Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Building & Wearing A Hand-made Wardrobe - Why We Don't Wear Our Hand-mades...


Welcome to the first post in my new series on how to build and wear a hand-made wardrobe. I wanted to start out by discussing what I think are the two main reasons why we don't necessarily already wear our hand-mades.

These two simple reasons ring very true for me and perhaps, once you give them some thought, they'll ring true for you as well -

  • What you make doesn't fit into your everyday uniform
  • They are uncomfortable to wear

Your Everyday Uniform
Everyone has their go to wardrobe staples. Whether it's jeans and t-shirts or dresses, your uniform is simply what you like to wear most often. It's probably your most comfortable outfit and you tend to have several colour ways and styles within your uniform. These colours and styles will also generally mix and match well so that you can create several different variations of your uniform for each day of the week. They are what probably makes up what you would consider your Wardrobe Basics.


Some beloved hand-made wardrobe basics worn during Me Made May 2013
- 60s Pink Wool Skirt - Red Circle Skirt - Blue Circle Skirt -

When I think about my personal uniform, it consists of skirts, dresses, cardigans and flats. Even though I have pants, I don't really wear them (in fact, I wore jeans for the first time in several years at Christmas when we spent the night on a boat in Doubtful Sound, NZ).

I also prefer relatively simple styles and designs in my uniform. While I'm happy to have a bright or patterned fabric, I like clean design lines and nothing too fussy. High waisted me-made circle skirts will always be a favourite - I wear one of these at least once a week and have 4 on regular rotation. They are easy to wash and wear, go with a host of different tops and they make me feel like I've made an effort to get dressed, even though I really haven't.

Your everyday uniform can also be different from your style. Personally, my everyday uniform and my style really do go hand in hand. But for others, while they may love the thought of wearing a full skirted 50's dress everyday, in reality, what they may wear from day to day is drastically different due to any number of reasons. What they do for a job, the climate they live in, whether they are running around after children etc. Practicality has to play a role in everybody's wardrobe.


More beloved hand-mades worn during Me Made May 2013
- Polkadot Billie Jean - Red Circle Skirt - Black Circle Skirt -

Also, while it's great to have special occasion pieces, if that's all you're sewing, then the reality is that most of what you make, you won't actually end up wearing. I wrote a little piece last year about my love for sewing the basics (or cake, as Tasia so lovingly put it). I love sewing them because it means I'll most certainly wear them. It means I've made good use of my sewing time.

Uncomfortable Hand-mades
Going back to my first Me Made May last year, like many people, towards the end it got quite hard as I was forced to pull out and wear those things that had sat in my wardrobe ever since I had finished making them. While I would have loved to wear circle skirts for most of the month (like usual), since I was photographing my outfit everyday, that would have got a tad boring don't you think?

So, I'd pull out a garment, wonder why on earth I hadn't worn it since it was made, put it on and then remember why it had been relegated to the 'not easily accessible' bit of our tiny wardrobe. Almost every single time, that garment was uncomfortable.

A garment can be 'uncomfortable' for many reasons, the most common are bad fit, an unflattering shape, bad fabric choice (or cheap crappy fabric) or all of the above. And I don't know about you, but I really don't have much time for wearing uncomfortable things! (Though funnily enough, I just don't have the heart to get rid of them yet!).


A few hand-mades that don't get worn much (for varying reasons) from Me Made May 2013

When I am wearing uncomfortable clothing, I tend to be extremely self conscious. I am so aware of myself that I spend far too much time wondering if people are staring at me while I fiddle with x, y & z on my garment. To be fair, most of the time people are far too fixated on what is going on in their own lives to notice the gaping on the front of my dress, or the wrinkles that just wouldn't iron out because of the crappy fabric I used, but it doesn't matter, I'm still uncomfortable.

