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Wardrobe Architect April: What’s your biggest wardrobe challenge?


Hey there & thank you for reading the Colette blog!

This site is no longer being updated so head over to Seamwork to get all the latest patterns, tutorials, video classes, and more.

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This month, we thought we’d take a brief pause in our Wardrobe Architect process to ask you: What challenges have you faced so far in planning your wardrobe?

I’m sure that each of us has our own particular challenges and hang ups around clothing. Maybe it’s a tendency to buy things you don’t need because they’re on sale. Maybe it’s being drawn to shapes that you don’t actually like wearing. Maybe you have undergone a life change and your wardrobe hasn’t kept up.

Because many of us undoubtedly have dealt with the same issues, I think it might be interesting to use this as an opportunity to help each other out.

Here is what I propose:

In the comments, let us all know if there is a particular difficulty or challenge you’ve faced with your wardrobe, if you want to share.

And then:

Read through some of the other comments and see if you have a similar experience you would like to share. You can reply directly to someone else’s comment and share your own experience.

You don’t have to give advice (unless you want to). But I think there’s something powerful in just talking about our own difficulties and how they interrelate.

Next month, Kris will be back to continue the Wardrobe Architect journey. The next thing we’ll be discussing is color, which is perfect, since that’s the theme for the next issue of Seamwork as well!

What is your biggest wardrobe challenge?

Image used in header via Maegan Tintari, cc license

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

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.

Comments 172


I have a hard time getting rid of clothes even though I know I don’t love them and rarely wear them/they don’t fit in with my everyday style. I think I feel guilty about getting rid of clothes when I haven’t had them for too long or I think ‘Oh I’ll wear that on the weekend/camping/etc.’


You’re not alone there! I think I need to get rid of about 80% of my wardrobe but just can’t bring myself to do it. I sort through every few months thinking ‘This time!’ and end up throwing away one worn out tee.


I figure it’s best to pass it on to someone who can use it vs having it sit around in my closet unloved. I am good about purging regularly…but I still have things that never quiet make it to the donate pile.


I had a crowded closet and was hesitant to part with anything until my husband encouraged me to sell my old things. I purged relentlessly, made the rounds of our local re-sale shops, and earned enough money to buy an incredible stash of fabric and a new overlock machine and I don’t regret getting rid of a single thing. The items that I couldn’t sell I donated. I now have lots of closet space, a new machine, and a two season stash. I decided to keep things slated for re-sale hanging in the laundry room until I have enough to finance the next season’s makes.

Heather McCowen

This is a brilliant idea. I never considered selling some of my better makes from an earlier, thinner, pre-baby time in my life. I have a hard time letting go of them, as I remember how hard I worked on them (despite being much better at sewing now). I love a self sustaining sewing habit!

Nancy K



This is probably my biggest challenge as well. I feel as though I am being wasteful, or admitting that I made a bad decision or something, which I guess is always a little uncomfortable.

I recently read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and it really helped me clear out my closet! I really downsized and feel so much better about what I own now.


I recently read that book too! It’s made a huge difference, especially in my sewing room where I had so much stuff jammed in and strewn all over the place that I found it a hassle to go in there to sew. I’m about 3/4s of the way through the discarding stage and its made an amazing difference.

On the downside though after getting rid of %80 of my wardrobe I wasn’t left with much, so now I have to find the money to buy new things or the time to make them.


I just read that book as well and it inspired me to get rid of SO much of my closet. It’s funny how once you remove everything is it SO much easier to only put back what you love instead of trying to remove everything you don’t love. Weirdly it works! I removed probably 70% of what I had and I feel like I have SO much more to wear and love getting dressed in the morning. And because all I left was my favourite things I just feel better everyday. :)


I have also read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – and looked at the you tube videos of techniques etc, resulting in me changing the way I present my wardrobe, from how I fold, to how I sort clothing etc. It is a work in progress, but my husband and I are just amazed at how differently we view our clothing when it is so simply and beautifully presented. I realise there is way more to this than just looking at what you wear and what you don’t; when clothing is just beautifully presented and appreciated you see more possibilities in you wardrobe.

Laurel Thurston

Though coming rather late to this conversation, and endorsing the idea of “tidying up”(which I do constantly) Marie Kondo’s criteria of getting rid of everything that doesn’t bring “joy” would, in my work life, leave me basically naked. Clothes are so many things, including disguise, signals about one’s station in life, etc. Those categories shift with circumstances and time. Do a plain linen shirt and work-appropriate trousers bring me “joy”? No, but they help me earn a paycheck. That brings me “joy.” I’m suggesting that a rule of reason in paring down possessions is so necessary. This is a great conversation, by the way.


Project333 has been amazing at shifting my mindset from what to get rid of to what to keep. When I first did it, it was more like Project 100-3 and that wasn’t even counting shoes and accessories as the official rules would have you do. I boxed up the clothes that weren’t part of the challenge and set them aside for a few months. Living with a reduced wardrobe was fantastic. Everything fit well and was flattering so getting ready in the morning was super fast. Grab a shirt then pants to match and go.
One of the other big benefits is that it helped me realize there were certain gaps in my wardrobe. When I felt like I had nothing to wear it was typically a specific thing that was missing – in my case a certain type of jacket. I’d been filling that vague sense of wardrobe gap with easy to shop for items instead of what would have solved the problem.
Try it out! It’s not nearly as scary as giving away half your clothes.
I’d also recommend reading un-fancy. She has a fantastic capsule wardrobe blog.


My biggest wardrobe challenge is that I feel like my wardrobe doesn’t fit the person I am right now. I’ll be taking three bags of clothes and some shoes to Goodwill tomorrow. In these bags are clothes I’ve had for a long time and most just don’t even fit anymore (I was sad about some of these, but I knew I wasn’t going to be a size 2 for long…life stresses got me to that size). Anyway, I guess the biggest frustration is that I know the type of clothes I’d like to wear, but I can’t afford them (I’d like to support independent designers) & I really don’t want to fill my closet with clothes that just don’t hold up over time and were probably made in a way that I wouldn’t be cool with. I need a complete wardrobe makeover and that task feels daunting. Ultimately, I’d like a closet that’s peaceful, easy going, and chic.

Gretchen Potts

Totally get it! I just cleared out my closet. I had gobs of really wonderful vintage clothes and all these cute things that I never wore! It took me about 2 years to thin out my closet…..and this was after I put myself on a buying freeze. Ive broken my promise here and there and have always been disappointed with what I came home with.


I usually consider ethically-made clothing too expensive to buy, but lately I’m trying to remember that I don’t need so much. Maybe one $200 dress is good enough to replace 4 cheap ones. I lived abroad with a limited wardrobe for 9 months, and that really showed me how little a person really needs.


Not all ethical brands are super expensive, and many have regular sales. I like Braintree, Hemp Age, Komodo, Mudd And Water and People Tree for wearable, sustainable and (especially/mostly on sale) affordable brands. I’ve started to slowly green up my wardrobe and it doesn’t have to be perfect right away. Even if I do it slowly, it’s better than letting myself get paralysed by perfectionism. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Gretchen Potts

Right now I have 2 major struggles….no 3. #1: My lifestyle is in transition. We recently moved to a mountain town and Im learning that I need to add multiple layers to stay comfortable in a very diverse climate. Im also more active than before and so more of my wardrobe needs to shift to more clothing choices with activity in mind, rather than a bunch of cute clothes I never wear (which populate most of my closet). #2: Because I need more activewear choices, Im limited to more specific style choices. i.e. most of the technical clothing have limited styling choices. So you end up wearing the same thing everyone else wears. Would like more variety. #3: My desire for more variety leads me to needing to make my own clothes….BUT….my sewing skills have not caught up with the level of complexity I want in my clothing. So really…..#3 is my biggest wardrobe struggle at the moment.


I get this so much! I spend a significant amount of my day on my bike, running around San Francisco to meet with different clients. I need clothes that can survive my day, but also don’t make me look like a Lululemon advertisement.

If it helps, some of my favorite brands for activewear/professionalwear: Nau, Outlier, and Outerboro. Patagonia also sometimes has beautiful, and less “outdoorsy” looking clothes that last forever. In addition, I wear a lot of lightweight handknit sweaters, and homemade sewn blouses.

Best of luck!

Rebecca Morton

For technical clothing that isn’t what everyone else is wearing, look for Sassy Cyclist a company newly launched by a high-school classmate of mine. Tell her I sent you!! I totally understand what you’re talking about. I spend a great deal of my time running around outside and while my terrific clothes hang out in my closet I’m usually wearing black activewear.

Gretchen Potts

Thanks for the link! Yes, there are some very cute jerseys in your friend’s shop! How awesome.

Kacy Burchfield

My biggest wardrobe challenge right now is my fluctuating weight. I am currently attempting to get myself into a better post baby shape. So I’m slowly knocking off the pounds. Which is great, but it’s hell on my wardrobe. What fits last week, may not fit this week. I did however just purge 5 bags of clothes from my family wardrobe and that was such a huge breath of fresh air.


