A few years ago I stumbled on a book that I found so useful (and entertainingly written) that I bought it in hardcover and have actually read at least three times (something I almost never do). It even survived the great purge of 2014 when we sold our large property and moved to a downtown condo!
The book is called What to Wear for the Rest of Your Life – and I’m rereading it yet again. Written by former fashion editor Kim Johnson Gross, it’s unlike most other books out there purporting to be the final word on what we should appropriate fashion style for women of a certain age. Instead of trying to tell us what we should be wearing, Kim commiserates with us about the kinds of changes in our lives that necessitate a bit of a re-think about our closets, then uses her considerable experience to help the rest of us see how to move forward. There are no all-encompassing platitudes that suggest, “Women over a certain age should never wear…” No, none of that. She does, however, believe that we are influenced by our closets!
Early on in the book she says, “Closets are powerful. They contain the power to make us feel fat, fit, frumpy, or fabulous.”
She also reminds us that our closets hold memories, dreams, frustrations etc. They tell the story of our lives. Sometimes I wonder what story mine tells – I do a complete clean out twice a year. Anyway, last week when I was learning dart manipulation and discovered that I owned very few pieces of clothing with darts, it occurred to me that I had been shaping my closet for a while now. My sewing and design projects reflect this.
Along with learning to design, I’ve been playing around with various types of knit fabric since my reshaping suggests that these will continue to play a large part in my wardrobe life. To that end, I finished a tunic that I’d been eyeing in my pattern “stash” (I really hate that word – going to find a new one!), so when I found some lightweight knit I liked, I thought I’d embark on this “fast & easy” project. As anyone who has been reading along with my musings knows, I don’t seem to know how to do “fast & easy.” [See my last fast & easy project.]
This cutout-then-whip-up tunic took hours and hours of pinning, sewing unpicking, seam stabilizing, and yes, even hand-basting. Oh, and let us not forget that I cut out the sleeves for the view I selected only to discover (after hand-basting them in) that I hated their floppy bell-like shape and had to remove them and re-cut the narrower one!
Along the way I also learned how to use the double needle in my sewing machine! I know everyone else probably already uses this on a regular basis, but it was a new experience for me and I think I got it!
Anyway, the style and fabrication are two parts of what I’ve been thinking about in terms of what’s in my own closet. Neither of these elements – no matter how right they seem to me – can exist independently. The right style constructed from the right fabric for that style is an absolute requirement for my clothes. Add onto that the element of fit, and what I have are the three essential components to having a closet full of clothes that make me feel wonderful. Although Kim Gross doesn’t offer all-or-nothing rules for our evolving closets, she does give us a couple of guidelines that I think are especially important:
- “Fit is critical to looking your best.” This is why I wanted a personal bodice sloper – and why creating a persona pants sloper is on my to-do list.
- “Don’t follow fashion trends. Wear what looks good on your body.” This is why I’m learning to design my own clothes!
Well, I’m going to take these guidelines to heart as I move onto my next project – which is a new Chanel-style Little French Jacket! I have found some new bouclé that I love, and already have a well-fitting muslin of the pattern – so off I go!
Details on Kim Johnson Gross’s book: What to Wear for the Rest of Your Life: Ageless Secrets of Style. New York: Springboard Press, 2010.
5 thoughts on “Shaping my closet – one sewing & design project at a time”
Hi! I’m wondering how close this pattern matched your bodice sloper? Have you drafted the sleeves for the different slopers that Suzy Furrer recommends? I’m kind of stuck there, needing more inspiration to get back to drafting. In the meantime, I’m finishing up a few UFOs to get a feeling of accomplishment. I am pleased with my pant sloper, especially after an alteration she recommended in her latest class. I moved the pant leg in toward the seam one inch and redrew the outside seams and that took away the last wrinkles! Yay! Your sweater looks so cozy.
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Hi! When I laid my knit sloper on top of the pattern, I had to make only a few adjustments. I have yet to do Suzy’s sleeve course — I’m going through the one on collars and fastenings first. My plan is to create a perfectly fitting cheongsam with a high band collar, but I have not yet decided on the length (or if there will be) sleeves. One of my favourite points of inspiration is vintage patterns. I’ve found that most of us lean toward an earlier era in our tastes — mine lean toward the ’60’s, so I’ve collected inspirational pattern ideas on a Pinterest board. It’s extraordinary just how many old patterns are out there to see. I have no intention of buying a vintage patterns, but I might recreate one with modern tweaks. I examine necklines, design lines in the bodice, sleeves, fastenings etc. I have a whole host of ideas about new patterns I’d like to draft.
I cannot wait to get to the pants sloper — congratulations on a perfect fit!
Oh — and the new tunic is really cozy!
I am really curious about the Chanel jacket! Show it when it’s ready please.
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I sure will show it when it’s finished — and along the way! This is my second one. I wrote a lot about the process of making the first one. The posts are gathered together on the page “Little French Jacket” https://theggfilesblog.wordpress.com/little_french_jacket/ in case you’re interested. The thing about these jackets is that they are so addictive to make! I think the first one took me upwards of 100 hours to complete, but I was taking my time and learning the new lining-quilting process and couture hand-finishing as I went. This one is going faster already (not that fast is my goal. It certainly isn’t! I am actually logging my time though). But they feel magnificent to wear. Stay tuned. And thanks for stopping by.~ GG
I must check out this book you recommend…I’m going to be clearing out my own closet soon. It is my goal to only have garments that I’ve made hanging in there. And seeing as they will be created with couture techniques, these will take some time to make, and so my closet stock will end up being smal with personally fitted garments! (Well, it’s what I imagine at the moment – a nice little fanstasy at least!)