One of my sewing goals for 2017 is to complete Colette’s Wardrobe Architect. Too often I look in my closet and say, “Uuuuhhhh…. Question mark.”
I literally say, “Question mark.” Some days picking my clothes feels like pop quiz I’m not prepared for.
As someone who sews many of her clothes, you’d think I’d have a consistent wardrobe. Nope.
Enter Wardrobe Architect, a wardrobe planning guide for curating a thoughtful collection of functional clothes that make you feel like your bestest YOU (not like a high-schooler panicked for a quiz).
Wardrobe Architect is an involved wardrobe planning tool that dives deep into your psyche, your history, and your lifestyle. I will cover my experience with Wardrobe Architect over three blog posts like so:
Part 1: Personal stuff
Part 2: Silhouettes, colors, and beauty
Part 3: Capsule looks and final thoughts
Keep reading for an overview of the Wardrobe Architect process, insight on where my style comes from, and pretty pictures and words that describe where I’d like my style to go.
At a glance: How Wardrobe Architect works
Wardrobe Architect debuted in 2014 on the Colette Patterns’ blog. Lots of people have blogged about Wardrobe Architect, and there are almost 2,500 #wardrobearchitect tags on Instagram.
It’s, like, a popular thing to do.
Here’s a high-level overview of how Wardrobe Architect goes down:
Explore your story: Dive into your personal history, values, and lifestyle. Define a core style.
Explore shapes: Determine which silhouettes work best for you.
Explore colors: ID colors and patterns that make you glow.
Explore your beauty: Add hair and makeup into an overall look.
Make capsule: Using your preferred silhouettes and colors, dream up a handful of killer outfits
Start a sewing queue: Looking at your killer outfits, determine what you’re going to “shop” from your existing wardrobe, what you’re going to buy, and — most exciting — what you’re going to S-E-W!
Adding accessories is in there, too, but I think you can fold that into building killer outfits.
Why I’m doing Wardrobe Architect: The importance of wardrobe planning
In my 2017 sewing goals post, I talked about how now, after two pregnancies (Paul in 2011 and John in 2015) and breastfeeding, I finally feel like it’s time to invest in my wardrobe. My body is once again mine (!), and it shouldn’t change much (at least not in a short amount of time).
But my desire for a wardrobe upgrade is deeper than a body and lifestyle that’s finally reached stasis.
I look at the importance of wardrobe planning like this: It’s important to have more direction for my sewing. When I have better direction, I choose better sewing patterns and spend money on the right fabric. And when I have better sewing direction, my editorial calendar for Sie macht is stronger (good news for readers!).
Now, I’m gonna get a little M.B.A. on ya. The aforementioned reasons are very tactical. On a strategic/conceptual level, the importance of wardrobe planning is all about the warm fuzzies.
I want a consistent, never-fail wardrobe that I adore. I want my clothes to reflect me as a thoughtful person, filled with self-worth.
For better or worse, clothes tell people how you feel about yourself and how you want to be treated. I want my clothes to tell people that I’m worthy of love and respect.
Wardrobe planning gets personal
Wardrobe Architect calls for examining how your history, philosophy, culture, community, activities, location, and body impact what you wear. Following is a whole lot of insight about me and my style!
History: How has your personal history informed the way you dress?
When I was in high school and college, my wardrobe was very casual and the silhouette very relaxed. I also thrifted a lot of clothes because I/my family didn’t have a lot of money to spend on fashion. For the most part, I didn’t mind, because I liked the thrill of “the hunt” (if you’re a thrifter, I know you feel me). I tended toward classic, season-bridging pieces in my younger years. They were economical.
My tastes crystallized in my mid-to-late 20s. I started reading style blogs and experimenting with what already was in my closet.
My style became more body conscious — more slim silhouettes. This was a break from the style of my mom, who had been my chief style influencer.
My mom and I have different body types and different taste in clothing. I think because she bought my clothes for a long time, it took me a long time to uncover what my taste in clothes actually was.
This makes my mom sound like a control freak, but she wasn’t. I pretty much always could wear what I wanted and picked out the clothes that were bought for me.
When someone else funds your wardrobe, I think you’re inclined to choose clothes that make them happy. You dress for someone else.
Philosophy: What aspects of your philosophy would you like to see reflected in your wardrobe?
I avoid waste and conserve resources. I like clothes that last a long time.
Culture: How did the values and aesthetics you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?
The community in which I grew up was conservative, and clothing was not revealing or edgy. Mall brands (The Limited, Express, Gap) were the places to shop for the trendiest looks. Preppy was the name of the game.
I still like a lot of preppy looks, but I like to wear them with a twist — bold colors, unexpected accessories, interesting textures and patterns. I wish I’d had the nerve to dress punk or goth. The closest I ever got was wearing a black bra under my white tuxedo shirt at my movie theater job.
Community: How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?
I pay attention to other people’s silhouettes. The online sewing community has inspired me to consider styles that are outside my comfort zone. For example, Toaster Sweater 2 and Saunio cardigan, patterns from Project #SewMyStyle, are looks I’d likely never sew without reason.
Activities: How do your day-to-day activities influence your choices?
A great deal! Probably more than any other factor. I need washable clothes that move with me as I watch my children and run my household. I need a wardrobe that bends and twists.
