Q for You: Are you a wardrobe planner?

Q for You: Are you a wardrobe planner?

Back in April of 2013, I asked whether you guys plan your knitting and sewing projects, noting in the post that I found it impossible to stick to a plan. That was the phase (a year-and-a-half into my knitting life) when I was bouncing all around with a major case of cast-on-itis, making a lot of things that didn’t get worn. After this week’s Winter Wardrobe Planning posts, I find myself now at the extreme opposite end of that continuum — planning my projects by being mindful and purposeful about my entire wardrobe, how things fit together and what would be useful to make. Watching how the right projects are adding up to a functional wardrobe has been the best possible motivator for both making and sticking to a plan.

But this is pretty new territory for me — at least on the level it reached this week. I’ve always had that three-outfits rule when shopping (don’t buy anything you can’t make three good outfits out of with things you already own) and it took me a while to start applying it to my project choices. But other than that, the most “planning” I’ve ever really done was maybe one season every three years or so, I’d sit down, try to think up outfits, and make a list of them — which I would then forget to consult. Or I’d find that when I went to put those items on together, they didn’t actually add up to an outfit I liked — either the lengths and proportions didn’t work together or it just didn’t feel like me. So as weird as it might feel to spend a few hours for a few days thinking about my closet out here in the open for everyone to see, I also can’t believe I’ve never done it before. It really really works. Using Fashionary templates to make sketches, I get the lengths and proportions right — whether it’s deciding what length to knit a sweater or how an existing cardigan and shirt layer over each other. And taking those flat shots of all my clothes on hangers turns out to be a mind-bogglingly great use of a few minutes. Instead of the tedium of trying on everything I own, I can just push the pictures around on my screen and voilà! And with all of the resulting outfits printed out, I’ll have saved myself who knows how many cumulative hours of standing in the closet door staring blankly at the contents, unable to get dressed. So a few hours of extremely fun planning time will save me hours of wasted time and agony. No wonder people dedicate whole websites to this stuff — it’s genius.

Several of you have semi-answered this in comments throughout the week, but it’s my Q for You today: Do you plan your wardrobe? To what extent, and what’s your process? And how does project planning factor into that? If you’ve got tips, please share them! And what are your favorite resources and websites on the subject?

Fringe Supply Co — Nice things for knitters

IN SHOP NEWS we’ve got two highly coveted items going up in the webshop at 9am CENTRAL time today: another small weekly batch of the Porter Bin and the second and final batch of my friend Handy Dandy’s beautiful little handmade poplar stitch marker bowls.

Also back in stock (available right now!)—
– The larger of the silver and brass safety pins, plus a new style in two sizes
– The undyed Double Basketweave Cowl Kit (an excellent gift, either in kit or cowl form!)
– All the beautiful Japanese needles in their little vials — tapestry, sewing, sashiko and hand-quilting varieties
– AND the latest issue of Taproot magazine has arrived!

Have an amazing weekend, everyone — thank you for all the great conversation this week!


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28 thoughts on “Q for You: Are you a wardrobe planner?

  1. Oh, wardrobe planning. … How I love thee! There are many talented fashion bloggers who have been writing about their process with RTW (ready-to-wear) items … Into-Mind’s Anuschka just put out a great book (“The Curated Closet”) which is stellar! And I love the easy, friendly 20-something vibe of “Un-Fancy”‘s Caroline, too.

    But it’s interesting – the intersection of handmade with capsule wardrobe/wardrobe planning has fewer voices. Colette’s series ‘Wardrobe Architect’ is one of the few I’ve run across where your MAKES factor into your planning. And as you say here, it’s so KEY! When we’re spending weeks or months making a piece, isn’t it great to know it’s going to fill a vital role?

    Especially for those of us with more minimalist visions, it’s essential that we make the RIGHT things. The good news is, this means we can slow down – and not panic because we can’t make All. The. Things!

