I think we have all been there, we have a stack of patterns and a cupboard full of fabrics and so many plans for things to make with them. When our precious sewing time finally comes around after work is done for the day, and the house is clean, and the family are fed, and the kids are in bed, and we are paralysed by indecision. What do we want to work on? We end up spending half of the precious allotted time just deciding which project to start.
This is why I take a pre-planned capsule wardrobe approach to my sewing. Hi, my name is Laura and I make plans. All the time, in every aspect of my life. I even plan in spontaneity!
Why does capsule planning work for me?
I love sewing, in particular, having control over the way I dress. But left to my own devices I would have 900 pairs of jeans and nothing else in my wardrobe. They are my favourite thing to make but we all know that a pair of jeans is not an appropriate outfit on it’s own. There are also occasions when jeans might not be my first pick to wear, for example when the temperature outside is above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). So I need to make some other things too.
By planning a capsule collection, I can make sure I have pieces in my wardrobe that will definitely go together and can be worn interchangeably. I wear almost exclusively separates anyway because that is my personal comfort zone, so having tops and bottoms and toppers (think jackets, cardigans, overshirts etc.) that work together takes all the guess work out of getting dressed.
Some of my capsule collections have been designed with a particular activity in mind, such as summer holiday capsule or work wear capsule. Some have just been designed centring around a particular colour or print I want to include in my wardrobe.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
The answer to this is really whatever you make it. There are several established capsule wardrobe templates that you could use. For example:
- a mini capsule, which I first heard about from Whitney (TomKat Stitchery on youtube)- 3 tops, 2 bottoms and 1 topper.
- the 3×3 grid capsule – 3 tops, 3 bottoms and 3 toppers
- the perfect 10 – 4 tops, 2 bottoms, a dress, a sweater and 2 layering pieces (jacket or cardigan).
If all of those feel like a lot to start with you could start with one bottom piece (trousers or a skirt) and two tops that will go with it. This is a capsule wardrobe in its most simple form.
For some people thinking more than one project ahead is too much, so what about a rolling wardrobe model? Start with one wardrobe piece, for example a dress in a print you love. The next thing you make will go with that item, for example a cropped jacket in a complimentary colour. The next item will go with the 2nd item but doesn’t necessarily go with the first, so in this example maybe a skirt in the same fabric as your jacket? and so on…. This method allows you to work spontaneously but will still mean you have a cohesive closet to pull from with items that go together. (If this interests you check out this pattern review thread where they are looking at this concept.)
Top tips for planning your capsule wardrobe
- Plan around existing pieces in your wardrobe – Do you have an item in your wardrobe that you love but it doesn’t get much wear because you don’t have much that really goes with it? Why not make it some friends? Remember that not everything in your capsule has to be me made. Why not buy a really great classic skirt and make three tops to go with it?
- Think about what you love wearing – maybe you need another one of that item in rotation? This might be a good jumping off point for planning a capsule.
- Plan around a theme – workwear, loungewear, formal wear, all wovens / knits, activewear, work to weekend, holiday wardrobe (etc. etc. you get the idea). No matter what your life looks like there is a capsule for you.
- If you are including prints choose one multicoloured print as a starting point, then pull in co-ordinating colours. Personally, I do not feel that comfortable with print mixing so I usually go for prints on the tops in my capsules and plains on the bottoms and toppers. That way I know everything will work together. BUT if you love print mixing then go for it! Just try and keep everything in a cohesive colour scheme.
- What comes first the pattern or the fabric? – I have done capsules both ways and both work so it really depends on your process and what you want to achieve with the capsule. Personally, I find I buy more new stuff if I start with patterns because I won’t often have the perfect fabric in the perfect colour in my stash. If I start with fabrics, I can usually find a suitable pattern that I already own.
- Know your neutrals and incorporate them into your capsule – this will help you make pieces that fit into your wardrobe as a whole. Remember that neutrals don’t have to be black brown, white, grey etc. Hot pink and neon green can also be neutrals, they are just colours you return to over and over. Mine are currently olive green, brown, ivory and navy
- Consider accessories – If you knit or crochet or do some other fibre art why not consider hats, shawls, gloves etc for your capsule. Shoes, bags and jewelry also change the way an outfit can look. Think simple white tee for a day at the beach but put on a statement necklace for an evening out.
- Step back – once you have an initial plan step back and look at it with an evaluating eye. Does this look like something you will actually reach for? If not, why not? Does the overall collection look too wild/ colourful/ boring etc? If you don’t like the way certain styles look together, make sure you aren’t including them. The example I always use for myself is cropped tops with low rise trousers. Your examples might be different. It is about understanding your own style preferences and honouring them.
- Plan in a spontaneous make – If you are the type of person who thrives on falling in love with something and just diving right in, but you also want to try your hand at capsule sewing, why not plan in some spontaneity? There is nothing that says because you have planned these 6 or 9 items that you must make them one after the other. Maybe make one thing from your planned list and then allow yourself to choose a project at random. Then go back to your planned list.
Capsule wardrobes for busty sewists
When Lindsey from Sew Busty asked me if I would write a community blog post about capsule wardrobe planning one of the questions she asked me was “how does being busty effect your wardrobe planning?” I have thought a lot about this in the weeks since I agreed to write this post. For me I am always aiming for items that I will wear and love. So perhaps the real question here is “how does being busty effect what you wear?” The answer is, it does affect it but not in the way you might think.
We have always been told that busty people should wear V necks and wrap dresses because less fabric on the chest will make you look smaller. In contrast I might be considered a modest dresser (for personal comfort reasons rather than religious ones). I choose high necklines because I have never felt particularly comfortable showing cleavage and like to be able to move naturally without worrying about showing more than I want to.
As a result, I don’t think my capsules are constrained by what will “suit” my body shape but more by my own personal style rules. Understanding your own comfort levels when it comes to clothing is key to creating a capsule collection, or even just individual items, that you will love and wear. Shapes, motifs, colours, silhouette, fibres, substrates and finishing details all feed into this. Sometimes the only way to really understand if something is really right for you is to try it. Experimentation is key and doesn’t stop. What you like and are comfortable with can change for different situations, different times of year, and develop over time. Just because I don’t choose to wear skirts now doesn’t mean I never have or never will.
I hope I have shown you how planning a capsule wardrobe can be exciting and help channel your creativity into core wardrobe pieces that will really earn their keep. If you decide to do your own capsule wardrobe please tag me on Instagram @sewnandshown I would love to see your planning.