Introducing My Me-Made Capsule Wardrobe

Introduction: Me-Made Capsule Wardrobe | Octaves of Color

Introduction: Me-Made Capsule Wardrobe | Octaves of Color

Today, I’m introducing a new series: my Me-Made Capsule Wardrobe. I’d like to tell you why I want a capsule wardrobe, and why it matters to me to make it myself.

My life has been in continuous transition for the past three years. And while I have adapted to my new life, my wardrobe really hasn’t. The things that pre-baby, working Shelby would wear are very different from the things I wear in my position as the primary caretaker of a toddler. Now that I am in a more stable place, I want my wardrobe to reflect my new lifestyle. I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe because it encourages careful consideration and discourages consumption.

What goes into making our clothes?

In the United States, we often talk about how manufacturing is getting increasingly more automated. This is true, but not when it comes to sewn products. Sewn product manufacture (including bags and clothing) is still surprisingly analog. We have not yet come up with robots that can sew t-shirts and jeans. Instead, long rows of skilled workers, each with their own sewing machine, sew each garment, step-by-step so that consumers can have clothing to buy and wear.

Before I had my daughter, I worked as a product designer at a bag company. As a lifestyle designer, I designed backpacks, messenger bags, purses, luggage and athletic bags. To bring my designs to life, I worked closely with contracted factories overseas to create the best bags I could for the best price. I spent time touring the sewing factories where our bags were made and poring over cost sheets and fabric samples to get everything just right.

Factory | Introduction: Me-Made Capsule Wardrobe | Octaves of Color
This is a photo of one of the sewing lines at one of the factories I used to work with.

I cringe whenever I see a garment marketed as “handmade” because ALL garments are handmade! Of course, there is a difference between a garment that is made on an assembly line in a factory and one that is made by only two hands in your own home. But both are made by real human hands.

So having my clothes be “handmade” isn’t a priority for me. However, having my clothing made by my hands matters a lot to me. When I make my own clothing,

  1. I value my clothes more
  2. I can customize every aspect of my wardrobe
  3. My clothes last longer
  4. I feel happy and fulfilled

The value of clothing  

I used to go shopping, look at the price tags and scoff. Who would pay $168 for a pair of jeans? Then I started sewing my own clothing. I soon realized that if I made a pair of jeans for someone else, I would want a lot more than $168 for my work! Making clothes is challenging and it takes a long time. But it’s easy to forget that when you aren’t the one behind the sewing machine.

It’s these same feelings that drive consumers to fast fashion brands like H&M and Forever 21. Fast fashion brands pump out trendy clothes at such shockingly low prices that it’s almost impossible to walk away. Fast fashion stores sell pairs of jeans as cheap as $9.99. And while I’m not interested in making unsubstantiated accusations, it’s difficult to see how $10 could be split up to pay for materials, sewing laborers, and trans-Pacific shipping, and still bring in a profit for the corporation selling such a product. Someone, somewhere along the line isn’t getting compensated fairly. (Hint: it’s not the executives at the corporation.)

Introduction: Me-Made Capsule Wardrobe | Octaves of Color
My La Paz Blazer (pattern by Itch to Stitch) is one of the first pieces I’ve inducted into my Me-Made Capsule Wardrobe.

Beyond ethics, consider how you’re likely to treat a $10 pair of jeans versus how you might treasure a pair that costs more. I don’t believe that clothing is disposable, but when it costs so little, it’s hard not to think of it that way.

It’s important to me to make my own clothes because I want to value what I own. Fast fashion brands have made it almost impossible to sew clothes for less money than you can buy them, but I think that the integrity of a self-made garment is worth the extra expense. And with all the other benefits that come of making your own clothing, I feel good about the money I plan to invest in my me-made capsule. When I invest my time in making a high quality garment for myself, I respect and treat that garment as something that is precious. And I think that is ideal.

Customization

I often go shopping with an image in my mind of exactly what I want, and equally as often come home unsatisfied. I’m particular about my clothing. Making it myself allows me to have garments that match the vision that I have in my head. When I make my own clothing I can ensure that the color, materials and fit are perfect for me. It takes effort to find the right fabric in the right color for the right pattern, but it’s worth it! Having a closet full of custom-made garments sounds extremely satisfying to me.

Long Lasting

Introduction: Me-Made Capsule Wardrobe | Octaves of Color
This Bonn Shirt Dress in chambray (pattern by Itch to Stitch) is a staple in my closet.

Additionally, a properly fitted garment is a longer lasting garment. It’s true! When you make clothing that fits your body, it will reduce strain on your garments and increase their longevity. Think about it. If your shirt is too tight across your upper back, then every movement strains the fabric and stitches. Over time, those stitches are going to break and the fabric will wear until you can’t wear that shirt anymore. Not to mention, having clothing that fits improperly is uncomfortable and unattractive.

Satisfaction and Fulfillment

It is really fun to make something that you love to wear. But the wearing of it isn’t the only fun part. I genuinely enjoy the process of making. I like turning on a good podcast, spreading my sewing equipment out on my kitchen table and sewing long past midnight. It’s therapeutic and fulfilling—two things I often need after a full day of mothering.

Join My Capsule Wardrobe Journey

Over the next several months, I will share with you what I make for my capsule wardrobe and what I learn along the way. It will take me many months to revamp my entire wardrobe with clothing I’ve made for myself, and I hope you’ll enjoy going on this journey with me. If you want to reevaluate your wardrobe, a couple of websites that have helped me think through this process are here and here. And if you’ve already gone through this process for yourself, please share what you’ve discovered! I am eager to learn.

I am looking forward to the entire process, but most especially to having a wardrobe that brings me joy.

Happy sewing!

How has your wardrobe evolved as your life has changed?

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