Wardrobe Planning: Lila Edition

Lila and I set aside time this afternoon to play with fabrics and stitch a little.  I was busy last weekend with events, so it was extra nice to spend time focusing on her today.  In the past, I’ve mostly sewn little dresses for her and piecemeal separates.  She’s getting old enough to have more input with her clothes, and since she’s a bit bigger I feel like it’s “worth it” to sew for her and put some thought into the process.  I also have a nice little stock of remnants and fun prints I’ve collected for her, and it’s time to sew it up.

First We Cull

We started out going through her old clothes.  Luckily, she’s a bit of an A-type personality and enjoys this.  I use the same criteria I use for culling my own wardrobe:

  • Does it fit?
  • Does she wear it?  I don’t fight the clothes fight, it’s not worth my energy.  If she doesn’t like something, she won’t wear it and woe on the person who tries to force her.
  • Is it stained/ripped/pilly/otherwise falling apart?  I keep some icky clothes in reserve for painting and mud play, and I stash some of my favorites for use in a quilt later.  If it’s dead, it becomes cleaning rags after I pull off the buttons and any other useful bits.  Mending is usually not an issue with her clothes.
  • Is it an orphan?  She doesn’t have much of an “orphaned clothes” problem because her clothes are pretty basic and functional.  Orphans go out, to rags or to smaller friends if it’s a nice garment.

Taking Stock

Once we did that (which always takes less time than I think it will), I looked over what was left.  She’s doing well for winter clothes- besides, summer is nearly upon us in Queensland.  She needs good summer basics more than anything else- tops and shorts.

What are her needs?

It’s no good making a little wardrobe of clothes that don’t suit her purposes.  I’d love to make a closet full of fluffy, frilly, silly things for her but that’s not her life.  Besides, sewing too many of those pretty little girl type clothes is a waste of my time and fabric.  She’s a very active 4 year old (is there any other type?) and needs clothes she can move around in.  Clothes she can forget about.

She also has very tender skin and we live in the UV-saturated part of the world.  The earth is closer to the sun during our summer than during the Northern Hemisphere summer, the air is less polluted which means less UV protection, and there’s a hole in the ozone around here somewhere.  Sunscreen alone doesn’t cut it.  I want to make her at least two long-sleeved, loose woven tops and a few simple loose pants for sun protection.

It’s also important to figure out design details ahead of time.  It doesn’t have to be an involved process, I’ve wasted hours of my life in the past making wardrobe plans that I found very hard to stick to once I started sewing.  Sometimes the fabrics have other ideas than what’s in the plan.

I find it useful to keep track of inspiration photos.  Pre-pinterest, I kept files of images on my computer.  I still do that, but it’s much easier to type “little girl shorts cute details” into google image search and pin like mad.  Once I start gathering my inspiration, I usually notice what colors, cuts, and details consistently catch my eye.  I can then scroll through with Lila and she lets me know what she likes.

Bring on the Fabric and Patterns

Every fabric along the top is either reclaimed from a Mommy-wadder or remnants from my own sewing.  Free clothes for Lila!  I also found a skirt I cut out yonks ago and never put together, so I’ll add that to this bout of sewing.

Prints or Solids?

It’s super tempting to load up on prints (especially for a little girl) because there’s SUCH a variety of gorgeous printed fabric out there.  I don’t generally like the “mixed print” look, call me old-fashioned.  It’s very difficult to build a nice versatile basic wardrobe using prints for both the tops and the bottoms, so I usually stick to one or the other.  Instead, I like to rely on texture for variety.  It’s safer.  From left to right, the fabrics are an organic cotton canvas, cotton pique, cotton no-wale cord, medium weight denim, and linen.

Along the bottom of the photo, I laid the fabrics for her tops.  The wovens will become long-sleeved tops (she insisted I use the brown, and it suits her, so ok), and the knits will become versions of the Blank Canvas Tee I made for her or Hopscotch Tops by Oliver + S.   Usually, I’d pick a neutral, a main color and an accent color for a wardrobe but for Lila I just went for general “harmony” between the fabrics we chose.

