Wardrobe spring detox

As the days grow lighter and the plants on my window sill spring to life, I itch to make a clean start in my wardrobe too. After over a year of hardly any clothes shopping, the time feels ripe to do a proper spring clean.

 

Capsule wardrobe

I am aiming for a spring/summer capsule wardrobe, but reaching a specific number of items or settling on a clearly defined colour palette is less important to me.

If you are new to the capsule wardrobe approach, here are some inspirational resources:

My aim for a seasonal capsule wardrobe is pretty much the same as my long term aim for my wardrobe as a whole. I want a minimal, functional collection of clothes, ethically produced and made to last. A mix of handmade and bought items that fit my body and my lifestyle. No more, no less.

Now, that takes time. And money. Whether thoughtfully buying or making by hand, building a beautifully curated collection of clothes is a slow process. So I don’t expect to reach perfection in one go, but it does help to know the general direction I am aiming for.

For instance, I don’t want to rush out to buy cheap, poor quality options just to fill up my ideal number of tops or dresses. On the other hand, I am not going to afford to buy a slik dress from Elizabeth Suzann either, however beautiful and “good” it may be. As always there is a balance between the real and the ideal, and we each need to find our own sweet spot.

 

Wardrobe detox

Before starting the actual capsule planning, I wanted to get an overview over what I have actually got. Marie Kondo style, I took out every single piece of clothing from the chest of draws and cupboard where I keep my clothes. Then I went through them one by one. Only the pieces I actually use, desperately need or truly want in my spring/summer capsule went back in.

That left 28 items, not including underwear, accessories, jackets and shoes.

The best thing about cleaning out your wardrobe is putting the items you have chosen to keep back in. Suddenly every item seems precious. You no longer have to mentally sift through the wearable and non-wearable items each time you open your wardrobe.

Immediately, you get an overview of what you have got, what gaps need filling and what colours dominate. In my case, I realised I have plenty of jumpers and light summer cardigans, perhaps more than I need. But the trouser situation is pressing as none of my jeans really work. I also noticed I have unintentionally a fairly cohesive colour palette going: white, turquoise, blue, brown, grey and pinky-aubergine.

 

Non-capsule items

The remaining items that are not suitable for warmer weather, don’t fit or for some reason I rarely use, I have stored in a plastic box to go out of sight until winter.

I have been through my clothes several times over the last few years, and finally this time round there was nothing I wanted to threw out or give away. However, I did have a pile of clothes from a previous clean-up which I have been meaning to re-purpose. These are now officially labeled fabric and stored in the (bulging) fabric box.

 

Is less really more?

I started cleaning out my wardrobe feeling frustrated and uninspired about my clothes, like I had nothing to wear. Now, the spacious, airy feel of my cupboard and chest of draws has completely shifted that. I have less items in there, but still I feel I have more options when getting dressed. And that is despite some pretty awkward gaps remaining to be filled. Interesting.

Addressing those gaps will be next.

 

"Sewing heritage" featured in Seamwork Magazine

When my Grandma passed away last year I sat down to write. I needed to articulate what I was never able to say while she was alive. Through the process of writing I felt a deep sense of connection to her, exploring her life and our relationship through our shared interest in sewing.

I am thoroughly honoured to have the essay featured in the March issue of Seamwork magazine. In the essay I touch on generational shifts, female identity, the value of making, and the gentle power of commitment I have found in my Grandma’s approach to sewing.

You can read it in full here.

Maja Stabel: zero waste sewing

Maja Stabel, a talented Norwegian fashion designer and illustrator, designs beautiful garments from the simple, all rectangular shapes of her zero waste patterns. Previously designing for her own label Stabel, she now offers charmingly hand-drawn zero waste patterns (for free!) and holds workshops for home-sewers.

If you’re familiar with sewing, the odd assortment of scraps remaining after cutting out your pieces will be familiar too: long strips, curves and wedges of fabric which only the most passionate patchworker could re-use. About 15% of fabric in the fashion industry is cut away at the production stage and thrown out as waste.

