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Episode 122

Re-run: Design Your Wardrobe

In this re-run episode from our Sewing by Design series, Sarai and Haley walk you through the steps of our super popular Design Your Wardrobe program. You'll learn a bunch of tips for sewing a wardrobe full of clothes you love.

Podcast Transcript

I’m Sarai.

And I’m Haley.

And this is Seamwork Radio.

Hi everyone! Haley and I are taking a break for the holidays, and while we’re gone, we’re re-airing our Sewing by Design series from last year. This series was really popular and so many people have found it helpful for building a framework around their sewing so they can get more out of it. Today’s episode is the third step in the process and it’s all about designing your wardrobe so that you can sew with more intention.

I hope you enjoy it, whether for the first time or as a refresher on the whole concept of creating a sewing practice that makes you happy. We’ll be back after this series is over in January. Happy holidays!

Welcome back to Seamwork Radio. So today we’re talking about how to design a wardrobe that you will love to wear, and this is part of our series on on the Sewing by Design framework that we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks. In today’s episode, we’re going to cover what design your wardrobe is and what that means both as a concept and also the program that we teach around it. We’re going to talk about why we think design is such a fundamental part of sewing, and the steps that you can actually use to design your own wardrobe.

So our icebreaker for today, Haley, this comes from Sarah T. And Sarah asks “if you could live in any decade time period for the fashion, which would you choose?” What do you think, Haley?

This is a tough one. I don’t really want to live in another decade or time period other than for the fashion.

Yes, I struggled with that, too.

The 30s had some cool fashion, but I don’t know if I wanted to live—I definitely don’t want to live through that. I think that my favorite decade to pull inspiration from is always the seventies. I think that’s kind of the one that I revisit most often, with the 30s is kind of a close second for me. What about you, Sarai?

Yeah, the 1930s, I think, have always been my favorite era for fashion because of the details and the clothing. Just coming off of that art deco period and kind of between that period and the war, World War II, there were so many beautiful details in clothing at that time, and the shapes just really appealed to me. I love finding old sewing patterns from the 1930s. There’s some just really amazing ones. I have a lot of patterns, Hollywood patterns from the 1930s. Hollywood was a brand of patterns, and they would have, like, a movie star on the cover of each one. It would be like a garment that was worn in a movie. And it’s just so cool. I love the era, but, yeah, I don’t want to live in the 1930s either. There was a lot going on at that time that, yes, the fashion—wonderful. So if you’re just asking about for the fashion, then, yeah, that’s what I would choose.

My great grandmother was, like, an amateur photographer, and so she had tons of photos that she took during she was, like, a young woman in the 1930s. And so I grew up always looking at all of these photo albums that she would make, and they were just, like, her and her friends and hanging out in the woods making moonshine and stuff in just the most fabulous pants, fabulous wide-leg pants. I have so many good photos, and I think that kind of started my love affair with that decade, and then it more into my adulthood, I think that my love for the 70s really started with music and then just branched out from there.

You know, it’s interesting you say that. I wonder how much of our affinity for certain decades has to do with family. Because my grandmother was a young woman in the 1930s and my parents were young in the 70s, a lot of the photos I grew up with were from those areas. And the 70s is also another favorite era of mine for fashion. So that’s kind of interesting to think about how that might influence us. I also think Biba was a big influence on me. Like, I discovered Biba. If you’re not familiar with Biba, it was a brand and large department store in London in the 70s. It took a lot of inspiration from earlier decades, especially the 20s, 30s, and 40s, and had this very dark, glamorous look. If you look at Biba, it’s B-I-B-A you’ll see what I mean. And that has always really appealed to me. That mishmash between the 1970s and those earlier eras. Really cool, really cool stuff.

I think also like the contrast of growing up in the early two thousands and I think, like grunge and then later kind of more McBling fashion. All of the fashion from the 30s and 70s felt like a lot of contrast to that. And I think sometimes you kind of like, for me at least, I craved something different than what everybody else was doing and what was present in pop culture.

