Anything for the weekend? – Lisa Comfort’s capsule wardrobe

I was sent an eBook free, for review.

Lisa Comfort with a decent coffee
Lisa Comfort with a decent coffee

This book, published this week, is by Lisa Comfort of Sew Over It. It’s key features include:

  • A small, but flexible wardrobe, using patterns that can (through the use of a few horizontal lines) create a range of outfits
  • For example a dress made from a pattern that can be cut through at the waist to create a T shirt or blouse. This is in the best tradition of the old Vogue “wardrobe” patterns (jacket-coat, mini-maxi, trews-shorts etc).
  • The idea of this selection (two dresses, a skirt, jeans and jacket) is that it will see you through two nights in a European city
  • pdf patterns
  • Fabric suggestions
  • The more difficult techniques explained with colour photographs

My initial reaction to it

  • I love the idea of a travel wardrobe
  • And packing light
  • And creating a wonderful wardrobe with a few items that all work together – the essence of SWAP
  • Does this collection work for me – and would it work for others?

I am going to judge this book in the terms it is presented as – a wardrobe for weekends away. Of course some of these items are perfectly OK for work and for weekends, but I decided to judge their value and suitability for a long weekend in Paris (where the book has been beautifully photographed).

Mia Jeans

Lisa in Mia Jeans
Lisa in Mia Jeans

If you are visiting a city in Europe and it is not the height of summer,  planning your travel wardrobe around a pair of jeans is a great idea. Jeans can be dressed up or down, the comfort factor is high, the colour is good to go with just about anything, they don’t show the dirt or crease, and the flatter most figures (if you get the cut right).

What about the Lisa’s actual jeans pattern?

The trousers include top stitching, a front fly and a silver button, and they are made in denim,  so they are jeans-like. Or even jeans-light. However I find the absence of front pockets weird. These look more like slim line trousers to me; I think with such a high waist they need pockets. With a flat front they might have been better with a lower slung waist and maybe even the zip at the side or CB seam (for a 1950s or 1960s look).

Molly T-shirt/Jersey dress

Lisa I the Molly dress
Lisa in the Molly dress

T shirts. Yes. My go-to top at the weekend and for short holidays. The Molly is a  good T shirt with a nice little twist – the sleeves are cut on the cross grain to create some interest. I would make and wear the T shirt, definately. Would I wear a dress that is effectively a long T shirt? Probably not. Even in Ponte Roma. But it’s a nice pattern, and it works particularly well in stripes (Lisa has three striped versions in her suitcase).

Alex Blouse/Shirt dress

Next up is the Alex shirt dress and blouse.

Now blouses are not my favourite thing. I do wear them for work sometimes but the problem with blouses and shirts is – they take a long time to make and they take a long time to iron. And I generally prefer the look and feel of a T shirt. My poor little four year old grandson has to wear a shirt, with a collar and tie, to school.

Modern school boy
Modern school boy

I wear a blouse for work:  I would not dream of taking one along to Prague or Amsterdam. They will crease and I don’t want to be pressing anything on a short break (or a longer one actually). This is why the T is better.

On the other hand I might consider a shirt dress – they are a great classic style. Nice in chambray too. My thought  here would be that I want a dress on holiday but it needs to be easy to pack and it has to be versatile. For a city break dresses have to be good for day, night, walking, and sitting in the sun. I tend to pack a knee length dress with thin straps that I can wear as a sun dress, with a T shirt underneath or with a T shirt over the top, and a cardigan if it is chilly.

In terms of the actual pattern I find it a bit under designed – why there is no bust dart? This has an impact on the fitting of the sleeve and obviously across the bust. The fold up sleeves on the other hand are rather fun and save having to make a cuff. The shirt curve at the back is OK if you like that kind of thing, but the front split (given the button placement) is very high. If I was looking for a shirt dress style I think I could find a better one, and I would probably opt for one with a waist line rather than bunching the skirt up at the back with the brown leather belt. Vogue 8028, has a proper collar, a top button, bust darts and really nice in-seam side pockets which I much prefer to a breast pocket (not the best place to store your Euros  – now worth the same as a pound).

