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The Wardrobe Architect: My Core Style


The Wardrobe Architect is a popular series that ran in early 2014. It’s currently being expanded (with help and feedback from you) into a comprehensive toolkit. You can read all the posts here. If you want to give feedback and get first access when the toolkit is finished, enter your email:

Last week, I said I’d chime in with my own answers for the latest installment of our Wardrobe Architect series. Let’s dive right in.

When you are wearing your favorite clothing, how do you feel (e.g. confident, sexy, poised, powerful, etc)?

My favorite clothes make me feel grown up and elegant. When I think about clothing I feel really good in, the first thing that comes to mind is a classic little black dress. I like that it’s sexy without being SEXXXY, if you know what I mean. I also like feeling effortless and not too overdone, but still a little glamorous.


When you’re wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?

Cute. I do not like to feel cute or child-like in any way.

Frumpy. Probably don’t need to explain that one.

Fluffy. Ok, I admit, this is a weird one. But I hate the feeling of having a lot of extra fabric around my body, especially around my waist. Even if I wear a full skirt, I have to have a bit of sleekness in the other things I’m wearing.


Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?

While there isn’t one person whose style matches mine exactly, there are certainly women whose presence inspires me.


I have to be boring and say Audrey Hepburn, for starters. I don’t want to dress just like her, but I do really appreciate her sophisticated-yet-playful style. That, and I love vintage Givenchy.

I’ve always loved Sofia Coppola’s minimalism. I think what appeals to me is the way her beautiful but simple clothes seem to call more attention to her as a person, an individual. You see the woman before the clothes.

But I also feel I should include women who I simply think embody beauty for me. For that, I would have to include the smolderingly beautiful Eva Green, and the mysterious and dark Isabella Rossellini. I suppose I identify more with a type of beauty that is striking or arresting rather than perfect and bland.

What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?

Anything cute, sweet, precious. Colorful, quirky, youthful.

All things that can be absolutely lovely, but not when I wear them.

Look over your answers from last week on history, philosophy, culture, community, activities, location, and body. List at least 15 words that you associate with your answers. Think about descriptive words, moods, and feelings you associate with these things:

I did some free association on these, and this is what I came up with:

Travels well


Look over the answers to all of the questions above. If you had to narrow your list to only 3-5 words to describe you, which words would you choose?

Simple, Cozy, Lush, Classic, Sultry

At first, I chose the word “sexy” from my list, but it didn’t quite sound right. That’s sort of a vague word and doesn’t mean much to me. I thought sultry was much more evocative.

I chose the word “lush” because to me it connotes the beautiful, rich colors and textures of nature, like the beautiful garden roses I grow or a hike through our local rainforests. I like the way it recalls the senses.

I’ve interspersed some of the photos from the pinterest board I created for this exercise. I’ve been really enjoying looking at the ones you guys have been posting in the comments as well!

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.



January 28, 2014 #

I’ve been thinking a lot about people, phrases, and/or words that embody my style and the first and the last thing that came to mind was the word “cream.” What it suggests is exactly me. Soft, feminine, antique, simple… yeh, cream… I think that will be my style.

Kate McIvor

January 28, 2014 #

Yes, Maddie, Cream is the perfect word for your style. The one word made me think of your blog immediately. You are inspirational!


January 28, 2014 #

Thank you Kate!


January 28, 2014 #

I was having a great deal of difficulty coming up with words to describe my style, based on what I had from week 1 and my catch-all fashion Pinterest board. So what I ended up doing that was very helpful was going through photos I could find of myself from the last couple of years–many of which were staged pictures for the blog to show off finished clothes, but there were several real life photos in there too–and making a collage of the outfits where I felt I looked the most “me”. Having the visual of that made it a lot easier to choose my five words–and also really emphasized the feeling I had that my winter wardrobe is entirely uninspiring, because I didn’t have anything from that in there! (One long-sleeved shirt, but not nearly warm enough for the land of the polar vortex that I apparently now live in.) So I will definitely be looking forward to whatever posts you have expanding on the core style for seasonal concerns.

(I did post my collage on the blog, here:


January 28, 2014 #

What a great idea, Becky!

Lady ID

January 28, 2014 #

That’s a great idea. I think I will try that too. My wardrobe is full but I do not wear some things because even though they are great clothes – they aren’t quite right. I need to give them away.


January 28, 2014 #

Hey there! I just have to say I love that your blog feels more personal and more you lately. Love it!


