From scratch, Wardrobe Architect

2015 – Resolution time!

It has taken me some time to finalize my resolutions for this year, but I think I’m quite comfortable with these ones.

1. Finish my Wardrobe Architect project

My sister and I finally got ourselves a ticket to our first backpacking trip ever! We’ve been around Europe on city breaks and in Africa on family visits, but this will be the first longer trip we are taking together. According to our plans, we will visit Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in 3 weeks, with a stopover in Abudhabi, carrying only a backpack. A small backpack that is, as for the domestic flights we are only allowed to take 7 kilos if we want to avoid the hassle and costs of checking anything in.
So the plan is to use the guidelines of the Wardrobe Architect project and create myself a capsule vacation wardrobe that’s comfortable, multifunctional and suits my style for the trip.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Silhoutette 10

2. Be more mindful about my body

I’m not a beach person. I’ve never felt comfortable half-naked in public, but it’s never been a problem, as I would rather visit cities with good restaurants, museums and the likes for holiday than lie on a beach for a week with nothing else to do.

But. This. Is. Phi Phi. And Koh Lanta. And Ha Long Bay and the rest of the mind-blowingly beautiful places that I can’t possibly miss because I don’t feel comfortable in my skin. So as a new years resolution, I swear I’ll be on it. I have started a new skin care regime, I’ll try to discover some activities in addition to my daily cycling and I’ll try to eat more sensibly – no more brioche buns for a while… 😦

3. Look after my two favorite machines

I love my bike and I love my sewing machine. Therefore this year I pledge to keep them in top shape by cleaning them regularly and getting them looked at when something doesn’t feel right. I have also been thinking about updating my bike, with a few new and shiny parts and maybe even with a coat of paint…

As for the sewing machine, I NEED to make a cover for it first (I know, I’m sooo bad for not having one since I bought it 3 or 4 years ago), and I might even get the vintage one out of storage and into action.



4. Kick a bad habit & move forward…

These are the kind of resolutions that I’m a little half-assed about, but maybe if I put this reminder here, it will be easier to push myself and hold myself accountable for them.

5. Go out & do something at least once a week

Don’t let laziness get in the way of doing new things! I aim to be more active, to see and do more, be it just a new film, eating out with friends, or making the most of this wonderful city and actually go to new exhibitions, plays, to the roller-disco, or to just discover new bits of London.  On le bike of course!


6. Empty out my closet

I have soooo many clothes that I don’t use, I just need to go through them and decide what goes to charity, what can be sold and what would be great for upcycling before I make/buy even more stuff. By the end of 2015 I would only like to own garments that I love and use.

This is pretty much it for this year, well for the next 11 months really… No more resolutions about blogging or sewing consistently, as I realized that I blog because I sew and not the other way around, which pretty much ended my 2 year long agony over this matter.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect
Wardrobe Architect

Week 3 & 4: Exploring shapes & Building silhouettes

First I found this task from the Wardrobe Architect project very challenging, as I could not ignore the designs of clothes and only focus on the shapes, but once I got past that it was easy! I do have a kind of uniform for fall/winter and I am happy to expand on that, however this is not exactly the case with hot weather outfits. Below I collected silhouettes according to seasons.


TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Silhoutette 1

Silhouette #1: I must admit I only chose this dress because of the amazing pattern, although I have a polkadot one from H&M in this same shape and that must be one of my most worn garments. I didn’t want to bore you with numerous incarnations of the same silhouette, but this is my uniform between September and May. A dress that’s cinched in at the waist+black tights+short jacket. It can be dressed up with boots and a blazer or dressed down with trainers and a motorcycle jacket.

Silhouette  #2: This is basically the more casual version of the first silhouette. By wearing separates, I can keep things balanced by pairing an everyday fabric like jersey or denim with something more luxurious like velvet or silk.

Silhouette  #3: This is something I wouldn’t normally wear, but I loved this skirt, I have a similar suede one  and there is a Burdastyle pattern that has this same kind of old school feel about it and I’m dying to make. The only problem with it? Not good for cycling!

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Silhoutette 5

Silhouette  #4: I usually feel sloppy when I’m wearing something loose on top AND bottom, but for some reason I almost always wear my beaded skirt with a loose knit top. I guess this is what kids must feel like while doing the grocery shopping (with their parents, obviously) and wearing their princess dresses and regular raincoats . The idea here is to make more fancy skirts, obviously. 😉

Silhouette  #5: This must be my favourite silhouette right now. Probably because I haven’t tried it yet! I bought a very similar pair of trousers last summer and enjoyed wearing it, but now I would like to make some for Fall and wear it with (you’ve guessed it right!) black tights. I like the fact that it’s high-waisted, loose enough to be uber comfortable and shows off your ankle. What might not work after all is the length, as at 5’5″ or 166cm I am not exactly tall, and it might make me look short, wide and too boyish…


