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Message Board > Fashion Styles and Trends > Spring Wardrobe Planner ( Moderated by Lynnelle)

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Spring Wardrobe Planner
Silver  Friend of PR
Member since 1/17/04
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Date: 12/21/08 1:41 PM

I desperately need help planning a workable, general-purpose wardrobe. Where do you suggest I start? Color, patterns, etc......

My sewing usually consists of random, unrelated projects resulting in the old, familiar "I have nothing to wear" syndrome.

Michelle L
Michelle L  Friend of PR
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In reply to Silver

Date: 12/21/08 1:49 PM

You could maybe start with Tim Gunn's 10 Essential items

Tim Gunn's 10

Begin by making sure that those items "work" with one another...maybe treat it like a SWAP if you are going to make the majority of the items.

Then you can work out from there, really tailoring it to your lifestyle.

For example, I work in a business-casual office, so I don't need many suits. I tend to do a lot of wrap dresses, skirts with cardigans...that type of thing. But if you work in a more formal environment, what you add to it, would be very different than what I select.

I have found that for me, I have to be careful and really THINK about what I am buying, and how that will fit in with my wardrobe...not just buy fabrics that I think are pretty...that is how my stash has gotten unmanageable. I am trying to stick with grays/blues/black and naturals.


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Date: 12/21/08 2:03 PM

I'm certainly no expert, but planning is one of my favorite things about sewing. There are lots of different ways to approach it. You might want to think about what you "limiting factor" is - do you have trouble finding great fabrics you like? Patterns that suit your style? Getting patterns to fit? Or maybe time is a limiting factor.

So, for example, if fabrics are hard to find, work on that first and then plan your patterns around what fabrics you can find. You might want to look for several fabrics in coordinating colors at a time. Make sure they are colors you love too! Likewise if finding patterns is a problem - let your choice of patterns (TNT or new) guide the fabric choices. If fitting is an issue, give yourself some time to work on muslins before you jump in with your good fabric. If you are really short on time, make sure you pick easy pieces - I have seen some nice knit wardrobes. Check out this one: annie11's McCall 5671 wardrobe.

I've tried planning out a couple of wardrobes in the past, and I have to admit that I never actually "finished" them. I got a few good pieces out of them, but I never made everything. I tend to overestimate how much time I will actually spend sewing, and underestimate how much time things like fitting will take. If you have any TNT patterns that you aren't totally sick of, those might be a good place to start. If they seem boring, maybe you can update them with some new details while keeping the basic silhouette the same.

I would check out the Endless Combinations contest thread and reviews for some inspiration, too - that is a very flexible approach where you will never end up with lots of piece but nothing to wear, but you still don't have to plan out every piece ahead of time.

I'm not sure if you've seen it already, but here's a nice article on "Sewing with a Plan": SWAP

Well, I hope this gives you some ideas.

Member since 6/7/05
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Date: 12/21/08 3:10 PM

I'm no clothes horse, and because of that and my distaste for spending nice days in malls, I try to maintain a flexible, classic, easy to wear and mix wardrobe. Here are a few thoughts from my experience.

Here are a few "rules" that may help you build a wardrobe that works together and also has staying power through many trends and seasons. Remember, rules are made to be broken, and you may cleverly put together a wardrobe that does not follow these "rules." For example, I have two darks and two lights: black, indigo, white-white, and silver. These apply to clothing and accessories that are often worn such as purses and shoes, with a few colorful exceptions such as a papaya jacket and lime green sandals that can be worn with my base colors.

For your "base" wardrobe:

1. Select one dark neutral and one light neutral. (See my caveat above.) Common examples are black and white, brown and cream, grey and white, tan and ivory, etc. These are common because a base wardrobe with these types of color combinations can look current year to year and also are so classic that they are "forgettable," allowing you to mix them with trendy or colorful pieces and give the appearance of wearing entirely new outfits. You can add a metallic color and a denim color if you like, or you could have navy and beige as your "dark base colors" even though beige isn't that dark, and white and copper as your light and metallic colors. Copper is hard to find sometimes, so you might have silver as your main metallic and copper as a frequent accompaniment. But, don't get too many base colors or you will have a harder time mixing your items. Remember, red can be a neutral as long as you don't mind being the lady in red when people think of you. So, you could have red, navy, white and beige as your main colors and only add other items that go with these. That's a pretty flexible base. Even if you make a sherbet orange dress, you could wear shoes in any of those colors with that dress, and if silver is your metallic, silver shoes would go with the dress too.

