Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!


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A Year of Change

It’s my anniversary! Today it’s exactly one year since I published my very first post here on Changing Your Clothes. And since anniversaries tend to inspire nostalgia for the year that was, here’s a recap of my first year at CYC.

First, some blog numbers:

Followers: 127 (thank you!)

Posts: 113 (this one makes 114)

Views: 7,489

Comments: 428

And some wardrobe numbers:

Clothing items made: 19 (plus 2 for my daughter)

Clothing items altered, repaired, or made over: 25 (including one at my hair salon)

Travel wardrobes created: 2 (Santa Fe and Chicago)

So I’ve averaged more than 2 followers, 2 posts, 144 views, and 8 comments per week, not to mention a total of 46 garments (almost 1 per week) that I’ve either created or altered in the last year. That’s a lot of clothes-changing (and writing) going on!

But these statistics represent just a tiny part of the bigger-picture transformation that’s marked this year for me. As I’ve changed my clothes, my blog has changed, and creating my blog has changed me, which contributes to changing my blog even more in turn.

How can something as apparently superficial as clothes be the catalyst for this kind of chain-reaction growth cycle?

What we choose to wear communicates who we are to the observing world. Whether we dress to stand out, or try to hide in our clothes, we’re all sending a message that’s as clear as a neon sign flashing, “This is who I am”. So as long as we’re growing, shouldn’t our clothes be changing to reflect our internal state?

Try this. Imagine you’re an actor, and you’ve just received your script for an upcoming play. Let’s say you’re  normally a casual dresser, but as you read over your part, you realize you’re playing a super-glamorous, high-profile celebrity. Imagine working through all your scenes, wearing your usual jeans and t-shirt “uniform”; now imagine your first dress rehearsal, in your character’s full red-carpet style. How different do you feel, wearing clothes that are so different from your own style?

That’s the power of changing your clothes.

You don’t have to be an actor, putting a new character on each time you go to work, to experience this power. You simply have to raise your awareness of how you feel when you get dressed. It’s simple: if you don’t feel good, all you need to do is change your clothes. It’s not that you’re pretending to be someone else; you’re choosing to allow your clothes to be an active part of your personal growth.

An example from my own blog work is the jeans I made over by adding reversible cuffs. Prior to this project, I hadn’t worn these jeans in a long time, only because they were marginally too short for me; I stopped wearing them when I realized how self-conscious this was making me. But since their makeover, I’ve worn these jeans more times than I can count, even including them in my recent Chicago travel wardrobe!

My jeans, post-makeover

My jeans, post-makeover! On the left are my “new” jeans with bronze cuffs down; at right, I’ve folded up the cuffs to reveal the lace-print side. Definitely a change for the better!

So I not only changed the jeans, but how I felt about wearing them! Sure, I could have simply bought a pair that was long enough (actually not that simple, with a 33″ inseam), but this way, I get a bonus: the sense of accomplishment from making my jeans better than they were originally.

In addition to the wardrobe work, writing about changing my clothes has also been a significant part of this year’s growth for me. I’ve not only become more disciplined as a writer, I’ve also developed a sharper focus: writing about creative ways to get the most out of clothes we already have. And I realized recently that, for me, writing about clothes has become analogous to actually wearing them: both allow me to tell the world a little about who I am, as I am right now, today, and also how I’m changing over time.

It’s funny, when I try to articulate exactly how I’ve changed, it’s hard; it seems simpler to look at my clothes for clues. Virtually all the clothes I’ve either made, bought, or altered in some way have something special about them; I think my days of buying “practical” basics are behind me. What I want now is to wear clothes that express my individuality. (Think about it: if people were to describe the way you dress in one word, would you want that word to be “practical”?) So I think I can conclude that I’ve become more comfortable with myself, with who I am, and that’s what I’m seeing in my new (and newly-made-over) clothes.

Yes, I’ve changed a lot of my clothes over the past year; my writing has changed too, all of which is reflective of even greater internal changes. So what’s next?

Maybe I can begin to answer that question… over the next year or so.

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Chicago Travel Wardrobe: Follow-up #2 (in ORDer)

In my first follow-up report on my Chicago (ORD) travel wardrobe, I told you about a last-minute fix for a minor packing-related emergency. Now I want to get on to the follow-up proper, starting with showing you exactly what I took with me; as you’ll see, I made some switches from my original plan. I’ll show my outfits, in the order (ORDer?) in which I wore them, and also with details about what I wore them to do. (Just so this post won’t swell to epic proportions, I’ll split this part of my report into 2-3 posts, each covering a few days of my 8-day trip.)

