the myth of basics

self-portrait: lost my head, gained some wardrobe basics

I don’t know about you but I’ve never found wardrobe basics to be all that easy to find. It should be like the name says: basics should be readily available, they should be classic, and go with everything. And some say they are.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an Instagram post that stuck with me. It was a picture of handmade t-shirts with a caption I might be misremembering now (if so, I’m sorry). The author of the post seemed to be wondering whether it’s really worth making something you could easily find in RTW. It’s a fair question — we all like to sew different things — but my experience with RTW basics couldn’t be different from that person’s.

Perhaps basics hide when I go shopping (I’m not even joking), but over the years I was able to find just a few basics — t-shirts and simple skirts — that fit me well and actually could be paired with multiple items. I would wear them threadbare, hoping that another basic piece would eventually come along as a good replacement. That meant waiting out a lot of trends I didn’t like. And walking around in clothes well past their prime.

Sewing my own basics pieces has been a revolution in my wardrobe. They may not make for the most exciting sewing, they may not be easy to photograph or write about but they’re fantastic in their own quiet way.

What’s your experience with basics?

Pictured above:

Pattern: a mashup of the Deer and Doe Plaintain Tee and the SBCC Tonic Tee (both free!)
Fabric: rayon knit from Girl Charlee
Notions: polyester sew-all thread paired with woolly nylon in the bobbin

a circle skirt salvaged from a failed attempt at a McCall’s dress, with an added waistband and added side-pockets salvaged from an RTW tunic (so much salvage!)
Fabric: linen/rayon blend from Joann Fabrics
thread, self-made bias tape for seam binding, Hug Snug for the hem
more skirt details on Kollabora



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I write about sewing, knitting, and may sometimes be tempted to talk about books.

4 thoughts on “the myth of basics”

  1. This is one of primary reasons I am learning to sew. Basics are nearly impossible to find if you don’t want to shop very frequently. I have gone to a dozen stores looking for a black skirt when I needed one. You would think this would be an easy find, but I came up empty. I didn’t even expect the skirt to fit. (The other reason for sewing.) Men can always pick up their basics.


    1. Exactly! Women’s fashion shifts from trend to trend. While we have an idea of what makes a “classic piece,” those clothes are incredibly hard to find in RTW.

      Happy sewing, Andrea!


  2. Thank you!
    I mostly wear basics. Like a simple style + lazy.
    Tall Pear that I am, I got to hate shopping, because NOTHING fit me right.
    It looked like crap and was overpriced, to boot.
    So, now I sew… Much better than crying in department store dressing rooms.
    🙂 Chris


  3. Hi Chris! Thanks for stopping by! Simple clothes are important — that can’t be said enough. I enjoy going from simple to more demanding projects. It’s a nice balance. But I think that even just sticking to the basics would make me very happy as far as my personal wardrobe is concerned. I honestly dislike most of the RTW clothes I have. Like you, I find trying things on at the store mostly unpleasant and stressful.

    Sewing helps so much though. I went shopping with a friend a few days ago and decided to try on a pair of pants that looked mildly interesting. The fit was horrendous — but this time I was finally able to laugh that off. I haven’t made pants yet, but I’m planning to 🙂


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