Clothing is a language. It tells a story to the world about who you are, where you’re coming from, and what you value.
As a woman who sews, creating your own wardrobe gives you full access to that rich language. You can make anything you want. There is tremendous power in that. You have the ability to use your creativity to express your unique values and personality in a way that most people cannot.
But with practically every sartorial option under the sun at your fingertips, along with the constant influence of trends and marketing, it’s easy to lose track of what you really want to say. Spending some time exploring who you are and how you can express that through the things you make and wear is not only fulfilling, it can also seriously simplify the process of creating your dream wardrobe.
That’s what the process of wardrobe design is all about: simplifying. By distilling your ideas into what’s truly meaningful to you, you can build and evolve a wardrobe over time that always feels true to who you are in that moment.
I’ve found that there are really three key areas to explore when attempting to focus your style: your history, your values, and your identity. These three things can directly connect who you are to the way you express yourself through what you wear.
Who am I, really?
The first step in designing your wardrobe is to define the aspects of your style that are most essential to who you are, the things that are core to you and that change the least.
I like to think of this as a core style. It incorporates not just who you are, but who you’ve been and who you are becoming. To begin exploring your core style, we’ll look at the three elements mentioned above: your history, your values, and your identity.
For many of us, our personal style begins to develop as teenagers, as we start to push away from our parents and define ourselves as adults for the first time.
You might not feel like you have much in common with the adolescent version of yourself, but there are probably some clues about your budding taste hidden away in your past.
I wore a lot of things as a teenager that might make me cringe now: handmade skirts in stiff fabric with weird ruffles on them, band T-shirts with the necks cut out, old slips worn as dresses, thrifted men’s pants, and lots and lots of black. But if I think about what appealed to me about these things, there’s something core to myself that I see: a certain romance and darkness and mystery that always appealed to me, mixed with a dash of menswear. All of those things still matter to me, and feel like part of who I am.
What is still true to you from your past?
Your wardrobe has the potential to express a lot about what you value, and to project those values outward. When you feel more in line with your values, you feel more like yourself.
Someone who dresses in bright, colorful maxi dresses says to those around them that they value vivacity, positivity, and boldness. A woman who wears classic tailored suits projects values of competence and authority. A woman in starkly minimalist shapes and neutral colors might value simplicity above all else.
These are some obvious examples, but there are many ways to translate your values into what you wear. In fact, you probably already do this to some degree. I know that I value being mindful of small pleasures and details in everyday life, which draws me toward little touches of luxury and special details in my clothing.
What values are most dear to who you are, and how are those expressed in what you wear?
Finally, there is the question of identity. Of these three ingredients, this one may be the most mutable. Our identities change with time, and contain a mix of our past, present, and future selves. Our identities are built on our experiences, but also on the way we wish to be seen by the world in the present and future.
Your identity is multi-faceted and highly nuanced. You may identify as a mother, a scientist, an artist, a daughter, a world traveler, or all of the above. When I think about my own identity, the words that come to mind are business owner, creative, athlete. A few years ago, the word “athlete” would not have made my list.
What aspects of your ever-evolving and complex identity do you want to express?
Join the conversation!
Share your answers to one or all of these questions with our community on Instagram! Use the hashtag #seamworkwardrobe and tell us: How does your history, your values, or your identity influence what you make and what you wear?