My Stereotypical New York Mini Wardrobe

I’m on my way to New York! Yes, I’m actually writing this on the airplane, though I’ll post it later – wifi on planes still seems wrong to me somehow. Anyway.

As usual, in preparing for this trip, my eyes were bigger than my mouth (or my time, in this case), and I decided to make All the Clothes. My crazy ambition was kicked into high gear by the ridiculous timing of the Pattern Review “Wardrobe for Travel” contest, which, yes, had the deadline for entry two days before I was set to leave. How could I resist? I started planning my wardrobe before we even had plane tickets.

My inspiration was some family friends who make frequent trips to New York, and who have so totally committed to the idea that if you wear only black then everything goes with everything else that they now dress primarily in all black even when not traveling. I wanted to riff on that classing packing idea of everything going together, but with a little more fun than all plain black. It would be a good challenge for me, actually, because I wear so much color and pattern that my usual travel wardrobe requires three pairs of shoes and as many jackets. Not so feasible when you’re going to someplace that requires boots and a real coat. (In this case – a fabulous yellow wool coat I bought from Boden. Yes, I did manage to restrain myself from planning to make a wool coat. Thankfully.)

I decided to build my wardrobe off of some lovely black stretch denim I got at The Fabric Store during the LA Sewists Meetup last summer. I started seeking out black and white prints for tops, and also became obsessed with finding a black dimensional or quilted knit to make a circle skirt like this one Tasia made forever ago. Two black bottoms, two or three black and white print tops, and a black and white dress or three. Easy, right? Well, the best laid plans…

travel wardrobe collage

Let’s look at what I did get done. I did manage to finish, photograph, and post reviews of all my contest items in the nick of time, with my contest entry review being posted at literally the last moment of the contest, 11:59p EST (I do wish these contests rolled with the time zones, the extra three hours would have reduced my mad shouting at the photo collage I was attempting with 10 minutes remaining). Here’s a quick rundown (there are some links to individual pattern reviews for more detail if interested):

I made myself a pair real skinny jeans with the black denim, using the same skinnified Thurlow pattern with the yoke I drafted last year. I only had a yard and a half of the denim, which is plenty for jeans in a 60in width, but what escaped my notice in the shop was that this was more like 49in, so it was a real squeeze. In my concern over jigsawing all the pieces onto my fabric, I totally forgot to add the seam allowance to the top of the back piece where the yoke attaches. Thankfully, my yoke pattern piece includes a 1/2 in seam allowance, so I was able to just attach the yoke to the back with a 1/4 in SA and end up with the same amount of bum room (just a slightly larger yoke). The rest proceeded fine, except that for some reason that I can’t adequately explain (perhaps I interfaced the wrong waistband pieces and they got switched?) my waistband was short on one side and long on the other. So rather than sewing up the back seam and back waistband seam in one go as is the hallmark of the Thurlow, I sewed the seams separately and then joined the waistband to the pant in the back. I then cleverly covered the off-center waistband with a belt loop, which I mirrored on the other side. Crises averted!

To go with my jeans, I made two black and white print tops with really nice rayon from Emma One Sock. Yes, that stuff is pricier than I’m usually willing to pay ($20 a yard instead of $2.50 a pound…), but it’s very, very nice. I’m starting to think of relaxing my cheap fabric standards. I had also read that “dry” rayon is the only rayon jersey that won’t pill, though I think I’ve only ever seen that descriptor at Emma One Sock, so I’m not sure it’s exactly an industry standard. It does feel more matte and not shiny smooth soft like the cheap rayon jerseys I’m used to that pill if you look at them funny. But it’s also nice and heavy and drapey and actually, totally worth $20. I squeezed both of these tops out of a yard and a quarter (bless you, EOS, for being like the only online shop to sell in 1/4 yard increments!), so the tops cost me about $25 each. But a jersey cowl or wrap top from Boden in similar fabric is like $60, so maybe it is still a bargain? All a matter of perspective, I guess.

