aside Wardrobe Wakeup by Lois Joy Johnson – A Review

wakeup review

“The Wardrobe Wake Up” by Lois Joy Johnson.
I love books on wardrobe building so I loved “The Wardrobe Wake Up” by Lois Joy Johnson. I thought it brought forth a lot of sound and moderate advice. For anyone who sews, this information will work as a guide to help you find the right patterns to build your wardrobe from scratch. I did think the book could have used more detailed photos – like on how to tie scarves. I also think many readers would have loved to see some of Johnson’s ideas in plus sizes, i.e. the cropped pants.

The book is broken down into eight chapters. The first chapter is all about editing your closet. Be brutal, be honest, and get a big bag for all of your rejects! In this chapter Johnson gives you 10 ways to update “your same old clothes”. Ideas like: Wear one color from head to toe, which I think is a great idea. But don’t stick to just black, Johnson suggests trying this with any color in the rainbow.

Another great idea Johnson writes about is to refresh clothes by giving them a “nip and tuck” (page 31).  This is where our sewing skills come in. As seamstresses we can do so much to refresh our wardrobes. For example, I’m in the process of de-frumping my wardrobe with small nips and tucks like this:

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However, some things like deconstructing a boxy jacket might require a professional. I know my skills might not be up to that challenge. I agree with the author about lowering the waistbands of skirts. This is a very easy alteration to do. But I don’t agree with how Johnson recommends blanket ideas regardless of body shape. On page 36 she says to wear your belts at your waist. But if you know your body and shape (like most garment sewers do) this might not be the best spot for your belt. I’m short-waisted, so belts at the waist, especially wide ones, cut me in half. I prefer to wear belts slung low on the hips, giving me the appearance of a longer torso. An example is my Tessuti top, which I love wearing with skinny jeans and a low slung belt.tessuti

Additional ideas such as removing all shoulder pads  don’t reflect every body type either. Adding in shoulder pads can correct many fit issues. I have  forward, narrow, and sloping shoulders. And a top like the Tessuti accentuates that one of my shoulders slopes more than the other. I can correct this in jackets and blouses with an artfully placed shoulder pad. However, I think we can all agree that the huge quarterback shoulder pads of the ‘80’s are a bad idea.

As a seamstress who is working on perfecting pants, I do have issues with Johnson’s suggestions for the best pants for women. She’s a big advocate of cropped pants. And I think these look super sexy with heels or oxfords or adorable flats. But cropped pants just don’t work for every woman and every body type. Johnson advocates long pants with straight classic legs for all women and says no to exaggerated wide legged pants for women under 5’9”. But women with curvy bodies may need wider legged pants to balance their hips. What I love now is longer shorts, and for pants that are just too wide or long on me, sometimes I’ll just crop them and end up with a nice short set.

Johnson is a big fan of ponte knit. Yea! This is a great fabric to sew with and can be used in skirts, pants and tops. It’s very forgiving and is quite hot in the sewing community right now. I have 2 yards from a recent Colorado Fabrics trip and I can’t wait to make something out of it.

In each chapter Johnson offers 10 tips on how to edit your closet, buy designer goods, select makeup and essentials for your wardrobe, how to dress for work and for special occasions, and more. I think most of her advice is very sound and moderate.

I loved Johnson’s choice of ‘models’. Most had wrinkles, but all were definitely from an upper tax bracket, which some might find unrealistic as far as inspiration goes. I  liked the model Annemarie Inverson the most. She breaks most of Johnson’s rules but looks fabulous. The rocker look works for Annemarie because she has the confidence to pull it off. I found all the models to be inspirational in their looks and choices.

However you look at it, the ideas are there for everyone. Add some color to your wardrobe, wear animal prints, wear vintage, but most of all have fun! So much of Johnson’s book can be put to great use by people who know how to sew and love working on their wardrobe. I can’t wait to apply what I’ve read in this book to my sewing for 2014.


  1. Short skinny jeans, inches above the ankles, should be all the rage once Spring hits. Just sayin’. It’s the alternative to the last few years cropped pants.

    I mercilessly tailor my own clothes – even pin/size them on my own. If i mess it up, so what? Into the goodwill bag it goes and maybe someone else will enjoy it.


    • I love the rolled hem too on any jean, well maybe not flared but it’s a way to change up your jeans. I still liked the cropped too in a linen or silk.


  2. Nooooo! Cropped pants should go back where they came from, they make the most victoria secret woman look shorter and stockier. Might as well throw in some horizontal lines to finish the look. 😉 Your review piqued my curiosity, I don’t know a thing about “wardrobe” other than pants, shirt, shoes, check! Might be my year to branch out 🙂


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