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Episode 117

How to Identify and Fill Wardrobe Gaps

What's missing from your wardrobe? If you know there are gaps in your wardrobe, but you don't know exactly what those gaps are, Sarai and Haley share two exercises to help you identify them and fill them with clothes you love to wear.

Podcast Transcript

Sarai
I’m Sarai.

Haley
And I’m Haley.

Sarai
And this is Seamwork Radio.

Sarai
Welcome back to Seamwork Radio, where we share practical ideas for building a creative process so you can sew with intention and joy. And today we’re talking talking about how to identify and fill wardrobe gaps. So we’re going to cover two strategies for uncovering garments that you should be adding to your sewing queue.

Alright. And we’re going to start with our icebreaker for today, which comes from, I’m sorry, I don’t know if it’s pronounced Tamra or Tamara, it looks like Tamara, but so we’ll go with that. My apologies if I’m butchering your name. And Tamara asks, “Who is your personal fashion icon and what about their style do you love?” So who’s your fashion icon, Haley?

Haley
This is a good question, but a tough question because I admire the personal style of so many different people. But the two that come to mind, because I kind of think about their style the most is probably Jane Birkin and Diane Keaton. I love Jane Birkin’s style. I mean, she’s a style icon. A lot of people find her style very inspirational. She has a very famous bag named after her, after all.

But what I like is just kind of like the laidback femininity that she captures in her dressing, lots of really femme details, but it never feels like overdone. Just very approachable. And I love Diane Keaton, because she’s the coolest, but I also just love the kind of contrast and tension that she creates with her clothing. I don’t know. I feel like she’s kind of like the queen of structure and silhouette and also about ,she represents something to me, and I think a lot of people about really knowing yourself and your personal style and really sticking to that regardless of the trends that come and go. And I just find that so inspirational. Those are my top two. What about you, Sarai?

Sarai
Those are great ones. And also very, I don’t know if the word is approachable, but it’s something that both of them have style that you can translate directly into real life, which I love. Mine are not really like that. I have a lot of different personal style icons and that I take inspiration in different ways from different people. And I don’t necessarily think any one of them really encapsulates my style completely, but the first one is kind of strange. But well, I’m really inspired by art, I think, especially Pre-Raphaelite art, and I’m really interested in the life and philosophy of William Morris and his wife. Jane Morris was a famous model of that time, and she modeled for a lot of the Pre-Raphaelite painters. So there’s a lot of very famous paintings that are portraits of her. And I really find her entire look, her entire style in these portraits to be really beautiful and inspiring. And I think because I feel that connection to the time period and the philosophy of that time period in the arts and crafts movement. It has kind of a personal meaning to me. So that’s one person that I find really inspiring when I think about my own, the things that I really love to create for myself, and it’s just very flowing, very romantic.

Obviously, this is like a whole different time period. And if you’re familiar with any of the Pre-Rafaelite paintings, you probably know what I’m talking about with beautiful color. So that’s one, and I’m also really inspired. I think there was a thread a while back on the Seamwork community about unexpected fashion icons, and mine was Kate Bush. I think her style is also just incredible, and she just was so herself, is so herself today. She’s not very much in the public eye these days, but she is just an incredible artist that I really, really admire. And her style is just completely her own. Also has a lot of romantic elements to it, but also just a lot of very dramatic and costumey elements to her stage costumes. And I just think she’s an amazing artist and really inspired by her.

And then a third one, which is kind of interesting, that I take a lot from in different ways, is Patty Smith. Her style is really, really consistent. I know I’ve read interviews with her talk about she has one type of men’s shirt that she wears, and she just buys multiples of this one men’s shirt.

And I really appreciate that she has her own thing, and fashion is something that is important to her. But that doesn’t mean that you need to be super experimental. You can have your style and stick to it. And I find that really, really inspiring about her also. I mean, just an incredibly stylish person who always looked and looks amazing and also a human being that I really personally admire artistically.

So I think that’s like, a common theme, is there something beyond what they look like that really inspires me and that I take away and try to incorporate into the things that I create. So those are the ones that come to mind for me. I think there’s a lot of other really stylish people who I just love the way they dress, love the way they look. Those are the three that I feel like means something to me.

