Tuesday, 22 March 2016


I found this cardigan pattern on Ravelry and fell in love. Hard, fast, need-you-in-my-life-NOW type Love. (Have I mentioned that Ravelry is an even more dangerous black hole than Pinterest?)

While it definitely isn't a French Wardrobe Basic, the 'Couronne' cardigan was just too pretty not to make, so I did something unprecedented: I broke my Only-Using-Free-Patterns rule and actually paid for the pattern.

I'm not sure if it will fit into my permanent wardrobe or if it will be a seasonal piece I break out for chilly weather, but I love cardigans, and it looks nice with jeans and tights, so I'm pretty sure it will be in heavy rotation one way or the other.
A few things I need to say, however: first, I'm not in super-duper-love with the hem and the cuffs (three rows of purl and bind of in purl) and I probably won't do another project that has ones like this because they need to be blocked or they roll up and I hate blocking; second, I need to practice my colour work because up close you can tell my tension on the contrast colour is too tight; third, while I love wool (even the kind most people think it too scratchy to abide), I am dying to make something soft and fuzzy out of some delicious alpaca, cashmere, or angora yarn. I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for some in black to make myself a classic black cardigan. Possible birthday present to self.

Money spent: ~28$ for the contrast wool; the main wool was given to me by my friend and co-worker, Helen.

Time spent: Probably about 50 hours? I worked on it in bursts from mid-February until mid-March.

Firsts: First adult-size top-down cardigan. First big colour work project.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Ten Item Wardrobe & Perfect Pyjamas

Today, whilst perusing the Pinterests, I found a link that led me to this gem of a Tedx Talk. (I was having trouble embedding the video, so I've just linked to its Tedx Talk page.) The speaker's name is Jennifer L. Scott and she wrote a lifestyle book that I now want desperately called Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris.

It's nothing ground-breaking when it comes to ideas regarding simplifying one's wardrobe, but it does touch on some of the philosophical reasons that are similar to why I'm undertaking this project, namely that I want to feel Lovely all the time. I want to feel good in everything I wear. I want to be proud of what I'm wearing, to feel pulled-together, to feel a little bit like a Gap advert for my own life.

It might seem silly, but there's something powerful about feeling good in what you're wearing. The right suit can be like armour, the right dress like an Academy Award, and the right underwear... well, let's just say that nice, matching underwear makes you walk a little taller even in flats. Even nice pyjamas should make you feel good, like you're good enough to take care of yourself even when no one is there to witness it. After all, it's about YOU feeling good, not about appearances. My favourite pyjamas right now are a red and navy plaid flannel pair my grandma gave me at Christmas. They are not fancy. They are cozy. The pants aren't too short. They match. They are lovely because they make me feel cute even when I'm having a no-way-am-I-putting-on-pants type of Sunday. Even though I'm not properly dressed, I don't feel ashamed of what I'm wearing.

(Aside: My grandma gives me a pair of pyjamas for Christmas every year. This is only the second pair in five years that I'll even touch, the other pair are white flannel with pink, red, and purple Hello Kittys all over them; cute, but a little bit twelve. If I get a noteworthy or hilarious pair next year, there will be photos. That's a promise.)

Ms. Scott's overall message is about learning to value quality over quantity, and to eliminate the agony of choice by simply having only what you love in the first place. I could go out and buy three more perfect pairs of pyjamas, but I'm not going to because I honestly don't NEED three more pairs of pyjamas. I am happy with the two pairs I have and if I'm being very honest, I wear only one pair most of the time. (The Hello Kitty pyjama pants are the tiniest bit too short in the leg for me. Very annoying.) Why clutter up my closet when I don't have to?

Her Ten Item Wardrobe is similar to concepts I've posted about before. The Ten refers to core items: blouses, pants, jeans, and skirts. As she mentions, blazers, dresses, and other items are in addition to the ten. My detail oriented mind dislikes this concept because it seems a little deceptive. Unlike the 37-item capsule wardrobe Caroline does over at Un-Fancy which is literally 37 items, including shoes and purses, this wardrobe is not just ten items. I prefer a longer list that includes all the extras. I don't know about you, but the extras are always what pile up for me!

Whatever way you choose to organize them, your core items should be ones you feel excellent in, the ones you wish you could wear every single day. So wear them every single day! Consumer culture has conditioned us to consider repeat-outfits some kind of sin, but it's not a crime to wear the same things over and over. I read somewhere that in the 1940s the average American woman had a grand total of eight outfits. Eight. EIGHT. I don't even want to guess what the average is now, but I'll bet those women in the 1940s spent a lot less time trying to figure out what to wear in the morning.

I have begun to wear only clothes from my basics list plus my 'statement' pieces. (I couldn't do just five; I've got seven right now. I'm going to try to get it down to six for summer.) I have already begun to feel a little bit more liberated. My outfits are simple: lots of black and white and jeans. It's been easy. I've felt good every day this week. And it looks good with my hair, which is bright purple... this week.

Every day this week, I have felt like I was wearing my favourite outfit. That's how we should all feel every day.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Last Culling

My first real wardrobe culling was about 13 years ago when I was 20 years old and I moved to Toronto for theatre school. I've done at least one big cull a year for most of my adult life. My most recent major culling was last year when I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I've done it before, and I'll do it again and again until it sticks.

I'm really trying to make it stick.

I swear.