Perhaps I care a little too much about what the stranger in the bus thinks about me, but if I'm feeling that uncomfortable in a garment, then I'm not going to wear it. After all, what you wear can have a huge impact on how you are feeling from day to day. If you're having a bad day but wearing something that makes you feel amazing, that bad day perhaps won't have as much an impact as it might have if you were also wearing something that made you feel frumpy, itchy, confined (or not confined enough!) and down right uncomfortable.

If you're one of those people who hates sewing uniform basics, I hope you'll look at them in a different light. And if you don't sew the basics because they aren't challenging to you anymore, then why not take them up a notch? Sew them with French Seams, try out a rolled hem, use a different fabric or put your zipper in using a different technique than you usually would. This way, not only are you up-skilling in the sewing department, but you'll have started to build a wearable hand-made wardrobe in no time!

So folks, let's go forth and start planning our comfy and wearable Hand-made Wardrobes! Yay!

Are there any other reasons why you don't wear your current hand-mades?

xx
Jen

54 comments:

  1. Great post! Do you have any TNT knit top patterns to go with your lovely skirts? You always look very "you" in your makes, and that's nice to see!

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    1. Knit top patterns is one thing from my uniform that I am really lacking! And with my imposed clothing ban for this year, I really need to remedy this.

      I'm actually in the process of designing and making a simple 40s inspired knit top that I'm hoping will help to fill the gap, but I might need to follow your lead and get Tasia's Renfrew pattern. All of the ones you have made are so inspiring and the pattern definitely fits into my 'uniform' !!

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  2. Great post. I definitely have uncomfortable makes. Skirt waistbands that are too tight drive me crazy and I spend all day worrying about how I feel fat haha. It's made me a little paranoid about sewing fitted clothing! Lol. I loved seeing all your circle skirts. I think I need to copy you there. I love the idea of a style uniform personally! :)

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    1. Hehe, yes! Skirts also get tighter as the day goes by, so by the time you get home you're just aching to take it off!

      Maybe you could give making a skirt with an elastic waist band a go, and then ease yourself into fitted clothing? I would recommend doing your fitting at the end of the day as well, as that's when you tend to be at your 'biggest', if you know what I mean?

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  3. Yup, nodding madly in agreement! I have resolved to sew what I want to wear and also use better quality fabrics :)

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  4. Really great post! I agree with everything you said... I definitely have a "uniform" (which for me is usually jeans, a blouse or cami, and a cardigan) and although that's not really what I'd like to wear, it's what gets worn.

    That being said, I'm trying to change that up a little to resemble more what I'd actually like to wear, just to see if that fits with my lifestyle. I actually really hate wearing jeans, so I'm trying to wear more skirts and dresses. I'm still in high school, so I think what other people wear as their "uniform" kind of rubs off on me (although I NEVER wear sweatpants or hoodies, ever) which is why I wear jeans so much even though I don't like them very much. Since starting to sew more, I've become a lot more confident so I feel like I don't have to wear jeans all the time.

    I definitely have some uncomfortable me-mades too though. One of my first sewing projects when I first got back into sewing was a blouse that I made in 100% polyester, and it never gets worn. It fits and I like how it looks, but it feels like I'm wearing a plastic bag. Oops, that ended up being a really long comment so I'll stop there!

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    1. I love how sewing has made you feel more comfortable wearing the things you want to wear!

      And I can totally relate to your polyester blouse story - I've just made a dress that fits beautifully but is made from the icky-est fabric. It was cheap charity shop fabric so I can't really complain, and I'm just going to call it a non-wearable-perfect muslin :)

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  5. So far I am lucky, not many uncomfortable makes. The dresses I mostly make are great for a day out and about or working at home. But what they are not so good for is blobbing on the couch, I need some more slouching clothes. I tried skirts and tops but found I don't like them on me, they seem to make me look chunky, perhaps I just haven't found the right one yet.