I also want to make her a few dresses.  She likes wearing them, I like making them.  She has five or six Ice Cream Social dresses, so I spent a little time looking around for alternatives.

She’s infatuated with this organic cotton sateen I scored the other day at Fabricabrac (great day!  Will do a round up this week!) and I thought I’d use this pattern.  I have a “thing” for Oliver + S.  If you’ve ever sewn with them, you understand.  If you haven’t, and you sew for kids, I would strongly recommend taking a look.  The instructions are sensible, the clothes look like “real” clothes, and I like the way the separates work with one another.  They’re a bit expensive, but it’s worth it.

Click for source!

I’m planning to make her one (at least!) of these for summer, too.  Doesn’t it remind you of a little girls’ Cambie?  This dress is the “reward” for making it through the other pieces, we’ll hop over to Voodoo Rabbit and pick out something nice and distinctive.  Pandas, pet deer, who knows what she’ll pick next?  This dress is not a pattern, but a very clever “hack.”  I’m itching to play with it!  Check it out.

Where to Begin?

Culling the existing wardrobe, gathering inspiration, thinking about Lila’s clothing in a practical way, and playing with fabrics and patterns isn’t exactly play, but it’s fun and doesn’t feel much like “work,” either.  The transition from the planning stage to the sewing stage of a wardrobe project can be a little tricky to navigate.  I have been known to put all the patterns and fabrics together then stare at them for days or weeks on end, unsure where to begin.

I say start simple, start practical.  We made a pair of shorts today to kick off the project because that’s what she needs most.  Next week: Shorts, shorts, shorts.

Further Reading: Making a simple kid’s pants pattern from an existing pair of pants.

Tiramisu Testing Update: Wow!  I’m all kinds of excited and energized by your warm reception of the Tiramisu lady, thank you so much for your kind words, clever backstories and beautiful name suggestions!  I’m sifting through everything and I’ll be emailing testers later this week.  Thank you all for volunteering to test!  If you haven’t already, skip over and leave me a note if you’d like to test, or if you’d like to add to her backstory.

Also- one of my buddies who doesn’t sew but nurses her sweet baby agreed to test Tiramisu for nursing-mother-wearability.  She and I used to live together, I guess she’s used to me because she didn’t bat an eye when I asked for her help.   I’ll run one together for her and we’ll report back!
Next up- Conversant in Color: Your Environment


  1. Such a cute post! I’m enjoying what you write about colour too. I still question if I’m warm, cool or something else so I figure I wear what I like and feel good in. I really think lipstick and glasses have an impact on what colours look good on me though. Have fun sewing for the gorgeous Lila :)

    • You know, I think you may be very similar to Lila in terms of color… For all she has brown eyes (your eyes are brown, yes?) and brown hair and sort of browny skin, she has definite pinky undertones and can kind of go both ways… It’s probably good to just stick to colors you know work well for you, and experiment every once in a while…

      Will do. It’s like sewing doll clothes, reminds me of being a little girl. :)

      • Haha – my eyes are actually blue, but a grey blue. Many people think they are brown though as they’re hidden behind my glasses and not that vibrant blue that some people have.

        • Ah! I get “blue” a lot, which is weird to me because my eyes are pretty green… Oh well.

          I like dark blue/gray eyes! So pretty. :) Do you wear contacts much? (I’m super blind without mine)

          • No, no contacts. I have never had a pair and I have a number of friends who have got nasty infections with them so I really very hesitant about trying them. That is funny – I thought your eyes would likely be blue.

  2. I’m starting to work on Grace’s fall/winter wardrobe, so I empathize. A lot of her clothes come to us second hand through local consignment sales, which kind of frees me up to make a few cute outfits that won’t necessarily go with other things, like the “minnie mouse” outfit she requested. (Red skirt with white polka dots and a tulle ruffle, and white knit shirt with a red, mouse-eared bedecked letter on it!) I must admit that mine are more geared towards semi-“nice” clothes for school. She’s got plenty of play clothes, but a few new knit tops, some skirts, and a couple themed outfits (complete with matching jeans!) won’t go amiss. After I finish these, it’s on to corduroy dresses for winter!

