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For those of you who aren't familiar with a SWAP. The first time I heard of this was in Australian Stitiches Magazine.


We have all had this problem at one time or another:nothing in our closet works together. All we seem to have is a lot of unrelated garments; if we were to pull everything out and put it into outfits, we might have two decent ones. Everything else is the wrong style or color or we just don't like it anymore. (We won't even mention the ones which don't fit us now - we won't go there) Does this sound familiar? Unfortunately, I seem to have faced this dilemma all too often. Every couple of years, I look in the closet and say "yuck".

Well, how about a fresh start? We have all heard of wardrobing, the system of making or purchasing clothes in basic colors which all work together, making multiple outfits. But the downfall is not following through on a plan of action. Kind of like New Year's resolutions. Recently, I bought the Australian magazine "Stitches", Vol. 5, No. 3. It came out this past September. In it is an article entitled "The Perfect Wardrobe" written by the Editor-in-Chief, Lynn Cook. I missed the first article in a previous issue because this one is the second part. In the first article, she showed 11 garments she had made,providing a different outfit for 7 weeks, because of the inter-changeability. We have all read these types of articles before,haven't we? So what is different about this one?

The difference is the simplicity of the garments. As Lynn says, "use simple styles that can be sewn quickly and easily". These clothes are clean lines, casual and comfortable, yet well chosen in both color and fabric so that the end result looks professional.

Here is the formula: Stage One -make 10 garments. These are: 2 pairs of pants; 2 skirts, one in a solid color, one in a print or check; 2 simple tops, one solid, one in the above print; 1 dress; 2 tops, in colors which coordinate with the solids; 1simple jacket in a solid color.

To make sure that your formula work: choose 2 basic colors, add a third complementary color, and make sure the print has the two basic colors in it. For example: beige and navy might be your basic colors. Add a skirt in gold, a print in navy/beige, and let the 4 tops be the fun colors that spice up the wardrobe. You could add rust or ivory to this color selection. If those are not your flattering colors, try navy and burgundy with accent colors of ivory and pink. And you can't lose with black and white; then the whole spectrum of colors is there for the accent colors

Stage 1: Start planning. Look through your pattern stash for patterns you like or intended to make but never have. Next look through your fabric stash for fabrics that coordinate. All of the fabrics may not be in your stash. This would be an ideal time to go fabric shopping. There are two trips planned this year.... A Fabric Place - 9/26/09 and a NY trip on 11/7/09. Also consider asking other participants if they have something in their stash they'd like to swap. Keep in mind the fabric requirements

Stage 2: make the following 10 garments. 1 jacket/cardigan - in one of your basic colors; 3 tops in tones that coordinate; 1 skirt in a print; 1 blouse or top in the same print; 1 skirt in a solid color; 1 dress in a print or solid; 2 more pairs of pants in tones that blend with your palette

If skirts are not your style, simply replace them with pants. Or vice versa, but keep the right number of bottoms and tops to give you maximum versatility.

If you have noticed, prints are kept to a minimum. If you tend to choose printed fabrics when you sew, you will find that your wardrobe is very limited because they only go with themselves or one other item. The prints chosen in this plan are very carefully selected so that they bring out at least 2, and perhaps 3, of the solid colors already there. This ensures that these garments will go with everything even if you split the top and skirt up and wear them separately.

Tip: With two-piece garments, such as a skirt and blouse in the same fabric, be sure to clean both pieces together at all times,even if one hasn't been worn. Otherwise you may have a blouse that fades to a lighter tone than the companion skirt.
Now, where is the downfall? If you are like me, you don't carry through on your resolution. You start a plan like this, make 2 or 3 of the basic items, then quit. No wonder it doesn't work. In order to have the plan work, you have to complete at least the first stage of it.This is why I found Lynn's advice helpful, because she emphasized the importance of keeping the styles simple. Don't get bogged down in fitting or construction problems. Make very simple shapes and keep them free from details. In fact, most of her tops are simple T-shirt shapes.But the fabrics are quality so they don't look like T-shirts. The skirts are pull-on, elastic waists. This is not the time to try new patterns; this is when you should be re-using patterns that you know work well and fit you. Some of the pants are tailored, but remember you don't have to sew everything you wear. You are allowed to buy somethings. Perhaps you already have some of these garments in your closet.

Are you up to the challenge?

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Comment by Blondell on August 2, 2009 at 4:48pm
Sue in NE, you don't have to make four pairs of pants. Make things to coordinate with the pants you have in your closet. Substituting the 2 pants for 2 tops or 1 top and jacket is OK.
Comment by Edie on August 2, 2009 at 2:55pm
I really like this...I have worked in jobs the last 10 years where jeans and t shirts were all that you needed. Now I am so ready for nice dress clothes. This is the direction I need to go! Thanks! Now lets see if I can follow through! Edie
Comment by sue in ne on August 2, 2009 at 2:48pm
My only comment is i don'rt wear skirts or a dress, except for for,mal occasions. And 4 pairs of pants is a bit much . Is there a lighter version??
Comment by Kimberly on August 2, 2009 at 11:15am
I have been looking for a great project. I really like that fact that it can keep building my wardrobe. I have figure flaws and simple styling works for me.
I have used a plain jacket pattern that works great in many different weights of fabric. I have made it in short sleeve lengths, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve & even as a vest. One fabric I used for the vest was light upholstery weight. I have receive many complements on it. Thanks for the article, my focus is renewed.
Comment by Jill Dewar on August 2, 2009 at 11:10am
very interesting - this would work no matter your age.
Comment by Susan on August 2, 2009 at 7:20am
Fantastic blog! Thank you!

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