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How I designed my fall wardrobe, part 1

Do you ever feel completely scattered when it comes to your sewing projects?

So many fabrics, so many patterns, so many darn CHOICES. Not only have I found myself buying way too much, I’ve been completely neglecting some of the beautiful treasures I already have.

Not only that, but I tend to flip from project to project depending on my mood. In the end, I might make something cute, but I’m often over it by the time it’s done.

I’ve realized that it helps to really develop an attachment to what you’re making. When I invest time in planning out my projects, in making them work together, and in choosing just the right style, color, and fabric, something magical happens. It becomes worthy of love.


This is a small part of my stash, which has tons of gorgeous things in it I haven’t been using.

I tried a few different approaches, like creating a physical queue of patterns and fabric, but I kept getting distracted by the new and shiny. I get serious FOMO in fabric stores because you never know how long something will be available. It’s a recipe for an ever-growing stash.

Here’s my sad attempt at creating a pattern and fabric queue. It basically just became another pile:


I realized I needed a more disciplined approach. It was time to return to the Wardrobe Architect process and actually design a fall wardrobe with some forethought and intention.

After I’d used that process to really think about what I wanted to make, I’d plan each individual project in much greater detail, so I really felt invested in each one. Sewing is a labor of love, and I wanted to feel that sense of love each time I finished a garment.

Step One: Reviewing my style

Those of you who have followed along with the whole Wardrobe Architect experiment over the last few years know that it begins with a pretty in-depth look at your own personal preferences, history, and context to come up with a core style.

Because I’ve done this before and because what feels like me hasn’t changed much over the last few years, I don’t need to redo this whole process every season. I just need to take what I’ve learned, perhaps update a few things here and there, and adapt it for the coming season.

Since I first created my core style board on Pinterest, I have added a few things here and there. I also decided to narrow my style words a little, in part to be more specific and in part because I realized that remembering more than 3 words is kind of hard!

Here’s my current board and the 3 style words I use: enduring, sultry, lush.


Step two: Creating my fall 2016 mood board

After looking through this, I next created my mood board for the upcoming season.

I wanted to ground my inspiration in reality, so before I started my mood board, I took a good look at what I actually wear frequently and feel best in. I’ll talk more about this process later, but for now, I determined a few things that I’ve found I really love wearing at the moment:


image: Garance Dore

  1. Antique jewelry. After years of being fairly minimalist with my jewelry, I have developed a minor obsession with jewels, particularly of the victorian era. I don’t really have a big enough collection to pile it on, but I’ve discovered that the sense of history and the enduring nature of jewelry really speaks to me. I also have a few heirloom pieces that have a connection to my family history, and I find them very comforting to wear.
  2. Jewel tones. Maybe it’s all the jewelry, but I’ve been really attracted to colors like sapphire blue and emerald green and ruby, along with my usual staples of black and pale neutrals.
  3. Metallics. I might be becoming an eccentric old lady, but all things sparkly are just appealing to me right now.
  4. Menswear. I’ve been finding that I wear a lot more pants and button-ups than I thought I did. I like the mix of menswear details with pretty and feminine fabrics and shapes, like a silk dress with a tuxedo jacket.

I also made sure to look through my fabric stash to find fabrics and colors that were inspiring me and that I might want to use. I pulled these out and kept them nearby as I went through the rest of these steps.

I also included one “dream project” on here, something I’ve been wanting to make for a long time: a tuxedo jacket in the style of a Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking jacket.

For this mood board, I started with a whole bunch of images collected on Pinterest but then went small and analog. I find it helpful to start big and whittle things down little by little.


Step 3: Choosing my silhouettes

The next step was choosing 3-5 silhouettes for the season. These are designed to basically be outfit “templates” I can use to help me really nail down what I want to wear and make sure that the things I make actually go together.

Here’s what I chose. A lot of the individual pieces here can be mixed and matched too. I think that when you concentrate on silhouettes and shapes rather than individual garments in specific fabrics/colors, this becomes a lot easier. It sort of opens your frame of reference a bit.


Pencil skirt + woven or knit tee + heels

Full midi skirt + cropped sweater + heels

1940s style rayon/silk dress + blazer + heels

Button-up + high waist pants + boots

Step 4: Creating a palette

I love making color palettes. I also knew this would be the number one thing that would help me in buying fabric and being able to say no to fabrics even if I love them.

Like I said, I’ve found myself more and more drawn toward rich jewel tones, and also oddly drawn to lilac purple, a color I haven’t worn much in the past. It all started when I thrifted a beautiful silk michiyuki that reminded me of wisteria.

Again, I followed the Wardrobe Architect principle of dividing my palette into neutrals, near-neutrals, and statement colors. I find that some jewel tones (like deep berry or plum) work really nicely as near-neutrals, which makes them easy to mix and match.


Next post: From concept to project queue!

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll talk about how I went from here to creating my list of projects I want to sew this fall/winter.