    • Yes, we used to get second hand stuff, and her Nan delights in taking her to Target and buying her basics… Which is nice of her, and I bite my tongue not to say something about sweatshop working conditions, and how there’s a reason that little t-shirt was $2 and it’s not because the worker was paid properly…

      But for some reason, she seems to have a dearth of clothes all of a sudden. Which is cool. :) I LOVE corduroy!

      • I wonder if I’m too old for a corduroy dress? I made myself a couple of mini-cord skirts a while back and I LOVE them – I need to make more because they’re a total wardrobe go-to.

        • I’m probably not the best person to ask, I made myself a corduroy jumper last winter and loved it. I also have a sweet WW2 era military style jacket made up in blue cord that I LOVE LOVE LOVE. And pants. Heaps of cord pants. So yeah, I’m not objective when it comes to corduroy.

  3. This post was actually really helpful for me. My wardrobe needs a major overhaul. I find myself staring in my closet, absolutely clueless about what to wear; I hate almost all of it. I’ve sort of signed up for the mini wardrobe contest at PR, but that’s mostly to motivate me to stop staring at my fabric stash and actually sew something. I think it might be a good kick off point for the rest of the wardrobe, if I can actually get going on it.

    But I’ve been floundering a bit on what to pair with what. I like how you don’t have a specific plan laid out as such, but will let the fabrics help dictate what it’ll become when you’re working with it. :)

    Sorry for not commenting on the Tiramisu Lady. I adore her and I can’t wait to see what you name her, but I read the lovely and creative comments from others and realized I just didn’t have anything comparable to suggest! And while I’d love to test the dress out, it’ll probably take me 10 billion years to do it, especially since I’m TRYING to concentrate on a winter wardrobe! :D Good luck picking out a name though. I think you’re going to need it!

    • AND as soon as I hit post I realize I forgot to mention that I think Lila is going to look smashing in her wardrobe, and boy is she a lucky little girl, to have a wonderful Mom to make her pretty clothing! :) I can’t wait it see the final composit (?? :D)

    • Heather! You can do this! Remember the big wardrobe contest we were in? You totally rocked that, you did a fantastic job of sewing and putting the pieces together, AND a great job of photographing it. You can totally do this. Just start by getting rid of stuff you hate so you don’t have any other option but to move forward. You’ve got this. :)

      She’s a monkey, that’s what… I always wonder if she’ll want me to make her stuff when she’s older (like Tanit-Isis’ girlies) or if it will all be too much… Hmm.

      • Aha, you’re awesome. I’ve lost my sewing mojo lately (as in, since April), and it’s hard to get back into. But I cut out a knit long sleeve t-shirt last night, so maybe I’ll entice it back with an easy garment!

        She’ll probably go through a stage of not wanting anything made by you. And then, once the novelty of buying clothes wears off, she’ll get annoyed with the lack of quality, selection, and fit available, and then be back begging for more! That is, if you haven’t raised a competent sewist and she just makes her own clothes. :D

        • Well, I’ve been giving her little sewing jobs to do, like snipping threads… She has her own blue polka dot snipping scissors for sewing only, she’s terribly pleased about having a gadget all her own. She usually gets bored after a while, and then tells me to let her sew because she knows how to do it… Right now we’re in the “wax on, wax off” stage of learning to sew…

          We’ll see…

          Easy garments are the way to do it. Or sometimes a small new purchase, like fresh pins (and old ones thrown OUT) helps jumpstart things. It’s a bit silly, but so true..

          • It’s funny you should mention replacing pins. Guess what I did, just yesterday! :D I also picked up a great little clear plastic box that holds a couple dozen bobbins. Maybe that’s helping with the mojo too!

  4. I’m so looking forward to seeing your little girl wardrobe! Your Lila sewing is always a treat. Also, I follow your progress with your patterns, and I’m sure you’ll be a great success. The Tiramisu dress is pretty, feminine and practical all in one package. My DD started school, guess what dessert I fixed for the celebratory feast? Tiramisu, of course!