2. Use mostly solid colors. Sure, prints are exciting and creative. Use prints, but not for your base pieces. Prints are memorable and usually cannot be worn day after day without calling attention to themselves. They more easily go out of fashion, and they are harder to mix with other colors unless the colors are related to the colors in the prints. Prints may be added in the form of accessories such as scarves, shells, etc. and add variety inexpensively by comparison to buying/making prints in major pieces.

3. Add variety with color that coordinates with your base colors. Blouses, scarves, individual, classically designed pieces such as a straight skirt or a cropped jacket can transform an all black or all white outfit without overpowering the wearer.

4. Complement your figure and your lifestyle. There is no point in a woman with a pear shape to wear a poufy skirt with a tightly fitted top unless the skirt fits so well that it truly camouflages her lower volume and the top truly flatters her top so well that her lower volume is deemphasized. Nothing wrong with varying shapes, but visual balance matters. Also, buying/making lots of glitzy dresses when you're nursing a baby and chasing a toddler at home every day will leave you frustrated, but that doesn't mean you can't have a glitzy top to wear with classic pants on a date with hubby, a glitzy jacket to throw over jeans and heels for a fundraiser your mother-in-law invites you to, and glitzy costume jewelry and belts to dress up your one little black dress you only occasionally need for dressup events. Or, maybe you need glitzy costume jewelry to wear jauntily with casual clothes such as a sparkly pin to put on your lapel as you "dress up" in your best jeans.

I think that since we are not in a matchy-matchy phase in popular styles, these rules can be relaxed quite a bit, but if you keep them in mind, they can save money, time and hassles.

For me, it's long been black, white-white, indigo denim, and silver for my neutrals. My colors are cherry red, dark clear turquoise, purple, dark navy, hot pink, and rich dark blue. I have recently learned that wear papaya well, which was a surprise because I thought it was too yellowy. And, light blue works well for me as for many people. I keep trying dark brown because my hair and eyes are shades of brown, but I never look as sharp in brown as in black, perhaps because I have jet black eyelashes and eyebrows.

5. Another "rule" : Flex with time and with other changes. As I age, I find that dark brown smudgy eyeliner helps regain the look of lush eyelashes that I'm losing as my hair thins. Black is too harsh now just as it would have been too much with my thicker eyelashes of years gone by. I sometimes wear too much black which makes me look washed out though it seemed to work for me when I was younger and more sunkissed, so I now try to concentrate on having color near my face and using more white and indigo/navy. Navy and black mix well in today's styles, so this is freeing me up to wear more navy. I avoided too much of it before because navies are hard to match exactly. If I stick with only these colors, everything in my wardrobe goes together, and I can creatively mix items according to the styles of the day, the weather, my mood, the event/activity, etc. And, styles that I depended on as they emphasized my shape when I was size 4 look matronly on me now. I had to morph from emphasizing a tiny waist to camouflaging some fluff in the middle and carrying a sleeker shape around the hips. A circle skirt was stunning on me before, but now it would look costumy and ridiculous. Even sleeveless styles that worked well on me are less flattering now that I'm not as sinewy, even though I'm still a normal weight. So, I am wearing more jackets and 3/4 length sleeves and doing some toning exercises!

6. Another tip is to eliminate details in basic neutral items. If you have well-tailored, tropical wool or high end blend classic pants in your base dark color, they will be a perfectly flattering backdrop for many tops, but if they have exposed gold zippers from hem to knee, they will stand out and be remembered from wearing to wearing. Once the exposed zippers are totally out of style, you will feel dowdy and abandon the pants or be faced with the task of restyling them. Why not use that trendy detail on a casual purse that will be worn out by years end anyway and wear the pants for years? I try to avoid details that are not functional, such as fake pockets, zippers that open nothing, buttons that close nothing, and so forth. The look ends up richer, more classic and less memorable. Sure, make that safari jacket with more pockets than you need since that's a classic look you can wear out and mix with many things, but make it in a fabric that isn't too bulky so it doesn't look clunky when it's not a hot item but looks classic instead.

