As the first part of my Sew, Wear Are They Now series I thought I would take a look back at all of the tops I have sewn over the past decade. I think it will be interesting to see what sorts of style I made, what worked, what didn’t, and what has happened to all of these various garments over the years.

2011

2011 was really the year I started sewing everyday clothes and not just costumes and crafts. All of my first tops were knits, because that was what I preferred to wear. My first Burda pattern was also a top; so that’s a bit of exciting sewing history for me right there. Sadly, most of these tops are no longer part of the wardrobe, but the majority of these were definitely in heavy rotation when they were newer. Going through the images from left to right, top to bottom:

  • Simplicity 3536 was sometimes difficult to style (the neckline made undergarment choice critical), but I wore this top to a lot of events, until the fabric just wore out. It was definitely a part of my wardrobe for a good 8 or 9 years though. I also made a more recent version, and I keep going back to the pattern, so I’d say it’s still part of my “style.”
  • BurdaStyle 02/2011 #106 was more of an experiment in sewing with Burda than anything else, but I have to admit I still have this top. It’s probably the original hatewear; I never loved the way the colors and print looked on me, but I did love the comfortable fit of the top. I largely didn’t wear it in public, though I did use it as an additional layer for winter skating practice at a certain point. It’s basically that raggedy top you don’t really wear out but can’t really bring yourself to get rid of.
  • Both Simplicity 3842 and the Forever 21 Copycat tops were made for my sister. She actually wore both of them to death; they haven’t been in her wardrobe for quite a few years now, but that was because the fabric wore out after a few years of heavy use.
  • McCall’s 6078 was my first foray into cowl neck tops, which were all the rage in 2011. I will admit that the blue top was never worn; the fabric was just cheap and gross from JoAnn and it never did anyone any favors. Both my sister and I tried to make it work, but I don’t think either of us ever wore it. The purple stripped top, however, is still in my wardrobe. I think the fabric will outlive the heat death of the universe… it still looks like the day I made it. However, it isn’t the stretchiest material, so I don’t think the hips would really fit me at this point, and the non-breathability of the fabric annoys me more the older I get. It was a great top, but it’s probably time to let it go. This pattern is great though; I’ve used it several times over the years and ever version has been awesome.
  • BurdaStyle 07/2011 #103A I loved this top! I wore it to death, but at a certain point I had to accept that the level of pilling of the fabric just wasn’t acceptable for everyday use anymore. It lasted a good 6-8 years though, and probably saw the most use of any of the tops I made in the early years.
  • Vogue 7997 was sort of the fun “party” top I made. I loved the idea of the off the shoulder style because it seemed really elegant, but in reality, it was sort of a pain to wear. The shoulders never really stayed in place (on me they rode up any time I moved), and again, choice of undergarments was an issue. I think I wore this top out one and hated every minute of it; it lived in my wardrobe for a while unused before I gave it away.

Conclusion: The success of the early tops was about 50/50. The tops that were successful had that magic combination of color, style, fit, and fabric, and the ones that were a miss had a critical fail in at least one of those areas (usually fabric choice or pattern style). I’ve reused two of these patterns, but would definitely consider remaking a few of the others.

2012

In 2012 I attempted my first wardrobe planning series, using Tim Gunn as my inspiration. Although only about half of the tops were made for that project, they all ended up being very functional parts of my wardrobe.

