Have you accumulated so many clothes over the years, that you now feel you’ve got nothing to wear? That’s how I feel and I’m wondering if it might be time to sew a sustainable capsule wardrobe.
I have been thinking a lot about this lately. Wether a capsule wardrobe is old news already, or wether it still makes great sense to begin sewing a sustainable capsule wardrobe?
Is it even something I can pull off?
Can I live (read survive:-) with fewer clothes?
Will it make life easier, and will I be happier with the clothes that I choose to have? Or will it make me feel restricted not to own so many clothes?
I have lots of thoughts and lots of questions.
If you are 40+ like me, and you look in your wardrobe and there is a lot of different clothes from various eras of your life, but somehow you suddenly feel, you’ve got nothing to wear. Then you might be interested in following this new blog series I’m writing. I intend to start creating a minimal and well curated capsule wardrobe from scratch. Sewing one piece at a time. I can’t wait to get started and to find those perfect sewing patterns for timeless pieces. At the same time I’m also a bit nervous about where to start. It seems like a huge and daunting task to go from an overflowing wardrobe to only owning a few pieces.
In this first blog post I will give you a summery of my story, and how I ended up making this decision. You are of course more than welcome to read along if you are not yet 40+. If you are just interested in sewing a well curated wardrobe or find some good staple and sustainable pieces to sew, you might find this blog series inspirational as well. It’s just that part of my reason to begin this adventure is, that I am 40+, as you will soon discover.
Where did my style go?
If you are like me, you might have kept a lot of your old clothes from different eras in your life. Maybe in the hope that you might one day fit into them again, or because they hold sentimental value to you. Maybe because you don’t like throwing clothes out that are still in good shape and you just don’t know when those clothes may come in handy for painting and gardening. You may also simply buy or sew too many clothes (we are probably all guilty of that:-). Are any of these statements true for you? They certainly are all true for me, and that is probably why I have an overflowing cupboard. Although I’m actually quite good at returning to old items that still fit, I will probably never make it through all of that clothes. So even though I sometimes start wearing my old clothes again or use them for refashioning projects, I have had to realise, that because I have kept so many clothes form the past 30 years, it is now difficult to find out what is actually my present style.
I’m beginning to realise that this is actually the root of the feeling of ‘not having anything to wear’. That we have too much to wear and get overwhelmed, because we don’t know who we truly are in all that clothes.
After collecting a lifetime worth of my most loved clothes, that have all served their purpose, I suddenly find myself in this peculiar situation of feeling lost in my wardrobe. A feeling I didn’t quite get when I was younger and every new trend just seemed exciting.
One sustainable capsule wardrobe staple got me thinking differently.
My thoughts about a minimal wardrobe was further sparked when I finally made this black beaver nylon parka coat that I had wanted to sew for years. I had just never got round to making it for some reason. Well……..the reason being, it was more exiting to sew a new dress.
Somehow finally sewing this coat made me see things more clearly. The feeling of pure joy I felt when I put on that parka became my new starting point. I felt all Marie Kondo, seriously, because I knew I was going to use this coat with contentment EVERY day all autumn for years. Not just for special occasions or on a good hair day, but for hundreds of days. To be honest I also got that feeling of joy when I finished a new dress, but half of the equation was missing. The feeling of all the wears I would get out of the dress was not a thing, it only used to matter to me how nice the dress turned out. So I began to think about how my life would be, if I only had clothes like that black parka coat in my wardrobe. Having only a few good pieces that I would love to put on every day. Clothes that would all work for most aspects of my life and would also work with each other. Not having to worry about wether or not I would have the right handbag or the perfect shoe colour for that outfit. I began to understand the point in all the ‘minimalism/capsule wardrobe’ youtube videos I had watched.
I was intrigued and I felt I had to work toward more of those feelings of joy. I now have to find out if it’s possible to actually be happy with fewer pieces of clothing, as scary as that may also sound. I have never had that thought before in my life, that less clothes might make you happier and make life easier. I love to sew, and the more clothes the better has always been the way I used think. But not any more.
After leaving these thoughts to simmer for a while I decided to go ahead and chase that feeling of joy with the clothes I sew from now on. Not that I can’t ever sew a special occasion dress again, but I want to sew clothes that I will love to wear every day all day.
This way of thinking also seemed to naturally walk hand in hand with the path of sustainable fashion I had already begun 2019.
To me one of the things that make clothes more sustainable is to sew with fabric that you already have in your cupboard. The black beaver nylon and the quilted lining I used for my parka coat was already in my stash. (It is still available from Stof og Stil.) All I had to buy was the gold trimmings that are also from Stof og Stil, and the gold prym press fasteners that I bought from Guldager symaskiner This black parka coat will last me several years, which is another important aspect of making clothes that are more sustainable. The more wears you can get out of them the better for the environment.
The pattern I used as a base is from Burdastyle magazine 01.2016 model 124 size 42 and can buy on their web page here. I did make some moderations and I completely changed the sleeve. Not that there was anything wrong with the Burda sleeve, I just personally didn’t like the look of them.
How I ended up in this mess.
Life sort of took over. Simple as that!
After becoming a tailor I sewed quality tailored clothes for myself. And lots of it. I had the time to be creative and I had lots of opportunities to wear my nice clothes. So in the 90’s I looked super fancy as you can tell from my ‘cute’ snapshots below 😉 Mind you pre-instagram and pre-smartphone era, so the photo quality is not the best.