So thank you so much for that question Tamara. That was a really fun one to explore, and I think goes with the theme for the episode today. If you have an ice breaker that you want to share with us that we could use on a future episode, we would love to hear it. So if you’re a Seamwork member, you can just go to Seamwork.com/go/icebreakers and leave it there, and we will more than likely use it on a future episode. So thank you again Tamara.

Alright, so we’re going to get into the topic for today, which is how to identify and fill wardrobe gaps. So I think it’s really easy to get into the habit of just making whatever happens to strike your fancy at any given moment, which I think is really fun, but it can lead to never actually creating the things that you actually need and actually are going to wear. So that’s sort of the tricky balance that we’re trying to address today. And I think it’s hard to know in advance what the gaps are and which items you’re actually going to get the most wear out of. I find this even when buying ready to wear, it’s just sometimes really hard to know until you have it in your closet for a while and you’re actually wearing it and putting it together with other things and seeing how it feels on you, seeing how you feel wearing it, seeing if it’s comfortable. Those are all things that sometimes come with time. So the better we can get at predicting those, I think the more success we’re going to have in filling those wardrobe gaps and making the things that we really want to wear.

So the thing that we want to do is find that middle ground between the things that you’re excited to make and the things that you’re going to wear all the time. And I think planning can really help you to feel more firm about why you’re making something, and when you’re firm about why you’re making something, you feel more excited about it. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. And to start us off, I’m wondering, Haley, for you, do you personally have any gaps in your wardrobe right now?

Haley
Yes, definitely. I mean, I always feel like there’s, like, one thing or another that I really feel like I’m really missing, but right now, the weather here in Portland, I feel like it just went from, like, warm and a summer that would not end to so cold. So cold, to me, my, like, thin California, Southern California blood, so cold overnight. And I’m really in need of, like, comfortable pants to wear. I work from home most days, and I want to, like, be cute and have something that I feel like I can go run errands in and go pick up my kids from daycare without, like, you know, changing my pants three times a day. So I really need, like, some, like, practical soft pants, if you will. I’m planning on making some Dexter pants that’s upcoming in my project queue, which I think will fill the gap. What about you? Do you have any gaps in your wardrobe right now?

Sarai
It’s funny you mentioned that about the soft pants. I’m literally wearing sweatpants right now.

Haley

Me too.

Sarai
And I put them on this morning and I was like, man, I wish I had something a little cuter to wear on the bottom. But you know what? I’m just going to go with it. I think, for me, I wear a lot of leggings when I’m working from home. And I, too, would like some pants that are not jeans that I can wear around the house, I feel comfortable throwing on. I think another thing I’ve noticed lately in my wardrobe that I would like more is just a very simple A-line skirt. Like, the simplest possible A-line skirt is something that I think I would wear a lot at this time of year. I think it looks great with sweaters and tights, really easy to put on, goes with everything. I’m thinking, like, black wool, like, really, really simple. And I think I tend to not think about making those kinds of wardrobe basics until I do a process like Design Your Wardrobe. And I really map out outfits and think about how I can put things together and what I want to actually wear over the course of the season.

So that’s one of the things that came out of my Design Your Wardrobe process this time. This last round is having more things like that just very, very simple, but really well-made, well-tailored things like an A-line skirt. So that’s what I’m focused on right now. I’m into the idea of having a little bit more of a capsule wardrobe. Right now. I feel a little overwhelmed with all the stuff in my closet and also with all of the stuff around me going on sale. We’re approaching the holidays soon, and everything is like, sale, sale, sale all the time. You need this, you need that. Making wish lists, shopping for other people. And so the idea of just paring down and making some things that are special to me is really appealing right now.

Haley
What was the last wardrobe staple that you sewed?

Sarai
Oh, well, you know, I think I mentioned this on the last episode is I made a Lenny recently, so I made a dress, and I made a top, and I think the dress is really going to be a wardrobe staple. I’m going to make a YouTube video about it because it was really fun. And I used a rib knit striped fabric, and it’s just like, it has a little bit of a sweater dress feel, and it’s just really comfortable to throw on. And I’ve been wearing it a lot. So I think that’s going to be one of my fall wardrobe staples right now, and I’m so, so happy with it. What about you? Can you think of a wardrobe staple that you sewed recently?

