Planning a handmade wardrobe

How do you decide what you are going to sew? It seems I always have a million ideas for the clothing I want to make for myself, and until fairly recently I was pretty spontaneous (me: “Ooh pretty fabric!!” or “I can make that!!”, commence sewing, etc). But in the past couple of years I have tried to be more intentional about the clothing I sew and how those things will work together to create a coordinated handmade wardrobe for a given season (or two). This is still not the most cohesive or structured method, but for me just having any roadmap is helpful.


Because I am most inspired by colors and prints, I usually use fabric as my starting point. I try to choose fabrics that will work together, and consider what patterns I want to use for each one. I’ve learned in recent years that twenty newly sewn things that don’t match or coordinate in any way isn’t the best use of my time. Shown above are the some of the swatches I’m using for my spring/summer 2016 handmade wardrobe.

Lately I’m trying to remember to choose simpler shapes and more solid fabrics for my separates, because they result in more versatility when it comes to putting outfits together. Even though I wear this dress ALL. THE. TIME, separates work together better if they aren’t all crazy prints, all the time. This can be difficult, as I love me some loud prints. But since many of the newly sewn items in my wardrobe this year are Luna Pants, solid tops to coordinate are on the list. Unless I’m up for going full faux jumpsuit and calling it a day? Never out of the question.


I like to sketch out all of the things I want to sew (in this case, for spring/summer ’16) on a page or two in my sketchbook so I can see the outfits and how everything will work together. I really like having all of my sewing ideas in one place so I can refer back to it later.


You have to be living under a rock not to have noticed that the capsule wardrobe has been a hot concept lately, and I think this ties in with that idea nicely. The idea behind the capsule wardrobe is that you have a limited number of items in your wardrobe — items that are of higher quality and therefore could stand to be worn more than a handful of times — that you can mix and match to create all of the outfits you need for a given season. I think one of the reasons I like this sketch-and-swatch method is that it allows you to design a capsule wardrobe at a glance if you want.

This isn’t a complete capsule wardrobe thing for me (yet), but I think it could be. A pair of well-made, store-bought jeans or a nice cardigan made with high-quality yarn is a good investment and, honestly, I don’t really want to make all of the things that I wear, so when I decide what to sew, I’m usually also considering things I already own that will match or coordinate. I love the idea…but…know thyself, you know? Maybe someday I will make jeans, but for now I’m fine with incorporating my purchased items with handmade items.

If you want to dive into wardrobe-building in a more structured way, you should check out the Wardrobe Architect series over at Colette. It’s a great way to really nail down your personal style, shapes, palettes, and so on through a series of exercises and worksheets. My friend and fellow pattern designer Christine Haynes is currently working through the process and documenting it with a series on her blog which I definitely recommend checking out! As you can see, my process isn’t quite as detailed or thorough, but I think it would work alongside the Wardrobe Architect process quite nicely.

So, tell me, how do you plan what you are going to sew?


11 thoughts on “Planning a handmade wardrobe

  1. I approach my wardrobe in much the same way, after many years of failed makes and closet orphans. I spent several months sewing solid basics and, although it was a bit boring at times, everything I made gets worn all the time.

    Your sketches and swatches are inspiring me!

  2. I am hoping to sew some skirts for the summer. Do you have any general timeframe for releasing your skirt pattern? My other big focus is tunics with leggings and sandsls. Many Beatrix and Pearl variations. I started one Alison Glass fabric with yellow pluses today. I also saw a great inari t dress in linen on Instagram this week so that is now on the list and I love the Josie sundress from Christine Haynes. I am also probably the only sewer who hasn’t made an emery dress so that is another goal.

  3. I love this it’s so inspiring, it is so nice to see you trying to do capsule with patterns, I too love patterns but have less of them now I am trying harder with the capsule wardrobe. I can’t wait to see the result.
    Ps I loved your post on shoes to wear with lunas this had been baffling me!

  4. I won’t go as far as a capsule wardrobe, but I am trying to avoid buying clothes and focusing on making my clothes. I would love to achieve a handmade wardrobe! I am making jeans this summer!!!

  5. When I run out of things to sew, I have a cutting party. I look through my stash and try to decide which fabrics match the patterns I have purchased or new ones I want to try. I cut 8-10 things at a time and then each time I have time to sit and sew, I pick one of my precut projects.
    I’m about 75% handmade now. I tried jeans and didn’t love making them or my finished result and have decided I will just buy them. I wear store bought dress pants but have made some knit pants I’m happy with. All tops, dresses, tees and sweaters will be hand made from now on. When I shop for me, I shop for fun accessories and shoes but no longer purchas clothing other than jeans and dress pants.

    Up next on my sewing list is another knit washi top 🙂

    • I love this idea too!! That’s such a great way to save time, by batching it.

      Good luck with the Washi!



  6. So now that we’re seeing your tank sketch; is it safe to say we will see the pattern by summer???

    Cant wait!

  7. While I sew nearly daily, in the past few years, it hasn’t been much for self clothing. My wardrobe is about 15% handmade, and nearly the rest thrifter, which is fine with me. i love the capsule wardrobe idea, as I’m usually just flighty in what my interests are in clothing. I tend to make too many prints, and lack solids, or coordinating pieces. I like your capsule and the one I pinned from Banana Republic. I think I’ll just start making more clothes from the PDFs I already have, and haven’t made yet. No one else does that, right?!

  8. Yeah, the capsule wardrobe is really hot! I am not totally embracing it, but I think it is an interesting concept. As for sewing for myself, I can’t sew much and I do not have time to sew much. 2 years ago I made 2 washi dresses for myself. They looked surprisingly good, but I was not convinced they were ideal. I was too excited and maybe my skills were not very good. I ended up wearing them every time they were clean. About once a week for two summers. Last month I made two more, with a few changes. I was more careful with the cutting and sewing. They are super great awesome beautiful. I was looking at some other online patterns, looking at photos of other peoples’ finished dresses, as the pattern photo usually looks good, but when a real person makes it…. In the end, I decided that Washi was better than all those other patterns. Plus I needed the past experience sewing a few to improve. So in part it is what I want to wear and in part it is what I am comfortable making that decides what I sew. I will make two more in the next week and maybe with a V-neck. I love shirring, and I am a whiz at the half lining now thanks to your patterns and tutorials!

  9. Can’t wait to see what you make with the Loominous fabric. I tried making a shirt for myself (one of my first- usually just do kids stuff) with the blue version, but I didn’t like the result, even though the fabric is so beautiful. Looked pajama-y with the pattern I used.

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