The Things We Make and Keep

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my handmade wardrobe lately.

What is the difference in the things I make and keep wearing and the things that I just can’t bring myself to wear?

What do I want to wear?

What do I enjoy wearing?

What do I want my style to say about me?

Things like Me Made May, thought up by So, Zo, and the Wardrobe Architect series by Sarai over at Colette Patterns have really gotten my wheels turning lately.

About two weeks ago, I stumbled on the blog Un-Fancy. And her idea of a minimalist capsule wardrobe has really hit home with me. I’ve been feeling really frustrated with my clothes and my house lately. I’m chronically unable to keep my house clean and I always feel like I have NOTHING TO WEAR.

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I own way too much stuff. For a while, it was a product of being broke as a joke. So, if I have it now, and I keep it, when I need it and can’t afford it, I can just pull out the thing that I kept for so many years that I have no idea of where I even stored it (let’s be honest, I probably never even remembered I was holding on to that thing, either). After that, I kept holding on to things just out of habit of keeping stuff.

To be honest, I have a harder time than usual with organization and getting rid of stuff. I was diagnosed with adult ADHD about a year ago (yes – also meaning, I went undiagnosed as a kid with ADHD). And suddenly, my whole life makes sense. People with ADHD usually have significant impairments in their executive functioning (see: organization). But, organization and routines are two things that can drastically improve your ability to function like an adult, in spite of your ADHD. So, I’m learning organization, even when throwing out something threatens to send me into a panic attack. I’m reminding myself of what I have to gain: calm, peace of mind, feeling excited to get dressed, knowing where things are.

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I decided to take a look at all of my clothes I’ve made over the years and to evaluate what went well and what I could improve upon. The things we make and keep versus fashion failures. My goal is to see if there are any commonalities amongst the things that make it into wardrobe rotation land so that I can plan and use my sewing time better. I’d love for everything I make to end up making it into the wardrobe rotation. So, I’m also going to be looking for any common threads amongst the things that just don’t quite make it. I’ve got a few ideas about why those things don’t make it into regular wear. But, we shall see.

Today I’m starting with two of my oldest makes.

imageWhen I was in college, many years ago, I took a clothing 101 class. I’d been sewing random things since I could hold a needle in my hand, but I’d never actually made any people clothes. I had made quite a few Barbie doll outfits, though.

In this class, we were taught seam finishes, closures, and shaping devices. After that, we were to make two garments using what we had learned: one for the top half of our body, one for the bottom half of our body. The specific details of the garments were up to us. My bottom half garment was a pair of jeans-style grey pants, inset zipper and everything. I’ve since grown out of them, but I keep them in my Sewing Hall of Fame – a place for all of those me-made items that have too much sentimental value to actually throw away.

My top half garment was this fully lined wool pea coat. My teacher sort of scoffed at the idea that I’d be able to finish a fully lined pea coat in the time she had allotted. Which, had the effect of making me work as hard a possible to prove her wrong. I made this coat in the Fall of 2002, I think. I’ve worn it OUT. It’s missing a button on the front, the pockets have worn through and need replacing. I have extras of those buttons, I need to fix it soon. I also need to dry clean the thing, I can’t remember the last time I had that done. Gulp. The pockets won’t be too hard to replace, I don’t think. And, I should probably just replace the whole lining soon.

This was and still is a MAJOR home run in the make department.

  • I LOVE the color (and the pop of red!)
  • It filed a gap in my wardrobe at the time – I didn’t have a good winter coat
  • it’s made of natural fibers – wool outer, cotton flannel lining (sort of a pain to get on, but it’s pretty warm!)
  • It’s sized perfectly – I’ve gained and lost weight over the 12 years since I made this, but it’s always fit fine (except for that one winter when I had a broken arm – humerus – and no coats fit over my arm), and I can wear layers and it still fits.

With a little work, I may be able to get this coat to last another 12 years. Any tips on fixing the cloth at the cuff where it starts to wear out over time?

imageNext up, we have my Amy Butler fabric kimono-style robe. I took a pretty long break from making clothes after that sewing 101 class. This was one of the first things I made after that class, about 6 years ago now.

I don’t know about you, but I was OBSESSED with Amy Butler fabrics when the first came out. OMG SOMETHING THAT’S NOT MY MOTHER’S QUILTING FABRIC!! Not that her quilting fabric was bad, but something young and modern was a shock, in a good way.

