Style crisis: Autumn revels

Style crisis: Autumn revels - image of fabric swatches and magazine inspiration

I love the autumn; it’s my favourite season. The colours work for me, the weather’s interesting, I get to tidy up in the garden and the weeds stop for a few months. There’s a good balance between time that can be spent outside, and time that can be spent inside reading and sewing. In France they have ‘La rentrée’ as an actual season which has always struck me as immensely civilised.

In fabric and wardrobe terms, we get to play with layers and textures; for me there’s a sense of renewal and personal re-invention. All the more exceptional then, why I needed to make such an effort to get my head into autumnal mode, as I described last week.

But here I am – and the process of assembling cuttings, patterns and swatches for this post has helped me along still further. This is a personal sewing list – not a run-down of what’s in and what’s out. If you want a visual précis of the coming season then I highly recommend nipping along to Dream. Cut. Sew. where Diane has compiled one of her excellent bi-annual style summaries, Pantone colour swatches and all.

Meanwhile, before I’m seduced by my usual autumnal diet of Nora Ephron films and a bottle of Highland Park. welcome to my sewing plans…

My autumnal moods

It’s always exciting to watch the new fabrics come in; whatever my mood, especially in autumn, the process of creating groups and ‘stories’ is always a stimulating one. Actually playing with swatches invariably prompts ideas and combinations I hadn’t seen previously.

This year I seem to have two vibes going one. One’s a sharp-lined blue-and-black vision, inspired (I suspect, somewhere, at the back of my mind) by this ad and all it evokes.

YSL Rive Gauche ad; 1987

Here’s how my A/W20 is running with that.

Sharp lines & blue-black contrast with a dash of gold

My other favourite grouping is this more traditional combination of rust, olive, dark gold and teal.

Soft reds, dark gold, olive and teal

With these fabric and colour groupings in mind then, these are the patterns I’ve hit upon.


An absolute top priority. I wear them 95% of the time. I’ve fitted a couple of patterns before but it’s time to fit an ankle-length fitted pair that are more tailored than my favourite Leah Lounge Pants and which will keep my ankles warm, unlike my Wide-legged crops. I want more shape than the straight-leg jeans and ‘boyfriend’ chinos that are my daily go-to in the winter. I also want options that’ll prevent me from resorting to my leggings collection.

Almost as an aside, I have the Tessuti Chiara Pants pattern ready and waiting for a pre-washed length of our ‘Verdure’ linen. It’s not strictly speaking an autumnal project – more of a preliminary round, finishing off what should be a fairly simple summer project. But if I can get this one right I think it might be a perennial winner that I can replicate in other fabrics.

‘Verdure’ green linen and Tessuti’s ‘Chiara’ Pants

However the main event is the ‘Billie’ Trousers pattern from Fibre Mood. Now this, people, may be my holy grail of trouser patterns. The waist will need to come down a bit (my torso is ridiculously short) but I’m really excited by the styling in this pattern. I think the design owes something to the minimalist tailoring of Isabel Marant or Margaret Howell.

‘Billie’ Trousers from Fibre Mood

The cut is streamlined down the hips and legs but with nicely-tailored ease built in and wide enough to (hopefully) skim-and-not-get-stuck-on my calves. There’s a sharp line at the ankle to sit just above my winter brogues and flat boots. Vertical pockets at the side seams too. These could be the long sought-after replacement for my decades-old black acetate sateen trousers from French Connection that have been my staple going-out trousers. For that role, I’d use our ‘Tuxedo’ stretch sateen but my first fabric will be a daywear version with our restocked ‘Houdini’ cotton houndstooth.

‘Houdini’ cotton houndstooth suiting

Finally, just possibly, a needlecord trouser to follow, although that might require pleats, a wider leg and a turn-up. I love the exaggerated styling of these trousers from Cos, similar to a pair in the recent Chloe collection.

Cos trousers

No – I know they don’t look practical for dashing up and down stairs but if you know a pattern might fit that bill then please, let me know!


My trousers will be the anchor for anything else I make this autumn – but I’ve fallen prey before to only thinking about one half of my wardrobe. So on top I’m planning The Assembly Line’s Cuff Top, probably in our ‘Ceanothus’ cobalt Tencel twill.

‘Ceanothus’ cobalt blue Tencel twill for a Cuff Top?

I know I’m late to the Cuff Top party (as ever) but that 80s blue-black contrast is too good to miss out on.

Other top options are the popular ‘Cielo’ from Closet Core – as an opportunity to try out some structured sleeves – or even this top by Rachel Comey in Vogue 1744. (I’d missed this one – but thanks are due to Dream. Cut. Sew. for bringing it to my attention.) It’s possible the ‘Cielo’ is too boxy for me and V1744 too fitted – in which case there could be a sleeve mashup in sight if I like the gently-shaped fit of the Cuff Top as much as I think I might…

L-R: Cielo Top (Sleeve option) Cuff Top, V1744


I made a couple of jumpsuits two years ago; both were summer versions and the more casual one in viscose got an awful lot of wear. I’m toying therefore with the idea of a winter jumpsuit and for that, the utilitarian styling of the ‘Thelma’ from Merchant & Mills is beckoning.

