Introduction to the SWAP rules
I have just completed my Sewing with a Plan adventure. Eleven garments that work together. Here is the specification again (paraphrased) from Artisans’ Square, the site which generously hosts the competition.
All the tops should work with all the bottoms, and the wildcard garments should work with every other item.
3 “wildcard” items
At least one garment that is reversible, transformable, or upcycled from another garment. For instance: a dress that can be worn as a shirt, a pair of pants that can roll up to be worn as shorts, or a jacket that can also be a dress. “Upcycling” includes remaking an older garment into something new, taking a vintage pattern and modernising it into a more current style, or recycling the fabrics or notions from another item to incorporate it into something new.
One garment may be previously sewn; another may be purchased.
I want to explain how my garments meet the rules, and the philosphy behind them. Once the photographs are submitted to Artisan’s Square they are simply numbered, with pattern and fabric details added. They do not have a story, or a philosophy or explanation alongside them. At one point we were encouraged to explain their purpose (eg work outfit) but this seems optional.
The history of my Sewing With a Plan
I started off with a couple of obvious choices – a reversible skirt, and a recycled top. I wasn’t overjoyed with my efforts, but I was glad to have had the experience. It was only when I started investigating a 1966 vintage pattern I had always wanted to make (Vogue 1650) that I discovered the concept of a formal suit-type skirt that was made without a waistband. The skirt was designed to be attached to a silky camisole which meant it would hang beautifully underneath an overblouse. This style was fairly common in 1960s couture.
Nina Ricci Dynamic SWAP
I had the idea of making the camisole in silk, like a piece of underwear, but to paint on it with silk paints so that it could be worn as outerwear. I wanted something that looked like a skirt and sleeveless blouse, rather than a skirt and vest.
Then we get a little philosophical. What is the difference between under and outerwear? Indoor clothes and outdoor clothes? Summer clothes and winter clothes? Nightwear and Daywear? Morning suits and Evening dress? Menswear and Womenswear? I have argued before that a dress (bifurcated item) is only obviously women’s wear in cultures where men only wear trousers. It is social conditions and culture that determine these things. So, within the rules of the competition, I began to explore this idea. The dress that is also a blouse, or trousers that can be rolled up and transformed into shorts are mentioned in the rules.
Have you heard of “transformers?” I must admit I only know of this due to my grandson Ted’s intense interest in such things, one specifically he refers to as “Bunglebee”. This is a car which “transforms” into a robot – you can see how some of the car-elements – wheels, doors and windows.
So at heart my entry to the SWAP includes garments which have been transformed by me, in the process of making them (“taking a vintage pattern and modernising it into a more current style”) but also, where I can, I have preserved some options in terms of wearing them differently. The skirt on a vest can be worn with the overblouse, or with the jacket, so that the vest disappears as it was originally supposed to do. When I turned the skirt-on-a-vest into a dress by making the skirt from the same silk as the camisole I decided this collection is “dynamic”.
A wardrobe that works?
The other issue is to determine if everything “works with” everything else. To some extent this is a matter of opinion. Some people have strict rules about what does and doesn’t “work with” or “go with” something else. Others do wonderful but surprising things. Some people have no idea and create a look that can seem discordant to those of us with sensitivities about these issues. I think my “collection” is a collection of clothes that do work together. I asked myself the question – if my clothes were in a shop, could they be hung together to suggest outfits the shopper might choose to purchase (at this point I had not finished the dresses)?
This is somewhat tricky. Due to my commitment to only buying or making clothes in my personal colour palette (cool-bright) everything in my wardrobe (IMO) works with everything else. The same is broadly true with the styling. I have a few basic shapes that work with my figure and combine effectively. For example I have two sort of skirts – A lines and pencils. My collection has both. I also have two types of jackets – a fairly straight cardigan type jacket with a Nehru type collar or none, or a more shaped longer length jacket. The three jackets in this collection conform to these archetypes. So, deliberately, I have chosen shapes which work together. The photographs on Artisan’s Square show a good range of mix and match options. I will have to leave it to others to decide if the items work together or not.