Haley
Through the summer, I feel like I was into early fall. I’ve been sewing kind of just like frivolous things. Not like a lot of staples. But late last spring, I made a couple sweaters, cropped sweaters. And now that it’s starting to cool off, I’ve been wearing them so much, I actually am thinking about making a couple more because I have some fabrics in my stash that would work really well. I’m just finding myself wearing them all the time.

So my next question is what’s the last thing that you sewed that you don’t really wear?

Sarai
That’s a hard question for me because recently, before the last couple of projects that I sewed, I was in kind of a little bit of, like, I don’t know, my sewing really slowed down, and I wasn’t making as many things to wear. I was still doing some sewing for the house and things like that, and for other people, but not as much for myself. So it’s hard to say the last thing that I made that I don’t really wear, apart from things that just don’t feel all that seasonal. So things I made that are very summery that now that we’re heading into fall, I’m just not getting any wear out of. Maybe I just need to figure out how to pair them with different things. So I guess I would say things that are very seasonal are the things that I maybe don’t get as much year-round wear out of. What about you?

Haley
Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think the last thing I sewed that I thought I would really wear a lot, but I haven’t, is I made a wrap skirt out of this really great, like, orange stripey, yarn-dyed fabric, and it just…I don’t know what it is about it. I actually do know what it is about it. It’s a very particular shade of orange that I find hard to match with other things. I just do not have that many tops that work really well with it, and so I just never wear it because I have, like, one tank top that I think looks good with it. I actually ended up giving it away to someone recently just because, I like it and it’s a great skirt, and I feel like somebody else would get way more use out of it than I would.

Sarai
Yeah, I think color plays such a huge role in whether something ends up being a staple for you or not. And one of the things that I’ve just had to come to terms with is I really feel best in certain colors. Like, I love to wear black. I love to wear cream and white. I like navy. I do like a few other colors mixed into that. But the more I stray from the colors that I feel best in or that feel like me, because they’re pretty or they strike my mood at the time, those are the things that end up not having the shelf life of, for example, a black wool A-line skirt that I’d probably wear all the time.

Haley
Yeah, definitely. Well, I’m going to get into the strategies that we’re talking about today, so I’m going to share with you guys two different strategies for really uncovering those gaps in your wardrobe so that you can really sew more things that you’re going to wear all the time and you can avoid incidents like my orange wrap skirt situation.

So the first strategy that I am going to suggest is something I’m calling identifying your Wardrobe Superstars. So this is what that looks like. You’re going to pull something out of your closet that you wear all the time, and I’m going to encourage you to try to avoid those things that you kind of go to by default. Like the sweatpants that Sarai and I both pulled on today because we didn’t want to wear jeans and we didn’t really have a better option. These should be things that you feel really good about wearing, that you like wearing, something you’re excited to put on in the morning. And then I want you to explore what it is that you like so much about it. What do you wear with it? How is it practical for you in your life, and how do you feel when you wear these things?

These questions can kind of help you to figure out how you can bring more of that into your wardrobe. And if you don’t have any standout kind of superstars in your wardrobe, you can still ask yourself these questions, but just think about the hypothetical. How do you want to feel when you’re wearing a garment and what would be practical for you? I think that this is a really great kind of journaling exercise to go through when you’re trying to create more of those, I guess it’s not so much identifying holes, but it’s identifying the things that you are going to wear time and time again. And I think that sometimes that can be a hole in itself. When you find that there’s just not a lot in your closet that you are really enthusiastic about wearing, the goal is to make more things like that.

Sarai
Yeah. To replicate the success that you’ve already had. Either things you make or the things that you’ve purchased that are really, you know, make you feel good. And how can you bring more of that into your life, into your wardrobe?

What do you think are your superstars? Can you think of anything that come to mind for you?

Haley
Yeah, definitely. I have a lot of, like, denim superstars, so I’m wearing a denim shirt right now, which none of you can see because this is a podcast. It’s kind of a superstar in my wardrobe because I feel like it’s kind of, like, my perfect shade of denim blue, so I feel like it brightens up an outfit. I like that. It’s, like, really classic, and that’s, like, definitely one of my core style words. So when I feel like I need to add that element into an outfit, I can add that in. I also have a couple of pairs of pants that I really love. I have some new-to-me jeans that have this really great seeming and pocket detail that I adore.

