I work as a doctor in London and have three children under the age of 13. But in my spare time, I love making my own clothes – the results of which I share on my blog and Instagram feed, the Bright Blooms. I also co-host the un:CUT podcast, which features interviews with other makers.
As a child, I was drawn to embroidery and cross-stitch. Years later, while studying medicine at university, I taught myself to knit with the help of YouTube tutorials. Even after I qualified as a junior doctor, I would practise sewing on my days off, with the help of my trusty vintage Bernina sewing machine. When I had my children, I would make things for them, but then I began to make my own clothes – mainly as a way to have things in the exact colours and styles that I wanted.
As a Muslim woman who wears the hijab, it’s not always easy to find the right clothes, although there is a lot more choice now. I used to shop the sales a lot, or buy things that would do, and try to make them work. If the sleeves weren’t long enough, for example, I would add some material, or I would use styling tricks like layering. As I grow older, I find I have a much clearer idea of the styles I like.
Over lockdown, I decided to have a bit of wardrobe clearout. I started by reviewing each piece in my closet, as though I was browsing a rail in a shop. I realised I was hanging on to things I was never going to wear.
The pieces that I most wanted to keep tended to be classic rather than trend-led items, the sort of things I know I’ll still be wearing in five or ten years’ time. I prioritised clothing I can adapt, hardworking pieces I can dress up or down, and items that fit me really well. Making my own clothes has taught me a lot about how things should actually fit. I love colour and pattern, so I kept a lot of my brightly coloured printed maxi skirts and blouses – if you keep to a coordinated palette, they’re easier to match. I also prioritised things made of natural fibres, as they last longer and feel great to wear.
I made sure any clothes and accessories I wanted to give away were in good condition, as charity shops find it hard to sell damaged items. But I’ll always try to mend things and give them a bit more life if I can. Cashmere, for example, tends to develop holes over time but there are some clever techniques I’ve discovered on Instagram to counteract this. One is called a “woolly tattoo”, where you design a flower or pattern to cover a hole. When mending items, you have to accept that it may never be perfectly restored to its former glory; so sometimes it’s better to actually highlight the “flaw” and make it beautiful and unique!
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to keep, it’s important to spend time working out how best to organise your things. I have open shelves on one side of my wardrobe where I keep my shoes, bags and jumpers. I’ve adopted the Marie Kondo vertical folding method, where you fold things face up, side by side. This means you can see everything in one go rather than having to pull things out and then, maybe, not put things back how they’re meant to be. It’s so helpful being able to see everything at a glance.
Having a wardrobe clearout and giving items away has made me feel that I have more space, both physically and mentally. Every piece in my wardrobe is something I love and have chosen to keep. Ultimately, knowing that your wardrobe will work for you in situations when you need it gives you confidence.
If you’re ready to have a wardrobe clear out, find out more about TK Maxx’s Give up clothes for good initiative, transforming the items you no longer need into funds to support Cancer Research UK’s life-saving research into children’s and young people’s cancers.