Combining Aesthetics with Foundation Garments

Since I decided to re-make my wardrobe, I started gathering all the patterns I like to see how they’d fit together. I didn’t get far.

Wardrobe planning, wardrobe, pinterest, clothing, sewing, knitting
The top row is mostly full of Jane Austen Knits patterns & the bottom is full of designer Vogue sewing patterns.

It seems I’m doing a Jekyll & Hyde act with two distinct aesthetics: sleek & modern, antique & very feminine. The divide also separates media, with my chosen sewing projects being modern & my knitting projects decidedly un-modern (save one).

Basics v. Foundations

Basics are generally simple separates in solid colors- i.e. a regular black shirt or a-line skirt. But in my Dressing to Alter Your Mood post I talked about making special pieces. I want to go beyond the simple basics you can find off the rack & instead sew interestingly cut patterns. I want to sew foundation garments. Disclaimer: I’m not saying that foundation garments are better than basics. For me a good wardrobe is a balance of things that includes both.

Foundation Garment

  • A garment that goes beyond the simple solid colors, materials, or construction of basic garments.
  • Any garment that can anchor multiple outfits as the focal point.
  • A garment upon which you layer other pieces.

Foundation garments should act as bridges between the two aesthetics so my overall look is more cohesive.

Silk, fabric
A silk fabric from Mood I have dubbed shattered tundra although looking at it from this angle I can see a chicken taking up the right side of the frame.

Take this beautiful silk, a fabric that’s been waiting almost a year for the right project. It will become a camisole. It can be paired with a multitude of things like skirts, pants, under a jacket, under a sweater, with a scarf, etc. It will become a foundation garment not because of an interestingly cut pattern, but because of the design on the fabric & the yumminess of the silk. Since I should be able to pair it with modern patterns like the Issey Miyake jacket & separately with Miss Morland’s Neckcloth, it can also bridge my aesthetic divide. And it should be able to hold up (mostly) on its own too (don’t worry I won’t be roaming the streets in just a cami & skivvies!). I should be able to pair it with a plain pair of pants or skirt & have it be the focal point of the outfit, no need to layer anything on top of it. It can stand on its own.

Wardrobe, camisole, scarf, jacket, Issey Miyake, planning, Vogue patterns, Jame Austen knits
Once this fabric becomes a camisole it will be able to go with both pattens separately, bridging the divide between my two aesthetics. The neckcloth will be made in burgundy & the jacket in a similar color to that in the picture.

While basics are mainly separates, foundation garments can also be dresses. The black DKNY dress will probably work with the Issey Miyake jacket & as a different outfit with a cardigan I already own. Its interesting design will allow it to function separately as its own outfit without anything layered over it.

DKNY, dress, vogue patterns
DKNY dress, Vogue 1280

The design won’t just separate this dress from other little black dresses, the fabric will too. I’m planning on making it in a moisture-wicking fabric by Nike. Why aren’t more things made with such fabric? Every summer I see business people sweating it out in their suits & I think they’d be much more comfortable if their jackets were moisture-wicking. Ditto bras- no one likes a sweaty boob! But back to the dress, the moisture-wicking fabric will make it wearable beyond the fall & into the summer.

Shifting Color Foundations

It seems my color pallet is changing as well. I’ve decided to make up many of my basics in black & gray, whereas the previous year saw brown as my foundation color. I don’t want to ditch my brown things- I really like them! And while I’ve combined black & brown in the same outfit before, I generally wear them separately. The solution will be to make my accessories in colors other than black or brown. That way, I’ll be able to pair them with my old things & new.

I also seem to be taking a shine to colored pants. The brightly colored skinny jeans that were popular awhile ago reminded me too much of the leggings I wore in the 90’s & I really don’t want to go back to my childhood. But the other day I saw a woman in forest green skinnies & they looked fantastic. I had been planning on making a pair in black or gray, but after seeing the green ones on the street & the burgundy ones by Katherine Tilton, I think I want to make some pants in jewel tones.

Katherine Tilton, pants, Vogue 8837
Katherine Tilton pants, Vogue 8837

The jewel tones would let me coordinate them with my black & brown wardrobes. A solid pair of pants could also span my sleek & feminine aesthetics. Do you think colored skinny jeans are passé now? I think I might make them anyways.