7. Invest in classics and spend spare change on trendy items if you must. Buying or making classic black pants in cheap materials only makes sense if you have nothing to wear to your new job and can spare little cash to get you through until you can build up a good, quality wardrobe. They will just wear out and look bad. Better to buy/make a sturdy, classic, easy to maintain, flattering pair and wear them well for years and spend that spare change on trendy items that will fall apart just as they are going out of style, if you must follow trends.

For you, what colors could you include in your wardrobe such that you could mix things so freely? Which style changes do you need to make to highlight your best features and deemphasize other areas? What do you wear regularly that you could upgrade? For example, if you wear gray sweats in the house and to the hardware store, can you make some sleek yoga pants from a slimming knit in one of your base colors and wear it with your upscale tennies and a coordinating jacket?

I suspect that many wardrobes that don't function well include many prints and styles that stand out and vary widely from classic shapes. I don't think item has to go with every other item, but it's harder to mix items when you have many prints.

Also, you tend to look richer when you wear solids, and depending on the print, you can look slimmer in some solids than in prints. One reason I favor black is that shadows disappear, making you look so much thinner. But, a large woman in all black can seem somber or intimidating. Some colors that look fattening in lighter colors don't look as fattening in fabrics that drape very well without clinging to bumps. Experiment and see what works for you.

As far as styles go, if having clothing that is very mixable, lasts from season to season, and looks pricier than it is is important to you, avoid extremes. So, if pleats are in and they flatter you, use modest pleats rather than deep, dramatic pleats. If wide bell legs are in style, again, use moderation unless you're going to wear them to death before they go out of style.

Another style tip related to a comment above. Figure out your personal look, your signature, and wear that regardless of style trends. If you look fabulous in sleeveless tops, wear them and even wear vests over snug sleeves in the winter to mimic the sleeveless look. You can be stylish without wearing the current trends. Have confidence. Don't be stuck to the idea that you have to wear what you see in the malls. What you see in the malls in general is what companies think the average woman will pay for and that will fit the highest percentage of women, not you.

Here is my challenge: Select your twenty best items--not the most expensive, but the ones that fit and look the best on you, and wear only those items for two weeks. See what you are missing, and make those items in solid colors that coordinate well while adding variety and only wear the original twenty plus the new items. Do you miss the other items? Add them one at a time and see if they add to your wardrobe. If they don't really add quality, ask why you selected them and decide whether to keep them, modify them, or find another use for them.

For, me I have a pair of jeans I wear often, a pair of shorts, a pair of yoga paints, a pair of black dress pants, a couple of jackets, a skirt or two, several tops from T-shirts to silk satin dressy tops, a coat and some shoes and purses. I don't wear most of my clothes, either because they are too small, too dressy, too worn, or just not right for the climate. I have held onto things that don't work for me, but I think, "I'll lose this weight, move, change jobs, etc." So, those items are going into one side of the closet in categories and gradually being removed. I can add the the good side as long as the items fit my "rules." I can only bring something into the good side if it fits the rules or at least is part of an outfit that truly works for me. If I have nothing to wear with it, it stays on the bad side until I do or I get rid of it.

-- Edited on 12/21/08 4:05 PM --

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Member since 7/11/05
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Date: 12/21/08 3:48 PM

Here is some more info:
More SWAP/Wardrobing info

I'm looking for the pics of past SWAP contests that used to be hosted on the Timmel Fabrics site but I am not finding them. They are very inspirational--as are the wardrobe contests here on PR.

I am going for a level of perfection that is only mine... Most of the pleasure is in getting that last little piece perfect...Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just keep showing up and doing the work.

Chuck Close, painter, printmaker, photographer

Hope has two lovely daughters: Anger and Courage

St. Augustine

cmarie12  Friend of PR
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Date: 12/21/08 4:14 PM

When Julie closed down her fabric business, she took down her website where the SWAP pictures were located. Here is the lone link left to the 2008 SWAP contest:

2008 Timmel SWAP Results

Hope this helps!

