Paris Weekend – An alternative capsule wardrobe

If you had given me Lisa Comfort’s wardrobe for a weekend to Paris I wouldn’t have been too disappointed. But I would have felt a little underdressed in my navy/beige/tan “imaginary Parisian” wardrobe. As Sue S from Fadanista said:

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.

 

Me too Sue. So I set myself the challenge of creating a capsule wardrobe for a couple of nights in Paris, that had a bit more style and could be made up fairly quickly.

Lisa suitcase included

  • trousers
  • skirt
  • dress
  • T shirt
  • blouse
  • jacket

When I put a capsule wardrobe together my thoughts often turn to fashion history. I find this is a good way to create a mood, or a theme for a collection. And if you can get a mood then it is fairly easy to get a set of clothes that work together. But the really easy way, as many have mentioned is to buy one good pattern that has lots of options. Two were suggested by readers. Eimear suggests Butterick 2704, and Su suggests Vogue 2815. You probably have your own favourite go to wardrobe pattern – do let me know if it is one you would recommend.

So, young sewers, I will let you into a secret. This really radical idea that will make you happier than an eBook or sticking together pdf patterns.

You can still buy, on eBay or elsewhere, amazing vintage patterns by some of the greatest designers of the 20th Century, for around a £5. These arrive with ready to use pattern pieces and full instructions. Much more useable than a set of pdf patterns and you don’t need a printer or glue. And what would be nicer than having a little wardrobe designed by a great designer, backed up by experienced pattern cutters, with professionalism instructions?

When I thought about a great holiday wardrobe, I thought of Perry Ellis.

There is something about his youthful, elegant and sexy clothes that would be ideal for a weekend away. They have a strong fun factor, but they are also practical and comfortable. This feature in Vogue magazine in 1985 shows the wonderful flexibility of Ellis’s wardrobe. He sticks to a white/grey/blue palette which always looks fresh. He is a fantastic designer, and later patterns into the 1990s were created by Marc Jacobs. Sarah Sheehan has written some interesting articles on the fashion house. Most of the patterns I show below are available at relatively low prices as the 1980s still remain relatively unfashionable with pattern collectors, despite these looks becoming very contemporary.

Skirt/dress/blouse

Vogue 1521 would be a first choice for me. I just love that sash at the dropped waist, and the pleated longish skirt. This would be my skirt and blouse and I love the fabric and colour choices on the envelop. But for a weekend away I might be more adventurous with the colour choices. One set would be in one colour so that with the sash it could look like a dress. The other set would be in a complementary set of colours so they could all be switched around. I think I would do one of the skirts knee length and the second one longer.

Vogue 1521
Vogue 1521

T shirt/trousers/skirt

Vogue 2666 would probably fit the bill if we wanted to create the whole wardrobe from one pattern. But I would use this for the T shirt/pullover, trousers and a sexy dress. The skirt and trousers are pull-ons (thanks Lynn for freeing up my descriptions!), and these would be easy to make and nice to wear on a long weekend.

Jacket/shorts/top/trousers/dress

My final choice might be Vogue 2474 because I think we need a jacket. The cropped jacket on the left is very pretty, but I also love the way it can become a long, sexy dress. Also this pattern comes with some great paper bag pants. I would certainly wear the shorts on a long weekend in Paris – bare-legged in summer but with tights in winter. However the “boyfriend jacket” is in all the shops right now for autumn – loose fitted jackets, often double breasted, 1980s style. If I had a bit more nerve I would probably go for Vogue 1522 instead. I think this is the jacket featured in the Vogue photoshoot at the top of the post. This pattern also features the low sash that we saw with Vogue 1521.  In fact this one pattern could easily replace the Lisa Comfort e book with its trousers, shorts, dress, jacket and top. And one thing I didn’t care for about her styling was the shoes. I prefer Perry Ellis’s shoes too.