Shilouette  #6: This is for those cool and sunny days outside of work, and for popping out to Tesco’s, or else I wear this whenever I don’t feel like making ANY effort at all. I already own every piece from this silhouette and it is not a priority to sew basic knit tops, although you really can’t ever have enough breton tops.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Silhoutette 7

Shilouette  #6: This would be my idea of dressing up the Levi’s 501, but to be honest I’m still struggling with the fit of the jeans. I bought them when the local vintage shop closed down for £9 and love them, but I’m still debating whether taking it in at the waist and turning it into a high-waisted pair would be a better idea than leaving it all loose and boyfriendish. If I go with the alteration it would make it great to wear with silk blouses and sometimes heels too.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Silhoutette 8

Silhouette  #8: I love crop tops, bodies and full skirts. They all accentuate the waist which happens to be an area that I am actually happy to show off. I have tried the summery culottes already (the same shape I’ll try for Fall), but I would love to make some in more basic colors, as the one I own is in pastel yellow.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Silhoutette 9

Silhouette  #9: Here we go again with the evil trouser. So I attempted to draft my own pants pattern, then took it in until I couldn’t sit down in it and had to modify it so that it can be used for cycling and sitting OR standing and looking pretty. I might show you the result if I don’t go all mad and cut it up into tiny pieces… The gingham (or patterned) trousers would be made with a high waist, but I’m not sure if I can master making something so fitted that does not feel too tight, although there’s only one way to find this out…

I will definitely make at least one more shirt as I love working with light weight fabrics and it has loads of details where you can use some fine techniques (I mean topstitching. I love topstitching.). I would also love to make a camisole as it is also all about the details, it’s usually crazy expensive in stores considering the amount of fabric used, and it just looks simple, sultry, and elegant.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Silhoutette 10

Silhouette  #10: I own a pair of similar striped trousers and I love the boldness of it in theory, but it needs to be altered to be comfortable and I am not sure if I can ever not feel a little bit like a clown while wearing them. The other trousers are high-waisted and wide legged which I must make at least 2 of. I already have one and it’s perfect for summer, especially because it can be paired with cute and relatively easy to make crop tops.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Silhoutette 11

Silhouette  #11: I basically lived in my black maxi skirt when I was in Nigeria last year, which easily qualifies it for summer wear. I do feel a little too comfy looking while wearing it with loose tops, but usually when I have to grab this outfit I have better things to think about, like how to swipe the sweat off my face in the most sophisticated way possible.

The last silhouette is something I probably could never pull off, but as you can see on my Pinterest board I am pretty obsessed with jumpsuits at the moment. I think during Summer they could be what dresses are during Fall to me. I mean they look put together and they provide the same kind of coverage as opaque tights, so I can freely move around.

Next time I’ll be looking at the colors that I am drawn to , as well as try to define where to use solids and prints. To be honest I am getting a little skeptical about the success of this process for me, as I feel like I am sewing because I don’t want to have simple garments in my wardrobe. On the other hand, I feel like putting this all down plus the Me-Made-May might help me steer towards sewing stuff that I want to wear everyday and not just things that I like the idea of. Has anyone started the Wardrobe Architect project AND finished it already? Any luck with creating a capsule collection?

All images can be found on Polyvore among My Items.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect
From scratch, Ready & waiting, Wardrobe Architect

Week 2: Defining a core style

Looking at the latest (12th!) addition of the Wardrobe Architect project over at the Coletterie, and the pace at which I’m doing this, I’m thinking about figuring out a capsule wardrobe for fall/winter instead of this coming summer. Which would also mean that I could carry on sewing mindlessly whatever pops up in my mind on any given day. That would be crazy good. Or just crazy… So here are the questions I’ve been thinking about in the past few weeks since Week 1 and Week Zero.

When you are wearing your favourite clothing, how do you feel (e.g. confident, sexy, poised, powerful, etc.)?

When wearing my favourite clothes I feel comfortable, confident and cool, sometimes with a feeling of  not-too-apparent  sexiness… if that makes sense.

When you’re wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?

On those occasions I mostly feel like I’ve tried too hard, or I feel like I look sloppy, way too boyish with no sex appeal to my taste, or far from being a grown up/too old for my age.

Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?

I guess I’m like a child in the candy shop when it comes to clothes. The shiny, dreamy, exotic pieces catch my eyes, and the women who can make them look like they are perfectly normal for daily wear are my heroines. These four, for example:

TheSecretCostumier - Catherine Baba

TheSecretCostumier - Frida

TheSecretCostumier- Alexa Chung

TheSecretCostumier - Carrie Bradshaw

What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?

Although these two styles are the most inspiring for me right now, I just couldn’t wear them head to toe.

Etno – I love the colours, the materials, the close to nature feeling about it, but I’m a city girl at heart and it feels like being in somebody else’s skin most of the times I try it.