    • Thanks, Uta. :) Ooooooh YUM Tiramisu is so delicious. I just found a recipe for a Tiramisu layer cake, I’m somewhat tempted to make it *except* regular tiramisu is already so so so good and simple to make, so why mess with something that’s already good?

      Do you use liquor in yours? I think it might be the only way I like to ingest Kahlua…Mmm….

      • It’s amazing with Amaretto, too (and I don’t even drink, usually). But since this was for a kid’s supper I skipped the liquor (although I did use strong coffee!).

    • I hope so, Ginger… :) Yeah, we have fun together. She got pretty bored when we were gathering the fabric on her shorts, but she does stick around a little bit.. Very good at trimming threads.

  5. Thanks for posting this! The prospect of managing (and hopefully sewing) a wardrobe for a tiny person who changes size all the time is definitely daunting, so seeing how you manage it is fabulous. I’d love to know more! How long can she usually wear the things you sew her? How often do you usually sort through her clothes?

    • Yeah, no problem Alice. :) This is the way I approach sewing for myself, too…

      Lila tends to grow UP more than OUT, so I usually find that shirts don’t last as long as tunics/dresses. She’s still wearing a little dress I made for her two years ago (Ice Cream Sundress), but now it’s more like a tunic…

      She’s also still wearing the little denim clamdiggers from the Sailboat Oiver + S patterns from two and a half years ago.. They were too big at first, and now they’re just below her knees…

      Skirts last a LONG time, too. A long, long time.

      So… I’d give tops a “drawer life” of about 6-8 months, dresses longer than that, pants 6 months or so but then they can be shortened into capris or shorts… She’s not rough on her clothing, and we tend to wash out stains as they happen.. I try to go through her clothes just before the beginning of the warm and chilly seasons here, to make sure she’s all set for the coming weather and will be comfortable. However, it’s usually a good idea to keep an eye on the quality and condition of the clothes as they go through the laundry, sometimes I cull while I’m folding the washing.

  6. I’m finding this wardrobe planning for Lila to be great fun. I guess I can live vicariously through your daughter as she wears things I like but would never wear myself! Are you familiar with Enid Gilchrist and her patterns? I have a large collection of her books, most of which are childrens’ patterns and would be happy to lend them to you if you’re looking for further inspiration. There are some great, timeless functional kids patterns in there.

    • It’s heaps fun. I’m really enjoying working with her on it… The little monkey, I think she thinks that everyone gets custom clothes…

      I have quite a few E. G. books on loan from sewing buddies. They definitely have that timeless quality! Right now I’m spending so many of my braincells working on Cake, I really really really enjoy using the very detailed Oliver + S patterns so I don’t have to think at all. I just do what Leisel says and know I’ll have a nice little garment at the end…

      But maybe once I get a few simple pieces under my belt I’ll go after Enid Gilchrist. Thanks for the offer, Carol. :)

  7. I’m doing this for myself at the moment – far too many things in my wardrobe that I don’t wear because they are just not right for my life right now. Far too many things that I don’t wear because I don’t have enough basics to go with them. I’m planning a cake-sewing session at my craft retreat, of simple, plain, versatile pieces in solid, mostly neutral colours. And then I will allow myself to reassess and sew some fun prints to go with them.

    I feel you on the print thing – I buy them because I love them, but I hate pattern mixing, so then I just wear the boring things! I think I might need to make a prints only for bottoms or dresses rule for me – I seem to only wear my plain tops. So I’ll go with what I actually reach for, not what I think I should like – apparently I’m a slow learning, because I keep having to learn and re-learn this lesson!

    • Yeah, I hear that… I have all these nice blouses and skirts I used to wear all the time when I worked in an office/at the sewing shop… They don’t suit my lifestyle right now, but I like those clothes and can’t quite bring myself to get rid of them… Never know when I might need crisp blouses again..