I feel you babe! I’m also at the point where I am trying to get my post baby body to a better state. My body post baby is just not the same anymore as I now have a squishy tummy which takes a toll on my wardrobe. Clothes that I have or made are often fitted and I’m just not comfortable wearing them now. While I did clear out some store bought clothes, I’m just not willing to part with the handmade ones. And so I’m at that point where I am trying to re-create a wardrobe suitable for this phase of my life (must be able to go through the toll of spit ups and a wiggly baby – no front buttons). But it’s tough trying to sew when I don’t even have time to sleep now.


Me too! I don’t want to wait until I’ve lost the weight, in case I don’t, but I have already gotten too small for some of the clothes I bought after the baby.
Also – breastfeeding! My bust size changes significantly within one day!! And all my lovely pre-baby things that aren’t breastfeeding friendly.


Hah, on the upside girls you can look forward to all this agin in menopause!!


That’s where I am. I just don’t know how to dress this body. I’m completely stumped. What I used to wear pre-menopause were form fitting clothes. I had the body then. Now, not so much. If I exercise, If I lose weight, If I eat better, I MIGHT loose weight, tone up. etc, etc. Unfortunately that doesn’t help me figure out what to wear now. I wear jeans and a cardigan most days.


Same here. I love fitted clothes, or I should say loved, and they loved me back! Now I just don’t like the way I look in fitted clothes. Too much fit just reveals what looks like to me as a weird shape, someone else’s bod. Also, the fabrics have to be natural – polyester is now so uncomfortable it makes my skin crawl.

Some fixes have helped me to accept this situation, and at least be in a position to make clothes I can wear that help me to feel more like me, if not look like the me I remember. High quality natural fibers – because I’m worth it. Semi-fitted styles I like, versus very fitted. Layering, tunic over pants for example, to cover the elastic waist in a favorite pattern, so they look as though they could be a fitted waist band. Mid-length sleeves to remove the focus on my arms. Bright colors and stripes, because they make me happy. Giving away something that doesn’t work. Just keep trying new tactics until you figure out which ones help you feel good about the body you have. Good luck!

Jet Set Sewing

My challenge is how my shape has changed in my 50s, when your waist/hip ratio shifts dramatically due to hormonal changes, and body parts start drooping. Retail clothing and patterns are generally not cut for us at this age. The clothes that are targeted to our market are boxy and drab or loud “art teacher chic.” It’s one of the reasons I started sewing…to have clothes that fit and are chic.


Oh, I know exactly what you mean by “art teacher chic”!


Try Palmer and Pletsch inspired patterns by one of the big four (can’t recall which one) which have instructions for common fitting adjustments for basic pants and tops. They will help to get you familiar with making changes. It is easier than I thought it would be to try these adjustments and succeed, but frustrating – I used to be able to make up a size without any adjustments, sigh…There are also books on fitting for the maturing figure. This is also my biggest challenge.

Also, I have trouble finding styles that look good but aren’t too young or too old, as well as colors and patterns that work with brownish gray hair that is going to stay that way.

Jet Set Sewing

Those are great suggestions. The Palmer Pletsch patterns are good classic designs and the fitting info is very good. And having worn loads of black for years, I’m finding that jewel tones are my friend!

Mary Beth

Robin, could you share the names of any of the books on making clothes for the mature figure? Always wanted less bootie, but now I don’t know how to alter pants to fit in the rear. Beware what you ask for…lol.


P & P are put out by McCall’s – and yes, they’re good for classic shapes and fitting options!!

I don’t mind a little “art teacher chic,” being after all a fiber-arts nut, but there are limits . . . too much of the kind of clothes I really like can make me look like I’m self-consciously *trying* to recapture my youth and be a hippie throwback! So . . . one Indian-embroidered item at a time, not a whole outfit!


Ha – I can relate to this. I quit smoking and the weight came on. While I don’t regret quitting and my weight has now levelled off – I have a closet full of clothes I had hopes of getting back into. The reality check is my biggest hurdle but I’ve started adjusting my patterns to fit my more “mature” body and have felt much happier with my new makes. I’ve found that it’s easier to purge when something new and comfortable is going in. So whenever I add a new item, an old one has to move out. I also have a whole section of “I’ll get back into these one day” clothes which are outta here this weekend.


Well, no, it’s not weight gain as much as weight redistribution. Yes, it’s the age thing. Things change, body parts change. I am still basicely the same size just not the same proportions. I am taking the classes on grading patterns and the are helping. However my #1 problem is TIME.

Jet Set Sewing

And Toni, I know all about the redistribution. The good thing about getting through menopause is you really stop caring about a lot of that being skinny stuff! I find that comparing a pattern piece to the size of a garment that fits me now is really helpful. Just put the garment on top of the pattern and eyeball it.

Jet Set Sewing

I think the “good thing in, old thing out” concept is a good one. Plus I’m sending a bunch of “never agains” to Goodwill this weekend as well, so I’ll toast you when I’m through.


I like the new item in/old item out idea. At almost 59 years young, I have been hanging onto too many pieces that I’ll never lose that weight to fit into again and my style and ethics have changed. So in my case I think I will adapt the mindset of one new item in/three old items out. Great inspiration!

Debra Hemmye

I am also in my 50s, and two years ago, after tiring of paying $40-$50 for pants that droop in the back due to my ever-flattening derriere, I decided to spend an entire year making nothing but pants (a garment type I had never made before). I armed myself with an excellent fitting book (Fitting Pants for Every Body) but there are others, and I began sewing. By the end of the year – working full-time and going to grad school – I had made almost every pair of capris I owned and several of my full-length pants. Playing with the same pattern over and over taught me a lot about fabric selection and minor fitting adjustments for each fabric. Anyway, my self-made pants are now my favorite pants and I’m looking forward to making more this summer. They look a thousand times better than any I can buy. :)


Oh YES! That is what I am going thru. And what looked good on my just 5 years ago does not look good anymore. I have always gravitated to more body conscious styles but am having to look for patterns/styles that would look good ona 50+, thicker, saggier body. Quite an adjustment!


I’m finding that wearing base items that give me a long, lean line, such as black narrow jeans or a slim skirt and a black fitted top–accented by a bright vintage me-made jacket or wrap–is the way to go. Plus cool glasses, vintage jewelry and a fun attitude. At this age, I don’t worry so much about the perfect body…but I do want to appear relevant and cool. It’s the Auntie Mame in my, I guess!


I’ve just made a big move to a new climate (Ohio to Florida) plus I’ve lost about 10 lbs. I made it through the closet clean out phase but now a lot of my keep pieces are too big but I don’t yet know what my wardrobe needs are. I know I need to wait a while to figure out this new climate before I do any major shopping but I also need new clothes!


I wonder what you wore in the summer in Ohio and if that could work for a little while until you decide what to wear in Florida.


I do have some summer stuff that I’ve been wearing and that has helped but for the last several summers I’ve worked a job where I had to wear pants everyday so my summer wardrobe isn’t as beefy as it should have been.


Yes, Florida is a clothes challenge. So, a safe place to start is Natual fibers, neutral colors, and classic styles. That will get you ‘decent’ then you can learn what works best for you as you go along.


I’ve got my work wardrobe nailed down. Next I’m trying to figure out what to wear in a casual setting, such as at home or to the grocery store. I don’t like wearing jeans and sear pants any more, but that’s been my default for so long! I’m thinking of making one or two tunics to wear with leggings to see if that will be comfortable (physically and psychically). I don’t want to waste time making something that doesn’t work. This leaves me in limbo, but I’m going to climb out!


Go to a clothing store to try on clothes to see what styles look good on you. Then go home and make similar ones. Classic styles in natural fibers are always good, and stay in style forever. When I was working, I made a lot of pencil skirts with a back vent and basic pants that I could mix and match with different tops and sweaters/jackets. Dresses are good too…


Thats excellent advice. I have to keep reminding myself I’m not a trained designer so I might need to borrow ideas from them if I’m to make clothes that are stylish. Great idea to go and try on before making.


I feel as though I’m in a good position knowing what I want to wear, and how I want to wear it — a huge relief that I’ve finally reached this point now that I’m in my mid-thirties and that is thanks to the Wardrobe Architect. I wear skirts and dresses for about 90 percent of my life — even casually. I have one pair of dress pants to wear to work, and I think they are made out of material with too much drape for my taste, so I don’t wear them.

The major holes in my wardrobe are basics — button up the front shirts, a business suit, dress pants, a quality dressy winter coat and more shirt dresses. My limitation is time. Time to make the adjustments in patterns and time to sew them. I know that my body is about a size 8 at the neck and shoulders, but I have a large bust, a short-ish waist, a bit of a belly post children – nothing extreme but it is there. I can’t shop RTW and have clothes that fit decently/the way I have come to expect.

The patterns I have adjusted and made into a tried and true patterns (Mabel, Laurel, Sorbetto, Renfrew, Zinna, Moneta, Jenna Cardigan) have multiple versions lurking in my closet and get reached for day in and day out. I need more of that, or more specifically more time to do it.


I’m a minimalist at heart and would be very happy to have an extremely limited wardrobe. However, thanks to a medical condition in which my weight can fluctuate 5 pounds one way or the other – which is a full clothing size on my not very tall frame – I have to keep clothing on hand to accommodate these fluctuations. If I don’t, it leads to all sorts of “desperation purchases” – which to my credit, I think I’ve finally come to terms with and sworn off!


