Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why I Sew

I've very much enjoyed our recent discussions looking at the recent popularity of sewing and vintage patterns, but I realize that some of my proposals may be a stretch in some ways. I suppose I'm always one to analyze things to death. (That's what being a PhD program dropout will get you! Actually, that's all it will get you.) I'm not content to just wear a certain style, I want to know the history of it, and the social implications of wearing it. Exhausting, isn't it? But if I really examine my motivations for sewing (and sewing vintage patterns in particular), the answer is quite easy. I want my clothes to be unique. Or, more accurately, I want to make my clothes exactly as I envision them, not as a mass retailer envisions them.

Someone at the office (who doesn't know that I sew) remarked to me yesterday (with admiration, I swear) that I have the most interesting clothes. And I realized that that is about the greatest compliment someone can give me - well, about clothes, anyway.

I've always been entranced by the magic of clothes (not fashion, clothes). Certain styles and colors appeal to me in a way I can't explain. For instance, the thing that got me into garment sewing a year and a half ago was that I wanted a pencil skirt. But I didn't want just any pencil skirt. I wanted one in bright Barbie pink with a high, curved waistband. The image of this imaginary skirt had burned itself into my brain. So, I made it. And I had such fun making it. The way the pieces matched together like a puzzle and eventually turned into my dream pencil skirt was just enthralling.

And that's what keeps me going today. I have a very personal, creative connection to each garment I make. Each one started out as a fantasy that, amazingly, I'm able to make a reality. And that's what makes my clothes interesting, I think.

I think this is probably true for a lot of us, right? The idea of being the absolute creative director of your own wardrobe is an enticing one. And not having to rely on what J. Crew is offering any particular season is incredibly freeing.

But still (here's the half a PhD talking), it is valid to look at the broader reasons that we might want this freedom. Whether that is a desire not to participate in fast fashion or to protest the ways in which women are expected to dress today, all of these reasons can be at play simultaneously. In other words, still look for lots more over-analyzing to come!

P.S. Speaking of J. Crew, they have a fantastic pencil skirt this season that would be my taste entirely if it just had a more interesting waistband:

It's almost perfect, isn't it? Isn't it wonderful that I can make my dream version of it - without paying $118 for it?


  1. the fact that you began your garment sewing adventures a year and a half ago brings me a lot of hope as someone starting out in the land of garments!

  2. You are preaching to the choir sister! I have been a sewer since I was very young, and in high school I made a lot of skirts because I wanted many different types and colors and my parents simply couldn't afford to indulge my obsession. As a result I had a closet full of inexpensive, perfectly-fitted skirts that were the envy of all my friends!

    To touch on the whole obsession aspect...for almost 15 years I was deeply involved in living history and as a result I can accurately construct male and female garb from the Viking Age (my specialty) up through the late Elizabethan period (my boyfriend's specialty). I can tell you all about the fibers, the dyes they used and the construction techniques including all the undergarments. While that's all very exciting to me and a select group of my friends, to some people it's bat-s**t crazy and they just don't get it. But it's my passion and I love it and as a result I have learned immense amounts of wonderful things about several different cultures and time periods.

  3. P.S. That J. Crew skirt is lovely but there is no way in heck I would ever pay $118 for something that I could make for under $40 AND have it fit me perfectly.

  4. I think i sew for the same reason in part. For me though, it is also the fact that i simply just enjoy making things, not just clothes. This itself though is a result of wanting to create what i imagine, and rejecting the idea of large companies telling me what to like. Love your blog Gertie! xx

  5. The reason that I have been an avid sewer of my own clothes (to the point that I can no longer buy anything because I either look at it and go "you want how much for that?! I could make that in 5 seconds for less than half or what I really like is so expensive i could never afford it and what I can afford is poor quality and just not exactly right) is because I have come under the impression or the truth that it is going to be the only way I can get what I want, see above :) And i love historical costume i always have and I like knowing the story of what I am wearing too and I love having a historical detail on something that I am wearing that I can start blathering about to anyone who will listen.

    Love the analytical discussions Gertie, Keep them coming!!!

  6. Also encouraged that you only started a year and a half ago! My motivations are the same though - the challenge of making new garments and also having something specifically as I'd imagined it. Though the latter is something to which I hope to get closer with practice!

  7. YES!! You hit the nail on the head!!
    I look at magazines (I refuse to spend money on most of them so I get them at the library..why waste my money when I could buy more fabric???)
    Same hair she has, same stubble chin he has, the same "look" they have...what would happen if people just said..."I'll just be me and dress well to my liking?"
    I guess that requires too much thought for alot of them.
    I so love to learn all about the history of the clothing I like to wear at this moment. I can guarentee you, I will change my likes and prefer another time in fashion, but that's just ME :)

  8. oh, and I am so far from a Ph.d dropout.....I skirted through high school by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin...which one must keep at bay with proper grooming!!!
    ( a regular laugh a minute this morning, I am :)

  9. You could EASILY make that skirt 100% more fabulous and 50% cheaper. Since I've started sewing clothing, I have begun to look at RTW items and thought, they want THAT MUCH for that item that I could easily make at home in better fabric? Of course I don't always make it, but it certainly curtails my shopping. The only items I don't think about making are menswear because I am intimidated by shirtfronts and trousers.

  10. Adding my 2 cents.... I agree 100%!

  11. I haven't chimed in on most (any?) of them, but I have enjoyed reading the analytical discussions!

  12. I completely agree, I sew for much the same reasons (and don't you love that look of awe when you tell people that you made the dress that they're admiring!!)

    I started sewing when my Nan died and I inherited her sewing machine (and a stash of fabric) and I think, the reason I started was, actually quite sentimental, I wanted to do something that would connect me to her in some way.
    While I sew, now because I enjoy the process (no getting away from it, I do), I also still feel that connection to her when I sew.

  13. Absolutely right, making something you have a better chance of fitting to you and for less in most cases. For me, it's dressing my eight year old in more appropriate styles, especially for dress clothes. She wears alot of RTW to school, t shirts, some I decorate, and capris/jeans. I don't want her dressing like she's 18, but not a baby either. She has gotten to where she won't wear a dress unless I or my mother makes it.

  14. You are such a thinker, Gertie!

    One of my great enjoyments is to have something unique, that no-one else in the world might have. When I've made a garment, I do at times consider the likelihood that anywhere in the world someone has chosen to make that pattern in exactly the same fabric I used, and smile that it is not very likely.

    As to where that desire for uniqueness comes from, I don't know. Perhaps a psychologist would have some clues? All I know is that I don't want what everyone else has!

  15. I totally agree with all of the above! And by the way my degree gave me the over analysis syndrome too ;)

  16. I too am inspired by your sewing journey. I've decided to learn to make clothes too. Thank you for sharing, your blog and the inspiration to turn my dreams into goals.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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