Yeah, although I do think in the 90s, vintage fashion was also very in. And that was a time where people really looking back and taking from different decades and incorporating that to create new looks. So I think that was a big influence on me growing up too. And thrift store shopping, obviously, which was also a big part of my life at that time.

Oh man, we could do a whole episode on fashion influences in our lives.

Yeah, certainly we could. I’d love to hear from other people on that too. If you have an icebreaker for us for a future episode, if you’re a member, you can go to and share a question for us. I love hearing what you all come up with for icebreakers because they always get us talking. Obviously they get us talking.

So, diving into our topic for today. So the last few weeks we’ve been sharing our Sewing by Design framework that we have been discussing. So the Sewing by Design Framework is a way of thinking about sewing that has several phases. And we’ve talked about layer foundation in the first week, which is all about building those foundational skills. And then we talked about building your practice last week, which is sort of the we talk about it as the framing of the house, the outside of the house before you start filling it with things.

And so this week we wanted to talk about next part, which is you think this is one of the rooms in your house, maybe. So as we start, we’ve built our practice, we’ve kind of got that ongoing process going of continually building that momentum into our sewing, and now the things we’re going to be looking at in the next few weeks are sort of the things that we commonly see people diving into once they have built that momentum.

And so the first one is design your wardrobe, and you don’t think of this so much as a phase, because this is more of an interest or direction that you can choose once you’ve got your sewing going. So, Haley, why don’t you tell us a little bit about design your wardrobe and why it’s a helpful thing to pursue at this stage.

Yeah, totally. I guess I’ll start off with why it’s helpful. I think that the reason people find this need to design their wardrobe and become more intentional at this place in their sewing journey is because they have kind of accumulated all of this momentum and they’re sewing all this stuff. And then all of a sudden, one day, it seems like you realize you have this kind of, like, incongruous collection of clothing, and you’re like, oh, my gosh, I make all of this stuff. I like all of this stuff. But, like, am I wearing it? Is it serving me? And I think that there’s a point where you just kind of start having these realizations that maybe you’re mimicking some of the patterns that you had in shopping in your sewing. Has this ever happened to you, Sarai?

Oh, definitely. Yeah. I think a place where I find it happening—it happened to me early in my sewing journey, for sure—where I just, like, created a bunch of stuff and kept sewing, and then I would have all these crazy things that I would never wear, but I just liked them. I just was making things because I liked them, which is fine. I think that is totally, totally fine. But, you know, I wanted to create things that I would actually wear day to day and have in my closet for a long time. And when I got to that place, I needed to take a harder look at my own style and how I could make things to really fit who I am as a person, you know? And the other place where I found this happening is any time where I’ve had a big change in my life or my style has drastically changed, or my body has really changed, or my lifestyle. Those are the times where I have to take a harder look at what my style really is right now, because style changes over time, bodies change over time, life changes over time.

And it’s really helpful to have a process for yourself, a creative process, a fun process to go through and help you kind of realign with who you are. Those are kind of the two times where I’ve really found it in my life.

Yeah, totally. And I could basically say the exact same thing. I think there’s a real, for me, I found a real need for this at the beginning of my sewing journey and then just kind of like, along the way as my life has changed and my needs have changed for sure. I think this happens too, because it’s really easy to get caught up in what new patterns are coming out or that cute fabric that you see at the fabric store. And you take these kind of like segues and having a process like design your wardrobe is really great to kind of realign with yourself and what you want and make sure that your sewing is kind of on track with that, so that your sewing is serving you in the best possible way.

So now let’s get into the what is design your wardrobe? Desig Your Wardrobe is a program that we have here at Seamwork. So we’re going to give you a whole bunch of tips today that are based on this program. But of course, you can also just take the program with us because it’s super cool and fun. It’s available for free to our members.

It’s a three-week program that includes daily videos, worksheets, activities, and plus an interactive community element. And it walks you through the steps we’re talking about today. And in the end, you have this queue of projects to sew for the next season. And if this sounds like something that’s really interesting to you or sound like fun, sign-ups are open now, so go on ahead and check that out. We’ll drop the link in the show notes. But Sarai, can you kind of walk us through these steps so that people kind of know what to expect from the program and can get some tips for their own practice?