Weight fluctuations are horrible when you are trying to sew clothes you want to enjoy for a long time. There are some styles that are wonderful, though. Knit skirts and dresses are easy to make and can fit a range of sizes well.


DUDE. Feel you, for real. I have Crohn’s Disease, which means over the course of a year I can fluctuate from an 8 to a 12. I have to keep two wardrobes of clothes to account for ir.


In the past 5 years I’ve gone through the cycle of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and 20-30 lbs weight loss three times. The constant fluctuations in weight and shape plus my inexperience that makes sewing and fitting painfully slow mean a me-made wardrobe is almost impossible, but I still try.


I have similar issues. I have been through the pregnancy/breastfeeding cycle multiple times over the last four years. Interestingly, my decision to create my “body in transition” wardrobe has improved my sewing skills as the changing styles and related fit issues mean that I have had to consider my wardrobe very differently than I ever have before. It has also made me more adventurous with style and silhouette choices. Another bonus has been that my relationship with my body as it changes shape has matured and I now feel ok about myself even when I’m a conventionally less desirable shape. In fact I am able to celebrate my own personal diversity. My biggest challenge is redefining my own look for my own personal style. I just don’t want to wear the same things as I used to wear in years gone past.


My biggest challenge (which I am just realizing) is reconciling what I like/want to sew and what I actually wear. Who isn’t tempted by cute sun dresses, beautiful floral fabric or lovely sheer summer fabric. The problem is I don’t wear dresses everyday, wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing them to work and I live in Wisconsin. There is only two months I would be warm enough to wear a sub dress. So I have been trying to train my thinking toward blouses/tops with all the cute fabric and am going to try easing in some tunics to my wardrobe. It is very exciting to see the new patterns for knit fabric. I would like to also start sewing more knit shirts and leggings.

Christine G

This is me too! I love all of the beautiful skirt and dress patterns out there, but I currently don’t wear skirts or dresses. I want to, but I don’t know if making them will actually make me want to wear them! Also, as a currently (I’m working on it though) plus sized woman, the styles of skirts and dresses that come in sizes for me aren’t ones that I find terribly cute. Sure they might be “flattering” to my bigger body, but I don’t really want clothing that makes everyone else comfortable looking at my body, I want clothing that I feel amazing in!


Fleece lined tights will solve all your wintertime dress-wearing problems! I live in Chicago (and I don’t have a car, so I spend a significant amount of time outside walking to trains, waiting for buses, etc.) and made it through subzero weather wearing 2-3 pairs — WAY warmer than wearing pants and long johns.


I know what you mean. I keep buying clothes for someone else’s lifestyle.


Under armor cold gear leggings with fleece lined tights over them kept me cozy during a long, record-cold Vermont winter. The fleece lining in the tights prevents the seaming on the leggings from showing through, and cold gear is meant to be worn as a single layer so it has some wind resistance and a lot of cold resistance built in.


Last year I transferred to a more formal office, got pregnant and had a baby. This year when I returned to work I needed a few things to get by while I worked on losing the baby weight. This focus really helped me to think about my wardrobe more. All the pieces I bought were interchangeable. I didn’t buy any of the neutrals I never seem to wear (brown and tan) and I stuck to a silhouette that I knew would be flattering. This seemed to “reset” my wardrobe and now that many of my old clothes fit again I find it easier to part with what isn’t working for my lifestyle and adding pieces that I really wear over and over again. I feel more professionally dressed at work and yet still comfortable. I always hated dress slacks before and now that I’ve found the right shape for me I feel great. I am excited to be done nursing and add some great dresses to my “uniform.” I’ve never really worn dresses in the office.


My biggest struggle at the moment is that I’m pregnant. There are only a handful of items I’ve bought/made maternity-wise and just a few more items than that (mainly cardigans) from pre-pregnancy that fit me right now.

But while I’m stuck in this minimal wardrobe stage, I keep staring at all of my pre-pregnancy clothes in my closet, and wanting to purge them, but not knowing WHAT WILL FIT in the next year or so. Because of this, I haven’t been unable to purge at all; not even the things I know I haven’t worn in a while. Ugh.


Kiwi Sew do a great maternity trouser pattern which also includes how to convert trousers or jeans to the maternity version. I found that great for my less favourite trousers to see me through pregnancy and didn’t waste the clothes


If you can set aside the items that you know you didn’t wear (or only wore a time or two) in the year before you had to make the move into maternity clothes, you can probably count on at least getting rid of those items.

You could at least put them in storage & revisit them in a year to see what still appeals & what fits, & what fits your new lifestyle as a mom.

I would advise getting rid of anything simply for size reasons right away. I gained 50 pounds while I was pregnant & then lost it all instantly when I started breastfeeding–plus another 15 or 20. When I weaned my daughter, I instantly gained back 25 pounds. You just never know. Some people hold on to baby weight until they’re done breastfeeding & then they get smaller, some people are permanently bigger after having a kid, some people don’t really change at all.


I’m in this cycle at the moment too. Post-birth now, losing baby weight but breastfeeding and planning to have another baby before too long. I’ve decided that I’ll keep items for “later” (i.e. things that are non-breastfeeding friendly, things I can’t fit back in to yet, or maternity for next time) only if I absolutely LOVE them. Not just like. LOVE. This system is working so far!


I’ve found that ‘purging’ by pretending to purge and instead putting everything I want to get rid of into storage helps. Then you can go through it all when the baby’s born and decide to keep it or not, but in the meantime it will at least give you some peace of mind so you don’t open a closet full of things you want to get rid of every day.


I have so much stuff to get rid of or donate but some it it needs mending- I feel SOOOOOOO guilty donating these because I fear the secondhand stores might not take it but I can’t bear to throw out these garments and let the landfill win. They languish in my mending pile, taking up space, and never get repaired. I got them out of my closet but can’t get them out of my life!


Goodwill takes everything and even recycles fabric scraps.


you don’t have to landfill or mend them…. goodwill will take them and do the sorting, employing special needs individuals or providing community service opportunities for some others in the process, and they then move old garments through baling and reuse… like, around the world. and if it’s stuff in good or excellent condition, take the time to log it on “it’s deductible” and keep the receipt when you donate. i was shocked at the difference cleaning out my closet (and my kid’s closet) made to my tax refund this year…. and now i’m highly motivated to do more household lightening up. also, if it’s excellent and brand name, check out – that portion of the closet cleaning earned me a tax deduction, a choice of charities toward which my donation was directed, and two nice nordstrom gift cards. the next beneficiary will be the local volunteer fire department “garage sale” in august. :)


This definitely helps calm my guilt so I can get them out of my house and into new homes, recycled or worn. Thanks for the advice!


My biggest challenge is fit. I’m a small hourglass. It takes multiple muslins and several makes before I feel like I’ve perfected a pattern and it takes a long time and an abundance of patience to build a basic library of TNT patterns. I must say that the Osaka skirt was a home run on the first try but that’s an exception to the rule. The FBA is the bane of my existence! And sloped shoulders! And a sway back!

My next biggest challenge is finding suitable fabric. I either have to travel or risk internet purchases. And while I might find the perfect rayon challis for a simple skirt, it could take several seasons before I can find the right fabric for a top to go with. Stashbuilding is an art and a swatchbook is an important tool. Then I have to find a friendly salesperson who will escort me outside while I check color matches in natural light. Fluourescent lights should be banned in fabric stores. I’m not the matchy-matchy type but I do want my clothes to play well together.

Finally, I have issues with sophistication. I’m not a teenager and I need to look professional (or at least age appropriate) and feel comfortable all at once. I work at a research university in the PNW and often have to trek across campus in the rain to a meeting. Fussy clothes just won’t work. Patterns often fall into two categories: young and trendy or frumpy and stodgy. I’m not young but I’m not old enough to resign myself to looking like I don’t care. I care quite a lot.

I prefer properly fitting basics in quality fabrics with subtle and sophisticated details. It takes quite a bit of effort and patience and a fair amount of restraint to realize that “oh, cute!” now might mean “what was I thinking?” in a rather short time. There aren’t any shortcuts but it seems more difficult that it ought to be sometimes. The sparse availability of quality fabric means that wardrobe planning and execution may span several seasons while assembling the coordinating components. All the more reason to eschew trend in favor of style.

gabriel – quality fabric swatch sets in colorways that all play nice together, and cheerful advice on the phone about “best match” if you need to talk to a person about linings and notions, too… nothing out here in far and away, so i’ve been online/mail order fabric shopping for a long time.

independent pattern makers are the way to go for a more sophisticated presentation. and i find colette plays nice with sewing workshop patterns…


Great recommendations! I’m also a huge fan of Emma One Sock.


Fit is my biggest challenge too, I am petite (4″10), but with a slim but hourglass shape. I have struggled with ill fitting rtw for years and now finally have started sewing my own clothes which I thought would be the solution to well fitting clothes, however I underestimated the learning curve involved! I am now just starting to be able to make clothes I might actually wear! I do enjoy the process and solving a fit problem is very satisfying BUT I completely agree that’s it can be very frustrating at times. Lots of patience is required!

Fabric is also an issue for me, I have no fabric shops nearby and rely completely on the Internet. I find that sending so samples really helps, but takes time so it’s a very slow process.

However, when you finally crack all the fit issues and find the perfect fabric it so worth it! Plus you learn a little bit more with every item you make so I feel it’s a worthwhile investment of time, money and effort!

