The Foundation Garment Challenge


The Foundation Garment ChallengeWhat is a foundation garment say you?

  • 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.
  • Often a garment upon which you can layer other things.

The first criterion is the basic standard & can be paired with any of the others. For example, a solid colored t-shirt made in a pattern that emphasizes the seam lines of the segmented bodice would be a foundation garment based on the first criterion. A simply constructed dress in a standout, patterned fabric that can easily be paired with other things in your wardrobe to make multiple outfits is a foundation garment because it meets all of the criteria. But a simply constructed & solid black camisole? Not a foundation garment. That’s a basic.

Read this post for more on how to use foundation garments in your wardrobe.

Will You Play Along?

If you’re interested in updating your wardrobe, will you play along with me? The main rule is that whatever you make has to be a foundation garment for you. What one person defines as going beyond the simple cut or color of a basic garment depends on their own closet & sewing experience. As for numbers, you need to make at least one, but more would be ideal. If your schedule allows, don’t just make a single garment, try to make a foundation for your entire wardrobe. Finally, finish your garments by the end of December so you can begin the new year headed in the right direction.

A good way to start is to assess your wardrobe, see what holes you have, then decide how you want to fill them. Questions to ask yourself include:

Now you’ve found your wardrobe holes, go down the list of things you’d like to make & think of ways to make those items more special. Perhaps you find that you lack a basic shift dress. But how can you make it  a foundation garment? Look for a pattern that has interesting seam lines & that can be easily layered with a few jackets or sweaters you already own. Next, pick fabric in a bold color &/or a luxurious fiber like a silk & linen blend.

This challenge is all about making things you will love & wear on a regular basis. The goal is to help form the foundation of your wardrobe.

Let me know if you’re keen on participating! If people are willing to hop along with me I’ll figure out how to make that little image up top into a blog button. Or maybe you can help me think of a better button design.


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.