Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2016 In Review: Wardrobe Outcomes (inc. What I Made And How It Lasted)

Overall, I think 2016 was a successful year as far as my wardrobe is concerned. I don't think my data & spreadsheet intensive way of keeping track and planning a wardrobe would work for everyone -- or maybe even for anyone who isn't me! -- but I feel like it really worked for me this year.

Above all I am really happy with how my wardrobe planning helped me pick things to make/buy and put together something resembling a coherent set of clothes. I didn't make or buy a single thing that went unworn because it didn't fit into my wardrobe -- everything slotted neatly into one or more outfits as soon as I finished/bought it. Some things of course got worn less than others, but if something was neglected it was really never because I couldn't find a way to wear it. This feels like a big improvement on my past wardrobe history when I always had a lot of orphans, often felt like I only had one way to wear specific garments and that I only wore a small percentage of my wardrobe. I also don't have any unnecessary duplicates, which was something I was very prone to doing before. Over the last three years my wardrobe has decreased in size every year, but it feels both more diverse in colour and design than it ever has previously. So, eccentric though my wardrobe planning efforts might be, they are working well enough for me to feel very enthusiastic about continuing to pursue them in 2017.

Another couple of wardrobe goals for 2016 were to make about two-thirds of my wardrobe additions this year, with only one third coming from shops, and to thrift about half of what I bought. By the end of the year I'd made about 57% of the new additions to my wardrobe, which is close enough for me.  On the other hand, I didn't thrift as much as I had planned. However, I did plan my RTW shopping really carefully to take maximum advantage of sales and discounts. I feel like I actually did a really good job managing my RTW expenditure so I'm not concerned that I bought new rather than thrift. 

Numbers: Garments sewn

This year, I attempted to make 49 garments. Of these, 4 were immediate wadders and another 5 I discarded after relatively few wears. As of today, I therefore have 40 garments in my wardrobe that I made in 2016.

Including the wadders etc, I used 40 different patterns in total, of which 9 were repeats from a previous year. My pattern sources run true to previous years, which is to say just about 60% magazines, mainly Ottobre and Burda, and then the remainder from all kinds of other brands and companies from across the spectrum from Big4 envelopes to a PDF from a teeny tiny blogger/pattern maker. More specifically, this is my breakdown:

Magazines: 24 in total, split between Burda (12); Ottobre (10) and Knipmode (2)
Big4 envelopes: 9 in total, split between New Look (4), Butterick (3), Simplicity (1) and Burda (1).
Indies: 7 in total. StyleArc (3), Silhouette (1), Grainline (1), Cozy Little World (1) and Jalie (1)

Numbers: Garments purchased

This year I also bought 36 items of clothing, of which 5 didn't make it to the end of the year (mainly my discards shrank in the wash, which is my personal pet peeve with RTW). My purchases fall entirely in three categories: trousers/jeans; t-shirts; and knitwear. I am working on making more of my own trousers, but there are some kinds of t-shirts, sweaters and cardigans that I am very unlikely to make, and I am fine with that. I have no intention of (or really even interest in) going 100% handmade.

Numbers: Discards

I discarded a hideous amount of clothes this year, as part of my long-running campaign to "right-size" my wardrobe. Over the last few months I've finally gotten rid of the things that were basically useless as clothes but in which I had some kind of strange emotional investment. On the minus side, so much waste this year -- I discarded 105 garments in total! On the plus side, I think that's it for the big numbers of discards as I think I am now more or less "right-sized". I'm for sure not a minimalist (and I don't want to be) but I think I have a very well-sized wardrobe just now. Overall, my wardrobe is about 10% smaller than at the start of the year, but the number of clothes in daily wear hasn't changed much. The 10% decrease really just came from shedding things I had packed up into storage for one reason or another.

Garment/Sewing Technique Goals

I had a little list of garments and techniques I wanted to try in my set of goals for 2016, and I did manage a good number of them:

Garments etc: I made two woven dresses and had several attempts at woven trousers. I made a piece of outerwear (mentioned further below!). The only thing I didn't have a go at this year that was on my goal list is a lined, tailored blazer. Knitting-wise, although I didn't do quite as much knitting as I'd hoped I'm particularly pleased with my Wanderling sweater. I also made a few tote bags, which isn't quite the bag-making outcome I was looking for, although the ones I made are nice enough.

