Balancing Needs and Wants (Wardrobe Planning Post #1)

I was looking forward to a calm October.  It’s the slow time in the skating season.  My friend’s wedding is over.  I thought my work schedule had settled into a rhythm.  Sewing commissions were on hold until later in the skating season.  I was going to have plenty of time to sew things and make a coat for the Pattern Review Contest.  A coat in a month?  No problem.

Then everything went a bit crazy.

I should know by now that this is why you never post sewing plans on the internet.

Things I thought I would be doing during October: Sewing a teal trench coat for the Pattern Review Outerwear Contest.  Oh, and work and stuff.

Things I’ve been doing during October: studying, working, working, working, sewing pillow covers.  I maybe skated a little bit.  Oh, and working.

WAIT – Pillow covers I hear you say?  The dreaded project that has been compared to asking Picasso to paint your garage?  Well, yes.  And, no, they are not for me.  See, I figured it wouldn’t be too big of a job.  I mean, when one is asked if they could sew “a couple of pillow cases” they agree, not expecting it to take up nearly all of the allotted sewing time for the month.  Or to have the bags of pillows and fabric fill up an entire bedroom.  This little commission took a bit more time than I was anticipating.  I have to give a shout out to YouTube tutorials.  I was handed a bag full of home-dec… stuff, and a list of items to complete.  I wasn’t even really sure how to get the pull on the continuous zipper.  Much thanks to The DIY Mommy for this great tutorial:

Seriously, you guys, I LIVED this tutorial.  I made some modifications (I didn’t have particularly stuffed pillow forms, so I cut down the size somewhat), but the end result was pretty good.  And the process was pretty zen.  Except with the one fabric that frayed like crazy.  Or the one time I attached the front to the zip and the pipping to the back so I had to re-do the whole thing.  Or when I was up until 3 a.m. and sewed through my finger.  Or the one time I accidentally somehow got the zipper near my serger and bent one of the internal gears when the teeth got caught in the blades.  So, anyway, yeah, pillows.

So where does this leave me?  Well, with a new serger for one thing.  It’s sort of hilarious how much I rely on the thing.  I mean, it seriously felt like I was missing my left arm for two days.  My replacement (Brother Designio DZ1234) is essentially the same as my old one (the Brother 1034D), so I’m pretty sure I’m going to love it.  The tension disc on the upper looper is already better calibrated than the one on my 1034D ever was.

As far as non-pillow sewing goes, I spent the better part of the beginning of the month tracing, fitting, altering, and re-drafting bits of my coat pattern.  The fit was pretty good out of the box, er, magazine, but I made some style changes to better mimic my inspiration coat.  I even, somehow, managed to get all of my pieces cut out for my coat this past weekend.  But I haven’t gotten anywhere close to starting construction.  Somehow I’m thinking I might not make it in by the deadline.


Plus, in case I hadn’t mentioned, I’ve been working.  A lot.  Which has basically meant that I don’t get home until later (usually after 10pm, sometimes not until after midnight).  I’ve also been working a lot of 10+ hour days on the weekends.  So, even though I want to sew, by the time I get home I don’t really have the energy to do much of anything productive.  Which I know is sort of a pitiful excuse, but at least it’s honest.  Sadly, I’m in that tired-but-wired state because I get home so late – too tired to be productive, too awake to sleep.  So what have I been doing with this time?

Things I should have been doing this month: Sewing a coat.

Things I actually did do this month: Contemplate the need for a more cohesive wardrobe and pondering the best plan of action to get one.

