Do Capsule Wardrobes Kill Your Creativity?

There seems to be a big trend today in sewing ‘capsule wardrobes’ of basic everyday wear. I have never been a planner when it comes to my sewing. Over the years I have collected patterns and random fabrics bought in the downtown LA fabric district or the various estate sales I would go to. I’ve always preferred to let inspiration strike, using the fabrics sometimes years after I would buy them. A stockpile of inspiration. This mindset does not work well with today’s trend towards minimalism. Creativity for some people is messy and can be cluttered.

Whenever I have tried to plan a wardrobe I found myself feeling very stifled and suddenly not interested in sewing. Which brings me to entering the Pattern Review capsule wardrobe contest, followed by my sudden lack of interest in sewing.

A capsule wardrobe from the Vivienne Files

After entering, I went down to my sewing garage and spent a few hours sorting through fabrics and patterns to find a nice combination of three tops, a cardigan, and two bottoms to match. All would go together in different combinations. I based my color palette on a Liberty of London cotton voile, a fabric I have been meaning to make a button down top with for ages. I picked out some other fabrics and put together what seemed like an entirely sensible and wearable capsule wardrobe.

But then I realized I felt totally uninspired to sew any of it. Not only did I feel uninspired, but I started to feel almost resentful about the task at hand. After some mulling around in my mind, I realized that I don’t care if the things I make don’t really relate to each other.

My favorite things have always been things that didn’t go with anything. I guess that’s where basic T shirts patterns come in handy. Because if you sew a military blazer made from a Mexican sarape blanket, you will need a basic t shirt and jeans to wear with it.

Which brings me to the proliferation of extremely basic patterns which seem to taking over the sewing scene. Basic T shirts and tanks, spiced with trends like high low hemlines and cold shoulders which are already outdated the moment we sew them.

Me in a basic tank I sewed. I love it, but how many tank patterns do we really need?

I really don’t want to sew so I can look like I bought all my clothes at Target or Wal Mart. I get that these pattern designers have to make a living and these types of basic patterns sell well. It really is the stuff most of us wear on a day to day basis. And those of us trying to sew our entire wardrobes need basics like this. The background to make a standout piece pop.

But it’s not very inspiring when my blog feed is full of basic jogger pants and dolman sleeved t shirts. I mean, it’s cool when people react with shock that you actually sewed that basic black t shirt, but often an eyebrow will be raised. ” Why would you want to sew such basic things when you can just buy a black t shirt at the Gap” (and it will probably fit better because the pattern designer at the Gap is professionally trained?) I suppose you can answer with a noble response like ” I am fighting against today’s fast fashion conglomerates”. No one can argue with that.

I know….. I’m guilty of sewing boring basics lately too, haha! One look at my feed proves that. But I miss the days of sewists creating outrageous and totally impractical dresses from vintage patterns made from tablecloths……

How about you? Do you like the idea of wardrobe planning and sewing all of your wardrobe basics or does it make you feel like a rebel? And are you also bored by many of today’s pattern offerings? Is there now too much cake and not enough frosting?




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  1. Lillian Martin says

    I agree! I been making basic black tees because the store bought ones shrink, but it feels more like a job. I’d rather make a fun dress in a wild print any day of the week.

  2. says

    Nope, no capsule wardrobe planner here. I do like my Jalie Dolman which is now my basic tee, but other than that, I’m not going to make the basics. I want to sew something different than I can typically find OR if I can get a better fit like jeans. I love sewing my own jeans. Everyone seems to be on the athletic sewing trend too. I’m totally fine with waiting till Old Navy has sales on their athletic wear or even Target! I love the athletic wear from both and at the cost of athletic fabric, I can buy RTW more than I could make. I typically don’t leave the house in my athletics since I have my own gym equipment, so I only need so much of that anyway.

  3. says

    I’m not shaped like the average block at a retail chain. I love sewing up a basic tee that fits my body. Sewing is all about having a wearable that fits for me which means a capsule wardrobe works. Supplementing with retail isn’t an option for everyone.

  4. says

    well, I entered the Patternreview 6 in 6 contest and it got me inspired to do some serious planning instead of my normal, “I like it so I’ll sew it” randomness. I sew ALL my own clothes, and the contest was a good push in the right direction for me. And Shirley, one of my garments is the Jalie Dolman. Made it the first time today, and really like the style.

  5. says

    These are reasons I hardly ever sew for my son. I like a pretty basic style for boys, jeans, shorts, and t-shirts, and I have zero desire to sew boring stuff like that. Especially when I can get everything I need at Target or Gap for cheaper than I could make it.

