Brightly lit closet wall with artfully arranged color-coordinated garments.

Well, it’s only been four or five months but it feels like forever since I last wrote anything about my wardrobe plans. Or even thought about them for more than a few minutes at a time. Taking on a full-time job just about did my head in. And the Covid infection in September didn’t help either. (Zero stars, cannot recommend.)

But, good news (and long story short), I’ve dropped down to working two days a week (in scrubs) so there are plenty of days to wear my regular clothes. 

Now that I finally have enough energy for sewing, it’s time to figure out the wardrobe planning bit so I can select patterns and fabrics with intention. Also, winter is coming, and I need good-looking well-fitting clothes to keep me warm.

Inspiration from The Vivienne Files

Over the last few days, I’ve been binge-reading The Vivienne Files’ series of articles on wardrobe building – Starting from Scratch and The Common Wardrobe. It’s a lot of posts, but Janice (the woman behind the blog) has a real knack for illustrating the concepts clearly, and in various colorways for different weather seasons and levels of formality.

If you check out her articles (and you totally should), do take time to read through the comment section – there’s a lot of gold nuggets there because her audience is very engaged, and Janice often responds to questions in the comments too.

At any rate, I’m thinking about starting with items from the Common Wardrobe, namely:

  • black wool pants
  • blue jeans
  • off-white chinos
  • long-sleeved T-shirts in black and off-white
  • black or gray cardigan
  • black or gray cashmere turtleneck

Once the weather starts warming up (not anytime soon here in Iowa), I’ll add the following:

  • short-sleeved T-shirts in black and off-white
  • blue denim skirt
  • black ponte skirt
  • black ponte sleeveless dress
  • off-white silk crepe blouse

That should give me a solid base of neutral garments to which I can add small color capsules of 4-5 items each. I’m thinking pale pink, bright red, wine red, kelly green, and medium teal.

My style preferences

As I read through Janice’s Starting from Scratch articles, I found the most illuminating discussion in the post about clarifying your personal preferences before you get too far down the wardrobe building route. 

As one of Janice’s readers put it, “I have learned a lot, but had a sort of epiphany with today’s post. I have started putting together a new wardrobe based on your principles. Some of the items I hesitated on and did not know why. Today that question was answered. I apparently have a more relaxed style.”

Exactly. I can relate because that post turned on the light bulb for me too. 

I immediately starting writing down my preferences in a notebook. Here they are in their digital glory:

  • first layer tops – no buttons, except on the silk blouse
  • cardigans – fitted and short, with buttons to keep them from flopping around
  • pants – mostly jeans and chinos, but also some dressier wool pants
  • contrast in the outfit – definitely yes, in both hue and value, not a fan of monochromatic dressing
  • mixed neutrals – yes if achromatic, mostly no if color is involved
  • unbroken column – no, except when it’s a dress
  • fit – relaxed but not oversized
  • style – classic and practical, but not too sporty
  • patterns – no, solids are my thing for garments, with a very occasional stripe or polka dot (I prefer patterns to be in scarves)
  • shoes – low heels or flats

Not a bad beginning, eh? I have a ton of clarity about what I want and what I don’t want to wear. Now I need to go through my existing closet to see what I already have that fits the criteria. Then I can make a list of garments I need to sew to fill in the gaps.

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