In this season of Talking About Clothes, we’re revisiting The Self Made Wardrobe Project: a year-long wardrobe challenge where I wore (and made!) 100% of my clothing for the whole year (heat waves, and snow storms included).

In this collection…

  1. A Change of Plans: Revisiting the Self Made Wardrobe
  2. If it feels like cheating, it probably is.
  3. Wanna Look Like Audrey Hepburn? I guess I didn’t…
  4. A Sweater is a Sweater No Matter How Messy
  5. No patience? No problem
  6. Wasting Time
  7. Getting the Job Done (at the very last minute)
  8. A Quality Garment from Cheap Materials – is it possible?
  9. Let Your Body Adapt. It has clothing preferences just like you.
  10. Rethinking (Wardrobe) Staples
  11. Show Up – Wrapping The Self Made Wardrobe Revisited

As mentioned in Episode 11:
links to Black creators doing incredible things in clothing-related fields.

And also: anti-racism trainings, resources, and people to follow.


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1. A Change of Plans: Revisiting the Self Made Wardrobe

I had originally planned on bringing you the third collection full of incredible conversations with wonderful guests all focused around the topic of shopping. However, things have changed dramatically, over the past few weeks.

So instead of releasing the planned third season, I’m going with the “new situation requires a new plan” approach to life and recording an intermittent third season, revisiting an extreme wardrobe challenge I did five years ago called The Self Made Wardrobe Project. During this project, I wore no store bought clothes for a whole year.

I’m not sure exactly what the release schedule of this third season will be or how long this season will last. But I’m looking forward to revisiting this project with you, and it’s really nice to have something to look forward to.

Listen here…

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2. If it feels like cheating, it probably is.

One of the first things I had to contend with when setting up this project was: what was I going to count as a garment that I needed to make?

I came up with two rules for this project:

  1. accessories and undergarments don’t count.
  2. if it feels like cheating, it probably is.

And one of the biggest takeaways I got from this year was that you when you’re trying something new or different or challenging or not the way you’ve done things before, do everything you can to set yourself up for success.

Listen here…


3. Wanna Look Like Audrey Hepburn? I guess I didn’t…

Looking back on this year long project, I’m almost as much amazed by the garments I didn’t wear as the garments I wore dozens upon dozens of time. You would think that with a super limited wardrobe I would reach for every garment I could.

And yet, I didn’t.

I realized that this year was not just about taking a pretty outfit photo every day. It was about creating clothes to live the whole year in.

While this dress that had a very Audrey Hepburn feel to it in photos, it was not a nice dress to wear, so I didn’t wear it.

And a garment’s use isn’t to hang in a closet, it’s to be worn. So if you’re not going to wear an item, why do you have it?

Listen here…


4. A Sweater is a Sweater No Matter How Messy

Knitting this sweater was a hot mess. It was messy, it was ugly. It involved a lot of cursing and re knitting and reworking and shoving the project into a drawer for a couple days. And in all honesty, if I wasn’t in the middle of this year long wardrobe challenge with an already extremely limited wardrobe, I probably would have abandoned this sweater altogether.

And yet, a sweater in the end I had.

It was messy. It was complicated. It was not fun. It was not funny. It was something I can laugh about now, but the process sucked.

But after it was all said and done, but the sweater was fine. In fact, it was fantastic. I still have it in my closet, and I still wear it every winter.

When do we give up on a messy process? And when do we keep going because that’s the only thing to do? And if we get to the end and have a wearable completed wonderful sweater, how much does the messy process of getting their impact the final result?

Because no matter how messy the making process is, if you have a full sweater at the end, you have a full sweater at the end. Regardless of how much cursing it took you to get there.

Listen here…


5. No patience? No problem

“Oh, I don’t have patience for that.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that while knitting or sewing.

But the trick is, you don’t knit or sew because you have patience. You have patience because you knit or sew. It’s a way of practicing and acquiring something that you don’t already have. It’s a way of bringing more attentive mindfulness to a moment. And if you practice enough, then you’re able to bring that attentiveness to moments when you’re not engaging in your craft as well. 

Just like any other practice, you don’t practice because you’re good at something, you practice to get better at it. So it’s precisely because I don’t have patience for things that I practice paying patient attentiveness to my craft.

Listen here…


6. Wasting Time

Time seems like a very bizarre concept right now.

It has that funny quality of not really being solid anymore and not being something that we can agree on the unit of measuring time by and I’m thinking a lot about time that could be called wasted time.

I’m thinking in particular of one long white, plain white skirt that I sewed, intending it to be worn under a knitted dress I had made, because I wanted something more for that dress, and that I only wore a couple times.