Sarai
Yeah, I know. Those jeans. Those are really cute.

Haley
They’re really cute. I wore them to filming a couple of weeks ago. They’re really good. I have a few I have some great woven blouses that I love. And if I were to do this exercise for myself, those would be the garments that I would be looking at. I have a navy coat that I adore. I have a few superstars. What about you? What are your superstars?

Sarai
Well, it’s interesting to think about because I think mine has probably changed, because my lifestyle has changed so much in the last couple of years. So going by what I love wearing, I wear overalls all the time. I love overalls. I have three different pairs of overalls, four if you count, like, short ones. And I wear those a lot. It’s really practical for me. And also, I think they’re cute, and they look cute with, like, a fancier top underneath, and they look cute with a T-shirt underneath. That’s one of them. I used to wear blazers a lot, and I still have a lot of them in my closet. Vintage wool blazers. They’re so warm. They’re so layerable. They look very chic, but I don’t really have a reason to wear them when I’m working from home most of the time. So I’ve found that those are actually kind of sitting around in my closet lately. So it’s interesting to think about how those things have changed. The other things that I’ve noticed becoming real superstars for me, like very simple black pants.

I have a pair of black cigarette pants that I like to wear. They go with everything. Another pair of just, like, very plain black trousers with a high waist that I wear and then a top that’s, like, a little bit more billowy. I have some in black and some in white, and I think those get a ton of wear. So it’s things in very, very basic colors, very classic, very basic styles, and then a few kind of workwear things thrown in that are just super, super practical for me, and that’s what works for me. There’s, like, this mix of workwear and kind of chic basics and more romantic basics.

Haley
You kind of bring up an interesting point that I hadn’t necessarily thought of, but it’s really interesting, too, to look at all of your superstars. You can even list them out and think of them kind of in tandem and what are the things that they all have in common so that you can kind of create this Venn diagram of sorts of qualities that your makes really need to have in order to fit the bill and become a new superstar for you.

So I want to get into kind of our next strategy, and the next strategy is to identify the things that you have in your closet that you really, really like but you don’t wear. I don’t know about you, but there is, at any given time, a few of these pieces in my closet. And maybe it’s because they feel really aspirational that you, like, want to put them on, but every time you do, maybe you feel a little bit of imposter syndrome. I think that there’s kind of a line that you have to walk here and making sure that whatever garment you’re thinking about when you’re doing this exercise is if it truly works in your kind of what you would like your wardrobe to be. Maybe it doesn’t fit into your wardrobe right now, but it’s something that you could really see fitting into your life in your wardrobe in the future.

So, what you’re going to do is you’re going to identify this piece and then you’re going to brainstorm some outfits, what you could pair with it if only you had it in your closet. So, think of a few different outfits for each garment like this that you have in your closet. And this can be a really great exercise because what you might find is that certain garments are going to come up in your brainstorm time and time again. So if I was brainstorming on a green blazer that I have and a blouse and some white workwear jeans came up on both of my lists, then that might be a really good indicator to me that I need to add that to my sewing queue.

I think that this is a fun exercise because it’s one of those creative exercises that you can do when you want something creative to do, but you don’t necessarily have the time to lug out your sewing machine and your project. It can be kind of fun to sketch and journal about things in your closet to think about what you might want to make in the future.

Sarai
Yeah, it’s also, I think, a really nice thing to do when you’re doing a closet clean-out, or maybe even before you do a closet clean-out, because it can help you to figure out how you can get more life out of things that you have already and then how to add to your closet a little bit more thoughtfully. I feel like that’s a really good thing to pair with cleaning out your closet and getting rid of things that you know you’re not going to use or that you really feel like you don’t need anymore. So I think that’s another really good time to do it.

Haley
Yeah, definitely something that I always do when I clean out my closet, maybe, I’m sure other people do it as well, but I’ll pull out those things that are those like the garments that I love but I don’t wear as much as I’d like. And I put them in a very front and center place in my closet so that I see them more often. And I make kind of a mental note to myself that if I’m not wearing them in the next six months, then they probably need to go. So yes, another little kind of unrelated tip.