S1716 black and white

The cowl is my go-to cowl pattern, Simplicity 1716. I. Love. It. The perfect cowl for me (omitting the armhole bust dart, of course), and I’ve made like 5 and I’ll probably make at least 5 more. It was a no-brainer that I would make one with my nice fabric. I chose the mod print for it, because it’s slightly heavier and drapier.

S1916 wrap top

The wrap top is from Simplicity 1916. I had previously made the other view, which I like, but I wanted a full faux wrap top so decided to try the other view. I didn’t want the little half-moon ungathered section on the corner, though, so I studied the pattern and figured if I just extended the piece along the neckline and hem edges I could then construct it as a normal wrap top. I did have to futz with the neckline quite a bit, ultimately taking out more than an inch to get it to stop gaping, and it’s still super low cut. Luckily I have no cleavage to spill out! The crosshatch fabric seemed most appropriate for this pattern because it’s on the thinner side, so good for a crossover front because the front hem is double thickness and you don’t want it too bulky. It’s also a black jersey with a white print, not a white jersey printed black like so many, so it can stretch without fear of color distortion. It was a real squeeze getting it into a yard and a quarter, but because of generous cutting I actually had a bit more than that and I got it all in, cutting single layer. I did switch the wrap direction by cutting the pattern pieces upside down, because I like it better gathered on the right and also that was the only way I could fit the pieces.

McCall's 5974 black

As an additional piece, I also made a McCall’s 5974 with a fabulous micro dotted bamboo knit. I love the polka dot bamboo knits so. much. They’re springy and soft  and heavy and also have a delightful texture from the dots. This is a great pattern, I can’t believe this is only my second version. It’s such a fabric hog, though, I barely got it into 2 and a half yards. This dress will be a workhorse, though, I’m sure. It’s my version of a little black dress, I guess.

McCall's 6844 back

To increase my combos (for the contest, anyway) I also made the ubiquitous McCall’s 6844 peplum cardigan. I had absolutely zero interest in this pattern until I saw Ms. McCall wearing hers in person, and I suddenly had to have one. Awesomely, she happened to have an extra pattern for me! So I picked up some lovely merino doubleknit in a stone color (not white, not off white, sort of gray-white) from The Fabric Store for one. I knew going in that I didn’t want as high-low a hem as the pattern has, so I decreased the back length a few inches, which still kept it longer in back. When I had it all put together, before I hemmed it, I decided it was still too much length difference from front to back and I carefully cut off the extra in back so the peplum was the same length all the way around. That’s still plenty peplumy for me, thank you. The fabric is pretty thick and a bit spongy, so the collar lays a little wonky, but luckily it’s wool and I can probably steam and press it into submission, like I did the hem. And hoo boy is it warm!

NL sweater dress

What did not happen was the black quilted skirt. Long story* short, I had a bit of a “customer service” misunderstanding with and did not end up with any suitable fabric. So that’s a bummer. But frankly, the skirt would have been better for the contest but worse for the actual weather in New York, so I suppose it’s not that bad. Instead, at the total last minute, I threw together a sweater knit raglan tunic that I actually ended up really liking. I had two yards of this gray/black stripe sweater knit from Girl Charlee from my last big fabric gorge from them laying around, and out of nowhere I grabbed New Look 6230 again, the raglan I used to make my pj top that I had dismissed as having too wide a neckline. I decided to solve that problem by finishing the neck with a cowl, the length of the neckband pattern piece but 13 inches tall. This made about a 6 inch cowl. It’s a pretty measly cowl, I should have made it taller, but it’s okay. I also finished the hem and sleeves with bands for a sweatshirt-dress look. It’s a pretty comfy plane dress, I’ll give it that.

So that’s my contest wardrobe, which will all see action in the city. I also made a couple more dresses and some accessories, and even some man sewing(!) that I’ll share later. But first things first: I’ve got some fabric shopping to do in the garment district!