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    1. I think full skirts would look fab on you!! Maybe try one with an elastic waist for maximum blobbing comfort :) And with a loose blouse tucked in, you'll have a teeny tiny waist but be cool in your hot Aussie weather. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

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  6. Nice post. It seems everyone is concerned this year with getting their handmade wardrobe "right" where last year seemed to have a theme of "just keep making, just keep making". It's nice to step back and give some consideration. I for one have joined Coletterie's Wardrobe Architect initiative for this very reason. My problem is I love fairly distinctive prints and there is no mix and match in my wardrobe. I don't think I've sewn a solid colour in years! And they can seem uninspiring to make! Good food for thought :)

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    1. Thanks Jillian. I think making for the sake of making isn't necessarily the best way to go about building a wearable wardrobe, but I can see why sewers who have blogs in particular, feel the need to do that, it's something I'm going to address in my next post. It's great that this need to produce is becoming less frequent and that people are upping the quality factor instead!

      I totally understand how sewing basics can be seen as uninspiring. Perhaps once you have one or two under your belt that you enjoy wearing, you'll start to want to sew more of them. I know every time I've finished a circle skirt, I want to put it on and start cutting out the next one :)

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  7. These are really good points. I think this is going to be a great series. I feel like I'm in the middle of evolving my everyday uniform into what I want to wear. What style that is I have no idea! You always look so put together so I'm looking forward to hearing more!

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  8. Great series. I like sewing basics (and dresses!). I'm working on getting back to my personal style again which I lost after having my daughter. I don't have a uniform really but maybe I should have something closer to it. Circle skirts could be the way to go!

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    1. I could wear circle skirts everyday! They are just so easy and you always look put together (even if you've only just managed to drag yourself out of bed!!).

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  9. Brilliant post! It's all ringing very true over here! I need to concentrate on making comfortable basic this year instead of what I wish I could wear!

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  10. Lovely, though-provoking post Jen. I think you have hit the nail on the head about why we may or may-not end up wearing our me-mades. I have to admit that I wear my handmade clothes very little, and it's definitely something I want to address this year. I'm currently trying to decide what my everyday 'uniform' would be. I'm not sure if I have a distinctive style and it's something I would like to work on and develop.
    By the way, I love your circle skirt outfits, they are beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Suzanna! Maybe when trying to narrow down your uniform, you could take note of what you wear most often throughout a two week period. Then try to figure out why - for me it's always about comfort and looking put together without trying. Also, things that are easy to wash and wear are a must for me.

      Good luck trying to figure it all out - I'm sure it'll be a fun process!

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  11. How funny you write this now! I've spent this week going through my wardrobe and reluctantly making an op shop pile of my unworn makes. I've even had the ethical dilemma of sending me made garments with nice buttons off (my conscience won, the buttons are going)! I've come to the realisation that I have more than enough dresses for my lifestyle, and skirts. And floral woven tops. What I wear, and thus need, are pants, knit tops, cardi's..... I wonder whether sewists spend their first year or so making super pretty bright patterned things because it's fun, and a novelty, then you get the point where your stash of prints is becoming ridiculous, your wardrobe is full of things that don't match and all you have to wear on the bottom is one pair of jeans....haha maybe it's just me! I look forward to your next post (and btw is anything previously on your blog made using your Enid Gilchrist pattern books? Just curious!)

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    1. I think you are right on the button about doing all the fun, colourful things in your first sewing year. The second one seems to be about narrowing down your style and the third concentrating on learning new skills.

      I also really need to concentrate on making more basic knit tops to go with all my skirts!

      I've actually not made anything using Enid Gilchrist's books, but I keep meaning too. It's on the list (blah blah blah!! Hehe).

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  12. Great post! I don't have all that many neglected me-made sewn pieces simply because I've only made a couple, but I have quite a lot of knitted items I never wear!
    Whenever I'm looking at sewing patterns I find myself drawn to the fancy, over the top vintage dresses etc. and I have to rein myself in and think would I really wear this? I'm definitely going to follow your example and make myself a few lovely, simpler skirts that I know I'll wear regularly.