Elise Harris

I really identify with this. I am currently saving up a lot of money and spending a lot of time on the design aspect so that next time I travel to a better fabric store I will be READY. Until then I am accepting that it is ok to wear the same thing all the time (men do it!) and that achieving a well-dressed look won’t come as easily to me as I wish it would.


I totally feel your pain. I’m in the exact same boat, including the office environment. FBAs are a nightmare…


my biggest challenge is aspirational me vs. reality me. i went through the WA analysis part by ripping out pictures and sorting and gluing… and an awful lot of those pictures have ocean in the background… also, this bicycle with a basket on the front handlebars and tulips or a baguette in the basket keeps showing up, also, this dog, and a party where there seems to be a lot of champagne being served…. i know very much what i want to wear to do all kinds of things i never seem to have time to do… i even sew for aspirational me (because reality me’s jeans and t shirts are boring), but then the stuff just hangs in the closet.

i think i need professional help of the non-sewing kind.

Elise Harris

I know exactly how you feel. aspirational me wears sexy and empowering clothing, and actual me wears cardigans and leggings. My wardrobe is definitely going through growing pains!

Ms. Cleaver

I hear you on this. I used to buy and make a lot of 50s/60s style dresses, that never got a lot of wear. Then one day I had a lightbulb moment when I realized I was less Betty Draper pearls and heels, than I was 1960s camping trip with gingham and Keds. Still retro, but more doable for my lifestyle. Took a bit of getting to the root of it.

Your inspirational images seem to be very vacation-y/recreational in nature, so maybe look at some more muted “resort collections” for inspiration, like the Gucci one here?


very pretty… oh for the days of long skinny legs and high heels…

French Toast Tasha

I also used to envision clothes I’d like to have, but somehow I always pictured myself on vacation or at parties wearing them … of course those clothes didn’t necessarily suit the rest of my life.
For me the key has been figuring out what it is about those situations and those clothes that I like so much, and working that into looks that I’ll wear regularly. I agree it takes some trial and error, but it’s easier if I make myself picture wearing something in the most common situations of my real life, before I sew it!


Me too! I just realised this when I read your comment. I have a fashion blogger or two that I follow and love because of how cool they look with their bicycles and their cute cycling outfits.



That’s funny! It took literally decades for me to realize that the lovely cocktail dresses and full length gowns were not for my life as I lived it but rather for an idealized version of a movie life I would never have (sigh).


My biggest challenge to whittling down my wardrobe and planning what to make next is that I have so many “versions” of myslef. I am a professional and I like to dress business for work. Once I get home, I like to dress down into more casual wear but not necessarily PJs. I am quite active and there is a whole wardrobe for that. Finally, I dance.. A lot. When I dance I like to have vintage or vintage inspired pieces. I feel best when I dance if I am dressed that way; however, I do not dress this way for work. It feels too “made up” for work for me. It is strange.. Same clothes.. Different context.. Different meanings/feeling.. The fact that I am trying to get a smaller (and eventually all hand made) is counter to needing wardrobes for 4 distinctly different aspects of myself.. That is the biggest source of my frustration. I get overwhelmed and eventually paralyzed and dinky make anything.. This is when I cave and make rtw purchases..


Oh my god another dancer! You understand! I can’t shop with friends these days without baffling them with my many personalities. My work/weekend style leans masculine (pants, vests, button-downs) but I love dressing in dresses with more feminine details when I dance (skirts with slits, draped details, form-fitted styles).

I’ve only just started sewing for myself and my skills – especially pattern adjustments! – just aren’t sufficient for the product I want. However, I’m getting better at identifying simple pieces that function in different ways. For example, a fitted jersey tank can work over a button-down, gives a kind of sweater-vest effect but for warm weather, or as the foundation of a dance outfit with some kind of dramatic skirt. I’m also giving myself passes on buying RTW for complex construction that I’m just not capable of yet. i.e., pants. Sewing a bunch of skirts would just result in a pile of not-worn skirts at the bottom of my closet, and a not-dressed me. Not helpful.

Tina C.

I have two major challenges:

1. After I had kids my bust shrank to under ‘normal’ pattern measurements. I’m now about a 30” bust and 26” waist (most patterns add 3-4” of ease to the bust, so it ends up being about 34” which is way too loose). I still haven’t mastered how to re-draft patterns to fit my new measurements—even with a SBA I get a lot of gaping at the upper bust. It’s super frustrating.

2. Is not being able to get rid of anything! I know I only wear about 10% of my clothing, if that, but whenever I try to purge I feel guilty about having wasted my money on the clothes in the first place and like I should keep it for “just one more year” in the hopes that I’ll suddenly realize that it magically fits, or that the color suddenly becomes one that I will wear.

Mary Kay

I, too, felt guilty about having clothes I never wear. But another way to think of it is that giving away items you’re not using is fulfilling a need of someone else in your community. Think of it as a gift to a stranger. Maybe your original purchase–or even your sewing project–wasn’t a good choice for you, but it’s probably just perfect for someone else. A rationalization? Certainly, but it makes it much easier to part with stuff you no longer use or care about.


I also really struggle with getting rid of clothes. But on multiple occasions, I’ve wretchedly given up a garment only to realize months later I’d immediately forgotten about it. I know it’s an old chestnut, but I’ve also found that packing an item away for a few months is a good intermediate step to giving it away — if I miss it while it’s gone, then I should keep it. If I don’t miss it, maybe the attachment is all in my head.


I feel better getting rid of something when I think of it as a roommate who’s not doing anything to pay rent. If I don’t use it, it’s a freeloader and should get out.

I live in a fairly small flat, so the rent-per-volume concept works well for me, but even if you live in a big house, there’s only so much room in your closet, and getting rid of the freeloaders gives all your hard-working clothes room to spread out and be more comfortable (aired out, never wrinkled, and easy for you to see).


I, also do this. Here we call it valuable real estate. If an item is taking up valuable real estate and something else can’t have that space, we revisit the best use idea, as in what is the best use for this space? It’s a little bit clinical and a little bit cynical , but helps me get rid of clothing and shoes I just don’t fully utilize.


This process has been hugely illustrative for me. I grew up a tomboy, determined not to do something “girly” or “fashionable” (and possibly compensating for knowing nothing about those things…), so I have been learning from scratch! What do you call this silhouette? What colors go with X? Never mind if it looks good on me or not.

Hardest parts: I am a short-waisted hourglass and I hate tucking in shirts. But the look is undoubtedly good for me. I’ve had to embrace that, and admit it’s not :so: bad. I’m also self-conscious of my thighs, and don’t want to wear my skirts too short, but as a petite person, I really need the hemline to be a few inches above the knee to add height to my line.

All in all, making things that end up not “working” for me is part of the frustration. But I am learning! Thanks for your inspiration.


I just don’t even know who I am, in so many ways. I got married to my abusive high school boyfriend when I was 19, and after I divorced him at 21, I went directly into a longterm relationship with the man I am now married to. I was on an academic career path and now I am out of work, with two chronic illnesses. I don’t know what I like at all! I stare at a pattern or even a pinterest outfit for hours wondering if I could pull it off, and having no idea! Despite slowly learning who I actually am, I am of a shape that no RTW ever fits (A pear with an E cup!) so I don’t even have any reference points for what might fit, since nothing ever has :) I just pick a pattern and work at fitting, and then eventually find out if I actually like it or variations of it once it fits. It is soooo slow going!

Elise Harris

I know how this feels. It’s definitely a journey to know who you are. I’m still on mine! I think it helps to find what you KNOW you like or don’t and then try to figure out why you like or don’t like it. Then you can use that reasoning when pattern/fabric shopping.


Keep trying, keep going! I think it took me almost 3 years to finally figure out what silhouettes I like… many times by trial and error. I would sew something, be thrilled about it right up to the moment I put it on as a finished garment, then realize “oh, this just isn’t me.” Sometimes that initial sinking feeling was right; but sometimes it wasn’t! After wearing it out a time or two (my rule is to wear every make that’s not truly hideous in public at least once) I sometimes find I actually do like it, after all.


you could try making a personlised croqui. It’s one of those fashion illustration models that are used to sketch clothes on. Make one to your body shape (you can google how to do it, but basically take a picture of yourself in form fitting clothes and trace your outline) and then draw the oufits you find you like in pinterest on the croqui. It will give you a much better idea of how they will look on you. I’ve done this and it helped immensely!

Ms. Cleaver

Time! Between my nine to five, my side gig designing knitting patterns, and a toddler, my Me time is so limited. I don’t have much time to really look at my current wardrobe, much less sew the new pieces I want to make. I know I’ll get there, it may just be a longer process!!

Jet Set Sewing

I had a baby at 44 and could barely make it through the day, much less sew! I took sewing up again when he was a more independent grade-schooler. Then you’re stuck in the house a lot monitoring homework etc., so at that point sewing (and InstaGram) will keep you company.


My biggest challenge as well: Making time for sewing! And allowing myself to buy something new to stay happy until I’ve made what I need.
the recent good weather made me realise I dont have any T-shirts with short sleeves left after my big closetcleaning.

