Sewing a mindful, stylish wardrobe

Sewing a mindful wardrobe full of stylish outfits for midlife, midsize women is a goal many of us have when we start to sew. We recognize that we need less, and the world needs us to need less. From fast fashion (where young women and children sew our clothing at near slave wages and terribly unsafe conditions) to textile wastelands in South America and Africa (which often contain NEW unworn garments piled in dune-size drifts), we realize we need less and want to sew and acquire a wardrobe mindfully.

I spend a bit of time on this in the video, because I think this is important. If you haven’t seen the two things I reference, the factory collapse in Bangladesh and the Atacama desert dunes of clothing, Google these. Denim, in particular, is something you should really only buy used, because it takes so much water and toxic dye to make just one pair of jeans! Also someone did the hard work (or not) of breaking in those jeans for you.

Skip to 02:20 in the video to get right to the patterns and details.

Identify what you love in your current wardrobe. Most wardrobes should be 70% classic, and 30% trendy (if you like trendy), so that most of what you wear can be worn again. If it’s too small, put it away in a box or bin for now.

Select fabrics, and sewing patterns that can withstand the test of time – use the best fabric you can afford. Great sources of quality reclaimed or already-purchased but never sewn textiles include yard sales, friends (especially their mom, aunt and grandma stashes), rummage sales and even secondhand stores. Destashify online has great deals too. Buy the best new fabric you can afford, including natural fibers or blends, which last a long time.

Slow sewing and slow aquisition of fabric, patterns and garments is better. Plan to keep what you buy forever. If it’s not a forever item, reconsider it’s purchase.

Patterns I love that stand the test of time:

A great blazer. Mine is the Christine Jonson Boyfriend (available from other sellers on Etsy now, but similar is the Hey June Evans (although the Evans is more fitted) or the Style Arc Loren. I’ve also made the Silverton Blazer from Straight Stitch Designs/SewNews collab, and while more fitted, you can go up in size to get an oversized look. The back peplum is an awesome detail on that jacket.

Basic cap sleeve cut on tee shirt: Cedar Dolman from Cashmerette is a great rendition of the Christine Jonson Three Tees one that I have on. The Verduna woven tee or the Cielo both are similarly styled for woven tee shirts as is the Emerald from Made by Rae.

Wide leg “trousers” (but comfortable) Emerson, Rose pants, both of these have flat front, pleats, back elastic, and a variety of shorts, cropped wide or full length versions.

A boxy woven tee for scrapping – try the Antero Shell from Sew News and for inspiration, follow Pop of Neutral, the designer’s version of ready made versions of these!

Online marketplaces for stash fabrics, and secondhand garments

Destashify is a sewing site where people sell their stash of sewing and knitting supplies. Etsy also has a good selection of fabrics.

Poshmark is my favorite online marketplace. Individual sellers sell their stuff online and Poshmark takes a cut. Other marketplaces buy your stuff (for a lot less) and sell it, these include ThredUp, Mercari, DePop, Swap, Ebay.

Your friends’ aunts, grandmothers and mothers’ stashes! Ask around! I’ve gotten a ton of fabric from people’s stashes.

Sewing and curating a mindful wardrobe isn’t hard, it does take some time. I don’t knit well enough or fast enough to do that, so I buy all my sweaters secondhand. I also buy sports gear second hand wherever possible. Remember, it’s retailers need to make you want more – but you can slow that down by focusing your online social media attention on makers, on sustainable fashion accounts that do a good job of helping you source your wardrobe first.