Seven and a half months after the birth of my daughter, I have nothing to wear. I finally retired my maternity clothes, and the two pairs of jeans I purchased post-pregnancy inch down my butt as I walk around, threatening to be a “wardrobe malfunction” that I just don’t want to experience. I’ve sewn since I was a pre-teenager, back when New Kids on the Block really did have a bunch of hits and I took voice training lessons because I wanted to be the next Debbie Gibson or Tiffany.
Wait, I digress. Perhaps I do so because it’s easier to write about the good old days when I could simply walk in a store, pick something off the rack, and have it fit. The days when I could pull out a sewing pattern, cut the pattern out, and whip it up – maybe even taking in the waist a bunch and probably making the hem shorter. Now, shopping is irritating, depressing, annoying, infuriating and, well, a nasty chore that I dread. I had my son at 20, and went from being so flat that you could nail me to a board from tip to toe to having curves for the first time in my life. As time went on, 15 years passed, and I had my daughter. Now, I have curves and a mommy belly.
So you see, shopping, when your waist is one size, your hips are another size, and the skin that chills out between the two post-baby is a third size, can be tear-inducing. Add to it the fact that I’m 5’9” tall, sleep deprived, and shopping with a husband, teenage boy, and infant with her own agenda (i.e. she wants to eat, play, and investigate everything), and you can see why it’s easy to wind up crying in the dressing room holding three pairs of pants, in three different sizes, wondering why no one thinks to make a post-partum line of clothing.
I get home from such a trip, and wander into our home office/sewing room. The brand new machine my husband bought me sits on a desk, waiting to be used. I have a closet full (did I say full? I mean overstuffed) with fabric of various yardages. It occurs to me that a far less frustrating experience would be to simply make clothes for myself (and not just Baby Girl).
The first step, I think, in any endeavor that involves significant time or money investment, is planning. I don’t want to spend a ton of time on a wardrobe that won’t work for me and my body. I mean, the point is to have clothes I can wear every day that make me feel good. The point is to get out of my pajamas (Did I mention I live in my pajamas, because I have 2 pairs of pants and half a dozen acceptable shirts to wear in public shirts?) and into some real clothes.
I have two books that have been my go-to reference manuals when it comes to wardrobe planning. The Lucky Shopping Manual and The Pocket Stylist. The first of these two books has lists of “essential” parts of a complete wardrobe. I’ll be using this as a guide for the pieces I will need for a starter wardrobe (types and how many skirts, dresses, etc.). The Pocket Stylist is a great reference in that it talks about the right shapes and fabrics for body type, there are the author’s own thoughts about essential pieces, and there’s a lot of talk about proper fit.
The very first thing I did was go through the two books and create an outline of recommendations. For each wardrobe element – skirt, dress, tops, t-shirts, etc. I created a page in Evernote that had some examples of what cuts would look good on my post-second-baby body. From there, I created a list for each pattern company of sewing patterns that were in the cuts, drapes, and styles appropriate to my shape – and I ensured that the list made a complete wardrobe according to the first book’s recommendations. Yes, I realize that’s a lot of work.
Next, I was lucky, because Joann’s fabrics put all four major sewing companies’ patterns on sale right around the time I did this. My husband took me pattern shopping – and pattern shopping we did. We bought Vogue, McCall’s, Butterick, and Simplicity patterns. We even picked up a few from New Look and See & Sew that my husband saw and said “Hey, this matches what you’re looking for.” In all, we perhaps went a bit overboard, buying a significant number of patterns.
My next step was to catalog the patterns we purchased, and to measure and catalog the fabric. I did this using OneNote. My philosophy in doing so was threefold:
- I had no clue what yardages of fabric I had, since much of the fabric in my stash was purchased more than 10 years ago.
- I don’t want to purchase duplicate patterns.
- I want to be able to search for fabric type, yardage, etc. easily without having to dig through my pattern stash.
For each pattern, I copied and pasted an image of each view on a separate page, along with pattern back information. For the size, I noted the amount of fabric needed, any lining fabric or interfacing that would be needed, notions, and fabric type recommendations. I also cut and pasted a few “sample” fabrics I thought would look nice for each pattern. That way, when going through the fabric stash, I could match fabrics to patterns more easily.
For the fabric stash, I carefully measured each piece, noted down width and yardage, and made my best guess at fabric type. I’ve also managed to pick up some cute things at thrift stores around town.
For my next step, I’ll start pairing fabrics and patterns. And yes, I even plan to sew a few more pairs of jeans, though, I think I’ll begin with skirts because they’re easy and because it’s in the upper 90s and 100s where I live.
What recommendations do you have for planning a new wardrobe from scratch, post-baby?