Elise Harris

After heavily editing my wardrobe (and all of my belongings) for years, getting rid of things I don’t like is very easy and stress relieving for me. Life is so much more organized and simple when I throw things out. Don’t like it? Throw it in the giveaway bag or the scrap bag! Doesn’t matter why or how much it cost or what I wore it to.

Because of all this I am often left with so little, and not enough money to properly replace any of it. I am not to busy to sew, but fabric costs money too! Not to mention the dearth of good fabric stores around here and my hatred of online fabric shopping. (Overpriced, and I often end up with something I wasn’t entirely expecting.)

As a result the stakes of messing up a sewing project end up very high and I spend way too long dithering over what fabric and pattern to order because I want one garment to serve so many purposes. (long lasting, comfortable, professional, matches with everything else I own.) I guess I am trying too hard, but isn’t that was being a wardrobe architect is all about? Putting the same painstaking care and effort into building your wardrobe that would be put into a building?

Another problem I encounter is settling on my colors. I think at this point I’ve decided to stop worrying about it because I simply CANNOT cut an entire color out of my life. I like them all too much!


great post- my biggest challenge is that somehow over the last number of years i had wandered into a habbit of grey and charcoal and my wardrobe was becomming a sensible bore – the colours in shops were limited and since i started sewing for myself i noticed i was using certain colours and that all these colours generally interchange well, and my wardrobe is nearing a functional colourful capsule ……………..

Janome Gnome

It’s always finding the right motivation with me. When I sew, I want to create and dream and learn… and adjustments to RTW just doesn’t call to me at the start of a free evening in front of my machine. Even thought the results are really satisfying when they’re done. I know that the simplest modifications to the garments I never wear would bring back into play thousands of dollars worth of 90%-right clothes and make them perfect. You know when you try on half a dozen things and get frustrated none is quite right and you can’t understand how you thought you had great clothes but nothing is quite the way you wanted it? The stupidest thing is that most of it could be resolved by a 10 minute alteration: a taken-in side seam, or a shorter hem or a tiny extra bit of fabric or trim on a neckline or skirt hem for more modesty. I have started pinning alteration instructions onto clothes when I take them off, instead of throwing them on the floor in scorn, now. They really are hilariously do-able. One day I’ll sit down at my machine and the note that says “will fit waist, bust and sides better if you pinch 2cm from shoulder seams – 15 mins” will seem like genius and magic instead of homework and I’ll actually do it. I’d like to liberate them from wardrobe limbo, after all we did buy this stuff for a reason and using them would be the best result of all. Saint alive, I’m actually feeling rather motivated now….


Not to dent your motivation, but I’ve started taking alterations like that to the tailors to do. I resisted for ages because I could do it myself and it seemed like a waste of money etc etc but I hate altering RTW, it stresses me out, and I find it a really miserable experience. Most of the things I need done don’t cost that much anyway and this way my sewing stays enjoyable rather than a chore. I felt such a weight lift the first time I dropped a pile of alterations off!


Ooh! Good question. A few frustrations I have are spending time making/sewing something but them thinking it’s “too good” and not wearing it enough. When I come home I change into the daggy old stuff, when really I need to bin the daggy stuff and wear things while they fit and while they’re still in season. Also, fabric choice: sometimes I settle for a sub-par fabric (through a lack of good fabric stores close by) and not being happy with the final product because the fabric just isn’t the right print or colour. I guess the answers are easy enough (wear what you sew! Don’t settle for second-best fabric) but that’s what I’m thinking right now…


My struggle = cohesiveness!! I am just all over the map, sewing whatever pretty thing catches my eye. But Wardrobe Architect is REALLY helping me a lot… revolutionizing this for me. Now I have a real “sewing plan” for the season that I’m excited to stick to. Many more of my makes are fitting a cohesive style (not 100%, but that’s OK!). So THANKS for this course. It is making a difference to me.

Juliana @ Urban Simplicity

I’m not always realistic about what I actually wear in a particular season. I’ve been paying closer attention this year to my winter wardrobe, and while I’m very happy with it now, I had some stumbles at the beginning of the season as I chose sewing projects better suited to my fall/spring wardrobe tastes. In winter, I tend to wear dark solid colored separates or dresses with lots of wool and texture to the fabrics with interesting layers and knitwear to keep it from being boring. I don’t dress that way at all in slightly warmer weather.

I’m also realizing that while I love a good novelty print, I have to be more picky about what types of novelty prints I actually wear. There are some vintage color palettes that really appeal to me visually, but I feel like I’m too old to wear them with any seriousness. I’m trying to be more sensitive to patterns that I like in theory but not actually to wear. I’m sure I’ll probably make a few more buying mistakes as I do like to wear a lot of cotton fit/flare type dresses.

My other trouble is that I either overbuy fabric for the season or underbuy–I’m never quite sure how many new things I need each season. I’m trying to shoot for about 25-30 items in my closet per season, although I do find I run a little over that in the summer because of the heat (and we don’t have AC).

Challenges to be sure.


My biggest problem is that, well, I’m old. Parts of my body have settled in places where they didn’t used to be and that extra weight seems to be permanent. In addition, I no longer need to dress for a work environment so many of my clothing items are no longer appropriate for a retirees lifestyle. The challenge is to enjoy a casual lifestyle in something other than jeans and a sweatshirt or t.


My challenge is that I don’t really know how to dress anymore…retired a year ago and got rid of my office clothes. I gained 2 dress sizes due to a medical problem (which has since been corrected but the weight remains). I have a lovely wardrobe in boxes in the garage waiting for me. I don’t want to buy a lot of clothes because I want to loose the weight and unpack those boxes! Meanwhile…what to wear? I love shift dresses but have a foot problem and can’t wear any of my cute or dress appropriate shoes. Would someone please tell me that it’s perfectly okay for a 50-something woman to go around in skirts & shift dresses with hiking boots, lol! Seriously…tops are an issue for me. I’ve developed an apple belly and am so self-conscious that sometimes I don’t even want to go out of the house. I need to know what kind of tops to buy for this shape that don’t make me look pregnant.


Oh I know how you feel, you could have been writing about me. My wardrobe is still a work in progress, I wear my dresses/ skirts with sneakers in the summer and lace up ankle boots in the winter, as 3 foot surgeries means no pretty girly shoes or flip flops. I find if I keep the length on my knee or ankle length , this works without being too frumpy, I am not particularly tall. A good pair of brogues works too and are still trendy.
Still working on the best tops for my apple tummy, ain’t the menopause wonderful!! T- shirts are not great, smock tops make me look even more pregnant, wrap front tops look pretty good. I recently got a pattern for a drape fronted top, haven’t tried it yet.
Wish someone would design a range of patterns for us mature women whose waists are no longer 10″ smaller than our hips…I can’t be the only one.


it’s okay to go around in skirts and shift dresses and hiking boots.

really. especially if you’re rocking a great pair of tights. :)

Sandra Bennett

Hi Nita, l am 64 and can so relate to you… short waist and an apple uggh. I found Pinterest to be a great help. Just type in “body shape styles” and go from there, although l did find that what suits an apple doesn’t suit a short waist, but l had great fun working it out. I also have foot problems, fallen arches (plantar fasciitis) but there is no arch support in most pretty shoes. What to do? Lots of research later l found that l can get arch supports (not the ones the podiatrist gives us, they are way too bulky) that can be stuck onto the arch area of the shoe. Problem solved.
For everyone…. there is a fabulous blog here in Australia called She gives us a lot of help with body shapes and colour etc. I check her every day.
All the best Nita Sandra


You sound just like me! I have arthritic knees now and have had to give up high-heeled shoes which makes me very sad. I have also put on weight due to not being able to exercise so much and have a tummy I never had before. I have discovered that long tunic tops with a mid- calf full skirt or leggings/skinny jeans look great with hiking boots! I am planning to sew my wardrobe around these silhouettes, also long tops with just above knee-length pencil skirts (tapered in towards the hem) and thick tights with ankle boots. I am 62 and don’t want to dress like an old lady yet! Hope this helps – it took me ages to find things I could wear. I still miss the heels and hate my extra weight but I have tried to make the best of what I am now!

Donna Allner

Hiking boots are my wardrobe staple, too — also because of foot problems. I look better with a smile on my face than with a grimace of pain, though, so every wardrobe choice runs through the hiking boot filter. Still, it’s tough to pair cute dresses with volume that stops at the ankles. In hot weather I go with cute socks peeking out and a skirt or skort that hits just above the knee, but in firm rather than floaty fabrics. For winter, which can be harsh in northern Wisconsin, it’s easy to fall back on pants. Dresses are harder. Maybe a tunic and leggings with pretty knit legwarmers to draw the eye up and soften the volume at the ankles?

Louise-Moody Dresser

I remember my teens and early 20’s, I used to love my closet! Anyways, I think I have all the challenges mentioned so far rolled up into one! I have too many old clothes, outdated and that no longer fit. My shape has changed and many styles that once flattered me, now accentuate parts I’d rather ignore. I don’t sew, so I shop…and I don’t particularly like to shop here in Canada, because I find all the stores have the same seasonal clothes/styles, and most of the time they’re geared to younger women. I have to try many before finding one I like. So I end up with lots of odd mismatched pieces. Then, it’s trying to put together something comfortable and smart out the door….

