Operation: Core Wardrobe – Sewing a core wardrobe

operation core wardrobe Denver Sews
When I talk about sewing a core wardrobe I find that women are either really excited about it or find it too limiting for their particular creative journey.

For me, sewing and building a core wardrobe is the exact kind of injection I need to give my sewing a bit of discipline and structure.  I sew a lot and I think I own only a handful of garments that I truly love wearing and that look good on me. Secondly,  this summer alone I’ve  sewn about a half dozen skirts but I have no tops that match, so I resort to wearing a tired looking t-shirt or worse I don’t wear them at all!

The other great influence in sewing my core wardrobe was getting the receipt back when I made a purchase to sew a maxi skirt. For whatever reason I reflected on the cost of the fabric, pattern and notions and thought “What the heck am I doing?” I could go to one of those fast fashion stores and buy a perfectly good, well fitting skirt for less than what I paid. I think my sewing is just de-evolving in to this weird I-just-want-to-spend-money-to-fill-my-emptiness. Okay, that might be a little heavy for now. But, I just feel like I’m spending money on fabric and patterns and stuff with no really agenda.  No purpose.  Enter stage left: Sewing a Core Wardrobe.

A core wardrobe, also called a capsule wardrobe is a small wardrobe usually made in a neutral color of classic standards. Take a look at this image. This is what I’m basing my wardrobe on. The wardrobe will be different for every body due to lifestyle, needs and personal taste.

Here’s the example I’m following with a few modifications. I don’t sew jeans and I will swap out the knit cardi for a blouse or a casual day coat/jacket. Trade the tights for leggings or something.

There are thousands of examples you can choose from. This one I thought was very manageable and perfect for a seamstress.


After the core is constructed one can make additional garments in another neutral color, thus expanding the possibilities even further for mix and matching.

Then you can add in with special pops of color and prints that go with your individual coloring and skin tone. And, mix and match even more with your core pieces. Here’s an example of yellow being pared with a neutral core.


Here is my list of core wardrobe items that I would like to make. Listed in order of easy to difficult. These pieces will be made in a mid-weight fabric, perfect for three seasons. (Thanks goes to the talented and charming Mari who helped me with this list and asked me a lot of questions, like what weight of fabric!).

  1. Tank/Cami
  2. Basic T-shirt
  3. Basic skirt
  4. Day  jacket
  5. Day dress
  6. Trousers
  7. Cigarette/Close fitting pants (but not jeans)
  8. Little Black Dress
  9. Blouse/shirt
  10. Fitted/tailored jacket

Granted this is a very ambitious plan. But, I’m moving forward. I want to start with black as my foundation color. It is recommended that you pick a foundation color in a neutral, like black, white, tan, navy etc..

In the second post I’ll take about the crucial step in building a wardrobe. I hope you join me on my journey to a fabulous wardrobe.


  1. That’s sewing with a plan. I think that’s what I should be doing. I got a CD for wardrobe planning, but I haven’t even played it! To my chagrin your post has motivated me to take it out and check it out. However, since I’m not a working girl anymore I don’t need any business suits in my wardrobe. I seem to be wearing jogging clotjs more than anything else. Thanks for this article.


  2. This is a great plan, Jill! I’ve also been thinking I should have some sort of plan for my sewing instead of just making random garments. I spend a lot of time sewing and then never wear what I make. I tend to create separates that don’t match anything I own or dresses which I rarely wear. You’ve inspired me to figure out a plan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s exactly what I’m doing. Just feels like I’m wasting time and money. And my time Is so valuable that i think I really need to be more practical. Maybe after your z project!


  3. I think it’s a great idea to inject your sewing with a bit of structure. it is so easy to get carried away with pretty fabrics and patterns and not really think about how much you’ll wear something. Good luck with your plan! I’ll been pretty much sewing what I fancy, but I’m seriously considering a more disciplined approach next year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am a bit — lazy, if you will — to sew with a plan like this. But your post is kinda inspiring me to go for the “core wardrobe” concept. I’m thinking navy as my neutral. Now I’ll be thinking about this and neglecting every other sewing project on the table. Thanks, Jilly 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m finding that out. I’ve already made 1 skirt + another almost done and a pair of pants all in black and I’m getting a bit weary of straight black. So need to slow down and make something in pink!


  5. Jill, What a great post! I think you and others interested in the core wardrobe concept will find the wardrobe planning workshop with Nancy Nix Rice this weekend to be an asset. This workshop is presented by the Denver Chapter of the American Sewing Guild on Saturday, August 23 at Plymouth Church. For more information, go to http://www.DenverSewingGuild.com . Nancy has written several books on choosing the styles and fabrics that will make you look your best at all times. I will be there and I would love to meet you there.

    Liked by 1 person

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