I feel like half my life I've been trying to get my wardrobe under control. And, for some obscene reason, it never seems to last for very long. I've tried having the classic core wardrobe, and it actually worked when I was in university, running political events and had a 9-to-5 desk job. Sadly, that job was soul-crushing and made me realize how little a desk job like that would me happy in the long run. (There's nothing inherently wrong with desk jobs; I'm just not suited to sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day unless I'm writing fiction.) I envy those who have a 9-to-5 job in a corporate environment because I lovelovelove those clothes! All the perfect pant suits and pencil skirts and blouses and blazers! I love those clothes and I wish I had a job that necessitated a closet full of them. But I don't.

I've tried to have a capsule wardrobe too, but it doesn't work for me. I find the idea of re-newing my wardrobe and having to repeat the wardrobe-creating process every three month tedious and self-defeating. I want to do this once and for all and only replace things when they wear out. Also, swing dancing makes minimalism hard, guys.

I've tried to pare down to what 'sparks joy' as Marie Kondo suggests, but I'm a freaking magpie so I love the clothes that I don't wear sometimes more than I love the ones I wear day-in and day-out. (There's a reason why I still use the phrase 'Shiny!' to describe things I like or things being good even though Firefly was cancelled 13 years ago.)

I've considered The Uniform, but I honestly don't love the concept and, again, swing dancing makes this tricky. (It's like I need to just have a completely separate swing wardrobe. I'm seriously considering this, by the by.)

The most promising wardrobe-control idea I've come across is the Five-Piece French Wardrobe. Its a Basic French Wardrobe plus five seasonal statement pieces. I like the idea because I actually love and naturally gravitate towards many of the French Wardrobe basics, but there's leeway to add some spunk with the five statement pieces. I'm not following any one French Wardrobe check-list because I've found about half a dozen variations. After scouring Pinterest and Google for wardrobe check lists, I've compiled my own list of basics. (Included at the bottom are a number of items that appeared on lists but that I chose to eliminate from my own list. They may be relevant to you, however, so I considered them worth including.)

Of the fifty-six items on my master list, I have forty-two of them. (Admittedly, some of them are in British Columbia in storage, but I'll have them back in June, so I'm counting them towards my total.) I will endeavour to add the remaining fourteen items to my list over the course of this year. For the record, I'm missing the following: silk blouse, cashmere cardigan, leather jacket, trench coat, parka, sandals, sneakers, black flats, straw hat, casual tote, umbrella, wide leather belt, skinny colourful belt, and stripped pyjamas.

I'm beginning my handmade-closet journey with a lot of store-bought pieces in my closet. As they wear out, I'll be replacing them with items I make myself, but I think I want to maintain a closet full of basics, even if they're handmade. After all, who doesn't love a beautifully handmade white dress shirt?

I have already decided that the next -hopefully the last- culling will be in June. I lived in British Columbia for seven years and left in a bit of a rush, opting to toss everything into storage rather than decide what to do with it. In late May, my sweetie and I are going out to BC to get all my stuff. When it's all back in Quebec, I plan to go through everything I own (not just clothes) and cull it all. I don't want to do this again for YEARS. I plan to cull my closet down to the basics and show-stopping pieces I can't bear to part with. I'll post photos of the resulting wardrobe.

Until June, I'm focusing on finishing a few projects that I've had on the go. Even if they aren't wardrobe basics...

More soon!

Monday, 14 March 2016

Here's the idea...

Yet another fashion blog... I know, I know: what is even the point?

Well, this one is a little different. (They all say that, but I mean it.) This blog will chronicle my journey as I cull my wardrobe down to a classic core wardrobe complemented by some one-of-a-kind pieces that I absolutely love and endeavour to replace items (on an as needed basis) with items I have made myself.

I hope to do this over the course of the next four years, so that, by the beginning of 2020, I will be able to make all of what I wear. There are a few exceptions: I will not be trying to make shoes, boots, bike shorts, nylons, or new glasses. Everything else, however is fair game. By everything, I really do mean EVERYTHING. I already have the sewing and knitting skills to make blouses, skirts, pants, pyjamas, dresses, mitts, gloves, hats, scarves, cowls, cardigans, pullovers and sweater-dresses. I have some rusty tailoring and millinery skills that I'd love to brush up on, and, over the next few years, I plan to learn how make vests, wool coats, ties (for my sweetie), men's suits, yoga shorts and tops, tights, t-shirts, bathing suits, leather jackets, bras, bustiers, and panties.

I already make some of my own clothing. I love the process (even when I sometimes find it frustrating) and I love the satisfaction of being able to brag that I made what I'm wearing when someone compliments my outfit. I have other reasons as well, more political reasons, which have helped to inform this decision. Most of my decision revolves around wanting a high-quality, custom-made wardrobe of amazing clothes, but a small part of it has to do with wanting to be self-sufficient in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

Over the next few years, I plan to expand my skill-set to include tailoring, leather-work, lacework, and working with stretch fabrics. I'll have to take some courses to learn some of what I want to know, because there are limits to what I want to struggle to figure out on my own. I am largely self-taught, but why not use classes at the haute-couture school in town to brush up on some new skills, right?

I'm not sure how this will all pan out, but I'm excited to see where it takes me. I'll post about wardrobe cullings, items I've made, classes I'm taking, projects I'm working on, and any wardrobe theory that's relevant to my journey. From time to time, I may also post about choice pieces already in my closet, because some of my existing wardrobe deserves to have its day in the spotlight!

I am going to allow myself up to three cheats a year, but with one caveat: any item I buy has to have been designed and made by a small business, preferably local (ideally in the National Capital Region, but I'll settle for in Canada) or be second-hand. I'll probably post about those pieces as well, because I love to support and promote small businesses!

I hope you decide to come along for the ride!