Then I got pregnant with my first child.
As we all know, your clothes no longer fit the same way after a pregnancy and childbirth. It didn’t quite matter anyway because I got busy being a mother, and also started working in a school canteen. I just wore comfortable clothes to work and an apron on top of it. When I came home after work, I continued with the cooking and cleaning, and therefore I never made it out of my practical clothes as I’m sure you can tell from my photos.
I didn’t have time to sew fancy clothes any more, nor did I have the lifestyle to wear it. However I kept may of my old clothes as I put many hours of sewing into them. They meant a lot to me, and helped me keeping my identity of also being a tailor, not just a mum who worked in a kitchen.
Well next child arrived and I got even more busy.
As my children grew older I got arthritis in my hands and hips and I could no longer work with the heavy stuff in the kitchen. That left me with no other choice than to quit my job. That also meant I left behind the sort of ‘non-style’ that I had become use to wearing.
I became a self-employed tailor while I also had a part time job in a fabric shop. That called out for a whole new style of clothes. Believe me, I was so ready to start sewing the dresses I had been dreaming of while working in the kitchen. I always loved dresses, and especially vintage style dresses. They fitted my new lifestyle and job perfectly, and I really enjoyed sewing and wearing them to work.
Now re-evaluating my style mid-life.
As you may also have experienced, life changes and we evolve. I no longer work in the fabric shop. Unfortunately not enough people buy fabric in real life shops anymore. For me that meant less opportunities to wear my dresses. But,
the biggest factor in starting on my journey towards a minimalistic capsule wardrobe is that I’m getting older and dangerously close to 50. That has made me realise a few things…….
– I never lost that weight that I was hoping for, but instead put some on over the years.
– Those kilos also seem to rearrange themselves a lot faster as I’m approaching mid life, so my body no longer has the same shape it did only a few years ago. So even the beautiful dresses I made recently seems to no longer fit around the waist.
– I don’t want to look like a ‘teenage wanna be’ and I feel I am beginning to actually look like a grandmother when wearing my grandmother’s style clothes.
– My pre-kids clothes are totally outdated and no longer fit at all.
So you see, I have a lots of clothes, but literally next to none of them fit my lifestyle or my body shape anymore. I’m at a place in my life where I want to look more refined and yet be comfortable. It therefore seemed like the obvious choice to continue my sustainability path and sew a sustainable capsule wardrobe, with fewer colours, better quality fabric and more sustainability clothes. I think I would love to have a well curated capsule wardrobe where all the items fit and match with each other. That way I can drastically reduce the size of my wardrobe. I’m hoping that this will make it easier to know exactly what I have and what to wear and it will all fit me and my lifestyle. Also I’m realising as I get older that I don’t need to constantly change my style to suit the latest fashion trend. I’m going to be content with some classic pieces that can be worn regardless of the fashion trends.
Where to go from here.
So this is it.
Even if a sustainable capsule wardrobe might be ‘old’ news by now, I have decide to begin my journey towards a more minimalistic capsule wardrobe. Sewing one piece at the time. Wether or not I will manage with considerable less clothes I don’t know. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I intend to look for them, investigate and share my experiences. I will try to find sewing patterns that are suitable for a classic style that will not become outdated in a few month. Patterns that you can use over and over once you know they fit. Also I will try to be as sustainable as possible by using what is already in my stash, or what I can thrift. I think it is very important to work toward slow and sustainable fashion choices. If you are interested I’ve got a blog post on how to get started with using thrifted fabrics here.
But I will also have to buy a few quality fabrics. I already know I want to sew a pair of black wool trousers and a pair of jeans. I don’t have that fabric in my stash and I probably won’t find it in the thrift store. But it is important to me to get some quality clothes that I can use for YEARS to come. To me it is part of being sustainable, that you are able to wear your clothes many times. I’ve heard it mentioned quite a few time that we should wear our clothes 20 times or more. I think 20 times is way too little. That’s a huge benefit of sewing your own sustainable capsule wardrobe, you know how much work went into each piece and you probably want to be able to wear it 100+ times.
As you can see I did get carried away with my parka coat and made myself a winter version. Navy blue water repellant wool and lined with thinsulate to keep me warm all winter. I did need a new winter coat, so it wasn’t out of vanity. And as I mentioned before it’s nice to find those sewing patterns that just fit you in every way.
I hope you feel as inspired as I do and that you want to follow along, maybe even sew along. Feel free to share some of your experiences with an overflowing wardrobes or your path to a more sustainable wardrobe. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could inspire each other. Let me know in the comment section if there are any particular clothes you find absolutely necessary to cover. Items that just has to be in a capsule wardrobe and that you would like me to write about.
What to expect next.
My next blog post will be a more specific talk about a capsule wardrobe and the planning of it.
After that I will start sewing the wardrobe one piece at a time. My intention is to write blog posts about each individual piece that I create and decide to have in my wardrobe. I will try to only sew clothes that I will use in my capsule wardrobe, but as you can’t try on clothes before you sew it, some mistakes are bound to happen. Not all sewing patterns will fit properly, but once you find the perfect patterns for you, you will have less misfortunes with your sewing. Those things will be either sold or be donated. I still haven’t planned all the pieces so I’m open to suggestions.
Thanks for reading and hope to see you next post, Tina.