January 28, 2014 #

Thanks Joy!


January 28, 2014 #

I second this! I’ve really enjoyed your posts lately. :)

Kate McIvor

January 28, 2014 #

I posted pictures and more thoughts on my blog:
My five words are: classic, well-made, beautiful, smart, friendly.
My style icons are Katharine Hepburn — the original tall beauty, Meg Ryan — her clothes are always so simple and classic, and Sarah Richardson of the Canadian TV show, Sarah’s House. I love her home decorating taste, but I mostly watch her to see what she is wearing — classic with a POP!


January 28, 2014 #

Hi Sarai, loved your post. I have to say I am really enjoying the Wardrobe Architect experience, it is a very useful and timely exercise!

Can’t wait for this week’s “assignment” :)

alice stribling

January 28, 2014 #

Just wanted to chime in and say I’m also really enjoying this exercise. I’m going a different way and I’m studying pattern drafting, so I haven’t been sewing many commercial or indie patterns for a while, but the Wardrobe Architect has brought me back to your site. It’s a wonderful idea.

If you want some eye candy, I have a set of Fall pieces that I made or had custom made that represent my style.

Though pattern drafting is not for everyone, it has been a lovely and empowering experience. Now instead of feeling like I could never find a garment in my size, I realize that I can make it eventually. So I post shapes to Pinterest, with the intent to make them later.

I have to admit I had a hard time coming up with words to describe my style also. :) Thank you for doing this!


January 28, 2014 #

Really cool photos, Alice! Beautiful.


January 28, 2014 #

What I find fascinating is how much looking backwards is involved in moving forwards with defining one’s core style.

I second (or third, or fourth?) what others have said: I love how personal your blog is these days.


January 28, 2014 #

You’re right, I hadn’t realised how much my family history has influenced my style. I grew up in the UK in a Swedish family and never felt I quite belonged. Now I’m searching out Swedish fashion bloggers and can identify much more with the styles I see there. Plus older women like me seem less invisible in Swedish fashion.


January 28, 2014 #

Oh how I wish I could be sultry…and elegant…even exotic. But nay, I am none of these things, no matter how much I try. I also dislike the word and feeling of cute, mainly because I get it a lot. (I am short with a youthful face…)

So my words…hmm. I am having a hard time with this one because I can be so mercurial. But I have gotten clearer about what works for me and what doesn’t as I get older.

Classic (as in timeless, but not stuffy)
Detailed (but not “fussy” – I appreciate considered, deliberate details)
Cozy (sounds less frumpy that comfy)
Artistic (well-edited would also work here)
Lovely (I use this word a lot, when describing plants, fabrics, paint colors, people, etc etc)


January 28, 2014 #

Thank you for posting this – I was having a hard time with parts of this step, so this gives me a good “jumping off” point.

And your answers were so insightful! It’s very interesting to me that “cute” is a word you list in your “something’s not quite right” category – that was literally the first word I wrote in my “how I feel when I wear my favorite clothing.” Going back to your first wardrobe exercise, I think this has to do with history for me – when I was a freshman in college, everyone thought I was a grad student because I was so serious about everything. So, I made a point of cultivating a “cute” personality – polka dots, pink, frills, etc. – to mitigate the “scary academic” persona I had acquired in school.

However, now that I’m in the professional world, I’m finding I need to mitigate my “cuteness!” I am both one of the youngest and newest members of my new workplace, and thus I need to dress in a different way to be taken seriously. That is my current wardrobe challenge – trying to reconcile my personality and work situation. It’s really amazing how fashion tells the story of our lives – who we are, where we work, how we feel about ourselves, etc.

Giggles in the Sun

January 28, 2014 #

I have read through this series with interest.

One of my problems is always that the style I like and admire does in no way fit into my life. It’s quite a profound clash actually. I have lived in a cold climate for most of my life, but 7 years ago we moved into subtropical Australia. I like wearing black, but that is really only wearable for maybe 4 months of the year. I like to wear red/hot pink, but under the harsh sun here and the fact that the hot temps make my face go red, it is not a good match. I like wearing heels, people whose style I admire tend to wear tailored looks, but it again doesn’t really work with my life. My sense of style hasn’t caught up with my life, instead it is somewhat stuck in 10 years ago London.

Perhaps I need to ‘create a character’ so to speak of a person with my life and go back through this exercise. Perhaps I’ll be able to find style icons that wear clothes that are suitable to heat and humidity and motherhood, and find a style that I like amongst it all.