‘Thelma’ Jumpsuit from Merchant & Mills

I’ve read that the sizing is tricky and I don’t want to be swamped so a toile is on the cards, as is the possibility of using a drapier fabric – and again, I’m back to our Tencel twills. We have lovely autumnal colours on the way, including toffee, ochre and a rich red – but the jury’s out on colour…


I have my slow-sew checked jacket still to finish. The undercollar is pad-stitched and waiting to be attached and this autumn really has to see this project completed.

Could this slow sew gets any slower?

Once it is, Kerry brought the M&M’s ‘Ottoline’ Jacket to my attention. Another utiliarian option, but I like the fit on the shoulders and it’s a look that would work well in a drill on top of those needlecord trousers.

M&M’s ‘Ottoline’ Jacket
Our new ‘Fosse’ tawny cotton twill

Ready, steady, toile…

The first job though will be to toile my trousers. Trouser fitting can be daunting but now it’s a task I can’t wait to get going on. Despite my misgivings a few weeks ago, I’m all fired up for the autumn and I’m determined to rediscover my creative energies regardless of whatever’s hitting the fan elsewhere. I’ve even had a haircut!

If you’ve tips and tricks for any of the patterns I’ve mentioned then do let me know – likewise if you think I’ve missed a trick. Are you planning to sew for the new season – and if so, what? Do tell – and thank you for stopping by!

8 thoughts on “Style crisis: Autumn revels

  1. Ellen says:

    Fab choices Alice! I think we all get so excited this time of year with winter wardrobe season approaching. I’ve also just spent a little staycation trouser drafting in the quest for the perfect fit! It is all about suits and tailored trousers in your lovely wool suiting for me this autumn/winter, I have also snatched up your houdini houndstooth (I’m so glad you have it back in!!), enough to make a full suit blazer and trousers though not sure if brave enough to wear it together…! And I’ll hopefully get round to making a pair of jeans!! I seem to have a lot on my to-do, must make a list and prioritise!!
    Struggling with deciding on simple tops to wear underneath my suits, maybe some plain jersey tops and turtle necks?

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Ellen – thank you very much – I’m delighted you approve! Without wishing to go on about those lightweight Italian wools, I do think they’re rather wonderful. I think they cut across seasons and situations really well. I’m thrilled you’ve discovered their delights! But oh, the prioritisation and the time – if only autumn was about 2 months longer I might have a chance of finishing my list. I love a drapey classic shirt under a suit but it’s difficult to style sometimes. Jersey would always work nicely with those wools – and a turtleneck is a good idea too – I use the Debra Zebra pattern from Style Arc – incredibly simple and you can play with the arm and body length too. Hope you enjoy your Houdini – I know what you mean about wearing them both together but when I see that look in pictures it always looks amazing – be brave!!

  2. Pat Taylor says:

    Thanks for all the ideas and for great new fabrics. I have a tip for making trousers – I went to a course some years ago where all the class each made our personal toile and it was fitted by a very experienced tutor. I found that the length of the crotch from back waist to front waist was crucial and was where I had been going wrong. Whilst I was trying to fit the hip measurement around my body, it was really the crotch length which was throwing everything off balance, and it turned out that for a petite frame I have a very long back crotch length. Once that had been sorted, the rest of the fitting was easy. Hope this helps.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Pat – thank you for your advice. Yes indeed – I have discovered the hard way that I need first to start with my crotch length and I even have a strange-looking cardboard cut-out to help me with that. Thank you for the reminder that I need to dig that out! I think the next most tricky thing for me is building in the right amount of ease – as well as avoiding ‘over-fitting’ a pattern to the extent that I lose sight of the original design. Do you have those issues too – or tips for dealing with them?

  3. Lynne says:

    M&M’s Ottoline is a great pattern. I made it with your Braithwaite needlecord and it’s a very nice jacket to wear – lightweight and easy. Will be interested to see the Billie trousers – I have some Brogue houndstooth wool just waiting for the right pattern and this looks like it might be it.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Oh, thanks for the pattern recommendation, Lynne! It’s funny – when we posted our new needlecords today I did think they might be an option for the Ottoline as well – good to know that route works! (Also that it’s an easy make 🙂 I decided in the end to start with my Cuff Top this weekend, just for a (hopefully) quick win. The Billie trousers will follow asap afterwards I promise – watch this space!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Christine thank you so much for this heads-up! I absolutely love them – they remind me very much of the breezy navy linen trousers worn by Lily James in the recent production of ‘Rebecca’ on Netflix. They’re lovely – and definitely on my list!

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