  • BurdaStyle 03/2012 #121A was an experimental top I made as a layering piece because I was enamored with how it looked in the Burda Magazine. I wore it a few times, but ultimately it just didn’t go that well with anything else in my wardrobe and didn’t see that much use.
  • I did a remake of McCall’s 6078 in both the A and B styles. This black rayon knit was so much better than the first attempts I’d made. I still have and wear both of these tops, or did before the pandemic hit. I haven’t had much cause to wear them extensively in the past year.
  • Vogue 1250, for those of you who were around, will remember that it was the pattern of 2012. I attempted at making the dress, which was a total fail for a lot of reasons, and then further attempted to rescue it as a top. Ultimately, this was also a fail because the top was far too short to wear on its own, and just looked silly in the context of a full outfit. I never really wore this, and I was also probably one of the very few people who didn’t end up with a much loved version of this pattern that year.
  • McCall’s 6035 was my first attempt at a woven button down shirt, and it was also a total fail. After several attempts at adjusting the fit, and eventually moving on to try other patterns, this project was totally abandoned. I’ve actually still never made a proper button down top after trying to sort through this nightmare, but with any luck it might be a challenge I finally tackle this year.
  • Simplicity 2369 is a great wrap top pattern! This is a combination top/dress/pants wardrobe pattern, and every time I’ve made it I’ve loved the results. I wore this top a lot, even though the fabric wasn’t the best quality; it was that sort of synthetic knit that gets very static-y and didn’t have very good recovery. It still lasted quite a few years in the wardrobe, but has been retired because the fabric has worn out.
  • BurdaStyle 09/2012 #104B was maybe my favorite top from 2012 – I wore it everywhere! It was the top that made me appreciate turtlenecks, primarily because the neck style was slouchy and not so suffocating, and i loved how long the top was. I also really loved this striped fabric, which was just so happy. Eventually I had to retire this top because the arms were a bit too small and the fabric was pretty worn, but this is still one of the favorite tops I’ve made.
  • BurdaStyle 09/2012 #123A I also really loved this shirt. I used some scraps from the turtleneck to add contrast to the shoulders and I really loved how it created a fun subtle detail. I wore this top a lot in the winters (the fabric was warmer than I expected it to be), but it also eventually became too small. I would love to make an updated version though because I think it’s such a versatile style.

Conclusion: Overall, I think 2012 was about 63% success rate. The fails were well and truly epic fails, but the successes were some of my favorite tops that I’ve made and worn over the past decade. The fabric choices were generally a step up from what I’d used in 2011 and overall held up much better to more and longer use.

2013

In 2013 I started sewing a lot more for others as a source of income, so I didn’t make as many projects for myself and didn’t sew as much with a plan, but I also made a lot of tops that a wore for quite a while after sewing them.

  • BurdaStyle 11/2012 #136A was a super quick sew and I liked wearing the top. I honestly don’t know what happened to this shirt; I feel like it went into the wash one day and I never saw it again, but I wore it a lot while I had it. I do prefer more mobility in the sleeve (the shape of the cut on sleeve was a bit restrictive here), but overall it was a lot of return for the time spent making the top.
  • Simplicity 1716 is probably the longest lived top in my wardrobe; I still wear this shirt! The fabric was bought at a blogger meet-up, and I really loved the shaping of the neckline and the center back seam which gives this style of shirt a perfect fit though the bodice. I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with the flutter sleeves, but I would like to remake this pattern with different sleeve styles in the future.
  • McCall’s 6078 is the pattern that keeps on giving! This is the fifth version of this top, which I made for my sister. She wore this quite a bit, so for the cost of the $1 on sale pattern, I really got my money’s worth.
  • BurdaStyle 05/2013 #101 was the result of me trying to figure out what to do with less than a yard of scrap fabric. I really loved having this top for the summer because the tank style and fabric made it super cool. I think I might still have this, but haven’t had cause to wear it much since the start of the pandemic.
  • BurdaStyle 05/2013 #103 was probably my favorite top of 2013. I really liked the style and the fabric, and I wore it a lot. Eventually the fabric developed a lot of holes after going though the wash a bunch, but this top definitely got a workout. If I made it again I would use a softer and stretchier fabric to increase arm mobility.
  • BurdaStyle 07/2009 #124A is the top that I probably wear the most infrequently but continue to pull out at least once a year for summer concerts and special events. The neck tie halter top isn’t the most practical, but I do love the fun colors and the style for summer.
  • BurdaStyle 07/2009 #109B was another top I made for my sister. She liked the style, but ultimately the very wide neckline never really fit her more narrow shoulders, and the top was just fussy for her to wear. I think she donated it or gave it away to a friend.
  • Burda 6990 is probably the most worn top I’ve made. I made two identical tops specifically for me to wear for skating practice during the winter. I wore each of them one or two times a week during the late fall, winter, and early spring from 2013-2017, and I wore them for some of my other outdoor workouts after that point as well. This is a fantastic pattern and I really want to make all of the variations in more everyday fabrics so that I can wear this style of top more often.
  • BurdaStyle 12/2013 #119A was probably the biggest fail of the year, despite how much I liked the top when I made it. The glitter fabric was hot and itchy, and although I wore it for one Christmas dinner, every time I put it on after that I took it off again. I tried converting it to a short sleeved top to make it less hot, but the glitter was just too annoying to deal with so I ended up getting rid of this top.