Intrigued by the concept of zero waste in fashion, I reached out to Maja and have since also had the pleasure of joining in on one of her workshops (where I made this). Her passion for combining creativity and sustainability in clothes making is inspiring. And today I am delighted to share an interview with her here!

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I get the impression you were drawn to zero waste thinking as a sustainable approach to fashion design but also as a creative challenge of pattern construction. Could you say a little about what zero waste design is and your fascination for it?

Zero waste design within the fashion industry is about pattern construction – about designing waste out of the production of clothes.

I love that zero waste design challenges you to find new solutions and that you have to be creative with what you’ve got. When you distance yourself from the conventional way of constructing patterns, zero waste design can be a tool for innovation.

It’s hard to make the math to fit and the proportions right and at the same time make sensible use of the whole fabric piece and not waste anything, but this is what I think is fun and exciting; which makes zero waste a more creative design process for me – I’m forced to find new solutions.

 

You have previously designed beautiful zero waste garments under your own label Stabel. Now you’re offering zero waste patterns for people to sew themselves. What was your motivation for bringing zero waste fashion design to the home sewing market?

I really wanted to have a sustainable business model that was different from the conventional one where you produce new collections all the time that encourage consumerism and contribute to a growing waste problem. I wanted to cut the production phase – at least the one where I produce a bunch of clothes in India or China and would be forced to sell a huge quantity of clothes to make it go around. Probably I would have to sell a lot on sale as well because it’s impossible to estimate how much you are going to sell.

Then I thought that the way I make my zero waste patterns are very easy to learn and understand, so why not make people produce their own clothes? Last year I studied pedagogics and discovered how much I enjoyed teaching. I ran a zero waste assignment in a class and it was so much fun so that’s when I figured I could run my own zero waste workshops as well.

And now I just had my first workshop! (that I'm very happy you wanted to attend). I was so excited about how it would be and how it would be received; if people would like it and benefit from it. I thought about it for such a long time so I’m happy I just did it when the opportunity arose because it really turned out to be such a fun and inspiring day! Everyone was really positive and I think eager to learn and to sew something on their own which made it an easygoing and nice event. I had so much fun teaching and seeing people turn my design into their own by adding small details and finding new solutions.

 

Sewing things myself, I’ve often found it challenging to find sustainably sourced fabrics and notions. Do you have any tips on where to go or what to look for?

No, this is something I find very frustrating – it’s very hard to find sustainable fabrics. I recently found tencel fabric at a danish website and was super excited, but then it gets very expensive because of taxes and customs which is really annoying. Stoff og stil [a Northern-European fabric chain store] has actually started to stock some organic fabrics.

Are you also thinking of selling your own DIY-kits with fabric and notions to go with your patterns?

Yes! I'm in the process of creating DIY kits with zero waste patterns and Norwegian wool made at Krivi veveri [one of the few remaining Norwegian weaving mills].

I want it to be a 100% Norwegian product – that will be locally made by my customers. I hope this can inspire people to make their own clothes again.

 

Do you generally sense a positive change underway in the fashion industry with fresh approaches to sustainable fashion?

Yes, I feel that there’s something positive happening in the fashion industry – more and more people open their eyes and find better and more sustainable ways to make clothes. I think, and hope, that the brands who don't focus on sustainability won't survive. I think it’s especially inspiring that big brands like Levis and Stella McCartney take a stand and make an effort to be (more) sustainable.

But we have a long way to go and I think we, as consumers, are the ones who hold the power to really change it. We need to demand better and more sustainable clothes and we can do this by choosing the sustainable companies – we have to be aware of where we put our consumer vote. Alternatively you can buy secondhand or, of course, make your own clothes ;-)

 

As consumers it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the problems in the fashion industry and not know where to start or whether we can even make a difference. What would you say to that? Do you have any advice on where to start?

I guess I've already answered that, but to make it clear: the consumer can make all the difference!! And it is our responsibility to use our power and be conscious of how we shop. Start by choosing sustainable when it’s possible and if not, at least buy clothes with good quality that last, and always ask yourself if you will wear it a minimum of 30 times.

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Thank you so much, Maja!

You can find more about Maja and her work on her website, instagram and facebook.