    • Hi Karen,
      What app/software are you using for your wardrobe planning? The photos look amazing and the ability to mix and match and move things around make this so much easier.
      I totally agree with you, having a functional and beautiful wardrobe makes planning so much easier and truly helps with the handmade queue. There are so many beautiful items I want to knit but realistically I will never get to all of them so being selective is key.

      • Oh, just Photoshop. The closet inventory image was just a screengrab of all the image files open on my desktop, then I used Photoshop to line them up into the outfits. (It’s what I use for everything when doing blog images.)

  2. I’m much more of a “uniform” dresser than a mix-and-match wardrobe planner, and I’m almost unbearably picky about fit/material/quality/ethics of purchased clothes.

    This kind of naturally limits my wardrobe. Basically I let myself buy any wardrobe items that match my uniform — black roll necks or mock necks, 100% wool slim-leg work trousers, collarless suiting jackets — that I truly love. (The test is to try it on, and if I still think about it a week later it’s probably good.) Most of my staples — jeans, underwear, socks, fine black merino mock neck jumpers — I’ve identified a company that keeps a version I like in constant production.

    I don’t have much time or inclination to sew, especially since I’m in suiting five days a week and my sewing talents definitely don’t extend to tailoring. Every once in a while I’ll knock out a top when there’s a certain style I want that I haven’t found in the shops.

    Knitting, I plan — but I find myself rather naturally limited by knitting time and inclination, so I don’t plan much beyond that.

    To be honest, I often panic and think I should plan more, but realistically I don’t have a ton of crafting time (or shopping for crafting time!) and I’m not overly indecisive or experimental, so what I do now works fine. I also work in an extremely rigid field, and I kind of suspect that having rigidity in my hobbies also would just annoy me.

  3. I don’t plan. I probably should. But there’s just something about it that doesn’t work for me. Making clothes is the one part of my life (besides running) that is free of external pressure and evaluation and competitive pressure, so I like to keep it free of too many restrictions. Over-planning just feels restrictive to me.

    • Same! I actually feel that not planning leads to happier results for me. That is, I don’t really have criteria for choosing things to buy or make other than that I must love them and not be able to get them out of my head, whereas if I planned more, I think I’d end up with a really practical and systematic wardrobe (for instance, if you’re trying to plan or apply logic to your wardrobe, aren’t you always going to choose the neutral midweight cardigan instead of making a fuzzy purple bobble sweater?), but that’s not really want from my clothes! I want them to feel immediate, varied, rich, and influenced by the variations in what strikes me as most beautiful at different moments.

      The ways I do something like planning are (a) being aware of what I’ve already got and trying not to overaccumulate (e.g., stop buying work-appropriate blouses when it’s clear I have “enough,” though that’s subjective), and (b) not buying on impulse–I identify things I love based on my instant reaction to them, but almost never buy them right away, because in waiting, I often see the difference between something I truly want to own and something that’s more of a fading whim.

    • What Genevieve said! I don’t plan my wardrobe in the sense that I think Karen’s talking about, and I’m quite happy that way. But I do identify as a “planner” in general, I plan lots of other stuff in my life, and I really like reading about different planning processes, even if I’m just as happy to go my own way when it comes to clothes.

      Not-planning for me doesn’t result in having a chaotic wardrobe, or one where I feel like I have lots of clothes and nothing to wear. My clothing acquisition process (whether via buying or making) feels similar to what Genevieve describes — a few simple principles, being tuned into what is currently striking me as beautiful (it changes! and I love that it does), and no precipitous action.

      I love playing with color combinations, so my clothes come in a rainbow of colors (and I keep them organized that way). I’ve noticed that about every 5-ish years, my taste in silhouettes shifts, sometimes (but not always) dramatically, and I follow those shifts because it’s interesting to do so and because I want to honor my own desires for how to present myself. Sometimes the shifts have been tied to changes in my lifestyle or identity, sometimes they’re related to fashion trends, sometimes they’re related to nothing I can determine. Sometimes I go a few years without buying or making anything new for myself because I am satisfied with what I’ve got. Despite allowing myself to follow my own changing tastes, I tend to keep things for a long time, and enjoy finding new ways to wear old things.

