• Sophie Perissinotto

Thanks, I made it: why I started sewing (almost) all of my clothes

My mum has sewn clothes for as long as I can remember. She sewed my sister’s formal dress and my aunt's wedding dress. She sometimes used to pay us back for the insufferable hours spent in sewing supply stores by letting us pick out a fabric that she would sew into something for us. There were several instances when someone asked where the dress I was wearing was from, and I felt anxious. I didn’t want to tell them that my mum made it. It was 2010 and that was the height of embarrassment at my high school. It was only last year that I began to wonder why having a handmade item was seen as uncool.

At my mum’s behest, I sewed a couple of items alone and with her help when I was a kid, but it wasn’t really my thing. Mid 2019, I was staying with my mum and we sewed a skirt for me. It was the exact material I loved in the store. It was far better quality than a fast fashion purchase. It fit so perfectly.

I was hooked. Seeing a flat piece of two metre fabric turn into a dress that’s custom made. My perfect fit.

Anyone who isn’t average height and slim can attest that buying clothes can sometimes be an extremely frustrating and fruitless task. I can buy pants that either fit my waist, or my bum/hips/thighs. Skirts are often shorter than I’d prefer. I think this played into my clothing taste being very basic. I often had to really question myself on whether I actually liked an item, or I was just so overjoyed that it fit well. I repeated to myself that it was a problem with the clothing industry, not with my body… but the mantra loses its efficacy after twelve failed pairs of jeans.

To anyone with this issue, I ask you to consider getting into sewing your own clothes. In addition to being a fun creative outlet that gives you cute clothes at the end, there are plenty of benefits to sewing your own clothes.

We’ve heard most of the stats on the fast fashion industry. It’s the second most polluting industry in the world. The pictures of landfill overwhelmed with clothes. Op shops have to throw out a large portion of donated clothes because there just isn’t enough room. Sewing my clothes eliminates those little issues that make out fall out of love with an item. I like the material, but not really the hemline. I wish it was a bit looser on my shoulders. I wish this was a playsuit instead of a dress. Sewing an item exactly how I envision it, in combination with a higher quality of construction and a better fit will ensure I keep my clothes for longer.

The rise of the sustainable fashion industry has put to rest those old qualms of having to tell your friends that you (or your mum) sewed the pants that they complimented. With the new attitude to sustainable fashion, the "thanks, I made it!" is infinitely cooler than saying the pants are from H&M. It also helps that painting/embroidering and making your clothes unique is very in style.

Unfortunately, sewing is a pretty expensive hobby. Sewing machines aren’t cheap, but you can look for second hand ones or ask a family member who is no longer using theirs. As someone who absolutely loathes hand sewing, I wouldn’t recommend big projects without a machine. Similar to many hobbies though, it is expensive to get your starting equipment but you can always find cheap fabrics and sales at the big stores.

There is also one giant risk to proudly responding "thanks, I made it!" to a clothing compliment. And that is that people ask you to sew for them. There is nothing worse than being met with "I have some pants I love, but they're too long… is that something you could do?". It’s safest to say that you don't have the right needles for denim. Or that your sewing machine is being serviced. Or that you don't know how to sew a straight line to hem pants. If you’re really annoyed, you could even ~accidentally~ ruin their favourite pair of pants. It’s extreme, but they certainly won’t ask again. I’m happy to give people a handmade present, but no one likes doing a supposed 'quick favour' that ends up taking you half a day. Just accept my homemade scrunchie gratefully and shut your mouth. Please.