Yeah, whether or not you do it with us, I think these are really helpful things to think about if you wanted to create your own process. But the program is really fun and we run it only twice a year, so it’s open right now if you’re interested. But it is only twice a year, although we do have a self-guided version. So if you’re a Seamwork member, you can do the self-guided version at any time as well. But it’s really fun to do it together.

The first thing I wanted to talk about, and I’ve talked about this with each of the phases in this framework, is starting with mindset. So we always start with what’s the mindset going into this. And I think one of the things that we need to be aware of going into it or need to think about is just this idea of reflecting and reflecting on your own needs. I think that’s something that a lot of us skip, at least when we’re first getting into sewing, because we’re so excited just to make stuff and we know what we like so it’s very easy to pick out things that you know that you’re going to get excited about and want to sew and enjoy.

But again, there comes this time where maybe not everything you make is fitting your needs. So this idea of being open to reflection and really thinking about yourself and how your life has changed and your identity can be a really helpful thing to incorporate into your sewing. And kind of along with that is this mindset of acknowledging and accepting change. So we’ve talked about how when you have a lot of change in your life or in your style or in your body or anything that’s going on with you, that can be a really good time to do this sort of reflection. And I find it really helpful to do it periodically. And that’s why we run Design Your Wardrobe twice a year, because I think it’s really, really helpful to have time set aside to think about this every once in a while and to kind of force yourself to reflect on whether you’ve changed or not. You know, maybe you want to continue doing what you have been doing and maybe you don’t, but it’s nice to have those built in time to kind of think about it and again, do it in a fun way and really focus on yourself.

And then the last mindset tip that I have is really thinking about sewing and about creating a wardrobe more like a designer. And I’ve had this really cool experience lately. So I’m taking this garden design class online right now from a garden designer named Rochelle Greayer. And if you want to check it out, her website is I’ll put that in the show notes in case anybody wants to check it out. She teaches this online class about designing your garden, and one of the things that she talks about is how important it is to get multiple perspectives on your garden and really to see it from a bunch of different angles and different dimensions. So she talks about, for example, taking photographs from different angles and taking it from the angle at which you approach your house. Taking it from your front door, places where you’d normally see it out windows, but also kind of getting into the macro view and the micro view, really getting down to the details, but also taking a zoomed out view and planning from that perspective. So this idea of just zooming out, looking at things from a whole bunch of different angles can really, really fire up your creativity and get you thinking in new ways and really help with the design process.

So I think starting to find ways to do that and to think more like a designer can just be such an enriching part of this process because it really helps you to get new perspectives and feel a lot more creative. So that’s something I wanted to share with you because it’s something that’s really hit home for me lately and other design practices that I have in my life. So that’s kind of the mindset stuff.

And then I’m going to go through some of the steps that we actually teach in the Design Your Wardrobe program so you can get a feel for what that’s like. And the first one is setting a goal.

So the first thing that we talked about in the program is figuring out your why. Why are you doing this? Why is this important to you, why you want to design the next period of your life and the next season and kind of getting that clear for yourself. It’s really motivating to have a why behind what you’re doing, if you can start with that.

And then from there, we ask people to develop a personal goal for the program. So not just the why, but what you want to achieve as you go through it.

So it’s not necessarily that you want to overhaul your entire wardrobe, get rid of everything, replace it all. It can just be a few little changes. It can be for a part of your life or an activity that you do. It could be a small capsule wardrobe. It’s different for everybody, a small collection of things that go well together. Or maybe you find a gap in your current wardrobe that needs filling and you want to design for that. So really kind of personalizing this experience for yourself and figuring out what your needs are. So that’s the first part. That’s the goal setting process.

And now we get into kind of the actual work that goes into it. So the first thing that we do after setting a goal is create a mood board. So if you’re interested in mood boards, we have a whole podcast episode on mood boards that we can put in the show notes. I think it’s called going deep with mood boards.

Yeah, that sounds right.