Thank you for sharing :-)


January 28, 2014 #

my five words were:
vintage-inspired (ok thats two – so sue me)
free – spirited (also two… i dont to well with limitations)

I’ve had a “my style” pinterest board going for a while now… I took the time to go in and tweak it for this exercise. Still need to share it on my blog though…

I’m really enjoying being a part of this, I feel like its something I’ve wanted to do for a while but was never really sure how, thanks for hosting it!


January 29, 2014 #

Hi Sarai!

First of all, I just want to say that I really like this Wardrobe Architect project! I really appreciate you doing this! I’ve been working on honing my style for the last 8 years, and though I’ve established a few key qualities about my personal style, it is still a work in progress. It’s great to explore personal style in a sewist’s perspective as we can work towards crafting our wardrobes based on our personal style!

I’ve been working on my Wardrobe Architect board on Pinterest so here it is:

When I was a fashion design student, my design aesthetic was sort of Victorian/Edwardian ladylike meets sci-fi Goth Girl. That was the aesthetic I was deeply drawn to artistically yet I’ve never felt completely comfortable wearing this aesthetic. Many years later, lifestyle and my body (comfort) became the key factors to my personal style. So I would say my core style is:

Comfortable (natural, breatheable fabrics, soft textures, non-restrictive)
Effortless (clean lines that look polished yet low maintenance)
Bold (I love vibrant happy jewel tones and bold graphic patterns)
Edgy (a little bit of rock and roll. Slightly rough around the edges, rough textures)
Feminine (floaty fabrics, magenta/hot pink, bold florals, curves, heels, silk, satin)

I’m looking forward to more Wardrobe Architect exercises!


January 29, 2014 #

I’m another one making the most of your Wardrobe Architect project. It’s come at just the right time for me, with an almost empty wardrobe, so it’s lovely to consider what I might choose to fill it with. If you would like to take a peek at my images, you can do so here
I do think you have captured the essence of your style in your choices – they are recognisably ‘you’. That’s another thing I’m enjoying – how different everyone’s answers and styles are.


January 29, 2014 #

From Brittany, my work on my Wadrobe Architect’ images here on Pinterest . The words are Wild ( savage or challengig the apparent common rules), Intense ( feeling deeply : this is OK, it’s me), Dreamy( soothing and serene), Simple, Classic, Cozy. In english it’s a little un easy :-).
Thank’s a lot for this idea , it’s really challenging and inspirational.

Amy W

January 29, 2014 #

My 5 words- comfortable, feminine, colorful, separates, effortless.
Even though I usually wear pants to work (especially during winter), I prefer skirts. I feel more professional and more feminine. Being on a limited budget my clothes have to pull double duty so they can be used for work and not-work. Being curvy- I like clothes that flatter my figure, give me a waist but that aren’t too low cut or tight.


January 29, 2014 #

I’ve been going through these exercises on my blog. Since I’m in the military and move around a lot, this is really helpful in helping me identify my core style and subsequently pare down my closet so I’m not hauling around a ton of stuff every time we move or I have to travel somewhere for an extended period.
My five words are: classic, refined, cozy, beautiful, and luxe


January 29, 2014 #

Two of your words that you do NOT want to be are two that I DO want to be – cute & fluffy! Lol!

My words are whimsical, eclectic, and colorful.


January 29, 2014 #

I’ve been finding this task more difficult than I should, I think! The things I love are so wide ranging, from minimalist to fancy-dress looks. The extremely hot climate I live in certainly makes it difficult to wear anything but the simplest, lightest clothes, but I’m lucky in that I work in a creative industry without a ‘dress code’ as such.

My words are: dramatic, intelligent, androgynous, comfortable, and textural.

I’ve started a Pinterest board as well, to help narrow down my style – everything I put in there has to tick at least two of my ‘word boxes’!

alice stribling

January 29, 2014 #

Oh hey, the other comments inspired me to come up with some words.

sophisticated, authentic, vibrant, spirited

This is such a wonderful exercise.


January 29, 2014 #

Thanks to this exercise I discovered I actually do have a style icon: Emma Stone. Her wardrobe is almost exactly what I love!

My final words were classic (simplicity and clean lines, traditional fit), neutrals (grey, beige, white, few bright colours), russet (hair colour; also evokes rustic/hipster style), dark (a little edgy) and modern (up-to-date, no retro stuff).