      Is all this a form of planning? I don’t know. Maybe it’s un-planning?

  4. I always plan to plan, but until recently, I was always getting started but not following through. I read Wardrobe Architect and several books on the the subject. But I would cast on or shop for things that caught my eye. In the past year, I have started limiting color choices and trying to make more of an effort to think it through. I find now that I am sewing and knitting in constantly, I prefer to wear that clothing over store bought. Your blog helps me keep focused. I want to try the picture thing. I have a feeling there will be surprise combinations in my closet.

  5. So not. Although I should. Because I end up with beautiful pattern and print garment that I can’t mix and match. OK, maybe I got my first New Year’s resolution.

    • I’m gonna take back my own statement that I “should” plan. I have enough “shoulds” in the rest of my life! If planning feels right, I’ll do it, but there are times when I just really enjoy the spontaneity of making without the burden of a long term plan. I say choose whatever brings you joy. If that means careful wardrobe planning, go for it. But it doesn’t have to.

  6. I plan to plan my wardrobe, and then never get to it. It really is a great idea. Right now I’m starting with a few basics, making some cotton blend knit turtlenecks to wear under sweaters. I usually buy several but the sleeves are ALWAYS too short, so I’m making some this year. That’s a start anyway. I should do as you have done…it’s a very good idea.

  7. I have only a few articles of clothing. 2 jeans, 3 sweaters, 2 t-shirts, 2 dressy shirt, 1 dress, 1 blazer, 1 pants, 1 skirt. Everything is neutral (black, grey, ivory; jeans are very dark denim blue), so I can mix-match everything. I never need to actually plan what I’m going to wear, because no matter what I choose I know it’ll look great with whatever else. I add accessories to mix in whatever beautiful colours I want to wear that day. I only make things to replace what I already own. I love my wardrobe and it works for me.

  8. I used to not plan, but then after downsizing my wardrobe I found it essential to plan ahead so I wouldn’t wind up right back where I started from. The biggest change I made was to limit my color palette. I stick only to navy, cream, golden yellow, denim and camel. Also, I took the time to really figure out what silhouettes looked attractive on me and more importantly made me feel good about myself. That really helps me from not purchasing or making something just because it looks amazing on the model. For knitting I really plan ahead, research a lot and swatch, swatch, swatch. I guess getting older I see how valuable (and short) my free time is and that I need to use it wisely.

  9. I really struggle with planning, and I wish I were a bit more disciplined in my wardrobe choices. I really appreciate seeing your posts on the subject, as they are inspiring me to think harder about how to make my wardrobe work better and be simpler so I’m not constantly paralyzed by what to wear. I am in a weird place wardrobe-wise because I feel like I have to have options for so many different situations due to my current career life: formal office (suits), business casual, weekend/fun, lounge/pajamas, and workout/activewear. In any given day, I might do 2 or 3 changes of clothes (pajamas, dog walk, work, going out for a run). I try my best to have cross-over options and to minimize things that only fit into one category, but more often than not, I end up feeling like my wardrobe has multiple personalities.

    • I know what you mean about the clothes changing. I get up and go to the gym in workout clothes, shower and change into work clothes- business casual, then into dog walking clothes ( it rains a lot here), then finally I put on hanging out at home clothes. Each change has its own abbreviated, yet complete, wardrobe. Ugh. My planning consists of replacing things that wear out.

    • Same here. In in normal day, I’ll go from work (button down fitted shirt, trousers, nice shoes), to a dog walk (relaxed tee/shirt, comfy old pants that I don’t mind if they get covered in paw prints, beat up walking shoes), to a gym, to evening “relaxed” clothing (which is half way between dog walking & pyjamas, depending on my mood). I used to be all about minimalism, but nobody told me that owning a dog will require a separate wardrobe full of old jeans, quick-drying pants, rain-proof jackets and elderly shoes, haha! Moreover, we live in a place where it goes down to -5C in winter, and +35C in summer, so one needs winter/summer specific stuff. Plus there are weddings, funerals/sombre occasions, plus something sparkly for a date night, plus we go camping a fair bit… goodbye minimalism. It’s all serves a specific function, though. I refuse to feel guilty about that.