I like where my wardrobe is headed. I’m off in a new direction but incorporating what I already own & combining my love for different styles with quality pieces. Never before have I made such a conscious effort to evolve my wardrobe. This planning is fun! Come on over & see my evolving wardrobe ideas on Pinterest.

Your Thoughts

Do you agree with my definition of foundation garments v. basics? I’d love to hear your definitions. I only just came up with this one & I’m sure if I looked around I’d find more thoughtfully written articles on the subject. Please pass along any you know of.


A Modern Wrap From a 1912 Corset Cover

Modern wrap top from the modified 1912 pattern
Corset cover as following the original Pattern, with minor alterations


Original 1912 pattern



Months ago when I made my wearable muslin for the corset cover I also toyed around with the idea of making the top in a knit fabric. I even made that knit fabric mock up back then. But I didn’t get around to actually making the real top up until the other week.

As you can see from the comparison of the original & altered patterns, I changed a lot of the lines in the pattern while preserving the basic shape. Note that the wax paper pattern I drafted has seam allowances included (sewing lines in blue) & on the original pattern I cut off the seam allowances. I had made arbitrary seam allowances when I cut out my muslin, yet drafted my new pattern directly from that muslin I made months ago. I’m guessing that’s why the armscye on the front pattern piece is so different. Also, it would probably explain why my sleeves don’t hang as perfectly as I’d like. It’s a shame I didn’t compare the patterns before I cut into my fabric.

Original pattern without seam allowances over the modified pattern with seam allowances.

McCall’s 5890, the pattern from which I stole my sleeves.

Speaking of the sleeves, I stole them from a modern knit pattern (McCall’s 5890) since I’ve never drafted my own before. According to my measurements, I should have used a size 14. While the picture on the envelope showed a sleeve with some ease, it didn’t look ginormous. I ended up needing to cut a size 6 to get the tighter look I wanted. And it still has plenty of ease even at the smaller size!

Aside from lengthening both pattern pieces, I widened the shoulders & slightly raised the neckline. The front bodice piece was extended past the center front in a slightly curving swoop not just for looks. On the version I did in woven fabric, my center front was actually a diagonal pointing towards the armscye. Otherwise, I would have had much too much loose fabric at the bust. For this knit top I just moved my center front over, maintaining the diagonal, & shaped it a little.

Click for larger & easier to see image.

As is evident in the picture above, the darts changed a fair amount. I completely got rid of the right one that was on the original pattern. Instead, I added a double pointed (not sure of the technical term) dart where you would normally find a side seam. The other dart I kept the same, except it no longer ended with the end of the fabric. It now ends in the middle of the fabric to form a soft & sort of blown out box pleat. I really like how the folded fabric looks & sort of bumps out on the sides.

Overall I’m pretty happy with my top. The only thing is that it’s not the easiest wrap to put on. Instead of having the strap come out through a side seam which I don’t have, it comes out through the princess-like seam on the back of the bodice. It’s not a big deal, but it means extra reaching around on the sides to thread the strap through the top. The strap I used is actually carpet binding. My dad used to be a carpenter, which surprisingly can involve hand binding a carpet’s edge. The old binding he gave me is like an overly wide, soft, cotton twill tape.

Check out a previous post about this top to read more about my first impressions of the finished top & the moisture-wicking fabric I used.


Make It Monday: A Modern Wrap Top

A lime green background on my Flying Foxes Twirl Skirt.
A lime green polka dotted hoodie.

Let’s play a game. Can you guess which pattern I used to make the bodice of this top? Hint, it’s a 1912 pattern. I used a modern pattern for the sleeves but they’re so generic I won’t ask you to guess about them.

I think I have a thing for lime green. This is the third thing I’ve made this year that prominently features the color. Recent lime green projects include a skirt & a hoodie. Now I have a top I could make an entire outfit out of the color if I really wanted to be garish. I promise I won’t make lime green pants. And I swear I’ll stay away from lime green sequins & glitter.  I may be garish but I’m not trashy! 😉

The top also reminds me of the other green wrap I made this summer. While the other one is mint green, both are green wrap tops featuring geometric cuts. I’m sensing patterns here.

My lime green 1940’s wrap top.

Last week I made a sports top out of moisture wicking fabric. I loved the fabric so much I went back to Vogue & bought more. This new purchase is tissue thin & looks very much like regular cotton jersey.

