Ever look in your wardrobe and drawers and just sigh because, being brutally honest, there’s nothing there that you wear and feel good in? Nothing that sets your heart beating a little faster or makes you feel a million dollars? Or, more mundanely, little that fits, doesn’t have holes in it or is less than five years old?
*raises hand to all of the above*
I decided, quite insanely, that I want to completely revamp my wardrobe. There are a few pieces I’ll be keeping but here’s the thing: NOT MUCH. So why and where did I start?
WHY start over?
I’ve got to a point in my life where I’m at peace with who I am. I’m never going to have the shape that society idolizes. I’m unlikely to develop buns of steel or thighs of iron that never touch at this point. And you know what? That’s FINE BY ME. I’m 41 and that is so so different from 39 or even 40 I can’t explain it. I’m here, right now. I’m mostly healthy and my life is so fantastic on a global comparison type scale that frankly it’s not worth mentioning the tiny things that bug me… no, really.
You may recall my vintage hair-do a few months back. I loved it. My husband tolerated it. My friends loved it. Best of all? I felt groomed. That is such a rare thing for me but it made me feel more together somehow.
My main motivations are:
to streamline my morning decisions (even if we go ahead and homeschool, who wants to make every morning a big production?)
- to feel like I care about myself and how I look, even if that seems a bit trivial sometimes
- to show my daughter we can look after ourselves and still be fun, intelligent, modest and loving women
- to make my husband glad he comes home every night
- to simplify. So much of life feels like there’s just TOO MUCH of everything – today’s example, buying black eyeliner. Why do we need a zillion types of eyeliner? Gah.
- to motivate myself to maintain my health, fitness and alignment. It’s easy, oh so easy, to slob about in my worn and threadbare Flax pinafores which allow my weight to fluctuate by anything up to thirty pounds (SERIOUSLY). But I’m 41 and there will come a point soon where losing those pounds gets harder and harder and has more of an impact on my overall health. With my darling mama facing double knee replacements aged (much younger than she has any right to be), that lazy laissez-faire attitude to health is not a great thing.
Where to Start
I began with the awesomeness that is the Tuppence Ha’Penny 1949 wardrobe blog. Please take the time to read it – what I loved was the practicality and simplicity of the items and the reasoning behind them – it really will take you anywhere.
The list includes: two suits, light grey, black. six dresses (print dinner dress, heavy crepe dress, four cotton); Petticoats, cami knickers, pants in tricot; 2 bras, girdles, six nylons(!); four pairs of shoes (tan walking, bronze ankle strap, black suede ankle strap, double strap); 2 pringle twin sets, one black evening sweater; four hats; accessories (4 gloves, long woolen stole, 3 cotton headscarves, gold necklace/belt).
So I sat down, wrote a list of what I did on a daily basis: I go to Church and occasionally coffee (although my hyperosmia imposes stupid limits on my socialising these days); I stay at home and paint, sew and clean (when I’m not blogging or browsing for patterns); I garden and look after chickens (currently four adorable bantams) and finally I suppose it makes sense to include clothes that would work for things like yoga or my wonderful MuTu. From that list, it’s really easy to see what kind of clothes I need.
I broke that down into:
Working at home: day dresses (cotton, jersey). Cardigans. Skirt & Blouse. Aprons. Tunic & long bloomers (for feeling funky or bloated).
Gardening Dungarees (from kwik sew pattern), skirts (yes, I garden in skirts), 2-3 jersey tops.
Church/Shops: day dresses (cotton, jersey). Skirt & Blouse. Cardigan (although it gets stinking hot in our wee church each week).
Walking/Working Out: tracksuit bottoms (2-3), jersey tops, one t-shirt (I don’t do upper arms).
That’s not bad, is it?
From my current wardrobe, I will be keeping:
- Black velvet long hooded coat; tailored velvet jacket (although it’s not that great, it could work)
- Green wool jacket (handmade, with a convertible collar and sort of 1915 styling)
- Brown velvet cape (mainly for stroking)
- Purple anorak (because I live in Scotland and the rain is horizontal).
- White linen blouse (hip length, elbow length sleeves, self tie belt & pintuck front)
- Grey linen waterfall front jacket and matching wide leg trousers (that don’t quite fit at the moment)
- Black linen dress (to hide in: peter pan collar, long sleeves, waist ties and floor length skirt)
- Tracksuit bottoms and v-neck jersey tops that don’t have paint on them. Yet.
This means my “To be made” list includes:
- Grey wool fitted coat (5 metres of grey coating, 100% wool has been in my wardrobe for, oh, 7 years?)
- Grey skirt, Black skirt
- Dungarees (pattern and fabric – floral denim and burgundy corduroy – already in cupboard).
- Tunic and Bloomers (for when I’m feeling funky or fat)
- Cotton Dresses: The Colette Hawthorn, McCalls Shirtdress and possibly Miz Mozelle too.
- Jersey Dresses: Black, Grey, Red or Purple, using various patterns; Tiramisu by Cake which has a long sleeve hack, Vogue 1027 like Kate and maybe New Look 6823 which reminds me of Gertie’s “Background Dress” – I like the Vogue one here too but a zip? in a jersey dress?
- Blouses: print voile, grey print cotton lawn, 2 or 3 solid colours. I’m a bit stuck on the patterns for these but the Colette Hawthorn also makes a peplum blouse, Sewaholic “Alma” is adaptable but I’m open to suggestions!
- Aprons: 1 full length (I have the Sensibility Edwardian pattern for me and Wee Bear) and 2 or 3 bib front ones for wearing while cooking.
And so that means that my list of What To Buy is admirable short:
- new knickers. I have TONS of cute lingerie fabric but I’m not spending precious sewing time cutting and sewing up plain underwear, which is a different animal altogether.
- Twin sets: Black, green, red. Maybe two black sets.
- Hats: black, green, red or purple. Maybe both. My friend Joyce Paton is an extraordinary dressmaker and milliner who I’m hoping will either do a guest post on millinery or erm, let me try some hats on!
- Shoes: walking shoes in black and neutral. This is tricky because I can’t do heels. I have plantar fasciitis that has caused huge issues over the last year and is only slightly resolving now, thanks to Katy Bowman and her stretches. So. Flat black walking shoes, either tan or grey walking shoes, and something like a slip on mary jane – but all FLAT and all breathable. I have to confess I spend nearly 9 months of the year in sandals because I hate having hot feet.
- Handbags, scarves and gloves. I want natty cotton gloves in black, grey and possibly red. Why not? Women look amazing when their accessories bring neutral colours to life.
Wish me luck! I will be throwing things out or selling them before I fill up my wardrobe again so I’d better get sewing fast.
All photographs are from the site of Penny Dreadful Vintage: they sell all manner of glorious vintage clothing (a few things I remember first time around…) and ship globally.