I ordered the perfect fabric from back in January. After a week or so, I of course got an email that they had less in stock than I ordered, would I like just the one yard that was left, or something else entirely? I knew I couldn’t get a skirt out of just one yard, so I opted for replacement. Sadly, when my order came like 2 weeks later, the replacement I’d selected was not even a little black. It was more gray, but a purpley gray that didn’t go with any of my other fabric. Plus they’d only sent one yard of it. Seriously. So I wrote back, informing them of the mistake and asking if I could order something else that had since arrived on the site that was better, maybe with free shipping, or could I exchange the replacement I didn’t want after all? After a full week, and emailing them twice, I got a response that just said: an order has been dispatched to you, keep what we sent before. Okay, I thought. I had specified the new fabric item number in my emails, so I just assumed that that’s what they sent. Aaaand, you know what they say about assuming. The package took more than two weeks to get to me – several days before it was sent at all, then it got stuck in some storm and UPS couldn’t get it out for a few days. Anyway, when it came, 5 days before my departure, it was, in fact, more of the purple-gray fabric I didn’t want. Yeah. I shouldn’t have assumed that a company that large would actually have people carefully reading and responding individually to customer service inquiries. Every email I got read like a form letter, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when they totally didn’t understand what I actually wanted. It did really make me realize that while smaller companies may be more expensive, sometimes it’s worth it. When I ordered from Emma One Sock, for instance, my order confirmation email was clearly personally written to me by the owner, and she noticed I was a new customer and applied a new customer discount of 10%. Now that’s customer service. So yeah, still learning about the online shopping thing.

  1. littlepostcards said:

    Fantastic New York/Travel wardrobe!

  2. Some great items there. I would wear all of them. I love the Boden stuff so I’m always trying to replicate that sort of style and fabric choice. Makes me feel as though I’m increasing my wardrobe for relative peanuts.

  3. I’m not sure what I love more…all of your awesome, well coordinating clothes, or your backdrop! Also very jealous that you are in New York.

  4. jay said:

    Pretty useful mix and match set!

  5. Kathy said:

    I LOVE this whole set! You are going to have my vote for sure. I need to copy your every move here… I love each item and they are perfect all mixed and matched. That Boden coat is so juicy… I just ordered a little sweater from them for the 1st time and am waiting for my package… I’m getting on the Boden train finally. Have a ball in NYC!

    • aleah said:

      I get like 90% of my inspiration for knock-offs from Boden. I rarely order, but the stuff I do is really nice. Mostly I just use it for ideas!

  6. Tereza said:

    That’s a beautiful wardrobe collection! I am in love with your wrap dress and tops! I am definitely looking to see if I have similar patterns in my stash =)

  7. lisa g said:

    Great wardrobe collection! I’m especially loving the black dress. Have fun in NYC!

  8. Meigan said:

    This is a great travel wardrobe!

  9. fiore said:

    Beautiful! My favourite piece is the first print top, but the whole collection is awesome. Well done.

  10. So many things to say!

    – You are SO right to add back in the little corner of gathers on the top – what were they thinking! Love that top, and the 1716 too – they are TNT’s for a good reason!

    – Love the sweater dress! I keep meaning to make one and never have the right kind of sweater knit. Maybe one day I’ll order some fabric online (but maybe not from Long sleeves high neck and short hem is such a great silhouette.

    – My merino 6844 is also SUPER warm, but my office is cold so I love it – yours is awesome 🙂

    – I wish I had the foresight to make a bunch of co-ordinated things – this whole wardrobe looks so good together!

    – I’m also super jealous of your trip to NY

    – I love the dotty dress, but if you’re looking for an alternative, the burda dress 9/2013-101 is a similar style, and I think can be squeezed out of less yardage if you skimp on the ties, which I have in my purple version (not blogged but on Instagram, which you will be joining soon, yes?? anyway you’ve seen it in real life too)

  11. It’s really nice to see your items in a larger format than PR allows. Your design choices remind me of when I was more your age in more of your lifestyle, sigh. I’m sorry the contest got screwed up for you, but I was relieved to see your positive frame of mind. You should take this same wardrobe and head over to Paris. They believe in that same black for everything concept. I don’t know how many all black skirts, pants, and shoes I had at any given point in time when I lived there.

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