I know it’s a popular one. I think mood boards are something that, I think a lot of us create mood boards in various ways. A lot of us use Pinterest nowadays as kind of a virtual mood board, but we walk through a process of creating a mood board in a little bit more of a targeted way so that you can create a design direction for yourself. And I just think mood boards are so useful in the process of editing down. Your mood board is really useful for coming up with a coherent style and really zooming in on what appeals to you personally. It’s just so helpful.

I’m doing this for the garden design class, actually also. And it’s been so interesting because she has us create a mood board, not just for gardening, but just for your general style. Just putting things together from all different categories and just photos and images that appeal to you, and then trying to pick out the patterns of why that appeals to you, which is something very similar to what we do in Design Your Wardrobe. And I think it’s so interesting. I think this process kind of transcends different design domains.

Oh, yeah, it’s really interesting.

Yeah. I think that there’s this very human desire to want to put things into words, and I think that’s really great and really helpful. But when we’re talking about design, I think that using a more visual language really helps us to get real with our taste in what we have imagined in our minds. And, like, just seeing it, getting it out of your head and seeing it on the page is so helpful to just align your inspiration with your goals, ultimately.

Yeah, I think it makes it a lot more explicit, because somebody might say, oh, my style is very classic. But what does classic mean to you? It means different things to different people. Some people, it means they only wear black and white, and it’s super minimalist. And for somebody else, it might mean, well, I invest in classic pieces—a good pair of jeans, a white button-up shirt. It means different things to different people. And if you can put visuals and language together, I think that’s where it gets really, really powerful, because you can express yourself. Again, it kind of goes back to those many dimensions. You can express yourself in different ways and put those dimensions together to create a more complete picture of what you want.


So I love mood boards, and I love using them to communicate with other people and also with yourself. I think it’s really helpful.

After you’ve created your mood board and started to sort of develop a visual language for your style and for what you’re going for, for this particular project, we go through creating a color palette, and the way we do this is with actual fabrics. So instead of just kind of creating a color palette based on colors you like, because we’re working towards a very specific project, which is creating this collection of things, we use real fabrics, just like a designer would do.

So designers often begin with fabric, and that’s the same thing that we’re doing. So you can use fabrics either from your stash. So if it’s fabrics that you already have that you want to sew with or fabrics you might want to use, you can print off things from the Internet, or you can go to the store and grab some swatches of fabrics that you’re thinking about buying. But that’s where we start, is with color and fabric.

And the reasoning behind this is that if you can build a little palette for yourself for this particular collection that you’re designing with specific fabrics and put those together, then it’s going to be a lot more likely that you can create things that work together and that go with each other.

We have a specific process for doing this and picking out colors so that things work together and you have enough basics, and you have enough kind of pops of color to make it interesting for you. It’s all very personalized, but there’s a framework around it. So I love doing that part, too, because I have so many great fabrics in my stash and this really motivates me to actually use them because I can pull them out and start cutting off little swatches and putting them together and figuring out how I could use them in the next few months to create things that I’ll actually wear and that’ll work in my wardrobe.

So that part is really fun for me. I need to do that, actually. I can’t wait for Design Your Wardrobe to start. I’m excited to do this. I feel like I’m going through one of those phases we talked about, because I keep talking about this over and over again, but just with all my life changes in the last six months or so, last year, I just feel like I need everything to be refreshed. And I’m really excited to go through this process this spring.

I think a lot of people can relate to that. I think so many people have gone through so many, like, changes in their day to day life, and it’s very inspiring to look at it from this particular point of view and this angle and kind of, like, take a little bit of control back and design things for yourself and, I don’t know, just spend a little bit of time on yourself. I think it’s so important.

Yes, definitely. I think in this time period, it feels really good to have a space to do that and to have a space to reconsider what you need right now. And I think that’s something that’s missing from a lot of people’s lives at this moment in time, because everybody’s just been so focused on making things work for the last couple of years, and that’s out of necessity. But I feel like this is a practice that can really help ground you again and bring you back to what you want in your life, what you want to surround yourself with, what you want in your body, how you want to feel, how you’re thinking about your life and yourself right now. It’s a nice reflective experience.