 

What patterns would you choose? Any suggestions for a colour scheme that would work well for a couple of nights in gay Paree?

40 Responses

  1. I really, really love those pants in the first shot. And I feel like I may have some Perry Ellis in my pattern collection and I’m totally of to check now. My colour combo would be navy, red, linen/silvery sand, white – pretty much what you see in the photos + red. How could you go wrong?!

    • Good choices Naomi – and let me know if you find the pattern. I only have one Perry Ellis pants pattern – but it is a really nice one.

      • I had a culottes pattern of his already, and since reading this post I had been looking out for others. How happy was I to find 1522 for $1 at the local opshop! Whoop.

  2. I still have 1522 from first time around. Your version of the weekend wardrobe is much more unique and stylish, not the high-street-clothes-made-at home look.

  3. I have all 4 of those and sewed 1521 and 1522. The 1521 dress w/ the sash is actually a dress-length version of the shirt that would not remain closed if I moved. I ended up cutting it off and turning it into a shirt, which I wore to death.

    I sewed the top from 1522, the skirt from 1694 and the top and dress from 1695. They are great for travel.

    My taller friend made the cropped pants and shorts of 1522. She’s more leg than torso and I’m more torso than leg. The wide, cropped look worked for her and not me. Caveat emptor.

    I’m similarly meh about the ebook. But, some of these classic patterns cost $$ or $$$.

    • You have great taste Grace! I agree that prices are inching up but US eBay has some of these for $5-7. Amazing value when you think there are patterns for four or five items.

  4. These are really great alternatives if you want something a but different to the Sew Over It capsule wardrobe. Ruth comments above that they are more unique than the high-street-clothes-made-at-home look and I agree, but I do think that lots of younger sewers in particular want the high street made at home look.

    I’ve never really looked at Perry Ellis patterns/designs, the oversized 80’s look scares me somewhat these days although I would have been all over them back in the day! I do like the look of V2666, it’s actually very similar to what a lot of us spend our weekends wearing.

    • I am not knocking Lisa Comfort – her clothes are very popular – but I am urging younger sewists to take a look at high quality design, original thinking and beautiful cuts, and to begin to get a more critical eye. These great American, British and European designers are such a wonderful, inspirational resource.

  5. Some lovely ideas here Kate, Fred Perry is new to me and I like the look of those patterns you selected.

    The contrast of these options to the e-book is a no-brainier for seasoned sewers who can see the versilitly behind the styling. Logically that would suggest that seasoned sewers wouldn’t need many patterns (!) but logic doesn’t come into it, the desire to be within a group of like minded people has more emotional pull.

    Twas ever thus.

    • I don’t own these patterns Perry Ellis patterns Anne, but I have been thinking about them, on and off since 1985! They have stood the test of time and now they are fashionable, comfortable, accessible and affordable.

  6. love the vogue 2666, I used a pattern similar and made dresses I later ‘shibori’ dyed…. I agree on the colour pallette as my summer sews this year all mingled very well and all seemed to revolve around my denim cigarette pants or 7/8ths (my best make ever and I am hoping to make a pair in black wool for winter). I love those perry ellis tones too. I browsed a cute post today via anthropologie….it is a wardrobe on carry on in paris….. (featuring a few favourites for me like comfortable shoes and good sunglasses) http://blog.anthropologie.com/personal-styling-paris-fashion-travelogue/,

  7. I hadn’t previously heard of Perry Ellis. I like the trousers and blouse combo but my search is not over with these patterns, I’m afraid.

  8. Great pattern choices Kate. I also love the trousers in the first shot – I seem to remember having some very similar in the 80s, although my short legs are not necessarily designed for that look! It all brings back lots of memories!

  9. Christine Taylor

    Really nice article, Kate, and thank you for reminding me how good Perry Ellis’s designs were, I have several of them that I could not bear to throw away, Ithink they deserve a second look.

