Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Wardrobe Planning (chronically ill style)

I have an idea of what I would like my ideal wardrobe to look like. I would have authentic looking garments (both formal and casual) ranging from the 1830's through to the 1970's. There would be plenty of accessories to match each outfit, with a focus on fabulous over-the-top hats and antique-style shoes. Most days I would swish about in 1920's inspired gowns, full of beading, lace, and great gobs of fabric. For morning tea with friends, I would opt for soft and billowy Edwardian style tea-gowns. An evening out? A backless 1930's velvet gown, with some stunning necklace to accentuate its jewel tones. Then off to bed in a silk nightgown à la "Dinner at Eight". 

And now, back to reality....

My current wardrobe has gotten beyond sad. Some of my pajamas are so worn that I suspect the fabric is literally rotting away (ew!). My day-time clothing (on days when I have the energy to get dressed) is not a whole lot better. Everything is old (and not in a good way!), worn out, and not really my style. I've accumulate a lot of hand-me-downs over the past couple years which, although I appreciate them terribly, do not reflect my personal style. I've been wearing clothes just to not be naked, with the occasional "dress up" day in which I wear my "nice" clothing using vests/brooches/sweaters to cover up the holes and tears in the material.

How did it get in such a state? Well, a number of factors have contributed to this. The biggest issue has been my health. If you've read my blog for any period of time, you will know I've been struggling with a number of health issues for the past few years. This means I haven't had the energy to make garments for myself. Most of my sewing time goes into creating garments for my Etsy shop, which is my main source of income at the moment. (Because of my health, I've had to cut way back on tutoring, which was where most of my money was previously coming from.) I'm treading water for now, but it doesn't really leave money for "extras". 

I also have too many ethical problems with just going to a cheap mass-retailer and buying some new fast-fashion garments. Likely because I'm a seamstress myself, I have a hard time swallowing the low wages and poor working conditions that go into making such pieces. I know some retailers are better than others, but without a ton of research it's difficult to know the conditions in which a garment was produced. I don't want to have to feel guilty and uncomfortable in my clothing. What about thrift shopping for such pieces? Can't do that either. I'm allergic to most laundry detergents, and thus can't wear thrift store pieces without washing them 5 times, airing them out for a few months, and then only wearing them for a couple hours at a time until the smell has fully dissipated. That's just way too much work!

The solution? A well-thought out and achievable wardrobe plan! Here's what I have come up with:
First to consider are the medical related issues. One of my health problems is an autoimmune condition which affects the thyroid. I actually don't have any swelling or tenderness in my thyroid/neck area, but having garments that touch that area bothers me. It's all completely psychological but still something I want to avoid. As much as I love high-collared Victorian dresses, at this point in time I need to avoid anything with a snug or high neckline. Any garments I currently have but don't wear because of their necklines will be donated. No sense cluttering up the closet with pieces I can't wear!
I know I tend to be too tired to get dressed a lot of days (although this has been much better lately! yay!), so I need to up my game in terms of lounge-wear and sleepwear. Most of my current (super disgusting, worn beyond belief) sleepwear will be thrown out, with some of my older "day-wear" garments now becoming pajamas. This saves me the effort of more sewing, while still providing better sleepwear. The garments that are not appropriate for sleeping in will become loungewear. This will allow me to re-purpose many of the hand-me-downs that are still perfectly functional, but which I don't wish to wear in public. 

I may also treat myself to a new nightgown for my birthday. There is a local small business that has some stunning Victorian-style nightgowns that I have been lusting after for months. They are a touch expensive, but would be worth the price to perk me up on my "down" days. 

Another splurge will be a new corset. I adore my old one, but I've lost so much weight that it no longer fits. (My weight has fluctuated a lot since these health issues started, with it going up/down within about a 40 pound range.) I find a proper corset really helps with my neck/shoulder issues by improving my posture and also helps my energy levels when I'm out (it holds me upright and I don't have to put as much energy into sitting or standing). I'm waiting until June to order this one, with birthday money hopefully covering most of the cost. 

Ok, that covers around the house and structural support, but what about going out in public? When planning my outside clothing, I realized comfort and versatility was going to be key. Enter the house-dress. I've long loved the idea of house-dresses and even have a couple vintage ones in my collection. Not wanting to ruin a vintage house-dress, I decided sewing myself a couple was probably best. I designed a incredibly quick-to-sew pattern and have already made myself two in plain fabrics from my stash (one green, one mauve). The design is perfect in it's simplicity. I can wear it loose around the house when I want to be comfy, or pair it with a belt for going out. Just by changing a few accessories, I can make the dress work for most decades. Here is a quick sketch of the dress worn in a 1930s/1940s look, 1920s look, and a "modern vintage" look using accessories I already own:

Tilt hat, brooch, small belt, pink beads, brown heels = 1930's/1940s.
Cloche, long beaded necklace, low-waist sash, flapper-style shoes = 1920's
Extra wide belt, Victorian style boots, Buster Keaton Pendant = "Modern Vintage"
And this doesn't even start to cover the all possibilities! What about adding a sweater, vest, or corset? Add a shawl around the shoulders. Wear a skirt on top to turn the dress into a blouse. So many choices and options!