Minimal – I really love the simplicity and the emphasis on clean shapes, construction and colours, but in reality I feel like those clothes were designed with athletic bodies in mind, and I just seem to be curved at all the wrong places.

Look over your answers from last week on history, philosophy, culture, community, activities, location, and body. List at least 15 words that you associate with your answers. Think about descriptive words, moods, and feelings you associate with these things:

Unique    Comfortable    Casual    Playful    Sensual    Urban    Cosy   Sultry    Multifunctional    Easy    Cool    Carefree   Quirky

Are there other words you would like to add to this list? What other words describe your core style?

Nope. It was hard enough to come up with those 13. 🙂

Look over the answers to all of the questions above. If you had to narrow your list to only 3-5 words to describe you, which words would you choose?

Comfortable    Playful    Sensual    Quirky

Visual exercise
 Collect 15-20 images that represent these 3-5 words for you. You could create a pinterest board, a folder on your computer, a moodboard, or a collage. Be creative and have fun!

Next week (which could be in August, but I’m on holiday now, so do watch this space as anything can happen 😉 ), I’ll be exploring shapes and silhouettes that usually work for me, and put together imaginary outfits from those shapes.

Image sources from top left: 1, 2, 3456, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12131415, 16, 17, 1819202122232425, 26. 
Catherine Baba images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Frida Kahlo images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Alexa Chung images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Carrie Bradshaw images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect
From scratch, Ready & waiting, Wardrobe Architect

Week 1: Making style more personal

Dear friends, curious old classmates, fellow pedestrians, if you ever wondered why I dress the way I dress, this post might help you find out! I am waaaaay behind the Wardrobe Architect project, but it’s better late than never, right? So here it goes! (Please excuse my excessive use of brackets (I do apologise (for the personal photo album too.).).)

How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystallize? Have they changed over the years, and why?

As you can see I had killer style when I was in kindergarten. 🙂 I also remember being pretty happy in the clothes my parents picked out for me and my sister, (my dad was the fashionista in the family back in the days…). As a teenager, I guess I just wanted to feel comfortable in my clothes and with my body and not stand out from the crowd even more (I am not the typical Hungarian looking girl, you see). It basically meant covering up as much of my body as possible, in fact that photo of the blue sundress is a rare one. It was taken in Athens and it was extremely hot and that was probably the only time I worn something like that since I was a child. When I moved to London I experienced what’s it like not to be bothered with what other people might think about me for the first time in my life, so I started experimenting with my looks. In the past 2 years I think I’ve managed to be more conscious about wearing the pieces I feel best in, although I sometimes feel like I dress a little old for my age.

How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?

Although I find many “green” movements rather questionable, I feel very strongly against wasting anything. I would like to explore more ways to reuse existing resources and reducing the clutter around me. Having a wardrobe that expands only by adding handmade pieces to it, would be another step for me in moving away from the way too fast high street fashion. When I discovered the magic of buying vintage/charity shop clothing, the most appealing factor was not only the uniqueness of the pieces, but also the fact that you are saving a piece of history by giving it new life.

How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?

I’m half Hungarian and half Nigerian. Although I appreciate my fashionable “heritage”, the well known traditional Hungarian embroidery, and I love the African print fabrics and headwraps worn all over Nigeria, none of these  have inspired me in choosing what to wear in my everyday life…yet! I do find the so called “etno” look desirable on others, but I don’t feel like myself when I occasionally wear an afro during the summer, when I’m too lazy to straighten my hair.

Image sources:  from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?

I have never dressed according to any subcultural “dress code”, since I never belonged to any such groups. I kind of hate to admit it, but the biggest influence on my style is my sister, who has a flawless style and always inspires me to at least try to be a tad bit more elegant and classy. Although while she likes to dress appropriately to every occasion, I prefer to wear whatever I feel good in.

How do your day to day activities influence your choices?

I stubbornly cycle  e v e r y w h e r e. Come rain or shine, I’ll go by bike. I would like to think it’s not mere stubbornness though, or my hatred of public transport, but a statement I make everyday about not being lazy and doing something no one around me does, something I’ve never thought I could do. Long story short, I need clothes to do all that cycling in. And I don’t mean head to toe lycra obviously, but normal clothes that allow me to move my legs, heavy enough to retain my modesty in the London wind, and won’t be destroyed by a little rain every now and  then.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Activity

Does the place you live inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in?

I am a Londoner now, and even though everybody hates this weather, I kind of love it. I come from a place with four seasons, two rainy ones, one extremely hot and one extremely cold, so I’m happy with the moderate climate and I’ve made peace with the sometimes constant rain too (it really is just water!). This means you can wear pretty much whatever you want, and I bet that’s why London is one of the fashion capitals.

In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?