My blog:
"I've always maintained that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from responsibility. Choose your words carefully ~ Susan”

nancy2001  Friend of PR
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In reply to Silver

Date: 12/21/08 4:46 PM

Silver, I note that you're retired. Since you complain that you have nothing to wear I recommend you keep your basic wardrobe extremely simple in colors, fabrics and styles.

First sew half a dozen simple knit tops (basic crewneck or vee neck tees) in colorful solid colors like red, blue, purple and green. Then sew three or four pairs of casual pants and two or three simple knit jackets all in black knit.

It maybe a little boring, but since everything is interchaneable you will always have something appropriate to wear and always be well dressed. In fact, this is the same formula I use to plan my basic casual wardrobe.

After your wardrobe is under control, start sewing jackets in colorful solids and pair these with tops in solid black or white.
-- Edited on 12/21/08 4:49 PM --

No sewing project is ever a complete success nor a total failure.

EleanorSews  Friend of PR
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In reply to Silver

Date: 12/21/08 5:07 PM

It seems to me that the place to begin is with a sc hedule of two weeks in your life, maybe even a month's worth of activities. Block the time out from when you begin your day until bedtime. Fill in the blocks of time for how you use the time. For example, volunteer activities, stay at home, church, evenings out, etc. Then figure out what sort of clothing you wear for whatever you are doing. You might wear denim and twill pants at home but a slightly dressier pair of slacks for your volunteer work; church might require another type of clothing. Once you know what type of clothing you need, then you might consider how many pieces of each different artcile of clothing you would need or want. Once you have a fix on what the garments are, then you can consider color and fabric etc.

My take is that once you know what you need, then you can pick a style, color, etc.


"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." Anais Nin

"Attitude is the difference between an adventure and an ordeal." unknown

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Date: 12/22/08 0:15 AM

My plans for sewing is a lot different then some I see here. I'm single and I do go out, on dates and with friends and so I do have some things in it that I find some of my married friends don't need (date clothes, club clothes, after 5) And I like wild prints so I tend to be all over the place and use neutrals to tone it down.

I do have all the basic pieces Tim recommended but the white shirt and cashmere, but I have variations of them in my own way. Mostly my general wardrobe is replaced after 2 years and the pieces get regulated to casual wear, and I replace them as needed/styles/size dictates, and have 1 or 2 trendy pieces that I may or may not wear more then one season (gauchos were a 1 season item for me).

I sew in timeless classic styles, lot of late 50s early 60s and sort of a retro look. Not only does it work for me, and the way I look, I also have things that if they're a few seasons out of date, it doesn't matter. And I try and think ahead more then a season or 2: I had a short trench (purchased) that after 4 years I was tired of and so I made a full skirted one to replace it. Next year I'll have to replace the other one I did make (it's about 7 now) and my coat finally needs to be retired after 12, bought in a Salvation Army in a late 60s style that doesn't fit my age as well now, so I'll make something more age appropriate now that I can wear casually, and then make a more formal coat for when the other doesn't work.

As far as a general wardrobe some of it is going to depend on your lifestyle and specific needs. Casual and all purpose for me might very well be different from your needs on that. I would, no matter what that is, think about silhouettes and what works best on you, then possibly spend a day at a mall trying on clothes you like in that style and make notes to get patterns that fit. Like going into JC Penneys and seeing a tunic that is flattering on you, making note of the design in a notebook and then the fiber content. so you get a working idea book of fabric and current styles you like that work on your figure.

Big Dog

Big Dog
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Date: 12/22/08 6:39 AM

I relly like that Timmel Swap article, the colors and prints shown are all wrong for me, but the idea behind the plan is perfect. I think I will go through last years spring/summer wardrobe and pull out some key pieces and use those as a base for this year, just adding the missing items I need to fill in. Not much from summer will work for winter but the winter plan would work changing skirts to pants, no way this girl would even think of a skirt when the temps are near zero!
My winter wardrobe now consist of only jeans and warm tops, so I can start filling in with more classic pants and layers for the tops. Of course I will need some new fabrics to pull it all together, but fabric shopping is something I'm pretty good at

Formerly sew*itch

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