Sewing Journal #2: Making My Own Clothes for a Year Challenge

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One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to create an entirely new and original wardrobe. I will sew, knit, and crochet my own clothes for an entire year!

Fashion and Dignity

As I unloaded my closets and drawers to start anew, I realized that I liked very little of what I owned. I had my work uniforms (can’t get rid of those), and everything else was a pile of reds, blues, greys, and blacks. When I wasn’t at work, I wore the same five outfits in rotation—the same boring outfits in rotation.

Over a decade of wearing uniforms and working in an industry that allowed for zero work-life balance left me with a closet devoid of self expression. I had let function take over my life and I realized at that point that fashion (despite intentionally distancing myself from it) was attached to dignity.

After sewing my first outfit and wearing it in public, I realized I had underestimated the boost in confidence that comes with wearing something you love. This new sewing bug I caught presented an opportunity for me to revamp my entire wardrobe into something I could be proud to wear while reflecting my personality.

The “Rules”

If you want to create your clothes along with me, here are the rules I’m going by:

  1. Garments must be handmade except for basics (t-shirts and coats), underwear, socks, and shoes.
  2. 90% of garments must be made using natural fibers such as cotton, linen, wool, or silk.
  3. Supplies may be thrifted.

I’m a sewing beginner, so these rules are more guidelines. I am, however, planning on sticking to this challenge. In fact, I have been technically on this challenge as of August 2022.

My Wardrobe Plans

As I take on the feat of creating an entirely new wardrobe, I took on some advice from the great gurus of YouTube and worked on the following:

  1. Decluttering
  2. Creating a capsule wardrobe
  3. Creating and buying based on lifestyle
  4. Creating and buying based on a color palette
  5. Ethically sourcing materials

Decluttering

Original closet of reds, blues, greys, and blacks.

Over the course of several months, I emptied out my closets and drawers and divided my clothes into three piles: keep, donate, and toss. I kept the clothes that I wear regularly, favorites, and a few mementos (clothes I can’t wear at the moment that belonged to a close family member). Clothing donations consisted of clothing in good to new condition that I don’t intend to wear again. The toss pile included clothing that was super worn out and ready to be recycled.

I managed to get rid of half of my clothes! It felt incredible to have somewhat empty drawers and closet space. It was as if my mind had cleared away a cloud! I reorganized my closets and drawers to be color coordinated (something I’ve never done), and it really helped me see just how many pieces of clothing I owned in certain colors. I was definitely done with the red, blue, grey, and black. Time for something new.

Creating a capsule wardrobe

Since purging half of my wardrobe to make room for my planned creations, I began planning a capsule wardrobe with a daily uniform.

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of carefully planned and interchangeable clothes that can be worn daily. I want a nice one that combines comfort yet style. After rummaging through Pinterest and Instagram and looking at the clothes I usually wear, I decided on something that includes the following combinations:

  1. flannels, leggings, and boots or small sneakers
  2. cotton dresses, lace cardigans, and sandals or small sneakers
  3. Scoop neck t-shirts, joggers, and sandals or small sneakers

I’m pretty fond of leggings, flannels, cotton dresses, and joggers for everyday attire, but I plan to also create a set of outing and date-night outfits.

Creating and buying based on lifestyle

I am no longer of the habit of buying or creating things just because they look cool. At this point in my life, I only want clothing I know I will wear and treasure. Ballroom gowns are beautiful, but do I really need one if I don’t go to galas?

My lifestyle involves a busy, on-my-feet job (in which I rotate the same cycle of comfortable uniforms and business casual clothes), outdoor activities and workouts, and outings with friends and family. Most of my clothes should reflect a lifestyle of activity with a social aspect.

Keeping this in mind, if I am at a store and see something nice (or see something I might want to create), I don’t just buy it because it’s nice. I make sure that it fits into the following criteria:

  1. It fits my typical routine and lifestyle.
  2. The colors match my wardrobe.
  3. The pieces are aesthetically pleasing to me.
  4. The clothing is of good quality.

Creating and buying based on color palette

Why do I torture myself with the same colors?

To be fair and honest, I do love the colors red, blue, grey, and black…. with a single cream cardigan.

But, my actual favorite color is GREEN. And almost nobody sells a decent repertoire of green clothing, so the color has fallen short in my closet.

The fun part about designing a wardrobe and creating the pieces is finally investing in colors you actually want to wear. I realized that I had so much red, blue, grey, and black because those are the most commonly sold colors.

I got inspired to find fabrics that fit my favorite colors: earth toned greens, creams, purples, and cinnamons. It took some experimenting, but I finally managed to narrow down my colors to a beautiful earth toned color palette.

Brainstorming a color palette

I created a chart using water colors to map out the colors I would wear the most. Basics and necessities were charted at the top (black, white, navy, denim, and neutrals). Then, I narrowed down my favorite colors to include cream, sage, moss, olive, indigo, dusty rose, burgundy, wine, dusty plum, and mulberry.

Narrowed down color palette

This doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to walk outside of these color boundaries, but I do know what colors I feel comfortable in, and which colors I don’t feel comfortable in. I made mistakes in the past purchasing neon bright or hot pink colors… only to never wear them. Outside of trying them on and liking them in the dressing room, they were too loud for me in the real world.

Ethically sourcing materials

I will never be perfect at this (I don’t think anyone will be), but I want to create a wardrobe that uses as few artificial fibers as possible, and as few environmentally damaging fibers as possible. According to Green Choices, some of the most environmentally unfriendly fibers include nylon and polyester. “Nylon manufacture creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” and polyester “uses large amounts of water for cooling, along with lubricants which can become a source of contamination” (Green Choices, 2023). Polyester and acrylic are also essentially plastic, which, when broken down, become microplastics that impact the health of everyone (United Nations Environment Programme, 2021).

Even cotton and wool are not innocent since cotton farming and production requires a lot of land and pesticides, and the “sheep dip” used to clean sheep’s wool is highly toxic. The intricateness and levels of pollution are overwhelming, but when possible, I will aim for organic cotton and wool.

I’m not much of a thrifter, but I will start to try looking for secondhand fabrics and materials. I will also continue to buy from small independent apparel companies. Etsy is where I have been finding most of my fabrics, buttons, supplies, and patterns.

Let the challenge begin!

Keeping these rules in mind, let the sewing, knitting, and crocheting begin!

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References

Green Choices, 2023. Environmental impacts. Retrieved from https://www.greenchoices.org/green-living/clothes/environmental-impacts

Mychas, C, 2022. This is the EASIEST way to find your style (no shopping required!). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j5jhvZl9G0&ab_channel=ChristinaMychas

United Nations Environment Programme, 2021. Plastic planet: How tiny plastic particles are polluting our soil. Retrieved from https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/plastic-planet-how-tiny-plastic-particles-are-polluting-our-soil#:~:text=Toxic%20effects&text=Chlorinated%20plastic%20can%20release%20harmful,species%20that%20drink%20the%20water.

United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2023. Textiles: Material-Specific Data. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/textiles-material-specific-data

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