sewing clothes

If you're a reader of sewing blogs, I'm sure you already know that Rae Hoekstra released her much-anticipated Beatrix top a few days ago. In fact, you may have already bought a copy. I did. I basically live in t-shirts, and Beatrix is, for me, a perfect combination of the casual fit of a t-shirt that doesn't actually require sewing with knit fabric. So I'm making myself one. In fact, I'm already about halfway done! And so far it doesn't look shitty!! Rae is hosting a sew-along starting this Friday, but I got a head start because I was ready to get going and didn't see the point in waiting for The Internet to say it's ok.

Lately I'm interested in expanding my handmade wardrobe. I have a variety of reasons for this, none of them unique or surprising: I don't like clothes shopping, I can't find things I like to wear in stores, I have a lot of fabric to use up, and - this is a biggie - I find so-called Fast Fashion and the clothing manufacturing industry very problematic, and making my own clothes in some ways bypasses those issues.

If you didn't already watch the John Oliver segment I posted a few days ago, please take the 17 or so minutes to do so. He somehow takes Fast Fashion industry by the collar, scolds it, calls it out for its irresponsibility and the media and public for continuing to buy cheap clothes made with child labor, and makes it all scathingly funny and stomach-churning (literally, in the last 3 minutes) at the same time.

I know that making some (or even all) of my own clothes won't solve any of these problems, not really. Handmade clothing is a luxury enjoyed by people with the skills, time, equipment and interest to do so in the first place. I'm well on my way with knitting already, of course. When it comes to sewing I have a little bit of all those things (skill, time, equipment, interest), just enough for me to try my hand at making a few pieces of clothing. Some turn out, but most don't.  I can improve my skills, and I'd like to, but that won't do anything to change mass clothing manufacturing. It's just not practical for everyone to make all of their own clothes, or, for that matter, to grow all of their own food and build their own houses and fix their own get the idea.

The growing popularity of handmade clothing isn't a bad thing, of course. It's great for independent designers who can sell digital patterns online, and for shops who carry quality garment fabrics. Some people have embraced the idea of a smaller, well-made wardrobe, and while I am SO TOTALLY OVER the words "capsule" and "curated" by now I think I can get on board with the concept. Living in a small house with very small bedrooms and tiny closets has forced me to do that already, to a point.

But there is a problem with this high and mighty resolution to eschew cheap clothes in favor of a well-crafted handmade wardrobe. Two problems, actually: MY CHILDREN. Sure, I make them things occasionally, and every once in a while they actually appreciate it. But children need a lot of clothes, not in the way that Imelda Marcos needed a lot of shoes, but still. My kids spill yogurt and mustard and get in the dirt and wade in the lake and unless I'm willing to do a load of laundry every two days, they need several changes to get through the week lest they dress in mud-encrusted t-shirts in the morning. Children also have a way of Growing Out of Things, so if I made their clothes, that's all I'd be doing before they need the next size. And let's face it: kids reach an age where they don't want to wear anything handmade because it's embarrassing or uncool and they're happier in those $10 athletic shorts from Target, which are probably more comfortable anyway.

I guess I'll take this one step at a time. This week I'm making a Beatrix top. If it goes well, I might make another. I might sneak in some PJ pants for the kids (it's still ok to wear handmade PJ pants)...and then we'll see.


Jessi said…
Oh, so so much. It is so much harder with kids. I try to get a lot at consignment stores and sales. That way, I'm still saving money and building up their wardrobes, but I am not directly contributing to the problem. It's also dealing with some of the issues I see with "disposable" clothing. Then, we turn around and re-sell or donate their clothes.

But, at the end of the day, we still end up with $9 bathing suits and $4 tees because that's the best I can do.

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