A modern wrap from a 1912 pattern.

It got into the 100’s today & I walked several city blocks during my lunch break. Unlike with the other top, I did not remain completely dry. But at least the fabric didn’t cling to my sweaty back like regular jersey would. And it was a little more breezy than the gray moisture wicking fabric of last week, but then again it’s about twice as thin.

I’m very happy with the progress I’m making on hemming knits. Last week’s sports top gave me a headache. This week’s turned out much better. I used a twin needle with a long satin stitch. Previous attempts to get knits to lay flat with a twin needle didn’t work so well, I think because I would always use a straight stitch. The goal was to mimic the way a stitch on a cover stitch machine looks, but rippling seams would dash all my hopes of creating something that looked store bought. For now, I’m content to use the better looking double zigzag in favor of the more professional looking straight stitch. Look at those sleeves! They lie flat! No puckering out! Just ignore the slight ruffling on the back hem & minor stretching on the neckline. I’m determined to become proficient at sewing with knits.

Later in the week I’ll post about the construction of the top & reveal which pattern I used. I’m setting myself the goal of at least posting by the weekend, otherwise it might be months until I do. I never did post about that 1912 skirt I made in the spring…

Make It Monday: a Sports Top

This week I finished (for the most part) a sports top. I found some affordable wicking fabric made by Nike & thought I'd give a yard a try.

The fabric has a nice weight to it & feels almost wet yet smooth & supple. It was my first time working with a sports fabric. It wasn't much different than working with a regular jersey, except it was a little easier because it didn't shift around so much.

I used my modified McCall's 6288 pattern- its first iteration can be seen here. Last time I had altered the pattern so it fit me perfectly, but in the heavier fabric it was too tight. I loosened it up a bit in the side seams while tightening the sleeves as they had been too loose the first time around.

But the major change I made was to add a built in bra/bra shelf- you know, the band of fabric attached to elastic that often feels too tight & so small that your breasts are simultaneously squished in but also spilling out. It's nice to have a properly sized one.

I cut out a duplicate of the back & front bodice pieces, but significantly shorter. After that, I sewed them together & attached the bottom to elastic I had cut from an old pair of pantyhose- it was the perfect fit & made my thrifty heart happy. My mistake came when I basted the bra to the bodice before attaching the sleeves. So much harder to work with that way! The seams were way too thick & difficult to deal with. I wonder if the raglan sleeves made it even worse.

The real problem with the shirt was when I tried to finish the collar it got all stretched out. Hemming knits is my weakness. That's why the shirt is mostly done, but not quite. I was able to get the hem to a wearable state on Sunday, but the back part kept flipping out & exposing a not so nice finish job. When I got home I tried to remedy it, but I may have made it worse. I'm still working on it. See the collar on the upper left part where it's black, thats my ugly sewing/serging job being exposed.

Sports top paired with the Turtles & Apples Twirl Skirt I made back in February

I knew the back around the waist was a little loose & I was ok with it, but looking at these photos I hadn't realized the back was so tight around my arms. Hrmm. The seams have already been serged. Too late to loosen them up now!

It was pretty impressive wearing it on a day so hot it was in the 90's. No sweat, at all. It just evaporated away. So while the fabric was so heavy as to not let much of a breeze pass through, it was great to be able to walk around without having it plastered to my body.

Today I wore my original version of the shirt, which was much thinner yet a little tighter. It was breezy, but it did get plastered to my back, which is especially uncomfortable when you're on a crowded train without air conditioning. I think I actually prefer the thicker & dryer shirt. I might need an entire wardrobe of moisture wicking fabric just to get through this heat spell.

Sitting in what might be an original Thonet rocking chair!

In this picture I'm sitting in a $750 chair in a thrift shop. There was no identifying tag on it, but I'm pretty positive it was a Thonet. During the 1800's Michael Thonet revolutionized the way chairs were designed & built. I minored in art history. As lame & dorky as it sounds, it was like a dream come true, to use something I had studied & seen blown up big on a projector screen. It was like getting to actually touch a painting in a museum.

You know, I've seen other Thonets in this same thrift shop. How did so many end up in this one neighborhood of Chicago & who the hell is getting rid off them all? And why won't they leave them in an alley where I can easily pounce upon them like a design obsessed tiger?