Oh, and I’m a moody dresser. Don’t know if someone else has this issue? Anyways, I can look good in something, but if it doesn’t feel good, then I feel wrong most of the day. For example, I’ll have a very strong urge to wear my blue dress, but don’t have the proper shoes to go with it ( I used to but they wore out and didn’t find a suitable replacement yet). I pick something else to wear, but feel off for the rest of the day. Now that I write this…sounds a little weird. But all of these challenges snowball together to make getting dressed a chore.


A light bulb went off when I started to sew my clothing and I realized why I always struggled with RTW and why nothing ever felt comfortable- I do not have a RTW body and never will.

Now that my skill is picking up I have to say my greatest challenge is time. I usually have to do multiple muslins to perfect the fit so a dress can take a month for me. Maybe I’m too much of a perfectionist but I like slip-stiching, bound seams, and sewn-in interfacing. I wish I had more time to work on a complete wardrobe but the dog still has to get walked, the husband fed, and the bathrooms cleaned. I’m trying to get pregnant again after a loss and while I’m hopeful for a successful pregnancy I’m also worried about losing my sewing time.


I think my biggest challenge at the moment is about evolving my wardrobe over time. I have a personal style/look, and I’ve taken into consideration color (invested in a consult–very helpful) and what shapes flatter my figure. I sew a lot of my own clothes, and am learning pattern making which helps with the fitting issues a lot. So I sew good things that I like. BUT then fashions change, and I wonder if my clothing, so carefully considered and thoughtfully made, now looks dated! I have limited time, too, and want the things I sew to look stylish for a good long while. I know that the key is to “sew classic” rather than “sew trendy,” but if I go too “classic,” I end up with conservative. Keeping an eye on current fashion can end up getting confusing.


I think the trick is to sew classic and what suits you. It always looks great, and then use accessories (bags, shoes, scarves etc) to work in the current trends and colours.


I have this same problem but have not articulated it, but now makes a lot of sense. At the end of a project, even a very successful one, the final look says Tries Too Hard. Or maybe I am just afraid that it does, because what I am wearing is truly so unique it’s classic AND odd. But maybe that’s ok.



Vicky Gorry

Having realised that my wardrobe is full of rash, last minute purchases (just need a dress for this etc) and that almost none of them fit me I decided to sew as many of my clothes as I can. Now I have the dilemma of working through my stash (which is a mix of colours, prints and fabrics, none of which will make a coherent outfit) or buying fabric so that I can create a working wardrobe. I suspect it will be a mix of both, with the current emphasis on my stash. Perhaps I’ll sell some of the RTW stuff that doesn’t fit, flatter or get worn to finance the new fabric. I do wonder if anyone on the planet has a RTW body!


My biggest challenge is probably the time it takes to perfect fit, with difficulty in fabric choice a runner up… Not helped by a bad habit of losing interest during the difficult stage of fitting and deciding now is the perfect time to start learning knits instead of trouser fitting. I have an embarrassing number of half finished projects. I also used to rely on a local sewing class for help with fitting (I think it needs a size smaller, fba, extra dart…instead teacher shaves off an inch from the shoulders and suddenly everything works!). But that has just closed so now I’m on my own!


I finally cleaned out the closet, letting go of all sorts of things and previous lifestyle. I am now retired and I don’t know what kind of wardrobe I need! I tend to repeat the jeans/khakis t shirts thing way too often and don’t have anything stylish. Due to aging body challenges I think I want a looser, flowing type comfy but stylish look but I don’t want to look like I shopped at Omar the Tentmaker.


My biggest hurdle is time. It takes time to plan a wardrobe and it takes time to sew it. I love the idea of the quick to sew patterns that are in Seamwork, but my need is work clothes (business casual). Plus, I bike to work, so I have to keep that in mind. I’m hoping this summer I’ll have more time to plan and sew.


I have 2 problems first I live in the Northeast in a state where I have not seen anyone in a dress on the street, it’s all casual warm clothing. Second I’m 55, I’m in good physical shape and I’m small 5’2″ 109 lbs . I basically wear second yoga jeans, tencel long and short sleeve t-shirts long and I have 2 skirts in brown and gray chambray that I made and I wear instead of shorts in the summer. I am so sick of my clothes. I need a dress for my daughter’s bridal shower this summer and her wedding. It’s hard to find the right style of dress pattern. I tried to sew two dresses last summer from one of the big four but I get gaping under the neck and a little tightness in the waist.


My biggest hurdle is choosing appropriate styling. I am short, look best in pinks and blue (light summer colouring). I handled looking ‘young’ in my professional life by living in suits, navy or grey in winter and lighter colours in summer. Time off work was spent camping, canoeing or doing home repairs. So it was either Jones New York or logo’d T-shirts with painting shorts for years.

In retirement, I started to sew again. But casual clothing in light colours border into way too ‘cute’, too often. It is very frustrating to go to the trouble of sewing something to realise on the first try on, that I have made a horrible styling mistake! I have tried RTW to get idea of styling but as others have pointed out, RTW isn’t often styled for boomers.

I am at a loss. Too young looks ridiculous. I am not old enough to get away with ‘cute’ old lady. And I am too small to carry ‘art teacher chic’ even if I wanted too!


As with some of you I have had a job change and gone from business with a multi national to Managing an OR where we wear scrubs most of the day, so have had a massive purge and onsold the business items, lost some weight ( no more business lunches ect!!) and taken every other item out of my wardrobe, it now only comes back into my wardrobe if I wear it and feel good in it. This has given me a guide to style, function and colours that suit my present lifestyle. So far after 3 months 3/4 of my old wardrobe is still in the spare room! Just goes to show how little we really need.
Now I need to take the time to plan and sew using this knowledge to build a better wardrobe and identify the gaps I have currently.
I also do not have an RTW body shape and like you struggle with time to sew so have joined a sewing group that meets once a month for 4 hrs on a Saturday, you get support, fun, fitting and lots of tips!


My solution for getting rid of those clothes you can bare to give away is to have a trash bag in the basement just for the clothes I will give to charity. I give to my church thrift store. But first you need a system for filtering out those clothes you should really hand on down. My secret is making up 4-7 outfits for the week and hang them together. (choice is important) Then after the week I do the same thing again. After about a month you’ll notice some things just don’t seem to got worn. That outfit or the part I don’t really like about it goes down in the bag and the bag gets recycled to the thrift store after 6 months. Wow, I can change my mind. I also have a rule for each item I purchase two items must leave. This is great for my shoes because I would never get rid of any shoes otherwise.


What a terrific idea!!! I have downsized my closet so much that I really am having difficulty making outfits. Plus it’s the time of year, here in Colorado, that one must have both winter and spring outfits.


I have an trunk & a wardrobe in the garage where I store my off season clothes. I go through my ‘house’ & garage clothes at the start of each season & anything that hasn’t been worn through out the previous season goes in the charity pile or the Ebay pile. I keep some things if i think I might wear it again. It means that at least twice a year I take stock of all my clothes.


I love the idea of planning your outfits for the week to see what doesn’t get used. Great tip!


My biggest challenge is I am all over the place with my weight at the moment & it’s driving me mad.
Last year I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis & one of the meds packed on 5 kilos in 7 months. This was an absolute shock to me, as I have been hovering around the same weight for 15 years. Suddenly none of my pants/jeans/skirts fitted, shirts & jackets were too tight on my arms. Also I have issues with pain in my rib cage, so I spent a two years buying & discarding bras that I couldn’t wear. Unbelievably Victoria Secret have the only wireless bra in a 10DD I can bear to wear.
Then in January I was prescribed a new medication & have lost my appetite & 3 kilos in 2 months, so most of my new clothes are now too big & all my old stuff that fit, went to the Op shop in November.
However before summer (Australian here) I decided not to buy any new clothes, the plan was to make items from stash fabric & patterns. I managed to go from October to February without buying any new clothes except underwear & it has been a truly freeing experience. Heading in to winter I’m going to have to relax that rule as I’m rubbish at sewing stretch knits for long sleeve tee shirts & don’t have enough time to knit new jumpers & cardigans.


So this is I guess really odd but the hardest part has been being interested in any new clothes! I tossed a bunch when we moved to the city (SF) when our youngest went to college. Tossed a bunch more when we moved out in preparation for remodeling the place we found. It’s now been 3 years since I was truly interested in getting new clothes! New linens, pillow covers, lights …so many lights but when I say I have nothing to wear it’s getting near to true. I’m still tossing things as they have stains or whatever that I can’t rescue but I really need to overcome this or I’ll only have exercise clothes! I will have a totally clean slate to work with. Ha Ha


I just had my first baby in October, and while my body is back to its pre-pregnancy weight, it’s a totally different body. Before my hubby and I got married two years ago, we lived in Maui, where (tropical haven though it is) style generally isn’t given a second thought. Take those factors and add in that I live in a rural enough area that there is no quality shopping nearby, and I have no wardrobe. No. Wardrobe. I’m starting from the ground up, and I’m learning to sew to make it happen! My chambray Bristol skirt will be my first wearable garment. Hooray!!!


My biggest issue currently is that I’m in the middle of discovering my own style, so I’m trying to make the transition to my newer favorites (skirts instead of pants most of the time, retro/vintage inspired stuffs), but I’m pretty well flat broke. I have a pretty awesome fabric and pattern stash to improve this situation eventually, but I’m in a motivation/creativity rut.
So, changing styles, poor, and creative rut. It’s not a pretty combo for a wardrobe. My clothing variety is pretty small and lame at the moment.