Conclusion: Overall 2013 produced a lot of wearable tops, and some of my wardrobe favorites for the next few years. Looking back I was super productive in 2013 in terms of sewing projects, and I think this is really when I started choosing better fabrics and patterns, even if I wasn’t completely solid with my skill set then. The trend of sewing knit tops continues, and the tops that weren’t worn a lot continue to be due to impractical necklines or impractical fabrics.

2014-2016

  • So I only made one top in 2014, and it was a remake of the BurdaStyle 02/2011 #106 that was my first Burda pattern. The fabric was a super stretchy rib knit, and the neckline came out a bit wonky. I was embarrassed to wear it out of the house for a long time because of the terrible sewing, but it’s warm and I used it as a PJ top for a while. I actually now wear it out during the winter, but it’s not usually the first thing I gravitate towards unless it is super cold out.
  • In 2015 I made BurdaStyle 12/2015 #109A. This was the year that I suffered from a back injury, so my overall sewing output was quite low because cutting fabric was painful and not a very fun activity, but I did make this navy top at the end of the year. It ended up being one of my all time favorite tops to wear to semi-casual nights out; the fabric was a warmer knit, and pretty stable to hold the shape of the top. The back is the perfect length to be “elegantly low” but still practical in terms of being able to choose an appropriate undergarment.
  • In 2016, I also made only one top, McCall’s 6752. I found this fabric as a remnant at a random fabric store in Arizona, and I love the color and the print! I still have this top and I really like to wear it for semi-casual nights out. The only issue I have with it is how tight the elastic is when I sit down; I honestly think that I will need to adjust this to wear the top post-pandemic, but otherwise I still have this top and I love it.

2017

2017 was a super productive sewing year for me because I participated in a wardrobe sudoku contest and the Pattern Review Sewing Bee! This meant that a lot of my garments ended up being part of a very specific color scheme, but since it was teal I’m not complaining.

  • Burda 6630 is a top I still wear a lot. I was wearing it at least once a week to work before the pandemic, and I hope it still fits when I need office wear again. The neckline was a bit big because I tried to cheat an FBA by sewing a straight 42 through the shoulders, and that was a mistake. Future versions will definitely be re-patterned with the appropriate adjustments.
  • BurdaStyle 06/2013 #101A was a somewhat botched attempt at finding an alternative to the McCall’s 6078 pattern that I already used and loved. This top also failed from using incorrect sizing that resulted in a much too oversized fit. I never really wore this top because it always fit so poorly.
  • Burda World of Fashion 02/2008 #119A is a top I still wear a lot! I think somewhere I messed up on the length of the neck tie, but this is honestly the perfect top to layer under a cardigan or jacket, and I still love the fabric print.
  • Simplicity 3536 is a pattern I keep returning to. I actually love the style of this top but it also suffered from being way too large. I posed with it very artfully positioned in photos, but gave up wearing it too much because it absolutely impossible to bend over. I tried wearing a cami with it for a while, but eventually this top fell out of rotation because it was just too much effort. I think if I had chosen a proper size it would have seen a lot more use.
  • BurdaStyle 12/2017 #111 was a top I made because I was enamored with the model photo in the magazine. I loved the fabric I used, and the top was super comfortable, but, honestly, I felt absolutely ridiculous every time I put it on because of the ruffles. Ultimately, I ended up gifting this to a friend who was thrilled to have and wear it. I think this was definitely one of those pieces that led me down my later style explorations (and eventually down the Kibbe rabbit hole) because I was annoyed at wasting time on clothing pieces I ultimately didn’t like wearing.
  • McCall’s 7686 is a top I liked more in theory than in practice. Ultimately, the one sleeve style was rather impractical. The fabric is wonderfully soft, but I’ve only worn this top out in public once. I might have to see if I can add something to the other shoulder to “save” this top because I’m honestly not going to wear this ever again if I don’t make an update to the one-sleeved design.
  • BurdaStyle 11/2016 #109 is the first (and only) woven top I’ve ever sewn! Funny enough, the outfit in this picture is what I imagine my dream wardrobe to be like, but, honestly, I haven’t worn this outfit or top that often. I was overzealous in correcting Burda’s neckline opening (it probably would have been fine as drafted) and I didn’t do enough of an FBA to really properly fit this top, especially in a woven fabric. I think that an update to this pattern (and perhaps utilizing a non-poly woven fabric) would have created a more comfortable and better used outcome. Also somewhat ironically, the small repeating geometric print that I loved when I had the fabric ended up not being a favorite when I wore it; I really do gravitate more towards organic prints like in the layering shell when it comes to finished garments.