  10. Oh my what Vogue pattern nostalgia you have brought on and reminded me of the passage of time! My mother made V1521 dress for me in a striped pink white and grey cotton and I remember running around campus in it and nearly having a wardrobe malfunction in it. I had the skirt too in yellow cotton- only threw it out a few years ago always thinking I could reuse the fabric i didn’t fit in to it anymore. Perry Ellis had a great sense of proportion. My mother also made 1522 for me. I longed for the day when I had a job and could wear those fabulous Geoffrey Beene outifts shown in VPM. My beginning career required a uniform and by the I got a position that didn’t require a uniform the dress code was business casual.
    I don’t remember 2666 but that’s the most current looking of them and would look great in red and white

    • How can I forget all the wonderful Vogue Adri wardrobe patterns- top /dress, jacket, skirt and/ or pants all in one pattern- casual and sophisticated, with topstitching for detail and very neat interior finishes. 2647 and 2976 were two that i really liked and there are many others.

      • Carolyn (Diary of a sewing fanatic) loves Adri too and has made some nice outfits. I can’t say I had heard of him/her until I read her blog. The patterns looks like good basics but they need some colour and creativity to bring them to life, don’t htey.

  11. Kate, A huge round of applause from over here. I would never have thought of these patterns but now you have even me desiring them! You have explained so clearly how one can go about being unique without being outrageous (unless that is what one desires)- a thinking process in choosing what to sew, rather than just churning out the latest pattern that everyone else is sewing. I just love this piece. Brava. I seriously might have to make one of those dresses and the trousers for summertime, I love them that much.

    Oh..for colour…hmm…the patterns do lend themselves to the fresh and classic seaside colours, but a seamstress can always throw in a colour she loves – a candy pink, yellow or green maybe.

    • PS I also do want to say that this is not a criticism I would level only against young sewists. I yawn when I look back at many of my SWAP clothing choices, so this is good medicine for me, too.

      • Another PS. Incidentally, Rowan had a “Parisian nights” knitting book a while back that wasn’t cutting edge but that had some nice evening tops in it (knitted mostly in kidsilk haze I believe).

  12. Christine Burns

    I too found the Lisa Comfort patterns a little underwhelming but gosh, Perry Ellis. The first suit I made back in the 70’s was a lovely short sleeved Perry Ellis pattern. A timeless item. I wore it for years and still wish it was in my wardrobe. So I am off to check ebay to see what I can get.

  13. I hadn’t heard of Perry Ellis, and I haven’t sewn a vintage pattern which is a disgrace for someone who’s blogged for 4 years. I’ve been given some nice patterns by my MIL but I guess I don’t trust the sizing and am put off by the musty paper smell.

    The two times I’ve been to Paris, it was October. On the first occasion it poured and poured (like London ‘in movies’) and the second it was freezing so I was just dressed to survive! Third time lucky maybe.

  14. When I think of you, I think of pink. You wear a lot of it and it looks great on you. So what about mainly navy with pink accents?

    And I love your endorsement of real patterns over the pdf kind. It takes so long to tape the darn things, and I feel like my results are always a little off.

  15. Good point; these types of patterns lack any style factor. Might as well buy at Target, wear it to death, and toss.
    And, there is a greater possibility of poor pattern drafting that will turn off a beginning sewer with the poor fit.

  16. I really like all of these. This makes me wonder if I’ve somehow internalized 80’s clothing without realizing it. It’s definitely the look I’ve been blindly trying to find.

  17. Oh I used to have all these Perry Ellis patterns – I think I’ve binned them or given them away. What an idiot! I definitely bought into that whole relaxed linen lifestyle he was selling. Currently trying to put together a wardrobe for 2 weeks in Greece that is relaxed but vaguely stylish. Sigh.

  18. I have long been a fan, and pattern stalker, of Perry Ellis. I have the 1521 pattern but so far haven’t got round to regrading it to fit me. Many of his designs would make an excellent capsule wardrobe.