 

 

Erin Skirt

Erin Skirt
Erin Skirt

I would also pack a skirt for a city break, but  probably not a slim fitting pencil, a garment I associate with work. I like an active weekend break, but even if I was mainly drinking coffee and eating I would want something more comfortable than the Erin. I would choose an A line for striding about.  I think the sample skirts (and jeans) were made up in stretch denim although I did not see this advice being given. In a non-stretch fabric I would say that this is not a practical skirt for a city break. And while I like the T shirt is grey really a great colour for a holiday wardrobe? Why not go for emerald, red or even a pattern?

Lola Jacket/coat

Lola Coat
Lola Coat

Turning to the jacket I am unenthusiastic. Waterfall edges are a bit dated, if you ask me. I would have offered an on trend bomber jacket instead, or even a cheeky update of the Chanel jacket, or maybe a stylish hoodie with interesting pockets. I would have liked to see a wow jacket to set off the collection and this doesn’t really do it for me. Had it been in a brighter colour or a patterned fabric it might have won me over. But I would have passed this jacket up in M&S or Primark.

Conclusion

I applaud the concept of this ebook. Lisa is very photogenic and the outfits are carefully considered. She is very popular and has a wide following. The patterns are pared down to make them more accessible to beginner sewers and they are probably fairly quick to make. This style of product is aimed at young people who like the idea of the cool, vintage inspired pieces with lots of stripes. It has immediate appeal and the reaction to date has been very good, and I wish her well. I imagine quite a few will buy this book and then not make up more than one or two garments. The ebook costs £20 which is £5 per pattern, but you have to print and sellotape them. It is only good value if you make them all.

I remain fascinated by the idea of the capsule wardrobe, and I would like to see the wardrobe pattern coming back – where you get lots of garments in the package rather than just one. In the 1980s Vogue did lots of Wardrobe patterns for working women, and they were great (although now rather dated). They had a casual range too, Five Easy Pieces, which are worth a look at, if you can see beyond the colours and styling. Overall my verdict is this: These patterns are relatively easy to sew but lose something in the simplification. Overall I find the styling, colour and fabric choices and designs a bit too conservative and middle of the road for me. I know the French like their neutrals, stripes and classic cuts – but let’s give them some English sass when we drop by for a macaron.

What do you think?

 

32 Responses

  1. Elle

    An utter aside, but the photo of that beautiful child in that outfit seems indescribably sad to this Yank. (And my apology if my reaction is offensive!)

    • Fabrickated

      I feel a bit the same – his clothes are a bit big for him – he won’t normally wear the jacket. English school uniforms are very traditional with a shirt, tie, jacket, grey trousers etc, although some schools have adopted the track suit, especially for younger kids. I imagine it looks strange, but we feel that if everyone is wearing the same, and there is no debate about it, it can serve to unite the children and stop them pushing their parents to buy things like branded trainers etc.

      • SJ Kurtz

        They went from a uniform to a tracksuit? Ew. They wear out faster, less ‘pass it along’ ability.

        There are lots of schools in the USA that have uniforms for the same reasoning. The girls get the short end of the stick at the church schools (skirts or skorts, no pants). It does cut down on the ‘how sexy can you dress for school?’ issue, which in the early teen years is a real problem around here.
        The first middle school (grade 6, age 11) band meeting for parents was an hour long rant by the teacher about skirt length and band competitions “It’s amazing how short those skirts get by the time they have crossed the stage to their chair” and how they were docked points for ‘thighage’. Thus, pants for everyone. No exceptions.

        • fabrickated

          Oh my SJ this is terrible really. I guess young people will always want to “customise” their school uniforms, but I think it is sad if we are going to insist on trousers for everyone.

      • Geo

        I have nothing more to say about the book, all patterns are so basic that surely they can be found in one of my Burdas or online for free (that t shirt looks a lot like a free Grainline download).
        But a 4yo in a shirt WITH A TIE 6 hours a day/5 days a week? Poor little children. Luckily my 5yo does’t go to one of those schools, he’s been to 3 so far (hopefully this is the last one until secondary), but they all asked for grey trousers and a white polo t shirt, with or without the school logo.
        And re the euros – there’s been a Craftsy sale this weekend, all classes for $20 or less. A while ago that meant £12-13 for a class, now it’s £18.

  2. Kim Hood

    Agreed. The patterns offered are basic and probably available as freebies if you look hard enough around the interweb. However, as you have pointed out the pictures are very pretty and this may well appeal to a beginner sewing a coordinated wardrobe.