2017 saw a lot more personal sewing than the three previous years had; but this was somewhat problematic in that I had totally lost touch with my pattern sizes and how to compensate for the different pattern company measurements. I think about 1/3 of these tops failed due to fit and another 1/3 failed due to style and/or fabric. Looking back, I can say that my instincts regarding “experimental” styles were better than I gave myself credit for; these styles usually ended up failing for one reason or another, whereas the other styles usually only failed because of fit.

2018

2018 was the year I attempted to make my Sew Geeky wardrobe. I actually still really like the plans I made this year and want to revisit some of these sewing capsules in the future. In terms of the tops, I made 3 tops as part of my Hunchback of Notre Dame inspire capsule, and 2 as part of my The Magicians inspired capsule.

  • Butterick 5388C is a top that I made more because I thought it would go well with my theme, and less because I thought it would be a style I would enjoy wearing; at the time I didn’t think the loose blousy style was for me. However, I have to say that, surprisingly, this might be my favorite top from 2018. I’ve worn this shirt everywhere because it is so comfortable. It became my “travel top” – I can’t tell you how many airports this shirt had been through pre-pandemic. I loved the fit, the style, the color – it turned out so much better than I expected and I have loved having it in my wardrobe.
  • BurdaStyle 06/2014 #103 is a top that I really liked in theory, but haven’t worn as much as I would have expected. The neckline is pretty wide, and I’m pretty sure one of my takeaway messages from this overall review is that if a top doesn’t fit well around my shoulders I don’t enjoy wearing it. It’s funny because I don’t think of myself as having particularly narrow shoulders, but I do think sometimes Burda likes to go extra wide on the neckline openings.
  • Simplicity 3536 is a remake of one of the first tops I ever made. I think that, construction wise, it came out much better the second time around. I had learned my lesson from the first top and added some length, which really helped with the fit. Again, because of the neckline, I haven’t worn this top that much, although I would also argue that I didn’t really have as many places to wear it after I made it.
  • BurdaStyle 09/2013 #123A is also a remake of an earlier top pattern, though this version was made without many of the details of the original top in order to create something that was closer to the style of the knit top seen in the TV show. I honestly haven’t worn this much as I have it stored with my costumes rather than with my modern day clothes.
  • Butterick 6134 is an interesting top because when I made it, I was very proud of the construction, but I never really felt comfortable wearing it. Looking at it now I feel like, if I had a fancy Zoom party to go to it would be worth pulling out, but I don’t know how well it would fit at this point. I haven’t gotten rid of it, but I also haven’t had much occasion to wear it either.

Overall my tops from 2018 were made primarily to fit into the collections I was sewing, so I pulled out a lot of old favorite patterns. Although one of these tops was a smashing success, the majority have seen only occasional use over the past two years. While I don’t know that I would call any of these tops fails, they also haven’t seen nearly as much use as I would have hoped.

2019 – 2020

2019 was a very crazy and busy year for me, and I only managed to sew a few tops. Similarly, 2020 was a crazy year for everyone, so my output was also pretty low. I will say though, that all of these tops have already seen a lot of use, so they were all great additions to the wardrobe.