Aside: I should tell you that the reason for my trip was to accompany my mother (after meeting her at the airport in Chicago) through 8 days of driving around a fairly big area of Illinois. I did all the driving, and basically acted as a personal assistant. However, other than my mom’s 60th high school reunion, I had no idea what types of events I’d need to dress for; all I knew was that we were going to spend a lot of time driving, alternated with visiting Mom’s relatives and family friends (most of whom I hadn’t seen for literally decades). I did have some idea of what to expect weather-wise, having lived in Ohio for almost 25 years before moving back to the Pacific Northwest (in a nutshell, humidity and mosquitoes). Since I was really just guessing as to what clothes I would need, I decided the best approach was to make each piece as versatile as possible, namely, separates, coordinated through the development of my wardrobe color palette. End of aside.

Before I flew off to the Great Midwest, this was my wardrobe plan:

Wardrobe with accessories

Travel wardrobe (theoretical). Clockwise from left: knit/sequin dress, turquoise wedges, chartreuse silk scarf, print jersey top, hand-knitted cotton cowl, asymmetrical bamboo jersey top, charcoal-grey jersey top, green necklace/bracelet, green pumps, chartreuse/teal/aqua kimono sweater, turquoise necklace, fancy earrings, linen tuxedo-striped trousers, flat ankle-tie sandals, cropped jeans, multi-color flat sandals. However…

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Makeover Monday: Recapping a Top Story

For this Makeover Monday*, I have a quick tutorial for you: changing long sleeves into cap sleeves! It may sound tres simple, and it is, but as with so many of my projects, it also brings up issues that I wouldn’t necessarily think about if I wasn’t going to write about it afterwards.

My top is made with an interesting textured nylon fabric, very stretchy and lightweight; it also has a shapely, close fit, plus a bit of support, thanks to the two-layer construction of the fabric that helps to create the puckered texture. My favorite feature, though, is the neckline, a modified square. (I happen to love square necklines, but they are amazingly rare in ready-to-wear.) Here’s my top, pre-makeover:

My long-sleeved top

My long-sleeved top, before its makeover.

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Thrift-Shop Thursday: Top Off a Dress Tutorial

Last time on Thrift-Shop Thursday, I was a little time-challenged, so I gave you a preview of today’s project. The concept: start with a knit top that’s a little too short for me, and turn it into the bodice of a dress by adding a skirt (or in this case, 2 skirts). I’ll show you how I made mine, including creating a high-low hemline with the double-layer skirt, attaching the top to the skirt, and adding an elastic casing to the waistline.

First, a quick review. Here’s the thrift-shop top I’m starting with, a substantial silk/viscose knit V-neck:

Jade silk-blend knit top

Jade silk-blend knit top, $7.99 at the thrift shop. Slightly challenging length for me to wear (a.k.a. fine as long as I don’t raise my arms), so it will become the bodice of my new dress.

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Chicago Travel Wardrobe: A Follow-up (or 3) is in ORDer

Now that I’m back from Chicago, I’m slowly getting caught up on my e-mail, the Portland Argentine tango scene, blog reading, and laundry (not necessarily in that order). Next on my agenda: following up on my travel wardrobe with a comprehensive report (which promises to span several posts), including what I packed, what I actually wore, what I wish I hadn’t bothered taking, and what I was fervently glad to have with me.

Aside: Feeling pun-challenged today? ORD is the airport identifier code for Chicago’s O’Hare airport, and thus the rich source of my quasi-clever titles. End of aside.

First up, though, is the solution to the minor wardrobe emergency of which I wrote in my last post before heading to Chicago. Remember this printed top, a key player in my original wardrobe plan?

Asymmetrical print jersey top

Asymmetrical print jersey top. Lovely, comfortable, packable. But there was just one little problem…

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While You’re Waiting…

I’m working fast and furiously (to say nothing of alliteratively) on what threatens to be a lengthy follow-up report on my ORD (Chicago) travel wardrobe you’ve been reading about over the past few weeks; for now, suffice it to say that just sorting through all my photos amounts to a full-time job today.

Aside: I was going to refer to your excited anticipation with the phrase “bated breath”, when I suddenly realized I have no idea what that means. If any of my more erudite readers can explain exactly what it is that makes one’s breath bated, please enlighten me! End of aside.

So while you’re waiting for me to pull myself my report together, feast your eyes on this inspiring slideshow, featuring 21 uniquely stylish Frenchwomen, courtesy of WhoWhatWear:

Coco Chanel

The one and only: Coco Chanel, in her signature Little Black Dress and ropes of pearls. Click her picture (courtesy of WhoWhatWear.com) to see the entire slideshow of French women, from actresses to bloggers, who continue to inspire us with their unique style!

P.S. I’ll have Part 1 of my ORD Travel Wardrobe report for you tomorrow!


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Makeover Monday: Cropping Jeans

A couple of weeks ago, I showed you how to crop thrift-shop yoga pants to capri length. Today, I’ll show you how I cropped a pair of jeans; the process is very similar, except that the jeans are a non-stretch fabric, requiring a different stitching technique.

Here are my jeans at their original length:

Jeans at original length

My jeans at their original length. (You may recognize them from some early Makeover Mondays.)

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