Crazy, right?  I mean, I haven’t even had time to sew one coat – how could I possibly have time to plan out an entire wardrobe overhaul?  To be completely honest, I haven’t quite planned anything out yet.  Actually, I was having something of a stream of consciousness thought process that went something like this:

(1) my friend moved out of his apartment and decluttered a lot of stuff

(2) I can’t remember the last time I did a major closet de-clutter

(3) Wow, some of my clothes are nearly a decade old

(4) Wow they are in rough shape

(5) Wow I have a lot of clothes that don’t really fit anymore

(6) Wow I find it incredibly difficult to dress like an adult

(7) I don’t even wear a lot of the clothes I have that do fit because I can’t even find them when I want them

(8) I never really finished my Tim Gunn Challenge from 2012

(9) I read a blog post (I can’t remember where agh!) about how these minimalist wardrobes don’t always function well in real life

(10) What if I made a compilation list of all the wardrobe recommendation item lists on the internet?

(11) Ok, what if I made a compilation list of some of the wardrobe recommendation lists on the internet?

(12) What if I ranked items by how many times they were recommended?

(13) What if I scaled that by the proportion of the year that the piece would be wearable?

(14) What if I scaled that by how likely I would be to actually wear that sort of garment?

(15) What if I put all of this into a totally kick-ass spreadsheet to plan out my sewing (and shopping) goals for the next year?

So that’s what I did.  Because it sounded like a good idea at midnight two days ago.  Happily, I think my spreadsheet is off to a good start.  It’s ranking things like neutral flats, a white t-shirt, LBD, and black trousers high, and things like stud earrings (I don’t have pierced ears) and boyfriend jeans low.  What’s sort of great about this experiment is I’ve given my sister access to copy the spreadsheet so she can fill in her own probability factors.  I’d love to see how the items do in comparison, since we have fairly different lives, and soon possibly very different climates.

My spreadsheet so far.  I’ve got nearly 200 items listed.  Highest total score is 40, lowest is 0.  54 items have a score of 10 or above, and items include shoes, clothes, bags, accessories, and some makeup items.

My spreadsheet so far.  I’ve got nearly 200 items listed.  Highest total score is 40, lowest is 0.  54 items have a score of 10 or above, and items include shoes, clothes, bags, accessories, and some makeup items.


Sadly, I’m kind of stalled because I’m at the point where I have to do actual work.  Its time to completely clean out the closer, try everything on, be harsh about letting things go, and mark things off my spreadsheet that I’ve already got covered.  Like graphic t-shirts.  Pretty sure I don’t need more of those.  Like, at all.

From there I think I’ll have a clearer vision of (1) what my wardrobe is lacking  and (2) what I should sew vs. what I should buy to fill it out.  Much as I’d love to have a 100% Me-Made wardrobe, realistically that’s not going to happen for quite some time.  And, in some cases, it’s just not practical.  For example, I’m not sewing my own shoes.  But I should be able to knock out a versatile white t-shirt (ranked 2nd on my list) pretty quick.  (And, no, I don’t have a white t-shirt.  I don’t even have fabric for a white t-shirt.)  Similarly, a neutral trench coat will take some time, but I’d want to make that just out of pride.  Oh, and the fact that I’ve been perfecting this trench coat pattern all month.

Anyway, I sort of feel like this approach to wardrobe creation might be a bit more practical than some of the other methods I’ve seen.  At least in terms of identifying what should be the most useful items, and prioritizing what should be my next project or shopping acquisition.  I mean, I’ve got way too much fabric and way too many ideas to just go out an buy everything on this list.  Also, not enough money.  But I’ve basically already invested in a quality wardrobe.  It just doesn’t completely exist yet.

Of course, the obvious problem with this statement is that so much of my planned sewing is not, in fact, based around this idea of neutral wardrobe staples, but around the shiniest thing I could find.  Which leads me to consider the difference between needing something (like a white t-shirt) and wanting something (like a teal suede trench coat).  I know I tend to sew more when I’m making something I want.  But I tend to wear something more when I’ve made something I need.