Sarai
That’s a great idea. I would like to do that with some of the blazers that I have that I’m not wearing. I have this beautiful one that I see every time I open my closet. It’s like a navy blazer with, like, a window pane plaid on it, and I rarely feel like I have an opportunity to wear it. And maybe if I did some of these exercises around it, I’d be able to incorporate a little bit more.

Alright, well, that wraps us up for today. So I’m going to do a quick recap on the tips that we covered. So there’s two main tips. One is to identify your Wardrobe Superstars, and the second is to identify things that you like but you don’t wear. So the first one identifying your Wardrobe Superstars. This is just going through your closet and figuring out what are the things that you wear most often and then doing a little exploration around that and the why behind that, so that you can figure out how to replicate that and make things that you’re actually going to love and you’re going to get a lot of wear out of.

And then the second one identifying things that you like but you don’t wear. You know, figuring out which of the things that you have in your closet or things that maybe feel a little bit more aspirational to you. And then brainstorming some outfits and things that you could pair them with that you don’t already have in your closet. And that’s a great way to figure out what are the gaps, what are the things I could bring in that would allow me to get more use out of what I already own. So that’s another really awesome exercise, and either of these exercises are great to do when you just have a few minutes that you want to really kind of think about sewing, do some sewing planning, but you don’t really have time to sew in the moment. They’re also great things to do if you’re just doing a closet clean-out and trying to eliminate clutter from your life. Both of these exercises can help you to think a little bit more deeply about what you want to own and what you don’t want to own. So that’s it.

What is your big takeaway from this episode today, Haley?

Haley
I thinks that my big takeaway is that it’s highly likely that the questions you have about your personal style and your dream wardrobe probably lie within the things you may already have and just practicing more appreciation for those items and honoring them by wearing them, but by also sewing things that are going to allow you to wear them more often.

Sarai
Yeah, totally agree. I think my big takeaway you know, there’s a saying that something like past behavior predicts future success or something like that, something along those lines. But I think the idea that what you’ve experienced, what you’ve done in the past and how you feel about the things that you already own is a really, really good indicator for how you’re going to feel in the future about things.

You know, things change, things evolve, style evolves, life evolves, as we’ve talked about today a little bit. But if you look at your attitudes towards the things that you have in your life right now, those can be really good signals to you about what your attitude is going to be towards new things that you bring into your life. So I think these exercises could be really, really helpful for that.

Alright, and if you want to learn more about this, we have an article called How to Find the Best Silhouettes for Your Body Type and Style. It’s a really popular article, so we’ll link that in the show notes, and that can give you a little bit more direction if you’re kind of trying to figure out what silhouettes are going to work for you, what you might want to try that you haven’t tried before, and just give you some ideas there. So we’ll link that in the show notes.

And then we also have a Style Workshop PDF that is available as a free download, and it walks you through ten exercises to help you to identify your core style. And it’s free for Seamwork members, and it’s also a great process to go through before tackling the Design Your Wardrobe course or any other wardrobe planning exercises that you go through. So again, it’s free for all Seamwork members, and if you want to join Seamork, remember that podcast listeners get 50% off an unlimited membership at seamwork.com/go/podcast-50. So if you want to become a member and join our amazing community, then you can use that discount and get off. And that’s a lifetime discount. So it’s a really awesome deal. Alight? And if you like this episode, we would love to hear from you. So please leave us a review and rating. We have a review today we wanted to read from Quiz Me 17. And Quiz Me 17 said “What a delightful podcast. I learned so much from Sarai and Haley about sewing, but also about being purposeful and mindful while pursuing your sewing hobby.” I love that. Thank you so much for that lovely review, and if you have a review for us, we would absolutely love to hear it.

You can leave reviews on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or the podcast app of your choice. And it is always great to hear from you and hear what you’re enjoying about the podcast and also helps other people to find the show. So thank you so much for doing that.

Alright, that does it for us today. I’m Sarai.

Haley
And I’m Haley.

Sarai
And this is Seamwork Radio.

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