Thursday, 25 August 2011

Wardrobe and Capsule Sewing

Several people commented on the last post that they were not familiar with the term capsule sewing, so I thought I would give you my take on it.
Capsule sewing is the construction of several garments specifically planned to be worn with each other in a variety of combinations, to form more outfits than the construction of an equal number of garments sewn at random.
There are many links to different types of capsules and wardobe plans, as well as discussions of the pros and cons of this type of sewing here and here at Stitchers Guild. There are frequent sew-a-longs and challenges for particular types or time frames for capsule or wardrobe sewing at both Stitchers Guild and at patternreview.(The links are to examples)

Personally, I have benefited greatly from sewing garments to a plan, as if left purely to my own whims, my sewing tends strongly towards pretty dresses, frilly blouses and overdecorated children's clothing, which leaves me with no clean trousers to wear to work. As purchased trousers require, on average, 6 hours of alterations before being wearable, this is a slight practical problem. I have participated in several challenges a, competitions and sew-a-longs for capsule wardrobes, and have even made some without the helping hand of a discussion forum.
The capsule I was describing in the last post is unfinished.
Capsule sewing is much more difficult than it looks. The garments have to be the right shape, colour/pattern and texture to co-ordinate with many other pieces successfully.

I am unhappy with this particular selction as a capsule for several reasons

1. I do not like the skirt with the blouses. In real life this does not matter, because I have been wearing the brown wool skirt at least once a week with different knit tops.
2. I have not used sufficiently different fabrics for the 2 pairs of trousers and the 2 blouses. This makes the capsule look too much like a uniform, as I have repeated the same pattern.
However, in real life this does not matter, as the difference between dark olive and dark brown trousers is more apparent in close up, and actually I have a lot of different work blouses that I can wear with these trousers.
Sewing a series of capsules over time has meant that I find it fairly easy to wear different outfits with a restricted number of garments. I tend to use this method of sewing mainly for work clothes, as my requirements for work are fairly rigid and conservative. To improve this capsule, I plan to make another 2 or 3 work blouses in a different style, in colours that will co-ordinate with the two pairs of trousers.
Here is quite a different capsule. I made this one to make sure my frivolous purple skirt did not become a clothing orphan. This strategy worked so well, that the the purple linen skirt is looking rather faded and shabby after only one (admittedly 7 month) season, and needs replacement, should I wish to wear it out of the house.
Last but not least, capsule sewing is particularly suited to travel. Last year I made capsule wardrobes for myself, and for my husband
using existing garments and new items from lightweight, quick drying fabrics, to allow us to pack for a month in Europe with a very small bag each. It was quite hard to force myself to wear any of the garments again after a whole month with such a restricted wardrobe, but there is no denying the practicality of this system.
Here is a travel wardrobe I made for my then 10 year old daughter when she went to France with my mother for a month.

Lately I have been participating in Elizabeth's 6 piece capsule each season. This means that whatever else I fancy sewing, over a season I add several practical pieces to my wardrobe, that potentially give me a wardrobe backbone as my clothes wear out.


K.Line said...

I see capsule sewing as a cross between garment creation and design. You may choose patterns of others, but you need to know how they'll work together and what fabrics and textures will coordinate. It's a very creative undertaking.

Ruthie said...

I cheat on capsule sewing by throwing in RTW items, but agree that deliberately making a few pieces which work together when sewing is a really good approach. I loved your travel capsule Karen, and thought you looked lovely in all the pieces. Its a bit of a shame you didn't wear them much after you got home, but understand getting bored with them.

Carolyn said...

A very good idea! I really like the purple capsule, and your new brown and olive one is veeeery promising indeed!

Handmade said...

Now that takes commitment!! Love the purple capsule - so pretty altogether and your daughter's travelling capsules also looks great!