It seems far less than three weeks ago that I set myself the challenge of creating a wardrobe in which to enjoy the delights of a long weekend in Bologna (preceded by a lengthy train journey). The extraordinary news is that I managed to do just that. Assisted by enthusiastic and practical suggestions made in response to my post (thank you, all!) I was spurred on to a weekend of furious sewing, followed by a day and a couple of long evenings in the days immediately before departure.
…many of you said, in reply to my query over packing for southern Europe in the spring. Tales of horizontal rain in Genoa ringing in my ears, I took your advice to heart and set about finding patterns that would give me plenty of options to play with. The last time I made so much in so little time, to a deadline, takes me back to days (and more long evenings) of producing theatre costumes in the 80s.
However I’m glad to report that seams were finished, garments fitted and there wasn’t a safety-pin in sight. Which must mean I’ve grown up.
The process was one which proved to be revelatory and one which I’d gladly repeat – even without the incentive of scenic train rides followed by gelato (oh, the gelato…)
Effectively of course, I was working to a brief – one informed by your experiences and helpful suggestions. I managed to make time to choose patterns for everything before starting, working with a few existing items as a ‘ring fence’ to contain any flights of fancy. Consequently my production rate was much faster than I anticipated.
In addition, multiple uses of the same pattern for trousers and jersey tops (even allowing for the odd hack) helped too, as did blocking out dedicated time (and telling everyone!). It meant that I wasn’t scrabbling around for 30 minutes here, an hour there. That felt like the biggest luxury – but it made a huge difference.
I’ll be looking at my experience with individual garments in the upcoming weeks, but I thought it might be worth taking a quick look at my wardrobe overall.
For my rail expedition I decided on:
- A classic white shirt that would be cool and comfortable. If necessary it could be washed and dried easily at the other end (happily the need didn’t arise)
- A pair of light-coloured stretch cropped trousers (newly-made) worn with trainers
- My linen/cotton trench coat from our 2016 ‘Summer trench’ post. Re-finished and tweaked for the occasion
I can report that my train journey everything I hoped it could be. Ever-changing and often fairy-tale landscapes absorbed me for hours.
Naturally I celebrated catching the Eurostar not with a glass of champagne but by dribbling coffee down my white shirt. I will also confess to a potentially indecent incident on the ICE train to Munich but more about that in my ‘trousers’ post. Speaking of which, I can report some interesting activity around Munich station at night. In among the kebab shops and the lap dancing bars it was still possible to find sewing inspiration.
The remaining garments were intended for wear once in Bologna – and I can report that all did in fact have an airing on at least one occasion. In fact two additional ’emergency tops’ for the evening were the only garments that didn’t get to come out to play. Here’s a peek at everything else…
…which (briefly) includes:
- Two pairs of trousers
- A jersey top
- A jersey tunic hack
- A linen shirt dress
- A knit cardigan
My palette is grey, white and earthy greens and ochres. Nothing to scare the horses and if I’m being very honest, I would have loved something more vibrant to wear. The amount of sheer COLOUR amazed me in Italy; it was truly inspiring. Just as a taster, this is the view from the lift up to our apartment (The ‘commentary’ is *not* me. And it’s amazing at the end, promise!)
When travelling back through the UK, the prevailing colours of black, grey and brown on the street were such a shock by comparison. But then it’s possible that the weather might have something to do with that…you think?
A stormy return
For the return journey I wore my coat, white T-shirt and jeans which I just managed to squeeze into despite a daily diet of parmesan, prosciutto, pasta and gelato. Did I mention the gelato…?
The jeans and coat were a godsend as we returned to Blighty in the midst of appalling weather last Monday. The pilot’s pre-take-off announcement went something like:
We expect a calm flight with a flight time of one hour and forty five minutes. The weather in England is extremely cold, wet and windy
Cue cheers from all the returning British on board, accompanied by confused looks from all the Italians who couldn’t understand why anyone would cheer such an appalling forecast. Ah, those British and their sense of humour…
A (relatively) sustainable wardrobe?
Finally, recent social media conversations I’ve had regarding sustainability in the context of ‘Wear your wardrobe’ week and the #WhoMadeMyClothes Instagram tag also prompted me to reflect that of these items:
- All but three were ‘me-made’. The others were existing wardrobe staples; a white shirt shown here, also a white T-shirt and blue jeans)
- One item (my coat) is in its third year of wear
- Two items used remnant pieces from my personal stash, cutting around odd-shaped remains
- The remaining three items were from current stock
None of which is intended to say anything about my virtuosity or lack thereof (although I was a bit chuffed at how well it all worked) but it does show what’s possible with a bit of planning.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll give you the full run-down on what I made up and how – but meanwhile thank you again for all your inspiration and advice. Now – does anyone know the best way of removing a Bolognese sauce stain?