So, I had Amy’s books, and in one of them was this kimono-style bath robe. I found an amazing fabric store in Nashville, TN, where I lived that carried all of this amazing fabric. I spend more money on this fabric than any other fabric to that date (other than that wool above, I guess). I was soooo excited. And, I used sharpie to mark all of the dots and notches and such. Hot pink sharpie. I didn’t have any chalk. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? And, I forgot about all of my seam finishes. So, all the edges are raw inside. I also used HOT PINK THREAD. I’m sensing a trend. I had a serious hot pink obsession for a while. I even wore hot pink eyeliner. No, they didn’t make hot pink eyeliner. Me and my best friends at the time used hot pink lip liner for eyeliner. OMG.

But, back to the robe. I’ve worn it a lot over the past 6 years, but I’m filing it under a fashion failure now because:

  • you can totally see the hot pink sharpie and thread
  • NO SEAM FINISHES! This thing is really close to unravelling at the seams because of that. It’s been a good run, but I think it’s time to send it to the Sewing Hall of Fame Heaven.
  • I’ve totally grown out of florals. I want simple patterns, geometric patterns, neutrals.

So, I’ve got two questions for you:

  1. What do you notice about the things that you make and keep versus the things that are fashion failures?
  2. What do you do with your fashion failures? How do you let them go? I’m still not sure what I want to do with a few of these things I’ve made that I know I’ll never wear. I’m boxing them up, for now.
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6 thoughts on “The Things We Make and Keep

  1. Such a timely post! The pink eyeliner bit made me laugh. I’ve had similar things on my mind lately. It’s so hard to get rid of hand made clothing. I’ve got a couple of skirts that I made that just look awful on me. The proportions are all wrong for my body but I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them because I can remember exactly how much time I spent making them, and I do still love the fabrics. The things that I make and keep are made from just one fabric, not three weird contrasting ones (hello everything that I made until about two years ago) and that don’t scream ‘hand made’ when I wear them out. If nobody asks if I made something myself, it’s kind of a win. I like my me-mades to express my personal style, but in a way that’s still stylish. That’s what works for me.

    Oh and getting rid of hand mades? I give them to my mum! Keeping the clutter in the family ha!

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  2. I can pretty much credit Amy Butler with getting me into sewing. I was visiting my mom (who is an amazing quilter) and saw a story in her local newspaper about a small fabric shop that had just opened, and the picture accompanying the article was all of this Amy Butler fabric. It pretty much stopped me in my tracks and I made my mom take me there. I pretty much learned to sew by making a bunch of her bag patterns. Anyway…I was just giving some of my early handmades the side eye- maybe I will give them to my mom and she can use the fabric in a quilt? They are pretty much all quilting cotton, ha. The things I keep and wear now tend to be neutrals, lots of black and white, gray and blue…kinda boring but at least they all go together 🙂

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  3. Such a great idea – I think taking a close look at your makes will definitely help you see a pattern in what you love. I think that most of my early failures were due to sizing (often too small) and lack of practicality – party dress patterns are pretty, but I never need them! My current makes are way more practical, but I still struggle with sizing (too big!)

    I hear you about seam finishing, though! Early in my sewing career I didn’t place much value in taking the time to finishe my seams, so now some of those items are a MESS on the inside.

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  4. Really interesting post. I had the same ideas going on in my head lately about streamlining my wardrobe. I took EVERYTHING out of my wardrobe (put it in the bf’s band room, whoops!) and initially only brought back the obviously things I love to the closet. Slowly, I’ve been going into the band room and finding a garment, trying it on and wearing it around the house for a while; pairing it with other garments that made it back to the closet. Making decisions from there. Getting another opinion is really great if you can. I’ve now got a massive need-to-fix pile and a decent giveaway pile. I took notes on what came back in the closet and now I have ideas for new clothes I can make that would fill a gap (I have 50 t-shirts but only 1 pair of shorts…I know what I’m making next). It feels REALLY good to go into my closet now and have every option be something I really like to wear.

    I would say, for the handmade stuff, keep the very first things you made (to remember how far you’ve come) and get rid of the rest, especially if the seams are about to fall apart (unless you think you want to reuse the fabric for a new project). I’ve thrown away all my first sewing projects and I regret it. MY MOTHER GOODWILL-ED MY FIRST FULLY LINED JACKET WITH HAND DYED FABRIC. Purgers can be just as bad as hoarders. Good luck!

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