It’s one thing to make a garment you love, but often another to incorporate it seamlessly into your wardrobe – at least that’s what we hear from our customers all of the time. One of the many questions I get is if I can talk about how I mix and match my handmade items with my ready-to-wear garments to create a wardrobe that is balanced and really reflects your personal style. Obviously, as I mentioned in my last post, this process will be different for each and every person, but I’m hoping that showing the way that I mix and match 6 different handmade garments into outfits will get your creativity flowing and that you can imagine how you might apply a similar technique to your own wardrobe.
This post contains a lot of information about ease. In case you’re not familiar there are a few points about ease you should be aware of. First off there is wearing ease – the amount you add to your actual body measurements so that you can move in a garment. If you’ve ever noticed that the finished garment measurements are larger than the body measurements, that’s wearing ease. Ease can also be added to enlarge a garment or subtracted to tighten it. This only works to a point though, you’ll never reduce ease to turn an a-line dress into a fitted one, it simply will stop fitting your body at the bodice, and adding too much additional ease to a garment can make it way too large on you. Playing with ease takes some getting used to but once you’ve nailed it it’s a very useful tool in your wardrobe arsenal.
Personally I love layering so in this post I’ll be mixing the above 6 handmade items with a pair of RTW jeans, ankle boots, and the bag I carry daily. I’ve always been sensitive to temperature and my family likes to joke that I have a +/- 5 degree range of comfort at all times (it’s true). Due to this I’m almost never wearing one layer of clothing, or if I am, I’ve definitely got another layer with me in my bag. I’ve chosen the following garments because each of them was made in a specific way to fit a specific purpose in my wardrobe. That and the fact that they all play well together, though that’s not an accident as you’ll see below.
- Archer Button Up by Grainline Studio
- Martine Pullover by Julie Hoover
- BFF Socks by Cookie A
- Bellows Cardigan by Michele Wang for Brooklyn Tweed
- Lark Tee by Grainline Studio
- Wedding Coat – personal pattern
Lets begin with my recently finished Archer. I have a lot of Archers that fit the way the pattern was intended to but I’d been wanting to make up an oversized one that functions sort of like a cardigan for quite a while. When I saw this Grizzly Plaid from Robert Kaufman it was obvious that this was the fabric for the job. The flannel is a bit heavier weight than the average flannel (6.9oz vs the usual ~4oz/sq yd) which makes it an amazing top layer, but not heavy enough that it’s outerwear appropriate. I sized up in this version over my typical Archer size. Usually I’ll do a 4 shoulders and either a straight 6 for the waist and hip if I want a sleeker looking Archer, or a 6 waist and 8 hip if I’m going for a traditional slightly oversized flannel look. For this Archer I went up to an 8 at the shoulders, a 10 at the waist, and a 12 at the hip. On its own this a bit large, but when layered the other garments fill out the extra space quite nicely.
I talked a lot about my Martine sweater here and the construction of it, but I didn’t touch on how I picked my size. The Martine pattern is shown on the model in the 39 3/4” size with 5 3/4” ease meaning her bust measurement is 34”. Using this information I was able to determine that with my 35” bust I would have 4 3/4” ease which was perfect for the fit I was going for. I was a bit concerned about my hip since I’m larger there than my bust, but this is where I highly recommend purchasing the knitting pattern before you commit to knitting it so that you can check the schematic for the rest of the garment measurements. Knitting patterns are cheap enough and the work involved in making them is involved enough that in my opinion it really pays off in the long run to do this.
Here I’ve layered each piece with my favorite Lark Tee – boatneck with 3/4 sleeves made in a navy and white striped bamboo jersey. I followed the size recommendations of the pattern exactly for this tee which makes a great layering option that fits neatly under other garments but isn’t skin-tight. Nothing wrong with skin tight, just not my scene as I’m sure you all know! Anyway you can see how the ease choices I made with the Archer and Martine play with a layering piece under them. You could definitely fit more under the Archer while the Martine is pretty much at its under-layer limit here.
Now lets talk about the Martine. In the first photo it’s layered under my favorite slim coat that I wear almost every day. It’s a fairly sleek silhouette (I think at least) and I love how the gorgeous sheen of the mercerized cotton Shibui Rain yarn used for the Martine plays with the soft velvety texture of the cashmere/wool blend coat. I think another thing that really helps a handmade wardrobe stand out and fit in with your RTW wardrobe, besides mastering ease, is having a good mix of textures and depth of color.
I wear the next combo of Martine and Archer layered together all the time. If it looks like I made these two garments to fit together, it’s because I did! I love using a button up in the place of a cardigan as I mentioned above, and a button up layered with a cozy sweater is perfect for my every day life.
You all originally met my Bellows Cardigan way back in January of 2015 and it’s been a faithful companion ever since. I opted to knit this cardigan as more of a jacket than a cardigan and it’s been one of my best knitting decisions to date. At the moment it lives at the office where I toss it on between radiator running times, but soon it will transition back into my spring / fall jacket. This was another garment where I used wearing ease to get the look and function I was going for. The Bellows on the model in the Brooklyn Tweed photos is shown wearing the 3rd size, 43 1/4” bust with 9” of positive ease. At the time that equalled 10” of ease on me but I’ve since gained a few inches at the bust so, between that and stretching the sweater out slightly by wearing it constantly, it’s currently at about 9” of positive ease.
Now for a brief discussion of the RTW garments that appear in this post! I’ve had this Clair Vivier bag for over 4 years now and I have yet to tire of it. I think it’s neutral enough to go with my entire wardrobe (green only works as a neutral in certain wardrobes, I know) but still is interesting enough to punch up a dull outfit. My jeans are the same Madewell 9” rise pair that I buy time and time again in the regular length. I have deceptively long legs so they hit at my ankle which is absolutely perfect for me. I’ve made jeans in school and honestly it’s not something I enjoy doing so for now I’ll just keep on with this style. The shoes are also from Madewell and are super versatile. They’re crazy comfortable because of the platform – it’s like barely wearing heels at all – and they’re exactly the type of put together casual style that I love. And they were a great price point so I don’t feel bad wearing them out in the salty Chicago streets, unlike some of my other prized ponies.
It might seem that there isn’t much to say about hand knit socks, but oh I’ve got things to say! When I first started knitting socks I quickly realized that, being thicker than the average store-bought socks, they often didn’t fit well with my shoes but I absolutely love them due to the above discussed body temperature issues. Keeping my feet warm really seems to help me stay comfortable through the chilly, and sometimes quite damp, Chicago winters so I really needed to figure out a way to make them work. With my love of hand knit socks in mind I bought these boots 1/2 size up from my standard size knowing that I’d wear them with my hand knit sock collection most days over the fall and winter. I can easily layer a low sport sock in if I feel like wearing them sans knitted socks as well. The other thing with my hand knit socks is that I’ve learned that I love a 7” tall sock so usually add to the length of the sock leg. This works really well with my extreme devotion to ankle length pants year round. Not sure why I love my pants that length, just some weird personality tic that’s been going on for over a decade. But this goes to show you that even something as simple as socks or a pair of shoes can do for a bit of customization to fit into your wardrobe.
Well that turned out to be a long post, but a really fun one to put together! I hope that helped some of you think more about how you can put together outfits using your handmade garments and also made you think more about exploring the wonderful world of ease. I’d love to hear any thoughts, tips, tricks, etc. you have on these topics!
Also this photo has nothing to do with anything I just think it’s a funny snapshot of having a blog and taking your own photos.