Friday, July 31, 2015

Me Made Everyday: Sewing Your Own Wardrobe in the World of Fast Fashion


Every year there is a challenge/movement in the blogosphere called Me Made May where people try to wear clothing they have made themselves for the whole month of May. Though I have never participated, this year I realized during the period of me made madness, that I actually could if I wanted to, and with ease! You see, somehow, my current wardrobe is actually nearly all made by me! It didn't happen over night, and I hadn't really even noticed the totality of it until this last May! 

I recently saw on the net someone saying how making your own clothes is almost a rebellious act in this day and age of fast fashion and consumerist culture. I certainly don't think I am any less materialistic because I make my clothes instead of buying them, in fact I have ended up buying quite a lot of material in doing so! Besides, I still have to buy nylons, sweaters (I cant' knit...yet!), bra's (because that is a sewing project I dare not attempt!) and other things. It just occurred to me long ago that I could save a lot of money by making my own reproduction vintage dresses instead of buying them! All that labor cost would go away by doing it myself! 



Though DIY certainly isn't the cheapest option all of the time, I still think for many projects you actually do see a savings! Even when you can find a nice pencil skirt out there in the world, you are going to have to pay at least $20 dollars for it even if it may be on sale. At $12 for fabric and another $3 for the zipper, a $15 skirt made at home still saves me $5 bucks! Plus a me made skirt will fit perfectly, be just as long as I want it, and be just the kind of fabric I like! I do shop around for fabrics, save up Joanns coupons, and bargain hunt online for deals on yardage, and doing so means I can hang a new full skirted 50's style dress in my closet for under $30 bucks, when a repro would cost four or more times that price!

But back to being a rebel; it's not that I hate the fashion industry outright. I studied for four years to become a fashion designer! (and discovered museum work in my last semester, deciding the world of fashion may not be for me...*sigh*) However, there is no denying that the industry is crazy, mostly awful, damaging to both people and climate, and under all the glamour just plain broken. Everyone has heard the term sweatshop thrown around, and it is a serious concern that our clothing is mass produced by persons unknown who we just have to "trust" are being treated fairly. At least when I sew something for myself in the basement, I have full control over the labor that goes into my clothes (and the only one who has to suffer through installing zippers is me!)


Just because I know my wardrobe wasn't made by people stuck in horrible conditions, that doesn't let me off the hook. Where does fabric come from? Whether cotton has been sewn into a dress in China, or by my own hands in my basement sewing room, it is still cotton from somewhere. Cotton is, in general, quite terrible for the environment. It takes a TON of perfectly potable water to process and dye cotton. The amount of wasted resources and pollution related to fabric manufacturing is absolutely staggering and horrible. Sewing my own clothes doesn't absolve me from still being part of the problem.

I didn't start making my own clothes because I wanted to be more green, or more socially conscious. I started making my own clothing because I couldn't find pieces I liked in my price range, or even at all. Still, it is kind of nice to know that there are at least some parts of the fashion industry that I am contributing to less. I could go further, buying only organic/sustainable fabrics, but like socially conscious clothing, such fabrics are harder to come by, more expensive, and there are less options. One day perhaps it will be easier to acquire such products, but until then I don't see myself changing my fabric shopping habits.

I don't blame anyone for shopping without thinking about this stuff while on a budget, sometimes all you can afford is Forever 21! All I can afford is Forever 21, thats why I turned to sewing! I don't like the holier than though attitude that can sometimes come with hyper conscious consuming, sure you may be able to afford the extra costs/time to find sustainable choices, but not everyone is in that position you know? I agree it would make a big difference if everyone would take a bit more care with their purchasing power, but it is not my place to judge, especially because I ended up a fast fashion "rebel" by sheer accident.

What about you guys? Have you ever participated in Me Made May? Do you think about where your clothing comes from? Let me know in the comments!

12 comments:

  1. I am a bit of an ethical fashion fan, but I'll try not to be too self-righteous. I think that everyone should try to be aware of the issues, and make an informed decision and an effort to find a less damaging solution if they can, keeping their budget and skills in mind. We are mostly over consuming, so some people who "can't afford" to buy ethically, could do so if they bought less frequently and mended their clothes. Plus, buying second hand is cheap.

    Ok it turns out that I'm not good at not sounding judge-y. Sorry.

    Really, if everyone took just one step towards more ethical purchasing, the situation could be considerably improved. In your case, you *could* do more (organic cotton etc) but by sewing for yourself you are already doing a *lot*. Even if that wasn't your motivation, it's still a great outcome for the world. That's my take, anyway.

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    1. We are definitely over consuming, in general! Especially here in America it is a bit ridiculous. I can't really say much on the subject as I am certainly part of the problem, I buy way too much, even if it is mostly vintage jewelry I am amassing! I have a problem with wanting quantity over quantity too, and am terrible at saving money. I have a long way to go before I can shake off the consumerist zeal America seems to instill in its citizens from birth onward!