Non-dress days? Well I'm adding one grey-wool skirt to my wardrobe. This will also be me-made and fairly simple. I opted for a half-circle skirt, as this works well for styles ranging from the 1910's through to the 1940's. I can wear blouses tucked in for a high-waisted look, or overtop if I fancy a different waistline. This sort of piece is also very versatile and should match most of the pieces I already own.

I don't have any current plans for sewing any blouses. I would like some button-up blouses, but have opted to buy new if I come across any suitable tops. They just take too long to sew and that's time better spent working on other projects. To lessen my "new clothing" guilt, I will be trying to only shop at small, local businesses.

And that's about it. A simple, adaptable wardrobe that is easy to care for and easy to wear. I've already started putting my plan into action and am pleased with the results so far. There may have to be some minor changes or compromises as the need arises, but I'm pretty confident that such a plan is achievable regardless of what life throws my way.

 And if all else fails, I can always just buy some faux fur and wrap myself up like a Garbo Burrito.

That's All.


  1. So sorry to hear about your troubles. I too am chronically ill (2 years of tests and still no diagnosis) and wardrobe is a big problem. I don't think people think about just how much wardrobe affects how you feel and vise versa. No high necks. And fabric is difficult because the weight of it hurts. Next to impossible to remedy that problem. I definitely understand the issue of getting dressed every day. I find myself basically wearing yoga pants and a top, sleeping in them, and sometimes unfortunately, not changing the next day. Good thing they don't wrinkle that much. I can't wear a corset since I'm asymmetrical and corsets can't handle that, but I have been able to adjust some shapewear which I use as strength and energy. I find a short housecoat extremely helpful since whatever is troubling me makes me much colder than my husband so he doesn't want the heat turned up. I will be curious to see how you journey through this problem, as I too am navigating it.

    1. Sorry to hear about your troubles too! I know how hard it is to not be able to get a diagnosis. I've had my health issues for about 3 years and I still only have a partial diagnosis. And yes, fabric weight is also such an important consideration. I didn't think to mention it since I just naturally gravitate towards lighter fabrics, but anything too heavy or stiff (especially in terms of tops) is off limits for me too. With me it's more of an energy issue rather than a pain one (heavier-weight fabrics take more effort to move in), but it certainly dictates what materials are wearable. A house coat sounds like a lovely solution to being too cold. I bought myself a handknit sweater from a craft-sale at Christmas for the same issue. :)

  2. Im so sorry to hear about your health troubles. You have been very brave to fight on as you have. your plan sounds lovely, practical and beautiful.

  3. Your plan manages to sound both fun and sensible! The victorian-style nightgowns you've seen sound like a good idea - we deserve to have nice things on the bad days. I'd never thought of corsets as being helpfully supportive, but it makes sense. I've been sewing for about 5 years and probably need to re-evaluate what I'm making - I have to lie down a lot, so some non-crease fabrics instead of crisp cottons maybe! I've been putting off learning to sew stretch fabrics for too long... This post has given me something to think about, and I look forward to seeing what you make/buy/restyle. Samantha x

    1. Go for it! Stretch fabrics can be a bit of a pain to work with, but they aren't nearly as bad they sound :)

  4. Hello,
    Suffering with chronic pain for 16 years myself, due to an inherited spinal condition, I sure understand all the fatigue and the need to perk yourself up...
    I to live in my nightgown and maybe a good day will allow me to venture out, although getting ready
    is tiring in itself ...
    You have come up with a good custom made plan for yourself and I wish you all the best and better days ahead ...
    Kindest Regards, Pamela

    1. Thank you. I am very much looking forward to the nightgown. It seems like such an elegant but comfy solution for what to wear around the house.

  5. It's good that you've been able to make plans for your wardrobe. I have a friend with several chronic ilnesses, and she makes her own clothes so she can have things she likes and that are comfortable to wear. Nice loungewear sounds like a great idea.

    1. Yes, sewing is one of the best solutions for solving clothing sourcing issues. I thought for a bit that I might have to go back to just buying everything, but a quick trip around the mall convinced me that even if I wanted to there just isn't anything to my taste in stores!

  6. The pictures are incredible :)

  7. This makes a lot of sense. It is so hard to find clothing to suit vintage tastes, on a limited budget, so I can only imagine the extra difficulty that illness brings. Xx

    1. Yes, as soon as there are multiple factors, finding vintage appropriate clothing can very difficult!


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