I have to say that I am really loving these Second World War summer uniform pictures – so stylish. In part one, I gave myself a budget of $500 to build a signature summer wardrobe of fitted yet loose pretty clothes in natural fibres, coloured scarlet, blue, cerise, black or white to match my existing wardrobe:
- 2 house outfits
- 1 street outfit
- summer coat
- pretty street shoes
For part two, I did a wardrobe review, thought about the clothes I own and wear, the clothes I bought and wore (or not) and identified some wardrobe gaps. I came out with a longer and more detailed $900 list of potential purchases:
- red or blue knee-length fit and flare linen house dress $100
- alterations for the white cotton dress $50
- alterations for the black silk blouse $50
- tailored jeans $50
- boldly patterned white linen fit and flare party dress $150
- loose white linen duster or trench coat $200
- pretty black street shoes $250
- plain white shirt $50
So it was very clear that some more consideration was required.
But before we move on – a confession. Long-term readers will know I have been looking for new jeans for a while, and that I bought a replacement pair out of desperation because I was (and still am) expecting my other pair to die miserably at an inconvenient moment. So when I heard about a place that tailors jeans I had to go see. I came away with a pair of jeans that has had the legs cut off, the hips slimmed down and the waist lowered (or crotch raised depending on your perspective). I am (as we say here) pretty stoked! If they wear well I know exactly where I will be getting my next pair.
But back to the summer wardrobe. This post has been put together using the techniques I describe in my book Build Your Signature Wardrobe. If offers advice on developing your budget, determining what’s appropriate and stylish for you, and deciding what you need so that you can confidently build your signature wardrobe.
It’s not part of the four steps per se, but most of us want to be at least within watermelon seed spitting distance of fashion. You can’t really not be fashionable because all the new clothes in-store are inherently fashionable (right now), so the hard part is finding something fashionable, yet “classical” enough that you’ll get good value over time from it. And that will play well your existing wardrobe.
Most of us have a wardrobe theme: “nouvelle chic”, “glamour grunge”, “elegant bohemian” etc. So having walked in and about of about a billion stores (conservative estimate) I am categorising this season’s fashion theme as “shapeless vagrancy” which I found very disappointing.
I visited a number of stores (new and used including charity [thrift] and vintage). I was reminded that most modern clothing is manufactured in synthetic fibres. While these don’t make you perspire, they don’t draw perspiration away from your skin like natural fibres do (which is why they dry quicker after you wash them). I don’t remember what I was like before I got sick, but I certainly seem to perspire a lot now and I absolutely cannot bear the sensation of polyester slapping against my damp skin so cannot compromise on natural fibres. And amusingly, second-hand clothes in natural fibres are quite expensive and may be beyond the scope of my budget.
I find the current fashions disappointingly loose and colourless – even the structured clothing was shapeless! If you are the feminine romantic type of woman who likes flowy clothes in grey pastels, this is absolutely your season. The only “colours” I saw that fit my scheme were black, white and navy. The brights were not the pure saturated colours I prefer. While I didn’t see much to buy, there was a navy and white gingham sundress with a fitted bodice and a gathered skirt in 100% cotton, but it was $219 (outside my budget).
I didn’t see my “dainty ladylike” shoes anywhere cheaper, and I didn’t see anything I liked more. I think the main reason I love them is that aside from the heel style, they are exactly the same as a pair of vintage shoes I fell in love with a long time ago. So this becomes the choice to buy something I love, or not and I’m leaning towards buying them.
There are six weeks left in 2015 (O-M-G!!!) – it’s about time to start thinking about my 2016 wardrobe plan. I am rolling some of this year’s budget into next year (“saving” for some larger purchases) so I could roll over all the remaining, and add this list to the new plan, but bring forward the purchasing.
I could buy an “expensive” dress pattern for $30, and say 5 metres of linen for $75 plus say $20 for zips and buttons and stuff ($125 total). I made this asymmetric off the shoulder red taffeta ball gown (and probably unmade it about 27 times) so I expect I have sufficient grit/bloody-mindedness to make a sundress. I might not have much money, but I do have an abundance of time, and there isn’t really much point owning a sewing machine if you don’t use it. I haven’t made any clothes from scratch for a while, so the idea is quite exciting.
I can re-prioritise the list; technically I don’t need any of it as I have enough clothes (and shoes), it’s just that I want to get some that are more appropriate and stylish for me right now.
The alterations should come first as these are clothes I own but can’t wear. I could do the shirt myself, but the dress really needs taking apart for alteration and that is beyond my ability. I could bodge it but I’m fairly sure I won’t wear it if the alterations aren’t well done, so dressmaker it is. That is probably best organised before Christmas as she will probably shut down for several weeks over the summer/Christmas period.
If I am going to make one new dress, then I could certainly make two, and probably the summer coat and a plain white shirt too. The same shopping irritations about patterns apply whether I buy or make the clothes, but at least I can bypass the polyester and head straight to the cotton/linen fabric section. There is still the issue about whether I can get a pattern that suits my style needs and is easy to make up, but given there are thousands to choose from, I’m sure it will be fine. In terms of sheer practicality, I would need to make the house dress first because it won’t be quite such a waste if I make a big mistake. Then the party dress, summer coat and white shirt.
After all that, the refined plan looks like this:
- alterations for the white cotton dress $50
- buy pretty black street shoes $250
- make red or blue knee-length fit and flare linen house dress $75
- make boldly patterned white linen fit and flare party dress $75
- make loose white linen duster or trench coat $75
Still over budget at $525, but I need more information to accurately estimate the cost of the clothing, and most likely by the time I start it will be next year and my budget will have rolled over.
How does that compare with what you would do? Would you make time to sew some clothes?
I’ll tell you how I get on in a couple of weeks.
2015 Signature Wardrobe Summer Plan part 1
2015 Signature Wardrobe Summer Plan part 2
2015 Signature Wardrobe Summer Plan part 3