I was totally in the same place when I chose to shift my style to 40’s and 50’s inspired pieces. I started with working up a half dozen circle skirts that I could pair back to basic tees and cardigans. It was a great way to get started have versatile pieces that I could make in batches/quickly/easily. I have a couple of TNT patterns for cranking things out but my closet is so full of me-made now the challenge is to strip it out of the things I don’t really wear and pass them on.


Well, it took me until I was 49 before I realized (and believed) that the problem was not with my body, but rather the clothes I was trying to fit into. At 5’10” and short waisted with high hips, the proportions of RTW aren’t quite right. Now that I’ve internalized that message, I struggle to find clothes that fit properly and which I can afford…leading me on a journey to learning to sew.

Still, I’m loathe to give up the clothes I have, hoping against hope I can find a way to make them fit. I know holding on to clothes that don’t feel good is beyond stupid, but that is my reality.


What I’m finding is that while I love bright, fun colours, what I end up making seems more like what my mother or grandmother would wear! I love retro and vintage style, but the problem seems to be pinning down the fun side of those styles rather than the staid, matronly stuff I’m actually coming out with.


I am about to turn 60 and I am so interested in FINALLY obtaining a wardrobe that I feel comfortable with along with it being handmade. Of course the challenge like so many is finding the key patterns that I love and work well with my body. I am trying to relax a bit and realize it is a process. I made a pledge to not “buy” this year. However, it has seemed to cause me stress at times, and have to rethink the goal of such a pledge. I am very pleased that I have found two dress patterns that I love and know that I will use over and over …….Moneta and Laurel, and a t shirt pattern….Renfrew by Sewaholic. So I try to remind myself that I am moving toward my goal and to be proud. Thank you to Colette and Co for all you do!


I read with interest your comment about finding colors that go with your gray hair. I’m in my late 60’s and decided to stop coloring my hair. I have lots of gray in the front. I have warm-toned skin, and it seems to me that my gray hair really clashes with my skin tone. I, too, have great difficulty knowing what colors to wear. Is your skin tone warm or cool? If it’s cool, your probably could wear the Summer season of Color Me Beautiful palettes.

Melissa Q.

My biggest wardrobe challenge is that my style has changed! I used to like cutesy & playful & sweet and I’ve just changed. These days I’m more interested in a classic, simpler and sexier look. I want stylish but still wearable. That means I have lots of guilt about all the cutesy clothes I own but never wear. One of these things I’ve done is an occasional clothing swap with friends. We all bring out clothes and exchange them with each other. That way I don’t feel bad about giving away expensive but “cute” clothes! (Not be a downer but Goodwill is overflowing and sells on lots of it’s clothing donations to developing countries, which has negative consequences for native textile design.) My next step, is to use WA to create the wardrobe that fits my style now. :)


My biggest challenge is I got so enthusiastic about culling my wardrobe to true love items, I have very little left to wear! And very limited time for sewing for myself. Big sewing plans not based in reality of time! The purge also threw out a lot of pilled clothing I was wearing but feeling horrible in (most of my shopping has been cheap chain stores since having children). But already some of the makes I’ve made to fill my wardrobe gaps are pilling! I want my me-makes to last longer than my chain-store-cheapies but finding quality fabrics at a price I can afford (and even knowing the fabrics will wash and wear well) is very difficult.


My biggest challenge is that I lack the confidence to take a risk. I’ve minimized my wardrobe, I love getting rid of things. But now I face so much risk I feel paralyzed. Am I a good enough seamstress for a particular pattern? This fabric is too expensive. What kind of fabric is best? Will it even fit and look good on me? Will I be able to keep working past a failed attempt? I guess my answer is “Yes” because I love to learn and the skill is more valuable to me than the item of clothing it generates. I just have to remind myself of this.


Biggest problem? Due to an unfortunate childhood, I have a bit of a phobia about drawing attention to myself. So I never really paid attention to clothes other than to make sure I hit the sweet spot of “not flattering but looks like she tried”, and I never really learned how to put together an Outfit rather than jeans and t-shirt for home, dress pants and …well, t-shirt under a cardigan for work.

Since I started sewing I’ve gotten more interested in having clothing that is at least semi-flattering… but have no idea, for example, “how” to wear the pretty jersey dress I made. It is a good shape on me, and a flattering colour thanks to the Wardobe Architect series…. but I haven’t worn it outside the house! No matter what I do, going near anyone I know wearing a dress will draw a lot of attention, I don’t want to “get it wrong” on top of that. LOL There seem to be a lot of rules about what shoes or colour of tights, etc can be worn with what. It’s like a secret code I can’t quite make out!


How long have you got, I’ve got quite the list of wardrobe problems!
In a climate (Sydney) where the seasons are mild, there seems to be little reason to change clothing seasonally. We have 3 months of fairly cold weather where a girl only needs 1-2 coats/jackets and 3-4 months of unbearable heat and humidity during which I wear my 16yo maternity dress – no kidding!

I like to sew smart and cleverly made clothes, but tend to wear T shirts and jeans. I put no effort whatsoever into dressing because no one sees me anyway!

I have generous chesticles so fitted is better than sloppy but that seems the antithesis of clothes to run up and down stairs in.

Whats a girl to do?!


@lesley I live in mild San Francisco where the weather is within 20 degrees F all year round. I almost envy our friends who live in more “traditional” fashion climates as there is no difference fashion wise, maybe just a light coat and a pair of light tights for winter. Its hard to move “winter” items to a separate box for storage! To add to the confusion SF is a very casual place -and for client meetings I am expected to dress in a more formal way. No seasons and no set levels of formality = closet chaos!


One of my biggest problems is reconciling my clothes ensembles with my rather limited shoe options, and more generally with a lifestyle where I walk constantly.

I grew up in suburban Texas where you drive 2 blocks to go to the grocery store. I moved to Boston for college and have stayed here, and the transition from driving in warm weather to walking in cold weather has really impacted what I wear. Add to the fact that I have foot problems that are part genetics and mismanaged foot injuries. My style is a mix of romantic and classically “feminine” clothes, and in an ideal world, I would wear delicate ballet flats and mid-hight pumps everywhere. But I walk about 5 miles everyday for my commute and actually wouldn’t change it. I’ve tried the thing where you wear tennis shoes on your commute, but I feel weird. Looking how I want to look on my commute is just as important as looking put-together at work.

I’ve invested in some great supportive boots for October-April, it’s warmer months that are a problem. I have a couple of pairs of hardy sandals that are either comfortable but look too outdoorsy for my taste, or that look right but stop feeling great after a couple of miles of walking. Another problem is the dreaded chub-rub of summer, when I forget to wear shorts with a skirt and my thighs get angry and unhappy. But then sometimes I need a slip to wear under the skirt to prevent the layers from bunching up, and then I wonder why I even bothered wearing a skirt for all this trouble.

I suppose the root problem is perfectionism, that I am unhappy if my entire outfit doesn’t go together, and so I am prone to buy that 1 thing that will maybe make it work, and then have lots of do-dads I never use.


Have you considered custom insoles for your ballet flats? I have foot issues (high arches) and buying ballet flats that can fit my insoles makes all the difference! Naturalizer makes basic plain flats with support and the Kenneth Cole + Nike shoes are comfy without being frumpy


Have you tried Planet Shoes? I have really picky feet and tend to buy ‘old lady’ brand shoes. I have quite a few pairs of Planet sandals and ballet flats and find them to be a great mix of style and comfort. I can walk miles in them! They do tend to have a wide fit, but if that suits you, give them a go!


What kind of foot trouble do you work with? I have plantar fascitis and a heel spur in my right foot and have found that shoes with strong arch support and a cushioned heel cup are vital to my foot health and walking comfort. I have found some success with Birkenstock (not the traditional style but the Messina style which has a closed toe and some of their shoe line) and also with Earth brand shoes. I can actually wear ballet flats! From Earth brand. They also have lots of fun, retro-workable feminine footwear silhouettes beyond their classic Solar style. I dig the Beacon flats and have a yearning for their Escape lace-ups.


Have you thought about making yourself some satiny culottes? That might be one piece that would serve the purpose of both the shorts and the slip. I hear you on the shoes though. Dansko sandals are the best solution I’ve come up with. I actually have a harder time finding boots that are comfortable.


I have a very similar problem.

My feet have issues, so I have to wear orthotic inserts almost always when I walk. And I live in a very walkable city with no bike, scooter, or car, so I walk a lot every day. Down the block once a week in sandals might be okay, but otherwise I have to wear something substantial enough to hold my inserts.

On top of that, I live in Asia and wear a US women’s 10 or European 41/42. There is one women’s shoe shop in the city where I can buy shoes, and their shoes can rarely fit an insert. And they’re expensive.

I’ve just taken to wearing Converse sneakers all the time. Enough celebrities do it that it seems remotely fashionably acceptable. Probably not the ideal aesthetics, but it’s what works for me.


Try Naturalizer shoes. They are made of durable leather (although that may be objectionable for vegans). I have walked for miles in them, and they come in many styles. They are easy to order on line too, and they last forever.