      Your plan sounds quite sensible. :)

    • She’s kind of a monkey about it… Like, she’ll point to something in public and ask me to make her a dress with that fabric…As if I could just conjure it up! :)

  8. Thanks for the inspiration. I need to get onto H’s summer wardrobe – they seem to grow out of everything in an instant but always in the upwards direction.

    For us trips to the fabric store invariably end in an additional fabric purchase with endless decisions of the right shade of pink by little miss. The last trip I had to explain that I really couldn’t make a singlet out of a woven fabric – I could make a dress but that was dismissed as an option!

    I also love E.G. books – and they aren’t that hard to work out once you get started.

    • I know, sometimes they just shoot right up…

      Except when we go to Voodoo Rabbit (which is a pretty small boutique), I always always restrict Lila’s choices to a few things I wouldn’t mind/think work ok. Like, two or three choices. Too many and it takes a long time or she might choose something ridiculously inappropriate or we end up cranky at each other and besides I think too many options is a bit overwhelming for her.

      E.G. is cool and all, but there’s just not enough time in the day to mess around with all the things I want to! :)

  9. The Let’s Fly a Kite dress is so sweet–those sleeves are fantastic. You’ve reminded me here that I’ve been seeing people write about “no-wale” corduroy–what precisely does that mean? Is it flat without channels like velvet, or are the wales so tiny and close together that they’re too difficult to number as you would with normal corduroy?

    • It’s a *really* cute dress! I’m so thrilled it’s a hack, but I’d buy it if it weren’t.

      Well… No-wale cord isn’t any of the above.. It’s like a very short, smooth, dense pile almost like velveteen I suppose, but it has warp (lengthwise) lines when you look close. It’s almost like a cord that has been shaved… I’ll get some good texture shots when I’m photographing the shorts. :)

  10. Tiramisu should absolutely be nursing friendly. I’m breastfeeding my 5-month-old right now, and I wear crossover/surplice top dresses all the time! I wear a matching camisole that I’ve cut off to fall under the bra line, and when it’s time to nurse, up goes the camisole, and I pull over that side of dress. No extra boob seen, and I’m able to nurse anywhere – even in church.

    If you want another breastfeeding tester, I’m more than willing! (38″ high bust)

    • Oh – and Lila’s dresses are so cute! I definitely need to invest in some Oliver + S patterns to sew for my 3-year-old daughter and the breastfeeding one when she’s older.

      • Thanks so much, AmyLou! :)

        Oliver + S were the first indie patterns I ever sewed, and every time I open a new Oliver + S I get excited and think “What will Liesl teach me this time?” :) Really good patterns.

  11. This is something I really need to do for all four members of my family.. slightly less since the husband went out and bought clothes for the kids, but still. Will have to wait till I’m no longer encumbered by a sick child though. It’s too hard when I have to hold her/keep quiet constantly.

    • Yeah, the husband is next around here… I don’t “dress” him much but he did recently request some field pants and field shirts… And I have a pair of tencel shorts to finish from last summer…

      Super hard to do things with a sick kid! Look after yourself, heaps of vitamin C so you don’t get it too!

  12. I really like this process, thanks for describing it so precisely. I should spend some time on my wardrobe planning instead of being taken away by each nice pattern I see :D

  13. I agree that its really easy to get sucked into the pretty frilly things that are totally impractical for a rambunctious 4-year-old. For Button modesty is also an issue. She’ll climb anything she can find, do forward rolls at the drop of a hat, and hang off the things she’s climbed without compunction. I think this is exactly what she should be doing but don’t want the world to see her underpants whilst she’s at it. Fortunately we’re heading into winter and the return of demure tights. Phew!
    Looking forward to seeing Lila’s new wardrobe.

    • SooooOOooOOooOooo easy to do that.. There’s nothing wrong with cutesy little kids’ clothes, and utility clothes don’t have the be completely plain and ugly either..

      Yes- modesty! We look after that, too… If she wears a skirt, we stick little bike shorts underneath… Leggings with most of the leg cut off, I mean. :)

      • Oh I agree. I love finding things that make her look cute and yet she can get up to her mischief in. Bike shorts are a godsend!

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