Techniques: I did some contrast top-stitching (on a polka dot skirt) and several attempts of varying success at fly fronts. On the other hand I didn't try either bound button-holes or welt pockets mainly just because I didn't really make the kind of garments that called for either. I also wanted to try out some Alabama Chanin embellishment but only managed a stencilled scarf.

The Verdict On The Things I Made

In previous years, I've categorized everything I've made at the end of the year. I made too many things to do that this year, and a lot of them just fell into the category of "fine!". Really, they're fine -- those garments were competently made, I like them, I wore them, it's all good, and I have nothing more to say about them. You can see them all on my Completed Projects 2016 page, which has every garment I made this year and links to the relevant blog post.

However, I have picked out 5 each of: the best things (for various definitions of 'best') I made this year; my "if only!" garments -- things I almost love, if only they didn't have one or more problems; the serious workhorse patterns/garments; and selected disasters. 

Category #1: The Best Things Since Sliced Bread

Best of 2016
  1. Burda 02-2009-133 Red raincoat. The fit is not perfect. Also, the fabric creases like CRAZY in wear. I'm still super impressed with myself for making this coat and love & wear it a lot.
  2. Jalie 2908 Bootcut Jeans in cobalt blue twill. I love the pattern, I love the colour. I don't love how the fly turned out and I wish they were just a tiny bit bigger, but these are still by far the most successful of my (mostly sad) attempts at trousers in 2016.
  3. Cozy Little World Jasmin in navy polka dot viscose/lycra. This is a simple pattern that cost 3 Euro and was worth every penny. This polka dot version is my favourite and I wore it constantly this summer. I just really like the shape and the fit, and also the fabric.
  4. Burda 07-2011-116 (a.k.a. the flying squirrel top) in floral viscose. I have a perverse love of Burda's wackier patterns and this one is just great. It was a fun sew being both weird and well-constructed. I didn't wear it a million times because it's too distinctive to have massive wear frequency, but I loved it every time.
  5. Grainline Linden striped sweatshirt. I am no great fan of Grainline, whose patterns I mostly find boring and boxy. Somehow, though, the Linden has become a TNT. This stripy cotton pique version in particular, but also a black version with a crochet overlay I made later in the year, have both been in heavy rotation ever since I made them.
Category #2: If Only!

Almost the best, but not quite of 2016
  1. Burda 03-2016-104 polka dot double gauze woven tee. Love the fabric. Love the shape of the hemline and of the top as a whole. Love the way it looks with half my summer wardrobe. It should have been my favourite garment of the year, but it's weirdly tight at the upper back. I can't even do the obvious and release the pleat at the back because the (fragile) double gauze fabric pulled a little at the stitching line of the pleat and would show marks. So frustrating!
  2. Knipmode 02-2013-35 grey/white checked viscose popover shirt. I wanted this to be a favourite so much, but a combination of irritating user error when making it (two left sleeves=cuffs upside down on one arm, problems with the collar) and then weirdly late-in-the-day shrinkage in the laundry have left it a lot less loved than I think it should have been.
  3. Butterick 6388 knit dress with lapped collar. Love the distinctive collar of this knit dress/tunic, and I wear it a lot. I made the wrong size though and despite trying to fix it it's just that little bit wrong, fit-wise. It'll still get plenty of wear I am sure.
  4. Simplicity 2209 blue/green jacket. This is a lesson in why I should make a muslin. I love the fabric and the style of this jacket but the fit is just that bit off. I didn't wear it as much as I thought as a result. But I still love the idea and I'm glad I rescued the ugly fabric with a box of dye to make it.
  5. Butterick 6270, tunic in black and ivory checked viscose. I would 100% love this tunic top, which has been in very high rotation since I made it in September, if only I didn't hate the facings! As it is, I wear it really regularly and every time I do I curse the way the neckline is constructed.