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    1. It's so easy to be drawn in by all the ruffles and bows and pretty-ness of a vintage pattern. It's really being able to look past those to see if the bones of the design are something you'd wear at the end of the day. A lot of the time it's simply no!

      I still think sewing fun pretty dresses just for the sake of it can be good morale in times of missing some sewjo, but I really do love sewing my basics :)

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  13. This has really got me thinking about sewing that cake! I always want to sew things that are different, not necessarily the norm for me because I think they are more of a challenge and why waste my time sewing something simple. But you've put those simple things in a better light for me. I definitely need to focus on finding that TNT pattern in tops and bottoms that I can whip up in no time at all in different colors and fabrics. Thanks for the inspiration!!

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    1. Shanni - I know what you mean about needing a challenge and how basics don't necessarily readily offer that. But basics are just that, basic, which means that there is a whole host of different techniques and things you could do to that basic to make it more you, or more challenging as your sewing skills develop.

      So glad that you've found some inspiration and I can't wait to see what you come up with!!

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  14. I have a lot of my makes on very high rotation, so much that they're showing signs of wear - oh no!! I can avoid pulling them out so they don't need washing - silly, I know! I'm still searching the elusive knit fabric that can cope with frequent machine washing without wearing out/pilling ;( And I realised I spend most of the time in wrap dresses, straight skirts & leggings & tops, so replacing them is the core of 2014 - but I do want to sew & wear pants & a structured shirt too! ;)

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    1. That is so great that many of your makes are on high rotation - it means you've hit the nail on the head in terms of your uniform and comfort!

      I haven't sewed too much with knits, but have found that my quality RTW knits are made from 97%cotton and 3% spandex (or other stretchy fabric). Some of those knits I've had for years and are still on regular rotation.

      I've tried finding that particular knit fabric combination though and it's certainly not easy! But perhaps try giving it a go? Or even a bamboo in place of the cotton?

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  15. Great post. Over the years I've gotten much better at appraising a pattern for whether it will work for my shape, how it will fit into my wardrobe, not just the OOH SHINY GRABBYHANDS-ness of it. Turns out, conveniently, there's always more room in my wardrobe for cardigans. :D

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    1. Hehe, I have 'shiny grabbyands' too! At least we can admit it and know when the urge is coming :)

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  16. I love your everyday style-- it's just so cute! I do a pretty decent job of wearing the everyday handmades in my wardrobe, but I don't always do a great job of staying focused and making things I can wear day in and day out. I get sidetracked by shiny new patterns, and as a result, have a disproportionate number of party dresses in my wardrobe! My daily uniform is jeans and usually a buttondown, but I'm trying to get a little dressier and work blazers into my uniform a bit more. I guess I need to conquer my fear and start sewing my own jeans, too!

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    1. Jeans seem to be the scariest thing a sewer can make! You are such a talented sewist though I'm sure you can pull it off! Have you seen the Jeans Craftsy class?

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  17. I have the tendency to want "one of everything" in my wardrobe, but constantly wear the same makes over and over again. When I look at your favorites, I don't feel like you're wearing the same thing every time at all! I'm definitely going to revisit some old favorites...after all a different fabric print or a slight modification can make a huge difference in what other people notice about a garment!

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    1. It's always tempting to have ALL THE PATTERNS, and then never wear any of them, I do have that problem :) But it's great that you already know what your 'go to' staples are and can now go and make all of them in all of the colours!

      Can't wait to see what you cook up!

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  18. I am definitely trying to work this way from now on. I'm just getting back into sewing and need to plan my projects carefully since my time is scarce!

    Which pattern is the dark green dress with the sort of pleated bottom above (1st on the left)? I know it's one of your scarcely worn guys, but it's super cute and would fit into my wardrobe nicely!

