On the pleasure of making your own clothes

I’m not sure where it comes from, but I feel particularly satisfied when I’ve made something that I can wear. It doesn’t matter what it is – it can be a pair of socks, gloves, a handknitted scarf or jumper, or, more recently hoodies and t-shirts and trousers that I’ve sewn.

One reason is undoubtedly that my own creations tend to be makes that can’t just be had off the peg. I am free to combine colours and patterns that would simply be unsaleable in large quantities, and I can play around with shapes, textures, etc.

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As I’m still only a beginner, I think my clothes are all a bit experimental in character – I might not quite go for the same combinations again, especially as I’m slowly learning about the properties of different fabrics. And time will tell how these fabrics will cope with being washed often. But I’m quite proud to wear something that looks utterly unique, even if that means that others wouldn’t want to be seen dead in my stuff.

photo 5Another reason is that these clothes – particularly if I’ve paid attention to the pattern and amended the pattern if need be – actually fit properly. Even though my shape isn’t much out of the ordinary, it’s difficult to find clothes that fit properly rather than approximately. Usually, I’m too tall for trousers to fit and I can either have baggy shirts with sleeves that are long enough or fitted shirts with sleeves that are too short. It appears that the average British woman (whoever she is) is a couple of centimetres shorter than the average German, as I don’t tend to have these problems whenever I hit the shops in Germany, although even then ‘average’ often doesn’t quite cut it. It’s nice to wear stuff that looks as if it’s been made for you – because it has.

But most importantly, I think, the pleasure I have in making clothes and then wearing them is the momentary, all too fleeting satisfaction of having cocked a snook at photoWestern capitalism. I don’t need your shops and your overpriced clothes, I can make my own! I think. This is an illusion, of course, and I’m well aware of it. Where does my fabric come from, after all, if not from another shop. But there is a difference. I’m no longer beholden to brands, as I’ve created my own. I’ve even created my own label.

 

Ridiculous? Yes, it is a bit. On the other hand, in a small way, I’m sticking two fingers up at big corporations by refusing to be drawn in. Secondly, I know for sure that my clothes have not been made by a twelve-year-old girl in a developing country, who earns a pittance but whose family can’t afford to send her to to school instead. It isn’t actually cheaper to make your own clothes, unless you buy vintage fabric second-hand or alter clothes from charity shops. If I even assume a modest hourly wage, my stuff would be almost at couture-level prices. I know that there are economies of scale involved, but if my raw fabric costs way more than the finished article from a high street shop then something somewhere is wrong. And I haven’t even begun counting the cost of monoculture cultivation of cotton. It is probably impossible to be 100% ethical (what about robbing the above-mentioned 12-year-old girl of her much-needed wage if one decides to not exploit her?) and consumer boycotts have yet to change the world, but you’ve got to start somewhere, and eschewing the high street, particularly the large retailers and big brands, seems a good first step. And I get to dress in my own whimsical, colourful, clashing, brash clothes into the bargain. What’s not to like?

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About alycevr

Academic, translator & maker of things
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