  • New Look 6330 was made as part of my Sew Your Kibbe series. I had really been more interested in sewing the cardigan from the pattern and made the top on something of a whim. I tried to be lazy and just make the larger size rather than doing a proper FBA, and honestly, the front of the top is much too short because of this decision, and the rest of it too big. I still wear it a lot anyway, though not often with the cardigan. I would definitely remake one of these, but I would probably re-draft it from scratch and add length and an FBA, especially if I was using a more tightly woven knit.
  • McCall’s 7975 was also a top that I was interested in because of my Sew Your Kibbe series. I honestly sort of hate the way this top fits (I don’t think the waist gather sits at the best location on me, and I’m not sure if I love the pattern enough to adjust it), but I wear it a lot anyway. I do like to wear it under a cardigan because the fabric is super thin though.
  • BurdaStyle 08/2020 #103 is my latest project as part of my ongoing mini wardrobe plans. I love it. It might be one of the best things I’ve made in quite some time. I took the time to make all the necessary fit adjustments, and I can tell every time I wear it. I’ve already used it for work, and it looks great on screen, but I could also wear it like a t-shirt and it has the same comfort level because of the knit fabric. I think it might be one of my most versatile tops (it works great for both more formal and more casual occasions), and I’m so happy I have it in my wardrobe now.

Probably the biggest takeaways from 2019-2020 are that if the fabric is comfortable and I put in the effort to actually do all of the necessary fit adjustments, then I usually wear the result, even if it is imperfect.

Conclusions

Looking at all of the tops I’ve sewn over the past decade has given me a few insights:

  • I’m drawn to unique patterns with interesting necklines, but I honestly don’t wear them much. I do like cowl necks and anything were my shoulders have decent coverage, but anything more open or experimental just doesn’t get a lot of use. Not to say that I haven’t enjoyed having the halter neck top in my wardrobe on the few days a year I pull it out, but the reality is that at this point I could probably get by without anything else like it.
  • I’ve also sewn an overwhelming majority of knit tops, which is fine because I like knit tops. But I should also probably branch out a bit from that at this point. I feel I should at least try to acquire new skills by experimenting a little more with the construction techniques and embellishments, and a bit less with the novel pattern styles perhaps.
  • In terms of fabrics, I think my success rate has increased with experience. When I first started I used some very cheap fabrics because I didn’t really trust my skills, and those items were ultimately unsuccessful. I don’t think I’m a full blown fabric snob, but I certainly avoid the poor quality fabrics for anything other than a test garment at this point.
  • I definitely have a color palette going on; the deeper muted cool tones (black, grey, green, blue, and purple, with an occasional pop of burgundy) are the colors I’ve gravitate toward over the years, both in terms of wearing and sewing. I honestly don’t think this will change in the near future either; all of my sewing plans right now revolve around navy and grey, so I’m pretty much going to be continuing in this color theme for a while.
  • I’ve always gravitated towards more organic prints, stripes, and solids, and I think this look back certainly highlights that. None of the more geometric prints ended up being favorites, and I’m yet to sew anything with dots.

I do have to say that, in general, I tend to wear a lot of the tops that I sew, and with much more frequency than a lot of the other things I make. In terms of use vs. the time to construct them, tops is definitely the category with the biggest return on the initial time investment. I definitely need to work on adding some more options to my current wardrobe though; most of what I have made over the years has either been worn to death or discarded from lack of use at this point. Even my existing RTW tops (not pictured) have gotten to the point of being pretty worn down. Of course, with pandemic life being what it is; it’s sort of hard to predict what the “new normal” will be, and to plan a wardrobe around that. Immediately before the pandemic, I knew I was going to need new office clothes; but it’s honestly going to be more than a full year of working from home before I need to be fully “office appropriate” again. In the meantime, my non-office attire has become pretty worn as well. Honestly, I’m sort of at the point where the whole thing needs an overhaul, but I feel that looking back at everything I’ve made and how it has faired over the years is really helpful for making the best use of my limited sewing time moving forward.

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