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  2. You have some good points here, and I think it's important to consume with awareness. I have yet to get to a point of 100% me made wardrobe, but slowly inching towards it. I think home sewing is a great way to stop feeding the fast fashion churn and the sweatshop industry. I know people who buy tons of cheap clothing and discard it just months after, sometimes not even visably worn, because fashion changed. And if one is to be honest, is it REALLY fashion? Making your own clothes makes you have connection with your garments, and you are less likely to throw it out, hence reducing waste.

    One thing I have noticed though, with many who sew for themselves, is the vast number of garments. Even if we feel like better consumers, are we really, when we make up a couple of dresses every week? How many dresses do we really need? Sewalongs online, is often just a way to tempt us to buy more patterns and fabrics, appealing to our inner consumer.
    Maybe we could try do be content with less?

    It is a complex topic, but awareness is key. And just by thinking things like these through, we are already taking huge steps in the right direction. It is also quite likely to rub off in other aspects of our lives too. Good post!

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    1. Being content with less is certainly something I struggle with. I have dozens of sewing projects lined up at any time! We could all take a leaf out of the 1940's wartime gals book and learn to "make do and mend" more often. Luckily I am not so prolific a seamstress that I finish a few dresses each week, I am lucky if I manage to finish just one!

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  3. I've done Me Made May before but I haven't for a while since I wear me mades on an almost daily basis now. Like you, I started making my own clothes so I could have affordable, well made pieces.

    I've been thinking a lot about consumerism and materialism a lot this year and while seamstresses remove themselves (at least partially) from the fast fashion arena, they definitely add themselves to the fabric-aholic arena. There are some people with insanely huge stashes of fabric and enough clothes in their closets to go an entire year without repeating an outfit. So I've been trying to work on making smaller capsule wardrobes of basic pieces and stash busting but sewing and costuming are definitely materialistic hobbies to have!

    I think just being aware of these issues and talking about them with other people will help each of us take the next step.

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    1. I have been working hard this year to dig myself out of the fabric-aholic arena. I would say over the last year I have used up about 30%-40% of my fabric "stash". I still have a little ways to go, but luckily I have made real progress in not buying fabric just to "have" it, and only buying things I will use immediately. I'm trying to not add to the pile at all, and better yet to decrease the stack of fabric waiting in the wings in general. I don't feel too guilty yet, as there is certainly no way I could wear a unique outfit every day of the year...yet! Lets hope I can stop before I get that far!

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  4. Most of my wardrobe is sewn by myself, my grandmother, and my mum (though mainly the latter, as I'm such a slow person when it comes to sewing!). Even so, I still have quite a lot of "mainstream" clothes that I hardly ever touch, mainly because they're just so bland compared to the styles I like - so perhaps at one point I'll have enough "me-made" clothes to be able to donate them to charity or something.

    To be honest, I haven't really thought about how fabrics were produced until you mentioned it above. *embarrassed* It's great that you're trying to be as ethical as possible though, as it can be very trying to get the right resources for the right price.

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    1. That's great that your family all sew too. My mom can sew but she doesn't, she used to make clothes for my little brother and I when we where kids, and she made a lot of Halloween costumes for me when I was younger, but eventually she got me sewing lessons so I could do it myself! I definitely didn't start sewing with the intent to have a more ethical wardrobe, it was kind of an accident!

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  5. Excellent post. I am not (for all intents) a sewer and save for bespoke/independently made pieces or handmade vintage items that I've acquired over the years, all of my clothing is technically purchased, but I try to buy a lot of vintage and second hand items in no small part because I don't have a desire to add (too much, at least) to the world of fast fashion. Even those F21 and the like pieces that I do have, I treat with TLC and have now owned many for several years. I think that part of the problem with fast fashion is the notion that clothing can be discarded on a whim, even if it's still in good shape. If a piece still fits and you like it (and don't need to sell it to make ends meet), that just doesn't make sense to me. Our clothing is a part our daily lives and deserves to remain in our closets for more than a season.

    ♥ Jessica

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    1. I totally agree, and I definitely think the fact that us vintage lovers tend to buy classic pieces means we can hang on to them for a very long time. I have a few pieces I bought at Forever 21 in high school that I still have and wear. I definitely revolt against the disposability of fast fashion, investing only in pieces that fit my vintage style wardrobe and will last me a long time when I buy new. I would despair if I only got to wear things a few times, or only for one season, before I had to retire them@

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  6. This is such an interesting subject and I enjoyed reading your take on it. One of the reasons I want to be able to make more of my clothes is to have more control over where they come from and to know that I am not accidental supporting a sweatshop. Interesting points about stashes though!

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    1. Thanks Kate! I have been trying to tame my fabric stash by actually using it up, but I still have quite a ways to go :)

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