Wondering how to go about designing and sewing a capsule wardrobe using only fabrics that you already have, and finally sew those fabulous patterns that you bought ages ago but never made? Special guest blogger Louisa shares her step-by-step process for designing and creating a mix & match collection of wearable, versatile pieces – all the way from sketch to finished!
As someone who has been sewing just about forever (60+ years!), I was of course aware of the concept of a “capsule wardrobe” – a clothing collection that can be combined together for an outfit and as separates to add to an existing wardrobe. However, I’d never actually considered making one until I saw the #MyBodyModel3x3 challenge and belatedly started considering how I would plot the pieces. Of course I didn’t get around to it right away, but the beginning of 2022 found me digging through my extensive stash for possibilities!
As an extra challenge, I decided to only use what I already had on hand. In this case I began with the fabrics and then worked out what to make with them. Not surprisingly, I found a number of pieces in black, near-black and dark charcoal colours. Most were light to medium weight woven suitings, but I also had a length of stretch cotton knit and a heavier coat-weight wool blend. Several pieces had been lurking about for decades! I know I had a plan for them when I bought them, but who remembers what that might have been! It was time to reconsider their future as wearable garments.
Our family enjoys watching the many birds that come to the garden, and the title of my collection was inspired by the Corvidae, a family that includes the crows and ravens. Here in Vancouver the most common variety is the Northwestern crow, which is smaller and hoarser than the American crow that everyone knows. I see (and hear) these shiny black and very intelligent birds every day, so of course I had to call my new series the Corvid Collection! You also might notice a slight play on words there too?
The process of choosing the patterns was complex, dictated by the types and amount of fabric available and by the kind of garments I like to wear. I wanted to follow the 3×3 principle of 3 tops, 3 bottoms and 3 layers, but my choices morphed slightly to become 2 tops, 1 pinafore, 2 bottoms, 1 jumpsuit and 3 overlayers.
For the nine garments in the collection, I had five main fabrics, a total of over 15 metres. With some lining fabrics, interfacing, buttons and threads from stash, I didn’t need to buy anything new at all except for several pattern PDFs, which is always an enjoyable experience. Contrary to the opinion of most sewists, I love putting the pieces together and making the necessary fit changes. When cutting out, I often start with the largest and most complex pattern for a given length of fabric and then figure out what else would fit in the remaining space. I call it “Pattern Tetris” and I ended up with only very tiny scraps left over.
My art supplies toolkit for MyBodyModel paper dolls is pretty simple, especially for this collection. As I just went with outlines, it was much easier to photograph and to layer cut-outs. My favourite pens are Faber-Castell PITT artist pens, which I also use for my bullet journal so I have many colours. I have fine liners in a couple of colours as well as the brush pens, but I also used my Sakura Pigma Micron pen for the really fine details.
The garment details, clockwise from the centre Mini-Me:
1. Basic turtleneck tee, My TNTee (self-drafted and very well used), fabric is black cotton/lycra interlock.
2. Basic leggings, My TNT Leggings (also self-drafted), fabric the same as the tee.
3. Blackwood Cardigan from Helen’s Closet in the longer version, fabric the same as the tee and leggings.
4. Caladium Jumpsuit from Caramiya Maui, fabric is a dark tweedy grey poly suiting.
6. Dover Jacket from Blue Dot Patterns, fabric is a dark charcoal brushed poly suiting.
7. Glebe Pants from Muna and Broad cropped, fabric is the same as the Dover Jacket.
8. V8693 Jacket designed by Marcy Tilton from 2010 (out of print), fabric is a large Glen Check wool blend coating, partial lining is black rayon Bemberg.
9. Steele Pinafore from Elbe Textiles, fabric is a Glen Check wool suiting, bodice/pocket lining is a vintage leaf design quilting cotton.
Some of the sketches helped me see what a specific garment would look like on my body, especially when I decided to shorten the Glebe pants to a cropped length instead of leaving them full length as I had planned. However, many of my MyBodyModel sketches were made principally to allow me to see what the layering possibilities might be. Some were drawn after I had already sewn the garments, and I drew several more than once so I could add them to my note sheets for my Makes binder.
My personal style is very much about layers, especially in the colder months of the year. Our house is chilly (only partially on purpose to save energy) and sometimes I’ve needed quite a few clothes to stay warm on the coldest days. I’m also very fond of piling different hemlines and collars on top of each other and wearing leggings and pants under dresses and jumpers.
Creating MyBodyModel paper doll sketches of each garment was a very big help in considering which pieces might work with others. I have quite a few options of 2, 3 or 4 garments worn together. Having each garment as a separate cut-out made it easy to stack them together on my croquis. Photos record each combination to remind me later, and there are still plenty more combinations I could try.
I’ve worn all the pieces from the Corvid Collection almost constantly since I finished them – so often that the basic layers have already been laundered several times! They fit really nicely into my existing wardrobe as well, and I keep finding more outfit combos to try.
Here are my completed outfits, from sketch to finished:
I feel glad to have given all those fabrics a useful function besides insulating my attic. I also had a good excuse to buy some patterns and found some new-to-me independent pattern companies (Caramiya Maui, Sew House Seven and Blue Dot) as well as cute new garment styles I’d never tried (the Caladium Jumpsuit and Steele Pinafore). Plus I used that darn Vogue pattern that had been sitting around for 12 years waiting to be used! Good stuff.
Making my first capsule collection was a delightful exercise during a very rainy, dark and stressful winter season. Preparing the patterns in batches and getting them all ready to go meant that I could fit them logically on the fabric. I managed to cut out most of the garments before even beginning to sew them together. Having all the fabrics in a close colour palette made the assembly even more efficient since I didn’t have to change sewing, serger or cover-stitch threads.
I think completing nine garments in just over a month is probably some kind of record for me! In celebration, I went to my local fabric shop and bought some new fabrics for the first time in over two years. These will mostly be for my husband’s expanding wife-made wardrobe. He happily wears whatever I make for him. Maybe I’ll be inspired to do a men’s collection someday?
Are you inspired to try designing & sewing a capsule wardrobe with MyBodyModel? Let us know in the comments!
Whether you love colorful or neutral outfits, check out these blog posts for more inspiration on designing & sewing a capsule wardrobe…
- #MyBodyModel3x3 Capsule Wardrobe Challenge – Spring Edition!
- #MyBodyModel3x3 Mini-Capsule Wardrobe Sketch Gallery
- Sewing a Capsule Wardrobe: From Sketch to Finished, by Alyssa
- My Sewing and Knitting Plans for the New Year, by Amanda
- Designing a Monochrome Capsule Wardrobe, by Eri
Louisa has yet to find a textile technique she hasn’t tried! Although sewing seems to be the obsession du jour, she has been known to spin, knit, dye yarns and fabrics and occasionally weave on the big loom that takes up half the studio. She lives, walks and gardens along with her husband of over 50 years in Vancouver, BC, Canada. They’re both hoping to begin traveling again soon in their vintage VW camper van. It’s been far too long. You can find her on Instagram @damselfly.ca.