Looking forward to week 3 :)

Emma Jayne

January 30, 2014 #

I had some interesting revelations doing this worksheet and choosing images

I can already see some themes emerging in terms of colours and shape but I won’t jump the gun as I’m sure we’ll get to these aspects.

Emma Jayne

January 30, 2014 #

Oh yes and my words:
Turned-out, Versatile, Stylish, Empowered, Intriguing


January 30, 2014 #

Sarah Lambert

January 30, 2014 #

Here is my week 2 moodboard –

I love sophisticated, delicate, embellished clothes in blacks and jewel tones. My words: stylish, elegant, timeless, individual, chic

Louisa S.

January 30, 2014 #

I finally joined Pinterest just to make a board for this exercise. You can find it here:

My words are antique, bold, natural, sophisticated, unconventional.


January 30, 2014 #

I misunderstood the directions and tried to do my Pinterest board just from my “style icon” (which I don’t really have) and it wasn’t any good. BUT when I did the worksheet and then used those words, I found a wonderful collage of items that really feel like me. Of course, they aren’t all clothes, so I can’t wait to see how we make these into actual things to wear. Here’s my board:


January 30, 2014 #

Thank you, Sarai for doing this!

Something interesting I’ve noticed for myself is that I can’t actively follow along on social media during these exercises or I get way too distracted and end up wanting to be everything. But answering the questions and finding images on my own has been fun and insightful!

I also noticed a few words in others’ comments that I’m realizing are missing from my list! I have struggled with self confidence in many ways, and Sarai’s description of sultry made me remember that it’s okay to embrace being gorgeous/sultry/sexy. Another word was luxe – which, yes! wrap me in cashmere!

words: natural, inspired, happy, functional, quality over quantity

Tiffany W

January 31, 2014 #

Fashion Icons: Audrey Hepburn, Amy Adams, Gwyneth Paltrow
Words: Graceful, Simple, Classic, Elegant

I used images that was already on my pinterest boards to create the collage of my core style.

What my core style doesn’t show is my dash of whimsy and love affair the slightly strange. I never display that side of my self in fashion, only in art pieces around the house.


February 1, 2014 #

So here’s a question that’s inspired by the notion of personal style: I’m an absolute beginner, currently making my first pair of pajama pants. I have the SEW Everything Handbook and yours; I love a lot of the projects, but some don’t fit my personal style. But if I skip making them, I’m afraid I’ll miss out on valuable skill building. Meanwhile, there are other projects that are rated beginner-friendly — patterns of yours like the Crepe & Laurel dresses, Sorbetto & Jasmine tops, and a few things by other designers (Sewaholic’s Hollyburn skirt, By Hand London’s Anna dress), that are right up my alley and that I’m eager to make. If I just jump in with them, after a few more basic projects, will I be in over my head? Or should I, as a beginner, figure the first six months is learning curve and make things that will hone my skills before jumping in with the things I really, really want?


February 3, 2014 #

I like the idea of starting slow and building slowly, personally. I think sometimes beginners overlook how much you can do with really simple projects! Even if a pattern doesn’t excite you, jazz it up with an amazing fabric and you’re guaranteed to love it! Then transition into some of the more complicated stuff you love over time.


February 6, 2014 #

I just finished my Core Style Pinterest Board. I’ve enjoyed looking through the other posts everyone’s style is so different, love it!

My words are: Eclectic, Casual, Textures, Patterns, Fitted.

I’m also just starting out with learning to sew, I’m hoping this workshop will inspire me to push on and eventually create the clothes I want to make in my style.

Jet Set Sewing

February 17, 2014 #

I shoot for sophisticated and classy when I go out: usually a black base of silk top and pants/skirt with one of the vintage designer pieces I’ve made: a Chanel-style jacket, Schiaparelli wrap, or Vionnet bias bow scarf.
Around town I stick with streamlined and classic: narrow jeans, a Breton shirt, cashmere sweater, Toms shoes.
Vintage jewelry with everything.
My tip: If you buy an Hermes scarf on Ebay, and learn how to tie it like a French girl (details on the Hermes website) it can pretty much class up anything you’re wearing.
And forget “It” bags; they’re tacky.


March 22, 2014 #

I like the idea of a core style. I never thought of it like that and had the fear that I had to somehow elaborate a consistent style either sleek and cool or girlish and hippie.
Now I slowly embrace the idea of having a core style like I want to see myself and from time to time let the hippie girl in me take over and allow her some leisure time.
Thanks for that!