  3. sew2pro

    Is this just an E book? I wonder why? I thought these youngsters like to smell and feel their purchases and have them poking out of their paniers along with knitting needles in yarn. In any case it seems a good collection of very simple styles that would suit a beginner sewist and I can see this working for a spring and early autumn.

    Yours is a very in-depth review and with very helpful thoughts on travel style. I enjoyed reading it.

  4. eimear

    I have a butterick pattern 2704 (http://vintagepatterns.wikia.com/wiki/Butterick_2704) and find it very useful and it was also a great introduction to sewing with vintage patterns (no great mystery – just more interesting techniques so far as I can see). This summer everything I made seemed to match with everything else so a lot to be said with figuring what suits you and taking it from there! Having said that – there is something very alluring about being able to pack a holiday in a ‘handbag’ and be dressed for all occasions!

  5. helen

    I enjoyed your review of this e-book. I first saw this on another blog over the weekend. I was interested to hear there was a jacket pattern but really disappointed when I saw it was a waterfall front opening. I didn’t think that that style would appeal to her audience, I thought they appealed to an older demographic. Middle aged me wouldn’t be seen dead in one – but each to their own!

  6. Anne

    Thank you for this helpful review. It confirms some of my thoughts and I won’t buy it.
    Having said that, I do actually like the high waisted jeans without pockets – my wide hips don’t lend themselves to pockets!
    My younger grandson has just started school. They have a uniform but it is more relaxed than your grandson’s.

  7. Lynn Mally

    There are still wardrobe patterns if you look for them. It is a much better option that taping together PDF patterns, a process I despise. Technology has not made everything better!

  8. Karen Kayes

    Your review is spot on Kate! I’m always slightly perplexed that designs like this would sell, as the patterns are really simple, but neither retro nor modern. As I’m not their demographic I guess that doesn’t matter. I wish the designer every success.

  9. Stephanie

    Your review is thorough and fair. It’s a neat concept but to be honest it raises the general remark I have about sewing blogs, which is why so many want to look the same or like a stereotypical interpretation of, say, an imaginary Parisian girl. I notice this with individuals all knitting the same rather ordinary, shrunken cardigan, too, that doesn’t suit many body shapes. I find it puzzling.

  10. mrsmole

    I agree with all your comments, Kate! That neckline on the t-shirt is wide and in the grey version it just looks too sloppy. Who wants to wear a pencil skirt on a vacation when certainly good eating is required and the waistline needs more ease? Just getting on an airplane makes my whole body bloat in strange places…the body, not the venues…ha ha. Darts…without them you have the dreaded drag lines at the bust as in the photos and the tight t-shirt sleeves will not suit everyone, clever as they are by dropping down from the shoulder all in one. But the jeans-lite….love them…yes, takes me back to the 50-60’s when we didn’t have cell phones or any need for pockets. I find pockets just add more bulk and can ruin a smooth look with a knit top over them so thumbs up for those! Thanks so much for this thoughtful review…just the thought of printing off hundred of sheets of paper (from real trees) and taping them together just makes me cringe!

  11. Barbarags

    I think this capsule wardrobe is only going to appeal to a beginner who has loved few patterns to fall back upon. It does present a blank canvas to which a sewer can add whatever answers their needs, for example the in seam pockets for the shirt dress- in fact, for me, pockets everywhere. I bet we see plenty of hacks popping up on sewing blogs. I’d add a small pocket to the jersey top in which to stick my carnet stash, I’d put pockets on the trousers (although I would not make skintight ones where any activity can put strain on the seams even if they are stretch), I’d make the skirt more of an A-line to allow for striding out and running for the bus and I would probably make the shirt dress collarless so that I could make it look a little more formal by wearing a necklace and a smarter belt in the evening (being of an age where a dress with thin shoulder straps is not an option). The variety of responses in this comments section just shows that you cannot please everyone when producing a pattern but presenting this capsule wardrobe does get the beginner sewer into the frame of mind of thinking about creating clothes to suit what she does and which will go together.
    I would love to see some well-thought out patterns for active holiday clothes; when you are stuffing a rucksack that you have to carry for hours on end, as I am about to do right after writing this, everything needs to do double duty, be tough, show the dirt as little as possible and be able to be washed and dried in a short space of time- and have plenty of pockets- especially on trousers though I do need to wear a tight belt to stop them being dragged down by the weight of the items I stuff into the multiple pockets on said trousers.