I don’t need a wardrobe that’s “workplace appropriate.” I don’t have a ladder to climb or clients to impress (unless you consider my boys clients, and if that’s the case, then I need way more dinosaur clothing).
I like getting dressed up, but day to day, I don’t want to feel like I’m in “work” clothes that the kids can’t touch.
Functionally, I need a wardrobe that’s good for running errands, cleaning, cooking, neighborhood exploring, blogging, and sewing. I want to feel stylish while crushing all these activities. It’s important to me that I feel like Erin — and not just Paul and John’s mom.
Location: Does the place you live inform the way you dress?
Our Wisconsin winters are long and our summers are short. I need layerable, seasonless clothes.
Body: In what ways does body image affect your clothing choices?
I have good body image. I strive to work out and take care of my health. (My household doesn’t work right if I’m not working right.)
I feel good in well-fitting clothes that don’t dig into my flesh. I hate readjusting clothes, especially pants.
Clothes that are too relaxed and figure swallowing make me uncomfortable.
Discovering a core style
The next part of Wardrobe Architect is about getting honest about what makes you feel like you. Here’s my info, presented Q&A style.
Question: When you are wearing your favorite clothing, how do you feel?
Ready for the spotlight
Ready for anything
Question: How do you feel when clothes aren’t working for you?
Answer: When clothes don’t rock, I feel uncomfortable and can’t wait to take them off. I don’t want to wear costumes that fail to transition through my life’s daily activities.
Question: Who are your style icons, and what is it about them that appeals to you?
Answer: There are five women whose style I’m draw to (images from Pinterest):
Kate Middleton: She wears perfectly fitting basics.
Reese Witherspoon: She works classics with a pop of irreverent color.
The female characters from “Parks and Recreation,” Leslie, Ann, and April — Their costumes feature fun prints and patterns.
Question: What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory but are not quite you?
Question: Review your answers about personal history, philosophy, culture, community, activities, location, and body. What words do you associate with your answers?
When I narrow this list to 3-5 words that describe me, I come up with, drum roll please…
These words reflect my style and lifestyle as a sewing blogger and stay-at-home parent. Fashion should be fun, and I want to express this belief in my wardrobe. Here’s a little more insight into why I landed on these five words and a collage that sheds light on my style (the images are from various sources around Pinterest):
Colorful: My eyes sparkle and skin glows when I wear jewel tones. I don’t feel serene enough to wear a lot of neutrals, especially light neutrals.
Classic: I’m a frugal gal, and high-quality classic pieces can live in a wardrobe for years.
Washable: My life with two little dudes is messy. I am constantly surprised by the things I kneel in.
Lean: My build is slender, and I look best in trim silhouettes.
Playful: Levity, levity, levity. I like to wear something every day that’s joyful and unnecessary. I need to crack myself up.
Real talk about my relationship with fashion
It took me a long time to write this post. I thought it would be a breeze because so much of it is answering questions from the Wardrobe Architect worksheets.
I think the source of my procrastination is how personal the answers are. The answers are about MY personal style, but they’re deeply influenced by my family and some of the financial challenges we faced.
I have a weird relationship with money even today because of those experiences as a teenager. For a long time, I felt vaguely panicky spending money on clothes. And getting rid of clothes that weren’t working felt even worse.
I bought too many clothes that I wasn’t in love with just because they were a good deal. This goes for new and thrifted items.
We all know if you don’t love clothes, you’ll never wear them, regardless of whether they were a ripping deal.
Through Wardrobe Architect, I want to break this cycle once and for all. I’m only keeping clothes that bring me joy (yeah, I’ve been getting into the KonMari method, too), and I’m going to fill my sewing queue with delightful projects that fill out a thoughtful wardrobe.
If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me! I find style stories fascinating. Personal evolution and whatnot, you know? I’d love to hear if you’ve done the Wardrobe Architect challenge or used another wardrobe planning tool. Have you dabbled in KonMari? Have any choice closet organizing tips for me? Leave your wise insight in comments, dear friends!
P.S. Here are links to all three parts of the my Wardrobe Architect series!
Wardrobe Architect Part 1: Getting personal about wardrobe planning
Wardrobe Architect Part 2: My silhouettes, colors, and beauty
Wardrobe Architect Part 3: Sewing a capsule wardrobe
P.P.S. If you like this post, here are some others you might get down with:
7 sewing goals to crush in 2017
What sewing a chemo quilt for my mom taught me about parenting
Little Miss Perfect and her sewing machine
Original photo for top image by Emily May via Flickr. CC license.
Ahhhh, what a delicious read! Already looking forward to more Wardrobe Architect adventures.
This whole subject is catnip for me; I’ve read a skillion books about personal style, color, self-image, and so on. You wouldn’t think it to look at me, which I’m trying to change soon. I’m in LOVE with Bea Johnson’s tiny wardrobe, so I’ve been slowly wearing out all my iffy clothes and trying to plan ahead for a small but highly effective wardrobe.
Oh hey, you changed your comment options! Thank you.
Thanks, Rebekah! I don’t know about Bea Johnson and her wardrobe; will have to check it out. It’s nice to see everything you have in one go, you know? Small works hard.
Yes, I changed my comment setup. I have Akismet working on my spam, and things are A LOT better! Thanks for the suggestion, as always!