Since I was a teenager I’ve had rather sensitive skin which is actually why I got interested in fashion. I had to find creative ways to hide the problematic areas and show whatever was left. I also turned from alarmingly skinny to healthy, to bigger… and now back to curvy (I guess), but to be honest, my weight has never played as big a part in my wardrobe planning as my skin, even though I wouldn’t mind having leaner legs…and arms, etc. Because of this, I feel most comfortable in flouncy skirts and black tights, high neck- and waistlines, short jackets and I’ve learned to love anything backless. I don’t really like wearing jeans or trousers, anything low-cut and short skirts or dresses that hide my waist, which happens to be the slimmest part of my body.

In the next task I will be making a moodboard based on the the words I associate with the clothes I wear and the way they make me feel, but before I bore the hell out of whoever reads this (thank you guys! ;)), I’ll show you my brand new little pleather skirt (that’s not a typo!).

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect
From scratch, Ready & waiting, Wardrobe Architect

Week Zero: Why start building a handmade wardrobe?

     At the beginning of this year, while I was slowly getting ready to plan how to…well, plan a new wardrobe, Sarai at the Coletterie has already started doing that. She came up with a brilliant project, The Wardrobe Architect, which takes you along the steps of dreaming up an ideal wardrobe and realizing those dreams, by analysing shapes, colours, silhouettes and examining how we feel about our bodies wearing the clothes we choose to wear.

      I think if you get a little serious about making your own clothes, sooner or later you come to a stage where you buy less RTW and more fabric. Then you realize that you are making things that are interesting to sew or just pretty, but they don’t quite fit into your existing wardrobe. The next step is the reality check, when you promise not to buy anymore shiny new fabric and to make clothes that will fit well, and will fit well into your lifestyle. That’s where I am right now, and looking at the discussion about the Wardrobe Architect, I am not the only one here.

      I’ve found 3 projects in the past few years that have really inspired me to turn my hobby (sewing, obvs!) into a more useful part of my everyday life, as well as to end the daily struggle to find well fitting, comfortable clothes in my closet that make me feel good about myself and reflect who I think I am.

TheSecretCostumier - makeshift

     Fashion designer and artist, Natalie Purschwitz, decided to get rid of most of her clothing and only wear what she makes for an entire year. This included everything from clothes to underwear, any accessories and even her shoes. I loved the project as it was as much about showcasing her distinctive style daily, as about exploring what works or what’s useful. It also looks at the process/habit of creating every day, not for pleasure or work, but to fulfil the very basic need/urge to dress up appropriately for every occasion. I also felt that it was a strong statement against the fast fashion culture, and it can be viewed as a proof of one’s ability to rely on herself as much as possible. (Images: makeshift)

TheSecretCostumier - Uniform project       

      1 Dress. 1 Month. 1 Cause. Actually it started off with 365 days of wearing the same little black dress by a girl called Sheena Matheiken, “as an exercise in sustainability and a fundraiser to support the Akanksha Foundation— a non-profit organization providing education to underprivileged children living in Indian slums.” In it’s second year, the UP welcomed different girls, different dresses and different charities for month long periods, which made it even more interesting, by providing several views on the challenges of wearing the same dress every day, and the amazingly creative ways to do it.

      The idea of ditching the casual/formal labels and the ability to transform one piece of clothing into something extremely versatile  is the most appealing aspect to me in this project (these dresses can be worn front-to-back, for example!). Being able to wear the same dress for very different occasions, eliminates the need for “special” clothing, which leads to a smaller wardrobe. Which brings us to the last bit of inspiration… (Images: Uniform Project)

TheSecretCostumier - Everything I Have

       When I was a kid I wore one of my pyjamas until only a few threads held the back of the shorts together. When my mum binned it, I took it out and kept it under my pillow as long as I could… I guess that’s what they call an emotional connection to objects, right? That’s probably how I ended up with a wardrobe of which 78% of the clothing only gets worn less than 5 times a year!  I know that number, because last summer I took a picture of every item of clothing and shoes I own, before we moved flats. I was inspired by an artist called Simon Evans and his project where he photographed everything he had. This is another reflection on consumerism and I think cataloguing your possessions is a great way to turn unused objects into memories and make the decision to give it to someone who would happily use it. (Images: on the left : my own photos, one on the right: Stylecouch’s Blog)

Here is my plan of action, before I start planing my future closet by following the Wardrobe Architect project:

  1. I will assess my existing wardrobe, select the useful/rarely used pieces and sell/donate the latter. (Before the end of February!)
  2. I will stop buying any new clothing AND fabric without a plan, and will keep reminding myself of the consequences of such actions… (Until the end of 2014, at least.)
  3. I will build my new wardrobe around the existing pieces and will try to design a few multifunctional pieces.

Is there anyone else as excited about following a route to an organized wardrobe, or do you already have a good system for  that?