Have you guys planned your fall sewing yet? Are you like me and get overwhelmed by possibilities if you don’t intentionally focus like this? Or do you prefer a more freeform approach to sewing and wardrobe planning?

Sarai Mitnick


Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.



October 10, 2016 #

Yes, I am in your same frame of mind…just did a COMPLETE overhaul of my closet which left me feeling refreshed. Now I am determined to use some of my (very large) stash and do some fall sewing. I decided I should not be afraid to re-use patterns I tend to wear most often. And I also decided that I need some solid-colored staples, I get very distracted by all the cute prints out there!


October 10, 2016 #

So beautiful. I am so wanting to sew more garments. What stops me again and again is my lack of knowledge of fabrics that work. I don’t have a fabric store close to me so I am forced to buy online. Raton, double knits etc – I have no idea what they feel like/how drapey/how heavy etc so its hard to pick. Its paralyzing.


October 11, 2016 #

I’d recommend ordering swatches so you don’t risk spending money on fabric that isn’t quite what you wanted. Sometimes the swatch will really surprise you.


October 11, 2016 #

Thank you – I didn’t know I could order swatches.


October 11, 2016 #

Linda, I joined a swatch club for a year when I first started sewing, and it really helped me get a sense of what was what in terms of fabrics. Others have said the swatch club teaches you how that store describes things, and can buy with more confidence.


October 12, 2016 #

I didn’t know such a thing existed. There are quite a few out there. Do you have a recommendation? I am thrilled that you took the time to comment as this advice will help me tremendously.


October 13, 2016 #

Linda, in the US, I did the swatch club, and learned a lot. Apparently they also sell “educational swatch packs” sometimes that give you a sense of the range. Vogue Fabrics also does one, which someone highly recommended for the learning experience. Someone in the UK recommended Stone Fabrics. (Eventually I will write that blog post I keep brewing about how to learn fabrics when all you have is Joann’s, but no time soon.)

There are also swatch books you can buy, that come with fabrics, but I haven’t tried those and they are a bit pricey.


October 13, 2016 #

Thank you so very much.

Hayley Stitches

October 10, 2016 #

This is super helpful! Before I started sewing (pretty recently!) I worked with a pretty strict capsule wardrobe. I’m accepting that if I’m sewing a lot I’ll have more in my wardrobe, but I’ve been trying to be realistic when I’m choosing fabric and patterns. I find it easy to get carried away with pretty prints and beautiful dress patterns, but the reality is that I wear plain, casual clothes most days. Remembering that fact helps me to avoid buying fabric that sits there, unsewn. Anyway, looking forward to the next post!


October 10, 2016 #

I’ve going through this process myself!!
I realized I need more solid pieces for work and a LOT more causal options.


October 10, 2016 #

I enjoyed your post and found it helpful as I think about narrowing down my own choices for fall sewing (before it’s winter ;) And this might sound really woohoo, but I’ve noticed that I’m drawn to colors that correspond to chakras that need attention. So I’ll like a certain color for quite a while, but when that work is done, I find I’m really done with it- don’t want to wear the clothes, suddenly drawn to a new set of tones, usually around a given color. It was purple for the longest time, now it’s blue and I wear very little purple. The basic navy/black/gray seem to endure but the rest changes over time.


October 10, 2016 #

It’s nice to have a plan, or to take time to plan (best part of sewing for me ;-) )
Let’s have a Colette palette chalenge like you did in the past! (seasonal Colette palette chalenge along with 2, 3 or 4 patterns release together as a capsule twice a year was the best time of Colette, in my opinion and opinion of lots of people around me… so…)

SJ Kurtz

October 11, 2016 #

I’ve been sewing and wearing clothes for a long time, so Autumn still holds the promise of the back to school coat or pair of shoes, the investment piece for the year to come. I don’t make my own shoes (where does Handmade by Carolyn get the soles?); I’m more in the mind of the Slow Fashion October inspiration: “to slow down and enjoy the process of sewing a garment, not just the outcome.” So inbetween costume sewing, I’m picking away at my project from the Refashioners. It didn’t get done, but it’s not forgotten, and it’s getting the royal treatment. Mostly because I have enough clothes already.
Sew long enough, you will, too.


October 12, 2016 #

I do feel like I have a lot of clothes, and sometimes I wonder if it’s wasteful to still want more or different ones. But I guess my style just continues to evolve (and my body has changed a bit), and I love the sense of playing with new ideas in my wardrobe. But like you, I’m trying to focus on the process quite a bit more!


October 11, 2016 #

So I’m hard on my clothes. No, I mean, nothing lasts long with me, since I’m a nurse who wears “regular” clothes to work and I burn through knits (washed frequently). Fall/winter sewing takes far more time so I tend to focus on just making a few garments each year. This year it’s a new coat and I’ll likely make up a sweater or two. I’d honestly buy some tops but I’m just hating the RTW styles this year. What to do?