Definitely my eyes are to blame….if I see something I like its so hard to resist the urge and buying it!!!

I also find with special prints or patterns its really hard to give up, so I end up keeping even if it doesn’t fit anymore!


I have analysis paralysis lately when it comes to my wardrobe. Basically spend a ton of time looking on the web, ect. trying to figure out what I want, and not much time actually making or buying anything. It it a side effect of perfectionism. If its not perfect, I don’t want to bother with it, or waste any time or money on it. So basically I hang around in Old Navy sweatpants dreaming of a perfect wardrobe…


Shoes. Definitely. I have a shoe size (10 1/2 B) that is hard to find. The most number of pairs of shoes I have ever had in my life has been five. Right now, I have four pair, counting summer sandals.

Also, I have special needs for footwear: Versatility, low or no heels, soft or padded footbed.


My wardrobe is too full, but I don’t like waste and I have found I need a span of two sizes as My weight goes up and sometimes down. I am really hard on myself about this. Weakness, laziness etc.. But I do not let that get in the way of sewing. I adore sewing, it feeds my need for creativity and makes me smile. So, I sew good basics in lovely fabrics for myself, interspersed with other garments that challenge my skills and creativity, mens ,children’s, bags. It is fun and reduces wardrobe anxiety. Creativity is a buzz, don’t let the issues you have with body image stifle the joy.


I have the hardes time trying to make pants.


My biggest challenge is feeling in between styles. I stay at home with my two rowdy boys, breastfeed and don’t have a big budget for clothes or the time to realllly dig through second hand stores. I’m feeling the need to buy clothes that are higher quality but that don’t break the bank because I am HARD on my clothes. I need function+fashion. I tended to buy Old Navy but it’s just throwing away money. And I don’t want to wear super nice things when I chasing kids ;) I feel a little stuck between super casual and dressy.


My lifelong challenge is being tall. Pants don’t fit. Shirts with long enough sleeves are huge. Short skirts are really really short. Skirts that aren’t supposed to be short are… short. Add to that: aging. My back will simply not stand for heels any longer. This has changed the proportions of my look quite a bit. I’ve accepted my greying hair but it has completely changed the colors I can wear. Along with age has come increasing authority and responsibility at work; generally a good thing. The challenge is to look professional on a budget without looking frumpy. I can’t get away with business casual anymore. Just to complicate matters we decided not to own a car so what ever I wear has to be appropriate for the weather outdoors, the weather in the office, and the weather inside the jam-packed subway. Oh, and did I mention the 8 year old who thinks what ever I’m wearing is appropriate for use as a hand towel?


I am a full time stay at home mom and housekeeper. I want to look nice and put together, but with a toddler, and housecleaning, and making three meals a day, plus caring for my 50 plus chickens, and gardens, “frumpy housewife” is more my “look”. I love what I do but I hate how I look while I’m doing it! I also don’t like wearing my pretty clothes and getting them all dirty. I’m wanting to change though and wear more aprons.


Ok, my biggest wardrobe dilemma is that my husband and I are moving overseas later this year, and I am literally packing my life into one 27 kg limit suitcase! I was ruthless at the start of the year, and donated four bags of clothing (which felt amazing), but I am still far away from my one-suitcase goal. On top of that, my sewing skills are really improving and I love the clothes that I am making (they have become very practical, easy to wear garments) as I feel they fit me better and make me feel smart in the office, but still casual on a weekend. So now I am trying to balance minimalism with my growing fabric and handmade clothing stash AND the fear that I may throw something away that I will need later.


My biggest struggle right now is my wardrobe is extremely small with items that are so warn they have holes in them. I’ve been pregnant or nursing for the last 6 1/2 years and throughout that time I barely bought myself anything because I figured, what’s the point my body is constantly changing. We’re done having kids now and my body is the same size as it was pre-babies, but things are a lot softer than they were before and I feel like my wardrobe is way too young for my stage of life. It’s a bit overwhelming, because we don’t have the money to replace my wardrobe, including all my shoes (my feet grew an entire size!). I’m loving this challenge because it’s giving me focus to only make the key items I need in my wardrobe and not all the little extras I really don’t need.


My biggest challenge is purging my closet. 95% of my clothes are handmade and I wear handmade clothes on a daily basis. However, even certain items I really don’t like anymore are hard to get rid of because I made them and they have sentimental value. I also want to work on adding new handmade clothes to my wardrobe this year, clothes that I really need, but first I need to do some purging. Another challenge is finding high quality fabric without breaking the bank. I’m a college student, so I can’t afford to splurge on fabric very often. I want to sew high quality clothes that last, but it’s hard finding quality fabric within my budget.


I know exactly what you mean.


My biggest challenge right now is turning the clothing I’ve made/purchased based on the Wardrobe Architect project into outfits. I’ve never really learned how to do that! For example, I have made myself a very cute jersey dress in a shade of blue that looks good on me, but what on earth to do I wear with it?

I loathe heels of all sorts, and flipflops close behind. I see lots of picture of people wearing tall boots with them, but I’m short, and those don’t fit me right. Black tights and combat boots, with a black cardigan over top? Is that business casual? Too casual? Can I wear Mary Janes, or must I wear those dreadful ballet flats that are always too wide and wind up flapping away like flip flops? Is there supposed to be jewelry involved? There seem to be rules about these things, but I’m at a loss to figure them out!

I want the rest of my outfit to be as comfortable as my lovely new dress, without looking “odd” to my co-workers.

I still haven’t worn the dress outside the house. It is great for wandering around barefoot in… ;)


My problem: when I find something I like, it doesn’t look good on me. I find it so hard to transfer images of regular size patterns and even plus size patterns, to my body shape – short & wide. (size 16 -18 x 5′ 3″)


My solution to the high price of quality fabric is to buy large skirts or dresses at Goodwill and use them solely for fabric. I’ve found some wonderful fabric this way.


Oh goodness there are so many issues that I deal with. I have a lot of clothes I wear but I don’t *love* them. There are a small handful that I wear and feel really put together and confident in, the rest are just something I throw on because you can’t go out naked haha. I really, really want to be a print-wearing girl but I always find myself reaching for the solid colors. And a lot of black. This makes sewing a bit difficult since I fall in love with prints rather than solids but I’m almost positive that I won’t wear them unless it’s a subtle or classic print that won’t look dated in a year. I’m twice the size I was 10 years ago and I have a hard time styling my body now because I’m curvy and short and the things I used to wear don’t look right on me now. Pregnancy didn’t help that any, and now I feel like it’s hard to look nice with a kid.


My biggest wardrobe issue is my yo-yo weight. I need clothes in sizes 10, 12 and 14, and this makes it nearly impossible to get rid of things. In my case, I actually WILL “need this later”, it’s not just a hoard-y rationalization.


My biggest wardrobe challenge is pants. My skin reacts to polyester and spandex, and it’s really hard to find nice cotton/rayon/tencel slacks. I’ve decided I need to learn to sew them myself, but I’m a little intimidated by the way my body shape does not match up with ready to wear or the standard pattern.

Nicole V

My biggest wardrobe issue is clothing accessories. I tend to buy belts to go with dresses or outfits, but they end up not looking good on me, and instead of getting rid of them I hang onto them for no good reason at all. The outfits that come with belts are fine, it’s when I try to match a belt purchased separately that always tends to backfire. Now that I’m thinking about it, I think I’m going to put those cast-offs in my DAV bin right now………


Have had a liver cyst which formed between ribs and waist. Had an open to remove it and my waist went down 10 cms. Now it seems to be coming back so I have it treasure every time I do a new skirt or trousers.


Should have said ‘re measure’

Cath Murphy

My issue is sweaters.

Anything I can sew is no problem. Not since I invested in Gertrude, my dress form. Quiet and patient, Gertrude has made all my fitting problems magically disappear. I try to plan a capsule wardrobe twice a year and buy fabric accordingly – once for summer once for winter. Here in Norway we get very distinct seasons – one cold and one hot, so that works pretty well for me. Also I’m now at a stage where I know myself and what I like. I’m never going to suddenly start wearing high heels or favouring pastels (shudder). I like strong colours, bold patterns, clothes that show my waist (well I still have one, darn it) and anything I can wear with a pair of Converse (summer) or a pair of Dr Martins (winter).

So that’s all fine. Except for the sweaters.

I wear dresses and skirts regularly, especially in the warmer months and often need a little sweater or cardigan to slip over the top to stop my arms from getting chilly. I rarely find something like this in the shops – knitwear choices tend to be limited to floor sweeping I’ve-given-up items in beige or grey, chunky Arans that should have stayed on the sheep or cheap acrylic numbers that give me a static shock when I put them on.

So if I can’t buy them I have to make them. I can knit – actually I like knitting, which goes great with an evening spent binge-watching Daredevil (Charlie Cox!) – but the trouble with knitting is that the investment of time and effort is huge, the yarn is expensive and the results are way less predictable than with sewing. Also, adjustments mean starting again, not putting the thing on kind old Gertrude, sticking in a few pins et voila!

I now have two expensive cardies in my wardrobe which took weeks of my time, look weird on me and don’t go with anything else. I also have a couple that work. For me a 50% success rate doesn’t cut it. If anyone has a suggestion about how to overcome the sweater issue, you will be my friend for life.

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