Has anyone else been following the Wardrobe Architect series over at Colette? Like the introduction post says, it’s all about “crafting a small wardrobe that reflects who you are”.
I’ve decided to join in because it really fits into the thoughts I’ve been having recently regarding sustainability. A small wardrobe that reflects me. Because my desire for a more responsible lifestyle doesn’t mean I want to sacrifice self expression through clothing. In fact, reducing my consumerism means that I want each purchase to be worn frequently, last a long time, and feel just right.
“Last a long time” is easy. I can do a decent job of spotting good and bad construction and fabric at the store. And in my own sewing, I’m perfectly able to create a garment that will last through multiple washes. I need only look at one of the dresses I made for souricette 1. She’s been wearing it for 2-3 years now and the cotton has faded from multiple washes. It has one of my first ever zipper insertions, maybe even the very first. Not a single one of my stitches has popped. I’d be willing to bet that the fabric will tear before anything happens to that zipper…
“Worn frequently” goes hand in hand with “feel just right” though and that has been a bit more difficult to achieve with consistency. I see so many styles and fabrics that I love but that doesn’t mean they’re right for me. Like ruffles. They’re so pretty but I usually feel silly when I wear them. Finding the holes in my wardrobe and filling each of them with the perfect item rather than a collection of not quite right items… That’s what I hope to achieve with Wardrobe Architect series.
January 16’s post had a questionnaire to help you find your style. I posted a little something in the comments but I really want to answer the whole thing. This is a rather personal analysis and might move you to tell me to stop staring at my own belly button as we say in French. So skip it then. I won’t mind. Read Overdressed instead. I’ve just started it and it’s a real eye opener.
Still here? Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
History: How has your personal history informed the way you dress?
This is what I contributed to the comment section over at Colette.
“I went to private catholic schools for 11 years. I wore a uniform everyday. At the elementary level (kindergarden through grade 6), I had navy blue socks or tights, white short or long sleeved blouse or even a turtleneck (it gets cold in Winter in Ottawa!) and a dress. The dress was that dark blue and green wool plaid, sleeveless, drop waist, pleated skirt, gold buttons down the front. Then, at the secondary level, it was still navy blue socks or tights, white short or long sleeved blouse but with a pleated navy blue skirt, navy blue blazer, and red tie. As a teenager especially, I knew it wasn’t cool to like your uniform but I liked both of them anyway. It wasn’t just about the ease of dressing in the morning (though now that I’m older, I appreciate it!). It was about a feeling of being “put together”, not sloppy.
To this day, I like to feel put together even if I’m just staying home. I cannot for the life of me stay in pajamas all day! Even when I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt, I like them to be well fitted and I like to throw a blazer on over them to go out. In fact, blazers are one of my favorite items of clothing.
From those days in school, I’ve also kept a fondness for navy blue (my favorite neutral) and plaids (especially skirts and dresses).”
Some people had the opposite reaction of hating their school colors. The plaids have always been a favorite but I did stray away from navy blue for a few years. It just wasn’t very present in stores and I overlooked it a little. I’ve been finding more navy blue in stores recently and it’s actually a really good color for me. It isn’t as harsh as black and it works better than grey with my coloring.
Philosophy: How does your philosophy, spirituality or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits?
I’m not religious at all. I’m more concerned about the here and now and how my actions have an impact on the world around me. In that vein, I’ve been working at repurposing used items (see my next PRP challenge outfit this coming Monday!), buying less, and finding sustainable clothing and fabric. I have some organic cotton canvas for my Albion jacket!
Culture: How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetic and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?
My cultural background is a blend of French (mom) and Québécois (dad). I grew up in the Ottawa area and moved to Montreal when I was 16 (for school). Montreal has a very special place in my heart. I’m not the most easy going person in the world but there’s a laid back aspect to that city that I love. It’s a city bursting with creative talent, good food, culture, laughter, life… People like to be well dressed according to their own style, not the dictates of fashion. And they aren’t willing to be uncomfortable or spend hours looking just so. There’s life to be lived! I feel at home with that attitude. The idea that yes, your hair will be out of place by the end of the day and that’s okay. That your clothes must be comfortable while making you feel good about yourself. My experience of Montreal was that people are casual but not sloppy. No pajamas at the grocery store and no shoes that could double as torture devices.
And yes, I love that classic French item : the striped boat neck long sleeved tee.
Community: How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?
I think the communities that most influence me are my online friends on Ravelry, the online sewing community, and everyone from my old school in Montreal, MMCT/CTCM. All three communities contribute to my love of textiles and creating. Creating in the sense of making but also in the sense of innovating. When shopping, I now spend an inordinate amount of time examining fabrics and construction details. I like my clothing to have a little something that makes it special, even if that’s just some contrast binding on an interior seam.
Activities: How do your day to day activities influence your choices?
I’m a stay at home mom. When both girls are in school, I sew and use my knitting machine. Otherwise, I spend a lot of time cooking, cleaning up messes, running around to this and that activity. Souricette 2 gets carried around a lot because she doesn’t walk fast enough. I need my clothes to be sturdy, easy to clean, easy to move in. I often wear the standard mom uniform of jeans and T-shirt but any comfortable pants will do. Sweater or jersey dresses also work really well for me. Flat boots, cute sneakers (love my navy Converse!), ballet flats are the best footwear for me.
Location: Does the place you live inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in?
When I lived in Montreal, I didn’t have much use for warm sweaters and socks. Indoor areas were always well if not over heated and boots, coat, and accessories provided the necessary protection outside. Now that I live in NYC suburb, Winter weather is much more humid. The house is kept cooler. Outside, Winter boots don’t work. I’ve found that wool socks and sweaters are an essential part of my wardrobe now.
Body: In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes makes you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?
Wow. This is the one I hate talking about. My body doesn’t the look the way I want right now. I managed to lose all the weight from souricette 1 and more before getting pregnant with souricette 2. But the weight from souricette 2 is more stubborn. No matter how hard I work at it, it won’t come off. And I’m short so a few pounds make a huge difference. Thankfully though, I tend to gain and lose all over so my proportions stay roughly the same. I’m also lucky that my body shape is pretty close to a lot of store/pattern standards.
I’ve found that I feel my best when my clothing follows my shape without clinging to the extra fluff. I need to mark my waist (or underbust as in empire line) otherwise I feel like a sack. Empire waists are good as long as the item doesn’t puff out underneath. Anything that creates/emphasizes an hourglass shape will work well for me whereas straight up and down silhouettes tend to make me look like a box.
Necklines are best open, scoop neck, open shirt collar… I find I prefer V necks on sweaters rather than T-shirts. Interestingly, boat necks work really well. They actually make me feel elegant! Some crew necks will work but don’t usually make me happy. I hate the look of a blouse buttoned all the way to the top (unless the blouse already has a lower neckline of course).
Pants and skirts… Still trying to figure those out!
And that’s it! Still here? How about you? If you’re doing the series, what have you learned about yourself?