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    1. Hey Melissa! That green dress is a Burdastyle dress with a ton of modifications! I really like the dress and the fabric but unfortunately the armscye at the front is a little too high which makes moving my arms forward slightly uncomfortable.

      It's actually probably a relatively easy fix, but I just haven't gotten round to doing it yet! I'm sure after that it'll become a wardrobe staple :)

      Link to that post is here - http://www.jenniferlaurenvintage.com/2011/06/one-pattern-seven-bloggers-5.html

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  19. Great post! As someone who hasn't sewn a lot of garments yet, but plans to, this is good for me to hear. I think I am still in the "buy the bright, shiny, crazy patterned fabric" phase, because it's all new to me. Because of that, half of what I have already made I never wear. Those garments were good practice though and now that I kind of know what I am doing, I should really take your advice and sew some basics. So thank you! Once I use up all the crazy patterned fabric I've already bought, this will really help me plan going forward ;)

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    1. I think anything we sew is good practice - wearable or not :) Good luck with using up your crazy fabric!! Can't wait to see what you come up with.

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  20. This is a great post! I'm only *just* learning to sew and my major problem is that my uniform doesn't match my sewing abilities. I wear dresses mainly out of knit fabrics and I'm too new to sewing to sew with knits...I need to stick with stable, easy to sew wovens so I don't know what to make...I'm a bit stuck really.

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    1. Hi Melanie! Hmmmm, could you try giving something like a basic, gathered skirt a go? There are endless options to personalise something like that and you can't go too wrong. If fitting is a big issue, perhaps try it with an elasticated waist band to start out? I am in the process of writing up some tutorials along these lines.

      Also, while I can't really talk since I haven't sewed an awful lot with knits, even just giving something basic like a t-shirt a go could help you toward building a more comfortable wardrobe in the style that you are most comfortable wearing.

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  21. Oh...and I've found everything I've made to date SO uncomfortable...I guess once I learn to alter things that may not be so bad...

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  22. Hi Jennifer Lauren - love this post, not to mention my envy of your cardigan collection... where DO you find those gems?
    Anyhoo... I'm lucky enough that I wear my makes more often than not. I'm nearly at the point where I can pull on something I've made almost everyday of the week! Perhaps because I started out sewing as a way of getting thing in my wardrobe that I really wanted (and the shops couldn't provide) and then fell in love with the technical side of things. You're absolutely spot on though - the things I make that I don't wear are those that are uncomfortable - fails in the fitting department I guess you could say.

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    1. Yay, I'm the same, I've gotten to that point where what I wear almost every day has at least one element of something I've made. It's such a good feeling :)

      I have found most of my cardigans in charity shops! Though now that I'm not allowed to buy anything in the clothing department this year, it's going to be awfully hard to pass up some of the beautiful vintage cardigans out there. I'm just knitting my first ever cardigan at the moment and I'm hoping knitting them will suffice enough for this year :)

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    2. Oh, good for you! My knitting skills are abombinable. I'm just too impatient, and don't quite get the same kick from knitting as I do sewing. But then I see an incredible knitted cardi and I'm tempted to try again... hehe.

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    3. Give the Miette Cardigan a go! It's aimed at the beginner and it's a lovely vintage-styled cardigan. I'm about halfway through my second sleeve and it seems to be knitting up relatively quickly, though of course not as quickly as sewing something!

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  23. Great post! My biggest problem is that I prefer my summer wardrobe to my winter one & they're pretty different. I find it harder to get excited about warm clothes in fall/winter colors but am easily cold. So I'm glad it's Me Made May instead of March. I've gotten a bit better but really need to push myself more to make dresses I can wear during the majority of the year in Seattle. I'm impressed you manage to wear your makes year round!

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    1. Erin, that is such an interesting point! I hadn't even really thought about favourite hand-mades transitioning between seasons. Most of my hand-mades work relatively well with tights and scarves and in warmer weather with sandals, but I can totally see where you'd get a bit stuck if you liked sewing summer dresses vs winter woolies.