The skirt probably took a couple hours to make. And I’m wondering if I had known how little I would have worn that skirt and how unnecessary that skirt was, if I would have done something different with those couple hours instead.

And I don’t know.

Because how could I have known that I wouldn’t have needed that skirt, if I hadn’t had that skirt and not needed it?

Listen here…


7. Getting the Job Done (at the very last minute)

I’m pretty sure if I had had all of the time in the world, I wouldn’t have come up with this dress solution. There’s something about a deadline that clarifies exactly what the parameters of the project are, and forces you to meet those requirements.

That forces you to meet those requirements, but doesn’t allow you to follow any extraneous rabbit holes. There were no “nice to have” details on this dress. The slip was very simple and very straightforward.

But it did the job.

And I’m not sure I could have asked anything else.

Listen here…


8. A Quality Garment from Cheap Materials – is it possible?

Like with food, a really good high quality fabric is going to give you incredible results even if your skill level isn’t that of master chef or a master couturier. However, you can also make not so good materials work, it just requires a lot more finesse or experiences.

This robe is one that I get compliments on every single time I wear it. There are little tiny metallic threads running through it but they’re just enough to be interesting and not so much that it becomes gaudy. There are these little novelty squares of plush fabric, glued on to the the chiffon. And it’s so sweat inducing because the fabric 100% polyester, (which means that’s 100% plastic).

But if the breeze picks it up just right, it floats and flutters behind you and looks marvelous.

And I’m always astonished when I remember that, this was an impulse fabric purchase that I put together into a robe on a whim and wore about 30 times throughout the course of the year.

Listen here…


9. Let Your Body Adapt. It has clothing preferences just like you.

I know I’m not the only one who makes snap judgments about my clothes. Especially when I first try a garment on that’s not my usual cut or silhouette or style. That’s what happened with one of the dresses I knit for this self made wardrobe project.

It was a one piece hand knit, A-line, very colorful mini dress that was neither my normal colors, nor my normal silhouette nor my normal style, but ended up being one of the pieces that I love the most in this wardrobe and wore quite often and still wear today.

So I guess one of the lessons from this dress is to not jump to conclusions about garments before you wear them a couple times.

It’s easy to forget that our bodies have preferences about what they wear. And often, so not always, those preferences are merely because that’s what our bodies are familiar with. It’s sort of like if you start working out your body is going to have opinions on it.

And the same is true for whatever garment you’re talking about. It doesn’t have to be high waisted jeans or period corsets or turn of the 20th century undergarments, it’s true for anything. If you’re not used to wearing a suit, your body is going to take a while to get used to wearing a suit. If you’re not used to wearing lounge-wear, your body’s going to take a while to get used to wearing lounge-wear.

So I think that when something’s new, and it has to do with our physically feeling weird in the clothing and you want to play around with the style, maybe give it a couple tries, and see if you get used to it.

Listen here…


10. Rethinking (Wardrobe) Staples

One of the things that I wore pretty much every single day prior to doing this self made wardrobe project was jeans.

But at the beginning of this project, when I was building up the number of garments that I had access to (within the parameters of this year long wardrobe project), I focused a lot on wearing and making fast, simple, easy garments – skirts, tops, simple sweaters, etc. 

And so I went months without wearing jeans, which, if you’d asked me prior to this project, if that were possible, I would have said no.

But it turns out it was entirely possible. Regardless of what I had previously assumed.

Listen here…


11. Show Up – Wrapping The Self Made Wardrobe Revisited

This is the final episode of season three of Talking About Clothes. In it, I talk about how the hardest part of this whole year-long project was showing up everyday and doing the thing I showed up to do. And also, how after a transformative year (which this year of The Self Made Wardrobe Project certainly was), there’s no going back to the way things were before. That year changed how I related to my clothes in fundamental ways.

Thank you for revisiting this project with me, now I hope you’ll take some time to explore these remarkable Black creators and thinkers working in clothing-related fields. Because Black lives matter. And these creators are doing incredible things.

In Style, Handmade Style & Sewing

In Clothing Sustainability

  • Dominique Drakeford, Founder of MelaninASS, and Co-Founder of Sustainable Brooklyn. In her own words, she “work[s] at the intersections of sustainability and style to heal our relationship to the Earth and spark equitable change for economic wellbeing.”
    Website: https://www.dominiquedrakeford.com/
    Instagram: @dominiquedrakeford
  • Aja Barber is a a writer and fashion consultant focusing on race, intersectional feminism, and fashion.
    Instagram: @ajabarber
    Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/AjaBarber

In Fashion & History

Additionally: Anti-Racism Training, Resources & People to Follow


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