    I feel most inspired to make dresses. I feel like I can really be creative. For myself I’d usually rather buy shirts and pants.

  6. says

    I am very much a planner. But for some reason when it comes to sewing, planning just doesn’t always work for me. Usually I plan at least 10 garments to sew. I don’t know why because with my time constraints, it takes forever for me to sew. I don’t regret planning and it doesn’t stifle my creativity.

    But what I find what happens is that I see a new pattern or something on a blog or instagram that makes me want to sew it and all my plans go out the window. I guess I tend to sew with the spur of the moment attitude.

  7. Brenda says

    I agree, the idea of creating a capsule wardrobe feels a little bit too “Garanamils” for me. I would rather just sew what I want when I need it or when I find a fabric that inspires me.

  8. says

    I can totally relate. I love my fabric stash, as I know that maybe not now, maybe not next year, but one day I will find a project for each fabric. I feel there are two trends going on. The capsule wardrobe trend, limiting the amount of clothes in your closet and as a result less sewing and no fun sewing. However I feel that most sewists do not really aspire that. But many are in a struggle to finding and sewing their own style. This is something I struggle with too. This sparks my interest in the capsule wardrobe movement. The movement forces me to think about finding my own style. Consiously choosing patterns that flatter me (not following along with every new pattern hype), choosing colours and prints that suit me and thinking about matching basics so I actually wear my me makes. But my goal is not to have a boring all basics kinda capsule wardrobe. There is no fun or creativity in that.

  9. says

    I am not a capsule wardrobe planner – first reason, I really don’t have a stash, so planning a capsule is hard. two, I bounce around to all sorts of things I like to sew. three, my daily work wardrobe is jeans, so cute tops, cardigans and wonderful coats are what I sew. I find the capsule concept too restricting but so admire those that can do it, they are always so beautiful .

    thanks for the post

  10. says

    I like to sew special pieces also. That’s where the joy in sewing is for me. I do stay within color palate that works for me and that seems to make it work.

  11. Pamela H. says

    I’ve made a capsule wardrobe in the past, and it worked well as a springboard for later making more creative garments as a supplement to the capsule. But, speaking of trends, I just don’t get the interest in making things like panties or bras. That seems very assembly and factory-ish. I mentioned recently making a bodysuit – one error led to another, resulting in a garment I don’t even want to look at. In thinking it over, my reason for making this in the first place was to “add a basic”. In hindsight, I realize my attention was elsewhere the entire time I was sewing the garment, it seemed more like a chore than an interest. Don’t want to blame the outcome of the garment entirely on this, but I do believe my frame of mind did interfere with trying my best.

  12. says

    I hear ya! I love dresses, and I’m not afraid of a novelty print. That said, I don’t wear dresses in these NJ winters, and I sew clothes that I can’t buy to fit myself the way I like. This means that I spend my precious hobby time sewing woven shirts, woven dresses, and blazers/jackets) and I don’t sew clothes that I can buy easily; I get jeans from Old Navy and ‘dress trousers’ for work at Land’s End or J.Crew.
    That said, at a size 12-14 I can’t shop at some stores, and so occasionally I sew myself a knock-off of a style I want, but can’t purchase, because I’m outside the size range.

  13. says

    My fabrics are random and so is my sewing! None of my stuff ever “goes” with anything; I may sew a coat in July and a sundress in November! LOL

  14. says

    Great post Justine, I agree I am very sick of seeing the same basic top recreated a thousand times on my Pinterest feed. I actually went to the Great British Sewing Bee live event this year and was shocked by the amount of ordinary outfits I could see (that were all from the same patterns)! When I expected to see a room full of fun, creative outfits. I would say I am definitely a planner and try to maintain a minimalist approach to sewing- I like to work though my stash if it’s getting out of control, and I plan all my makes by design. But I would never make a basic top I can pick up in the charity shop. I sew to be creative and make things I could never afford otherwise!x

  15. Sherrie Virdell says

    I love your post, because I ask these same questions all the time! I do sew basics because fitting issues on RTW lead to gaping necklines and back. However, I have not joined the capsule wardrobe, I choose a pattern that I feel like making and lovingly choose a fabric, it’s a joyful hobby after all, let’s remember to have fun!

  16. says

    I waver back and forth on the capsule wardrobe. Because of my 6′ tall height, I do have to sew everything. The basics and all the pretty, unpractical, fun things too!

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