  10. yes and no! I always try to add something fun and new in Spring and Fall–something that works with my basics. My colors are generally black/taupe/cream, burgundy, turquoise/green/teals. I sew and buy to work with these colors and pieces. And then, I can be easily seduced by something unexpected as well….happy planning!

  11. My “plan” consists of mostly sticking to dresses for work. The dress + jewelry (maybe…if I feel like it) makes getting ready in the morning so quick. My knitting for self does not have a plan and as a result I have numerous ideas bookmarked and several projects in various stages of completion. For the limited amount of time that I have for knitting, I think a plan of some sort would be helpful. I’m thinking basics – black v-neck sweater, grey and camel cardigans, a colorful Lopi (or two). I also need to pare back what I knit for others. I keep getting side-tracked from the “me” projects with “others” projects.

  12. I used to knit compulsively, enamored with a yarn or a pattern or a unique construction. Now I have a lot of knitted items I never wear – some I don’t even like! So now I am trying to be more thoughtful about what I knit. Otherwise, I have never planned anything about my wardrobe, so find these posts very interesting.

  13. My planning of knitting & sewing differs. One year as a knitter & I try to plan my knitting in terms of ‘I need more cardigans not sweaters’. Am Inspired by your posts here to become even more systematic about knitting planning.

    In terms of sewing, I’ve made a ‘sewarchy’ for myself: https://instagram.com/p/BMdwqkpjt-j/
    Accordingly, I organise my sewing queue this way: mending is the priority, second life sewing next, then refashioning & new item sewing at the bottom. This has been really helpful to me in terms of prioritising what to deal with first (and not get swept away in endless new item sewing inspired by the pretty things in
    my Instagram feed).

    Very much enjoying your blog, thanks for all the inspiration!

  14. The best daily planning for me is what my mom made me do as a kid. Put out your clothes the night before. I did this until I “grew up” and then went through this crazy, stand in front of the closet indecision every morning. I don’t like being late and found it made me so self-critical first thing every day. Now, however, with small kids, I am back to the “put it all out the night before” routine. I get dressed in the dark in the AM. So, my focus is only planning for each day the night before, and this works much more quickly.

    I do replace staples as they wear out (I wear an endless array of solid color v-neck cotton long sleeve shirts in winter, for instance, under sweaters,most days) and I do try to think out new purchases. I try to sew or knit things as I can to fill the holes. Despite this, I find some of my hardest worn items are the ones I bought on a whim at a local boutique when I had only 20 minutes to shop during kid nap time and there was a sale on, that kind of thing. They are the smock with pockets, the swing shirt, the item with style that I couldn’t envision on my body without shopping and trying it on first.

  15. I am really only a planner when I am traveling, and every piece counts, and I have several pieces that are only worn for traveling, because they are super-practical but I don’t actually like them that well. Since I am retired, my wardrobe is too simple to plan. It’s jeans or black or gray pants, with seasonal versions, so of course everything I buy or make makes at least three outfits. I don’t know whether you would call that “unplanned” or “automatically self-planning.”

    But I still can’t stop knitting things just because they are fun to knit, so I will probably never achieve true minimalism. I’m doing more charity knitting now, though, because I really do have Enough Stuff.

  16. I don’t plan my wardrobe. I have the basics, but I like color and pattern so that I buy jackets (indoor), tops or dresses that catch my eye. Sometimes I just go “shopping in my closet” as my mother would say. This summer I figured out a combination for a skirt that I’ve had for several years but never had found an “outfit” for it. I had the outfit, but just hadn’t figured it out earlier.

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