      Perhaps this is another topic I need to write a bit about - thanks so much for mentioning it!!

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  24. I'm finding this whole theme extremely interesting. I've only just started dress making, so I have hardly anything me made, but this is always a good reminder to be sewing things to fit into my wardrobe; vintage, dresses, blouses and skirts.

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    1. So glad this has been helpful at the beginning of your sewing journey! I always need blouses so have been focusing on making more of those lately :)

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  25. Thank you for this piece of advice. And seriously, I also like those outfits that make you feel uncomfortable.

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  26. Looking forward to following your Me-Made goal this year :)
    I seem to think I have another life style than I have. I love pretty dresses & skirts & heels, but I'm a jeans & t-shirt girl & I have an ugly uniform at work, so I don't really see the point in wearing a pretty dress & heels, to sit on a bus & train to & from work. And even less point now, being on maternity leave & having to change a number of times per day, because I'm target practice for unwanted food ;)

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  27. Great post! Very thoughtful and insightful. It's sad that some handmade garments don't get a lot of wear, especially those that we put so much love and care into making!

    Sadly, I'm one of those people you described whose ideal wardrobe/style differs dramatically from what I wear on a daily basis - mostly due to my job. I have a pretty physical job, running around and bending down a lot, constantly getting splashed with water, and on my feet most of the day. Plus, my workspace is freezing year round! I wind up wearing sloppy and warm clothing a lot - cargo pants and old sweaters. Boring! But gotta pay the bills. :)

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  28. Very thoughtful post Jennifer! I think it may also depend on why you like to sew as to if or if not your whole wardrobe is handmade and actually in rotation. I know there are a few pieces that I am positive I will never wear, and yet am in the middle of them and want to finish them because I will learn something new and be able to have a creative outlet to practice ideas on. Sometimes, hobbies are not always completely practical and inexpensive. For instance, I used to take art classes and paint, and I have a plethora of paintings that are not really sellable, and there is no space left on my walls and even giving them away, they simply aren't that attractive to have that as an option; however, I still enjoyed the creative process and outlet for a vast variety of reasons. Having said that, I also aspire to having a mostly me-made wardrobe, so am more aware now of selecting patterns and fabrics that I know I will be able to work with and that will fit into my wardrobe and lifestyle.

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  29. I am really looking forward to reading more of your thoughts about this topic! For me, fabric choice is most important in whether my clothes get worn or not. I tend to favor very practical patterns and styles, but fall into the trap of using cheap fabric or not getting the weight/drape factor just right. I'm getting better with experience!

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  30. Great post.
    I'd have to say the only me made items I don't wear seem to be things that don't flatter my figure.
    Generally this doesn't seem to be apparent to me until I've finished it and stepped back.
    Otherwise pretty much everything gets worn so regularly I'm going to have to start replacing some of my favourite me mades (mostly from pre overlocker days).

    It's really nice to be able to step back like you're doing and analysing what you're making, wearing and sewing - it puts everything into perspective.

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  31. I really share the experience of not wearing things I make often. I think I find it really difficult to curate everything together and end up looking at patterns that look great on people who have a very different shape to me, but not so great on me. That on top of wanting *unique* and *complicated* things without reeling it in and trying to make basic things which fit into my style better mean I have some things to work out. I'm relieved to see I'm not the only one who struggles with this and will be thinking much harder about my projects before I start them!

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  32. Great post! Just found your blog (and I'm looking forward to reading more) and this post is so helpful. This year, I want to really focus on making a more wearable wardrobe. I always find myself wearing skirts and dresses too, but I have so many me-mades that stay in my closet and never get worn. I don't want to get rid of them either! I've found within the past year or so, I reach for me-mades without really thinking about it, so I'm hoping to add more "cake" to my wardrobe.

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XX
Jen