I think that the idea of reflecting on how you want to dress your body in the coming months helps you to reflect on where you want to be a few months from now, too. It’s just like a very kind of, like, progressive type practice. It feels good to think forward and take action for ourselves now and for our future selves.

Yeah. It’s almost like a visualization exercise, projecting yourself into the future.


Yeah. So we’ve talked about setting a goal, creating a mood board, creating a color palette with fabrics, and then the last part is actually creating and planning the looks that you want to sew. So the way we teach this is actually creating looks like a designer would, or outfits, basically, so things that go together. And then we divide those up into actual projects using that swatch palette that you created. And this ultimately creates a queue of projects that you want to sew.

So we start with what are the actual things that you’re going to wear and how are you going to wear them, and then what are the projects that make up these outfits. And those outfits could include things you already own as well, which really helps you to visualize how these things might fit into your existing wardrobe. And then what are you going to make using the colors and the fabrics that you’ve chosen for this season.

And that’s how you end up with a queue of lovely projects that you want to sew. We also encourage people to have a few wild cards in there. So not just create some kind of rigid queue like, I must sew this, then I must sow this, then I must sew that. But to have some space in there, to sew things just for fun or that come up for you or that you decide that you want later, there’s definitely room for that. As well. As you get into the sewing part of this after the design part.

So those are the steps for Design Your Wardrobe, the program, and also steps that you can use yourself as you kind of think about what you want to sew in the next season. So, Haley, do you want to recap these for us just so everybody can remember what we talked about today?

You bet. So today we were talking about design your wardrobe in the context of the Sewing by Design framework, which is a framework we’ve been talking about the last few weeks, to kind of think about your sewing journey and how to get the most joy and momentum throughout different parts of your sewing journey.

So Sarai shared some tips for designing your wardrobe, which is a program that we run, but also just, like, some real great tips that you can use if you yourself want to design your own wardrobe. As always, series started us off with some great mindset tips, reflecting on what you need in your own wardrobe and acknowledging and accepting changes that might be happening in your life and really start to kind of, like, embody this idea of a designer. You’re not just sewing clothing for yourself. You are the designer of your very own wardrobe—and really lean into that.

Next, you’ll want to set a goal for yourself. Consider your why, why you’re doing this whole process, why you want to sew for yourself. That can be really powerful stuff.

And then set a personal goal for yourself. You don’t need to totally overhaul your whole wardrobe. You can make a little capsule wardrobe, or you can do something like, you know, a little athletic wear capsule for working out or walking the dog or whatever you do in your body.

Next, you’re going to want to create a mood board, and from that mood board, you’ll start to create a color palette. And we create our color palette with fabrics because that is kind of the paint that we will be using to create our wardrobes.

Once we have our color palette created, we can plan our looks. So, kind of starting with this macro look and looking at the looks and then breaking that down into individual garments and then projects. And ultimately, you’ll end up with a little sewing queue to help inform the next few months of your sewing.

So if you want to learn more about this, you can check out Design Your Wardrobe. You can visit, sign-ups are open right now. If you are listening to this later, you can also participate in the self guided version. But we do run a group version of this twice a year, and it’s really fun and interactive when we all do it as a group together.

And if you liked this episode, leave us a review. We really love to read them, and it helps other people who enjoy selling as much as we do to find us. Today, we have a review from AR in MN, Minnesota. I’m guessing “Seamwork Radio is a magical moulage of content that I appreciate and value. I’ve picked up actionable tips and ideas for my own sewing projects, but what I really love is the thoughtful discussion of the process and practice of sewing. It’s always a pleasure to see a new episode in my queue. I maintain a Seamwork membership for lots of reasons, but ironically, it’s the free content, like this podcast, that matter most to me.” Oh, thank you.

That’s really nice. We strive to put out lots of great free stuff, as well, so I’m glad that she’s finding value in both.

So, thank you for joining us today. I love talking about designer wardrobe. I hope you have gotten something really useful out of it, and we will see you next week. I’m Sarai.

And I’m Haley.

And this is Seamwork radio.

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