October 11, 2016 #

I have a foundation of my color pallet. My wardrobe tends to be pink, green, purple, black. White.

It revolves around sorority events and I am retired and don’t need as much as when I worked

Bonnie C Westrom

October 11, 2016 #

I made a list of clothes I’d like to sew and those patterns and fabrics I already have on hand. Then I drew small pictures beside each one with each fabric. I realized quickly I have more wants then I probably have the time to sew. It made me realize just how I dream about each fabric and each pattern I buy. I’m starting with some basics like black cotton/lycra Linda Arc Style pants. I’m putting off sewing dresses until the spring.I’ve learned the hard way just what knits I like and are easy to sew. Staples like a nice black cotton blend cardigan, a white shirt and jeans are on my list. I too have many beautiful print fabrics that caught my eye. I only hope I sew all the fabric I have purchased.


October 12, 2016 #

This is one of the best parts of planning for me, realizing how crazy and overly ambitious all my sewing dreams are! It forces me to prioritize, which helps me sew the things I want most.

lesley king

October 11, 2016 #

I’m doing something very similar right now. I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding or poor for so long that my wardrobe is bonkers. Nothing goes with anything and is all just functional. I’ve got a colour pallette and I’m trying to stick to certain shapes for me that work. The difficulty is preventing myself from planning big fancy dresses that won’t get worn and stick to normal every day clothes


October 12, 2016 #

I love fancy things too, so my trick is making simple shapes in amazing fabrics. Of course, I don’t have an office dress code or anything, so no one cares if I wear gold lamé to work. ;)

At least the holiday season is coming, so most of us have at least one excuse for a special dress!


October 12, 2016 #

This is a very helpful article and it popped into my mail at just the time I need it the most. I entered sewing to build a wearable wardrobe and I am yet to do that because of many many distractions. Thank you Sarai.


October 12, 2016 #

I feel you. The downside of living somewhere with great fabric stores is the constant distraction. Every time I go shopping, it pains me to leave behind the beautiful things I see, knowing I’ll probably never see them again. A lesson in letting go, I suppose. :)


October 13, 2016 #

I’m usually overwhelmed so I just end up pinning ideas online and buying more fabric, ha. I rarely seem to have the “right” fabric or pattern for a project. I’m trying to change that though, by shopping my own fabric and supplies, if only to make more room in my stash. ;)

I’m also trying to change my approach to sewing by being more intentional. I like to make things that inspire me but my wardrobe is a bit of a mish mash. I don’t really notice it in the summer because I like having a collection of colorful dresses to wear but my cool weather wardrobe needs help. I need more casual, everyday but pretty clothes that are not jeans and long sleeve tee. And I need to stop buying chiffon!

I always love your posts! I think I’m going to check out Wardrobe Architect again.

Marguerite Oneal

October 15, 2016 #

Thank you for this article! I’ve just returned to sewing this year and trying to get my sewing skills to be a solid Intermediate pushing to Advanced. What this takes is practice and focus and my old get it done quickly habits are hard to break especially as the projects I am attempting need a higher skill level. I generally use your method for my career wardrobe with RTW and reaIize I need to continue by picking simple but challenging projects to sew that fit easily in my career wardrobe.


October 17, 2016 #

I just recently found out about The Wardrobe Architect and have been slowly chugging away at the pieces. I’m so fickle with my sewing, very on a whim with the patterns and fabrics. It gets frustrating to have multiple handmade pieces that simply don’t fit well together in a silhouette or palette. Learning about these components has been so helpful! I’m feeling more and more confident with my sewing choices and already feel more focused than I ever have in my sewing. Thank you for all the incredible info!


October 17, 2016 #

For now I feel a bit overwhelmed. It will be my first Wardrobe Architect and the concept phase is taking a lot of time. I find it hard to narrow my style to something more concrete. Too different styles really speak to me. I’m looking for something that would combine femininity&vintage with minimalist& rocky with a dash of extravagance.

On top of that, I’m still not very advanced at sewing and a little nervous that I won’t make the whole project work. But it already became too important to me to give up! Your posts are a big help and encouragement!


October 21, 2016 #

It may be slightly off topic, but the reddish 40ish dress. Do you know who made it? It’s absolutely gorgeous! :)


October 21, 2016 #

Do you mean the sort of rust colored one with the white flowers up top? That is miu miu Fall 2011. Here’s a link to the collection, the whole thing is beautiful:


October 25, 2016 #

Yes, that’s the one I meant. It’s beautiful :) Thank you for the link!

Gail Galloway

October 28, 2016 #

I have planned to do a closet overhaul and get everything set for the fall wardrobe. I opened the closet and closed it back. Then I went to my sewing room and find the fabrics i wanted to use and i pull out several fabrics and patterns and set them on the table and started watching old movies !

After reading this posting i now have a method which i will be putting to use today. thanks so much