Which is why, even when I fill out more of this sheet I expect I will need some additional help in planning sewing projects.  I need to want these basics, or all the planning will be for naught.  I’ve been toying with the idea of playing around with the Wardrobe Architect series for quite a while now.  I’m thinking it might be useful – it at least considers a wardrobe from a sewist’s perspective – and talks about creating mood boards and color palates and other things that might be inspirational.  I’m also contemplating actually using Pinterest to help me visually create mood boards and narrow down pattern choices.  *GASP*  I know – either you are shocked because I’m not already living on Pinterest, or you fear for my soul when I get sucked into the madness.  Either way, yes, yes, I know.

So that’s about where I am as we near the end of the month.  I’ve made pillows.  I’ve cut out a coat.  I’ve destroyed a serger.  And I’ve got a fancy spreadsheet.  Aside from learning the ins-and-outs of Pinterest, the wardrobe process probably won’t go as quickly as I’d like.  But that’s ok.  For some reason it helps to know I’ve at least started working on a plan.  Because, let’s be honest, my wardrobe needs it.


14 thoughts on “Balancing Needs and Wants (Wardrobe Planning Post #1)

  1. Hahahahaha! Poor thing 🙂 I think your plan is a good one and totally works better for me than “every woman needs XYZ” or “You should have 13.745 items in your wardrobe at any given time”.

    I don’t have too hard a time getting rid of things, but I also know that I’ve gotten rid of something then went on a “what happened to x thing?!” hunt. My new method is to put kinda sorta unloved things that are in good shape and fit well on time out (in a storage container in the basement or garage) and pull it out when it’s seasonally appropriate again. I pulled out 7 items and 2 made it back in the wardrobe, 1 more is tentative. The rest will go in the donate bin. If it’s stained or in disrepair or doesn’t fit – out it goes.

    I’m having fun recreating my wardrobe now that I feel like I’ve identified the style I’m going for. So good luck!! 🙂


    1. Thanks! I really like the idea of the “time out.” Just yesterday I wore a shirt I haven’t touched since I made it. I was not happy with the slightly wonky neckband after I sewed it, and we’ve been having a very long, very warm drought here. Yesterday it was actually cold and rainy, and my thick, super stretchy knit top was perfection, and the neckline really wasn’t bothering me at all. I was glad I still had it, due to the sudden weather change. So I can totally see the need for keeping “on the fence” items around for a bit. It’s a good suggestion – I’ll definitely incorporate it into my overhaul!


  2. Interesting idea! I’d love to know how it works out in practice. It certainly sounds more practical than simply following someone else’s list because we are all so different.

    As for Pinterest, I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve used it lately. It’s great for making sewing plans when I don’t have the energy to sew but I want to do /something/ vaguely creative. So welcome to the Dark Side 🙂


  3. It all sounds very familiar. No one concept fits everyone. Depending on our personality and mentality, we should fashion our very own wardrobe planning and maintenance. I look at everything in my wardrobe at the end of every season. Throw out some or keep some for just one more winter / summer etc.
    But for the past one year, I am keeping aside those I don’t want to wear anymore. Out of these, depending on the colour / print / fabric etc., I am either restyling or refashioning them into different garments. I am so kicked with this plan. I am getting new clothes without spending! and less clothes to trash! More creativity!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds great! I am worried about generating a lot of waste, but I’m also conscious of the fact that I have a lot of very old clothes that are so worn the fabric is disintegrating, so they will probably be used as cleaning rags for a bit first.


  4. That looks like an epic, but practical project, hope it works out for you in getting the wardrobe you want. I have to say though that statement coats and dresses can definitely stand alone and be as creative and crazy as you want them to be, so you can still have fun with these kinds of projects in between the white t shirts and black trousers. Of course I am biased as I seem to be incapable of even buying neutral fabrics!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Guessing your PhD involved some impressive statistical analyses? That is some spreadsheet! I can see where you are going with it, & am impressed that you have the energy to be so creative intellectually when you are exhausted. Like wow! When I’m exhausted (like now – I’ve almost finished the thesis) I read trashy detective stories.

    Looking forward to seeing the outcomes.


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