    • fabrickated

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment Barbara. I constantly find the concept of casual wardrobe slips (for me) into sort of hiking/outdoor/active wear. I think this is what is giving me an issue in creating a nice weekend wardrobe myself. I would like to hear your thoughts on this as you develop your ideas.

  12. Su

    Interesting review. Seems as if it’s a Ebook designed to appeal to the younger demographic that might have heard of her other patterns. I had no idea who Lisa Comfort is.
    If I was going away for a weekend I wouldn’t want to take jeans – heavy, bulky, too casual – but I’m unusual – I’ve gotten rid of all of my denim jeans, wouldn’t want a tight pencil skirt either for running around a city.
    My favorite Wardrobe pattern was Vogue 2815 (from 2000s?) with a neat shoulder princess seam jacket. I might like the Vogue 5 easy pieces patterns if they didn’t always have loose shapeless, unstructured jackets.

    What are trews?? I googled trews and got ” hard rock band from Antigonish, NS”

    • fabrickated

      He he he. Trews is another word for trousers! I think it was originally a Scottish word, but most Brits would understand you if you refered to trews instead of pants (which they might misconstrue).

  13. Hélène

    Thanks for this complete and honest review. You always speak your mind and I like that. Yes, Lisa is photogenic and very popular and I wish her the best, but while her e-book might be a good source of inspiration for some, I wouldn’t spend a penny on it. Everything is too basic and very déjà vu.

  14. Joyce Latham

    Great review Kate. I agree with all your points, except I like the pencil skirt.
    Joyce

  15. Rachel

    My experance with sew over it has been a great one. I recently bought the cowl neck dress/top pattern and its my first experance of a PDFs patten and printing it off at home. I got in a pickle not with the patten but my computer and printer and emailed Rosie who was really helpful, actually I needed to email Rosie a few times!!
    The finished results were super, I made a cowl dress in a lovely cosy jersey and a top in a fushia pink.
    Point to remember is her seam allowance on this pattern is 1cm, I’m so used to sewing 5/8ths but I did find 1 cm so much easier.

  16. Sue

    It’s nice to see such an honest review. I sometimes wonder about myself as I look at books which are being hyped and have to consider what all the fuss is about – so many of these books have such basic patterns. I am also trying to build a capsule travel wardrobe, but I want pieces that go together but which are vaguely stylish and which make me feel a bit more glamorous than my usual holiday apparel.

  17. ceci

    This is sort of a “beautiful complexions” post between the woman and the little boy…..
    Aside from that, dull clothes made as attractive as possible.
    Wardrobe patterns were SO GREAT. Frequently the blouse was really nice in slightly different…..I have several, all too small now sadly; each of the 4 or so pieces would be a separate pattern piece these days.

    ceci

  18. Jo W

    I’m confused… this “review” only states your opinions on what the SOI Capsule Wardrobe LOOKS like from the photos and I think it’s unfair to judge it quite so harshly, seeing as you don’t appear to have actually made any of the garments!
    I’d class myself as an intermediate sewer and it certainly appeals to me; in fact I can’t wait to get stuck into all of these patterns and will be adding my own twist by mixing things up with various fabrics and pattern choices.

    • fabrickated

      I have run off the dress/T shirt pattern Jo, and I hope to make it up this weekend. Karen from Did you make that has made it up and it looks really nice. I have no reason to think there is anything wrong with the patterns. I would love to see what you make!

      • Jo W

        I’ve made the Alex Shirt Dress and it’s fabulous (even if I do say so myself! 😉 ) I’d love to show it to you and be happy for you to share it if you wished.

  19. Salina

    I liked the honesty of your review. I am currently making the Molly dress and really like the book, patterns and the styling, although my colour’s will be very different from Lisa’s. You did raise some good points that I hadn’t thought of such as darts on the bust of the shirt that will be helpful when / if I get to that pattern. The patterns reflect quite well what I would take on a city break, although I’d have brighter fabrics and more patterned fabrics. Dress making is so subjective and not everything will appeal to everyone. What a relief that is too! Thanks for the review.

  20. Gail

    I’d buy this wardrobe capsule book – it really en”capsule”ates my style. Your grandson is too too cute!

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