    I have just been reading my copy of Inside Housing and saw your article. I feel like 2 parts of my life have just merged!

    Lisa

    • Ha ha. I have not read the IH article yet, although a few people have commented. Do we know each other Lisa? If so I would love to borrow your pattern (maybe in return for fitting you?)

      • We don’t know each other, I work for Southampton City Council. I’m happy to post you the pattern if you’ll let me have it back when you’re finished (I presume it’s all there, I better check!). Unfortunately I’m not local to you so will need to decline the fitting offer but thanks anyway. It is something I need to try and do. Lisa

        • Thank you Lisa. I would treasure it and just carefully trace the pieces off. I don’t mind if it is not complete – I can usually make up the missing pieces. I may just look at the pattern and instructions in order to learn from it so it won’t come to any harm. Let me know if I have anything I can give or lend to you.

          • I would love to see it made up. If you email me your address I can pop it in the post. I presume you can view my email address – let me know if you can’t.

  19. How interesting! You are right, these capsule patterns were brilliant. One thing has to be mentioned to young sewists though: these patterns from the 1980s and the 1990s ran HUGE. Not only were the designs oversized (it was the trend then, and it’s back now), but these patterns included tons of ease. So much in fact that I would systematically go a couple of sizes down. This said, I still love Vogue designers patterns – I think about Adrienne Vitadini among others. Some of these patterns are really popular right now and can be very pricey in Etsy.

    • Yes, absolutely Helene. I have certainly noticed that modern Vogue etc have excessive ease built in, although I certainly haven’t encountered that in the 1960s and 1970s patterns that I have made up. Interesting if it started in the 1980s when styles were voluminous anyway. I thought it was a more modern trait associated with vanity sizing, obesity and less tolerance for tight fitting garments.

  20. I think you have hit the nail on the head Kate!

    I have recently realised I am a huge fan of Lisa’s work. Especially as a person with a surging entrepreneurial spirit, I am a big admirer of her success. From this point of view, I completely understand this book.

    Most sewers want something extremely simple to put together, as sewing is on larger numbers something that has picked up recently and not very many have the years of experience (or don’t think they have!) required to tackle a famous designer pattern.

    Yet, stylistically, I was a bit underwhelmed. Some patterns look very interesting (the molly top or the coat. My neck&shoulders love the snuggliness of waterfalls collars!), some others looked interesting in concept, but in an extreme attempt to simplify them to make them more appealing to a as-wide-as possible public, have lost their appeal to me.

    The concept though, is powerful! It’s not new, but I think the SOI team made great use of a practical idea. I have never felt the need for a capsule wardrobe, until I moved to London – where space is a luxury and my closet shrunk to a third of what it has always been. Also, now that I am working more on colour theory and my sewing skills expand to more techniques and styles, I am intrigued by the idea of strategically planning my wardrobe.

    Great selection of patterns. Great for the more demanding sewist who don’t stop at the easy choice!

    • Thanks for such an interesting insight G – especially about the lack of wardrobe space we have in London in our tiny, expensive “Hobbit” homes.

  21. Brenda Marks

    I echo others in appreciating your reminder of great patterns from the not-too-distant past. I’ve just done a search on ETSY for Perry Ellis patterns. What a great trip down memory lane. Thank you!

    • He really had some great patterns and they have a real coherence and uniqueness Brenda. And as you say something of the period while also being classics.

  22. Thanks for the inspiration! I have a six-day trip coming up to attend a sales conference in Marocco – but on the way back we are stopping in Paris for 3 days. First week of March – end of winter-ish. I am racking my brains!

    • Interesting conundrum Klarisabet – this wardrobe might work well for a Moroccan conference – if it’s not too formal. But I think Paris in March will probably be chilly. I would take a good coat or warm jacket, trousers, some lightweight knitwear – say cashmere – and a few blouses or informal tops that would be suitable for evening but could also be used for layering. I hope this helps!

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