a half-tucked shirt, a fully-tucked shirt, an infinity scarf looped twice, looped three times, etc. I did my makeup.

Yes, this process took time and effort. I estimate I spent at least 30 minutes figuring out what worked, and why. I learned that the cardigan looks best with solid white or navy tops underneath, and with a pair of pants that have a decent amount of color contrast, to avoid looking like a big navy blob. I found a slight hole in my wardrobe, in that I could use a white tank top with some sort of embellishment along the neckline (the one in the photos is definitely too small).

Finally, after mastering your outfits you want to be able to remember them! I made sure to take photos when I liked a look. I ended up with three different combinations. It's easy enough to make an album on your phone, or you can use a more advanced process like the Stylebook app. A few weeks later I wore the cardigan again, and I couldn't remember how I liked it! I was so glad I had the photos so I could quickly find the pieces I needed to finish off my look.

Do you have any of your own tips for incorporating handmades into your wardrobe?


  1. This is an interesting and thoughtful post - in the past, oh so many unicorns in my closet! That's probably why gray has been my go to for years and years.

  2. That fabric IS cool and the sweater is cute and should be quite versatile.

    So much of my wardrobe is handmade now but even so, I have to stop from constantly sewing a pattern just because or like you said, trying to force a fabric to be a thing.

    Sometimes (and it ALWAYS seems to happen at night...kind of like when you manage to do your hair or makeup *perfectly* but in time for bed...not to go anywhere!) I start to play around in my closet and try on different looks. I almost always come up with some combo I've never tried but love.

    I'll have to start taking photos. Because it is also helpful to know what you DON'T like together.


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