Why wear a capsule wardrobe? We’ve all read the stories about the captains of the tech industry who choose to wear the same turtleneck and slacks every day as a type of uniform. Wearing a uniform, such as a very nice suit and a small selection of dress shirts, simplifies getting dressed every day.

 I have done trial runs with a capsule wardrobe like we all have, during travel. My first serious travel wardrobe was for the 2008 IFHE World Congress in Lucerne Switzerland. Visiting Switzerland had been a lifelong dream, brought on by a map from an old National Geographic, our goats and the book Heidi. My alp climbing dream didn’t have room for luggage and so I had to plan a capsule that I could carry in a backpack, wear on a hike but also to a plenary session or a banquet dinner. 
My textiles education meant that I could plan a drip dry combination of blues and browns that I could mix and match. A paisley silk scarf was the finishing touch. My plan worked great and I even had room in my backpack for a red circle skirt and a white puff sleeved knit shirt I picked up while there, to vibe the Swiss flair.

My first attempt at a capsule for wear at home started with a slick little experiment. I put together a single outfit that I wore every day for a work week. My students and I had already demonstrated that adults don’t get their clothes as dirty or smelly as the teenagers they were when they learned to do laundry. The only question would be, who would notice or care? It turns out, almost no one. Literally, one person notice by the third day, and not because the outfit was dirty.

The next experiment was an entirely black capsule that I put together for the last 100 day challenge that I started on January 20, 2017. This capsule was black. I will post another time about my relationship with color but suffice it to say, these were the first black clothes I had owned since my Aunt told me (at my great grandmother’s funeral) that I didn’t look good in black. 100 days with the same small set of clothes was enough to convince me that I needed to rethink my relationship with clothes.

Day 4

Piecing a Oneshirt

Another of my goals with the Oneshirt project was to develop a way to use scraps as efficiently as possible. I had some great scraps (green linen and chambray) left over from the first iteration. So, at the same time as I bought fabric for Mum, I bought 2 yards of another batik that would work with the little samples of the scraps I had in my purse.

I am naming this second shirt Origin because I feel like it really let me see how this particular shape and design could lend itself it endless iteration, not just solve my “needs to fit forever” and “have big pockets” issues. The shirt also reminds me of the San Marcos River, which is such an inspiration for me and in a way, the headwaters of my create work since moving to San Marcos in 2009.

The piecing on Origin includes a yoke, center back panel and binding that are made with the chambray and the green linen was used to allow the sleeves to be cut from the portion of the right and left panels that would have wrapped up and over the shoulders. This gives the shirt the appearance of “green wings”. 

The next step in the Oneshirt project will be to make a watercolor painting of the front and the back of the shirt. I enjoy watercolor and I can use scans of my watercolors to also make textile designs that I can have printed on fabric and made into new shirts. This creates a cycle of inspiration from one shirt to the next. Over the course of my 100 day challenge, I will post on some days about a shirt and on later days about the watercolor of the shirt and finally about the design created from the watercolor.

Day 3


The first shirt

The first shirts I made in my quest to find a tunic length garment that I could wear with leggings all day, every day was from a pattern that I purchased at Liberty of London in 2017. However, this shirt did not have pockets and pockets are an essential (so essential they will have their own whole post). I also didn’t think the result was flattering, it seemed like a nightshirt. In fact, I have since repurposed it as my nightshirt, but that is another story.

While at our cottage in Nebraska, I looked through a few patterns I had ordered from Vogue and found one that I saw I could adapt to my needs. I headed up to The Quilt Basket in York, Nebraska and purchased 2.5 yards of a chrysanthemum patterned batik in tan and green shades. In honor of my mother, who died in May 2015, I will name this first shirt, the mother shirt so to speak, Mum.

I am not from the UK, but I have in fact called my mother “mum” since I made friends with a girl from Australia in the 8th grade. She was the daughter of visiting faculty teaching at the University of Colorado in my hometown of Boulder. I remember that at first my mother was intrigued by eventually found “muuuuuum” to be as annoying as “moooommmm” from a begging teenager. But even now, when I slip into a moment of fondness, moving past the bare fact of “my mother” into “my mum” I find comfortable memories that warmly enclose the heartbreak of losing “my mommy”.

After making Mum, I altered the pattern and changed some of the essentials, this new pattern I developed is the one I still use. But, as a shirt, Mum still fits, or I should say fitted, until I took scissors to it and ripped it to shreds to become the bedding in the cradle of my composting project that will form an important part of my 100 day challenge this cycle. Mum suffered from a problem we call “tendering” where some of the chemicals used in the dyeing and finishing process weakened fibers and made the more vulnerable to tearing or just forming small holes. I haven’t worn Mum for over a year but slipping back into this first shirt, I was amazed to discover that my goal of designing a shirt that would look and feel as good at my lower weight as at my higher weight was met. 


Day 2

100 Day Challenge

Setting a challenge, defining the rules, making changes during the challenge, incorporating learning after the challenge, these are controvertible features of athletic training, why should creativity or lifemaking be different? I have set myself numerous challenges over the course of my life. I can remember as 12 year-old wondering deeply about why we used time the way we do, how the general societal agreement for 7 day weeks with 2 day weekends was shaping us. I tried a variety of changes, only dimly remembered, including a three-day week where I would see, speak or hear different on each day. And, of course, Oneshirt itself is a type of challenge, simply put, to wear just one thing for as long as possible.

The 100 Day challenge is to stop wasting my time on reading the algorithmically offered tidbits of “news”, to let go of the habit to seek the outside world, in order to focus on my own creativity. I like to think of the 100 Day challenge as a marathon, with the goal of creating a special time or space within my life by removing something large and time consuming in order to foster something delicate or precious. If I were writing a book, for example, I would not want to spend a lot of time watching premium television, if I had decided that this habit made it more difficult for me to sustain my creative vision.

“I like to think of the 100 Day challenge as a marathon, with the goal of creating a special time or space within my life by removing something large and time consuming in order to foster something delicate or precious.”

Blogging the 100 Day challenge is a great way to keep myself accountable and to mark my progress. Mile markers, Day markers, pass by and give me a sense of how what I am doing different is succeeding. Already, on a very busy day, the first day of classes, I have found the time to write more than 300 words about what I am planning, or rather, why I am planning. Tomorrow I will recount what I did today.


First Oneshirt. Made using scraps from blue and green long tunics. Batik purchased at Quilt Basket in York, Nebraska. Chambray and linen purchased from fabric.com

For the past 3 years, I have worn the same shirt every day. To be more precise, I have worn the same style of shirt, made from a single pattern that I developed to fit my body, my daily needs and my values. I didn’t know when I started that this practice would continue, grow and become a cornerstone of my life.

I realize now that I need to document the origins of my idea and share the impetus with others. Wearing one shirt, which I have called The Oneshirt, has made my life simpler, allowed me to express myself, created opportunities, provided boundaries and while I can’t promise I will wear a Oneshirt until I die, I wouldn’t be surprised.

So, what is the Oneshirt? The shirt is a thigh length tunic that is fitted in the shoulders and at the hem. The center of the tunic bells outward to provide space for pockets, motion and to give the shirt a distinctive shape. A garment is made from material, design and craftsmanship. Each of these elements express my values and explaining this to you will give me the opportunity to share my experience and philosophy.

Make Clothes

Most importantly, I want to help you understand why and how I could wear the same shirt, every day, day in and day out without compromising on the same needs that everyone has when it comes to clothes. I want to help you understand how you too could design and make clothes that fit you and your needs, for the rest of your life. Your clothes are the canvas for your creativity, why buy that?