A small, sustainable wardrobe: in the middle (and an announcement)

A series about the clothes we wear and the impact they have both on us and the world around us.

Thanks once again to Ella for being my stylist and model this summer – I’ve included a few more of her gorgeous photos in this post.


I’ll start today with a little announcement. Come the new year, I will be working outside the home rather more hours than I have been of late. Between my outside-the-home job and my patterns, I will easily be working full time. This has, of course, caused quite a lot of head-scratching about how exactly I’m going to fit everything in, and while some things are not yet decided (do I plant a vegetable garden this year? refuse all fleeces?), other things are. One change that I will have to make is in the frequency of my blogging. From January I’ll be writing just one post a week here, plus any tutorials for patterns that running. I am, however, determined to bring out the patterns that I have been working on, so watch out for six new ones to appear between now and the end of the academic year.

One of the other things that crossed my mind was what I was going to wear on these extra days at work. After all, I am increasing my days quite considerably, and don’t have the most enormous wardrobe in the world. For a moment, I did consider getting my sewing machine out and making a few extra items, but then sanity kicked in and I remembered how much I needed to get done over the past few weeks in order to keep those patterns coming out. So instead I had a rummage in my wardrobe and realised that I already had more than enough.

The thing is, most of my clothes are neither terribly smart nor terribly casual. The vast majority fall somewhere in the middle. And while this may seem to be a stroke of luck, I had actually planned it this way. Apart from a smart dress:

my cocktail dress:

some very scratty trousers:

a t-shirt that I embroidered for myself:

and most of my knits:

all of my clothes can be dressed up or down pretty easily.

Of course, I didn’t think this up for myself. There was a time when I had two parallel wardrobes: one for work and one for home. But over the past few years, as the amount I’ve worked outside the home has gone up and down, and as I’ve got a bit older and wanted to look presentable more of the time, I’ve moved towards having a more versatile set of clothes.

Put simply, this means that I need fewer clothes. It means that, when life takes an unexpected turn, I am at least able to dress for the occasion. It means less shopping, which means less waste. And it means that I have learned some rookie styling skills at long last.

To make a small wardrobe full of in-the-middle clothes work, you need to either be interested in putting outfits together on a daily basis (no thank you) or just spend a couple of hours putting together and photographing a load of outfits, right down to the jewellery and tights. I did this in the spring, and have to confess that it was a revelation. My already versatile wardrobe went from being okay to being really quite nice, thanks to a bit of forward planning. I have neither the time or the inclination to put outfits together on a daily basis. But knowing that I could just choose the next appropriate outfit on my list made me reasonably well-dressed with minimal effort, which is always a win in my book.

There are countless books and blogs about how to dress things up and down, and you probably know more about it than I do, anyway. So really, all this post is saying is this: the next time you add something to your wardrobe, think about where it sits on the smart/ casual spectrum. The higher proportion of your clothes that sit in the middle, the smaller your wardrobe can be.

For the curious, I’ve got six outfits lined up, put together from that dress:

and another off the peg dress from People Tree, and a couple of blouses:

plus my A-Line skirt:

and my new trousers, which I did make last week, and which I can’t wait to share with you. Here is the summer version, to tide you over until I can show you the woollen ones:

plus my heels and some leather flats and a cardigan and a scarf. Job done, sans shopping. Phew.

Ironically, I am now off into town to see if I can find a denim skirt in any of the charity shops, because I’m going to end up needing all my in-the-middle clothes for work and have nothing left to wear at home except those mended chinos and Seb’s tracksuit bottoms again. Perhaps I should take my own advice and buy something more versatile… but then again, rules are made to be broken.


Do you have separate work and home (and going out) wardrobes, or lots of overlap? What works best for you?

10 thoughts on “A small, sustainable wardrobe: in the middle (and an announcement)”

  1. I really enjoy your blog, and especially the series about a small, sustainable wardrobe. I care very much about the impact all of us have on the planet, and after reading one of your blogs I went to examine what I had got, and immediately sent some things off to a charity shop, including a really warm but smart winter coat. It has had minimal wear, though I got it over 20 years ago when I actually wore it to a very cold winter wedding. So I was a little sentimental about it, which it was why it had hung in my wardrobe for so long, but I am much happier now thinking that it may keep someone else warm this winter. I love your idea of ‘middle of the road’ clothes which can be dressed up or down. That really suits me. I’ve never been particularly bothered by what’s in fashion anyway, but rather what is comfortable, clean and presentable. I hope you enjoy your life full of more working hours outside the home, but am pleased that the blog is not ending. Have a very happy Christmas, and all good wishes for 2019.

    1. Thank you very much! I’m really pleased that you’re finding it useful. I donated my wedding dress for exactly the same reason – I’d rather it was being worn and enjoyed than hanging in my wardrobe.
      Have a lovely Christmas, and all the best for 2019.

  2. I was thinking about you today, and your wooly trousers, hoping that you had a chance to sew them. I am glad you found the time. Working more hours is challenging, particularly with a budding business at home, and I am wishing you the best of luck. I am lucky to be able to wear tracksuit bottoms to work if I wish (I haven’t, yet) but sometimes it would be lovely to dress up a bit for work. Did you find a denim skirt? They are so versatile, I love mine. Have a lovely Friday. x

    1. Thank you. I remember your recent post about choosing to work full time again, and many of your thoughts chiming with me.
      I quite like dressing up for work as long as i don’t have to think about it – and it puts me in the right frame of mind.
      I got a text from a friend not long after publishing this post, saying that she had a couple of skirts for me, including a denim one, if I wanted. How kind! So yes, I now have one! X

  3. Completely enjoying your blog…I read every one! I think congrats to more outside work..as life takes on different opportunities & challenges and, likely differing financial needs and benefits. You are clearly a kind and dedicated person so some company is fortunate to have you! Enjoy!
    Once a week will be fine because you’ll have all sorts of bits to put in!
    I’ll look forward to more patterns and related tutorials…very helpful and clear. I think your sweater pattern will be the basis of my first “whole garment” project! As you’ve said…lovely practical and “ in the middle”!
    Enjoy a lovely safe and sharing Christmas with your family and friends…and may the New Year continue to bring great things! ❄️🎄❄️🇨🇦

    1. Thank you! I’m so pleased that you enjoy reading the posts. I will definitely be keeping the tutorials going for all my beginner patterns, and I’m excited that you’re going to make a Snow Day sweater. Good luck with it and please let me know how it turns out. X

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