Category #3: Let's Hear It For Workhorses

Workhorses of 2016

  1. StyleArc Barb black knit trousers. I was dubious when I made these trousers, and there's no doubt that from the back there are some definite fit issues, but wow, they are comfortable and ultra easy to wear. I'm thinking about how to fix the back fit issues so I can make more. I've worn this pair almost to the point of death -- the fabric is lasting less well than my enthusiasm for the trousers.
  2. New Look 6150 in black and white stripe. This is my workhorse, much adapted t-shirt pattern. I've made a ton of them over the last three years and it's just consistently worked. This is my favourite of the 5(!) I've made this year.
  3. StyleArc Estelle in black jacquard. One of these days the waterfall cardigan trend will end, but it is not that day yet. This is my third Estelle and I've worn it, and the two previous versions I made in late 2015, in very high rotation. For sure they're going to get too tatty to wear long before I am ready to get rid of them.
  4. Ottobre 05-2015-01 dress in black and white bark pattern. This is my favourite of the knit tunics/dresses I made this autumn/early winter. I've worn this version in high rotation so far. I have a real appreciation for a simple pattern that really works. It looks like nothing in the technical drawing, but so great in person.
  5. Butterick 5704/Burda 8271/Ottobre 05-2011-02 Various PJs. (not pictured) These are all my workhorse PJ patterns and they're, in themselves, boring as anything. But they're also great, easy basics that I'm happy to make over and over. I LOVE my hand-made PJs all year every year.

Category #4: Disaster, Darling!

Disasters of 2016
  1. Ottobre 05-2012-07 navy viscose shirt. I really wanted a drapey blue button front shirt. Instead I got a mess. I couldn't sew this fabric together in a straight line for love or money due to shifty fabric that I cut badly. Then the fit, despite this being a shirt pattern I had made successfully twice before, was horrendously awful. I tried taking the sleeves down to short sleeves, and then down to sleeveless, and then I gave up and abandoned it after wearing it only once.
  2. Burda 06-2016-101 t-shirt in fuschia knit. I liked this wacky looking Burda pattern a lot! But I made it from the worst fabric in the world, a very thin viscose knit that ripped along half the seam lines the second time I washed it. Sorry, t-shirt, you were a great idea but my execution didn't work out.
  3. Silhouette 511, Angie's blouse. I made this with gorgeous, expensive white double gauze. I picked the wrong size using the (STUPID) sizing method Silhouette insist on, had to cut the sleeves off to get it on at all. I wore it once but although it's a nice idea, especially that unique collar detail, I hated everything else about it. I am still furious every time I think about the waste of my nice fabric and I got rid of all three Silhouette patterns I owned as a result.
  4. Burda 06-2012-130 dress in navy/star print viscose. Nothing about this worked for me in the end. I wore it once and it fit so horribly, looked so grim on me, and had so many sewing problems that I'd half-assedly tried to fix, I felt awful in it all day. Bye-bye, dress!
  5. Burda 03-2016-118 'the trashbag top'. Not all wacky Burda patterns work out, though to be fair this one is the fault of my fabric. It was a crinkle viscose and between making it and the following morning it uncrinkled in such a way as to make it closely resemble a hospital gown designed by someone in a high fever. Nope! Straight in the recycling. 
In conclusion: Overall, I think my wardrobe had a good year, and I definitely sewed a lot of things I am pleased with and proud of. I have Grand Plans for what I make in 2017, of course, of which more in my third and final post on this topic. :D


  1. That was a great read!

    I felt so bad for you with that Silhouette top. But glad you reviewed it honestly because I knew to stay away even though it looks cool.

    Love your red raincoat. Must have one of my own!

    I haven't tracked my own sewing very well this year but hopefully I can put together a decent recap.

    Good stuff should come in 2017'

    1. I don't know if you saw Butterick 6417?

      It has a similar collar feature, or close enough that I am probably going to get it when there's a half price sale here.

      Let's hope for ALL the good stuff in 2017 :D

  2. Wow, you really were productive sewing this year. Thanks for the food read!

  3. It's wonderful that you are at a happy place with your wardrobe that is mainly down to sewing and your careful analysis which I have found interesting and given me much food for thought.