When I was a teenager, I taught myself to prefer clothing I had made over things I could buy. The clothes I made were like a sort of soft armor through which to approach the world. They fit my personality and my body better than anything I could buy. I developed this psychology about clothes shopping because I didn’t have the money to buy designer clothing, and didn’t want mall clothing.
Making clothing and working with fabric is a pleasure that goes deep. I started sewing when I was twelve or thirteen, which appears to be an age when one’s lifelong passions appear.
Making physical and practical things in the real world is important. It keeps you grounded. It gives you common sense. It teaches you that you have creative powers and freedom to construct your own environment and how you fit into the world.
I make clothing. Other people make furniture, or houses, or food, or vegetable gardens. These are objects that can be imbued with beauty beyond their functionality, yet remain functional.
Our business Brook There grew out of my need to make things with my hands. But it is now a full-fledged being of its own, and I don’t need to make things with my hands to support it anymore. It is the other way around.
The Capsule Wardrobe
So I’m starting a new project today: it’s called 3×7. It’s a capsule wardrobe, I suppose. But it’s really about beautifying, individualizing, and spending some time building some practical objects.
In many ways, I’m a minimalist. Daniel is too. We live in a small house, which limits our ability to purchase stuff; we wear a small selection of clothes over and over until they wear out; we have one car, etc, etc.
For the past year, my actually-worn-wardrobe has been a rotating selection of similar tshirts (about 7), wool sweaters (4), button-down-shirts (3) dark jeans (1), and oxfords (1), with of course a requisite amount of outerwear (puffy jackets: 2; weatherproof boots: 2; sneakers: 1; trenchcoats: 2) All my “dress-up clothes” are outfits I made a few years back.
i.e. it’s boring, and not how I *want* to be dressing.
So in the spirit of spring and renewal, I’m launching my 3×7 project. It’s a completely new wardrobe made of 21 pieces (though some are suits), made in 21 days of work. (hopefully.)
3 skirt suits
3 button shirts
3 skirts that mix and match
3 alternate shirts
3 scarves + matching slips
3 cut-up cotton sweaters
Obviously, I’m not starting from scratch: I’ve been sewing for 25 years; I have a set of industrial sewing machines, and dozens of my own patterns to work from. These tools, skills, and IP (i.e. patterns) took years to develop.
For a point of reference: I can go from uncut fabric to a simple dress in about 45 minutes. A button-down shirt takes about an hour and 45 minutes. (And those are one-off time rates, not production rates.)
How I Feel About Shopping
For maybe a decade I had a fairly strict personal rule called “no shopping for clothing.” The exceptions were for things I couldn’t make: shoes, outerwear, sweaters, and handbags.
However, since we closed the stores on Wharf Street, and I was relieved of the need to sew almost daily, I have been shopping more. But: rarely do the clothes I buy give me the joy that my own handmade items did. (There are a couple exceptions.)
So, I’m dialing the clock back to zero, and recreating my wardrobe.
The other thing I did last year was decide to stop wearing black (well, at least not head-to-toe.) Last spring I did a wardrobe purge and put into storage or goodwill all my black clothing. Why?
First off, it’s not vanity. I look good in black, as do most people with my coloring. (I’ve gotten around it by wearing lots of midnight and chocolate.)
The real reason was more woo-woo. I want my life to be lighter, more full of color and energy. Black represents the opposite psychologically. I felt like maybe wearing black as a default was affecting me energetically.
Of course, many of the awesome pieces I had made over the years were black, so they too went into storage.
Here’s the colors for my new capsule- they flatter my skin and hair, and will be seasonally appropriate for spring through fall.
white / buff / spice / midnight /cerulean /chocolate
The other thing I am interested in is texture:
cable knit cottons
I’m somewhat fanatical about fiber content. Nothing irritates me like browsing a designer store and seeing $3000 100% polyester dresses made in China. At very least use real silk!
If you are a lady, you probably realize already that capsule wardrobes are all the rage. Here are some lovely blogs that talk about them:
If you are a guy, the likelihood is that you already live in a capsule wardrobe – (just to stereotype a bit…) – as my husband does. Yet somehow when we travel, he always packs more than me.
I’m going to record this process (with my snazzy camera) and turn it into a short documentary. Stay tuned. Let me know if you have questions!