How making my own clothes influenced my personal style and shopping habits
Over Easter 2017 I took a workshop on how to make a cushion cover, and discovered a love for sewing that I never imagined I could have. (Seriously, my nana is shocked and beginning to resent all the years she spent sewing my buttons back on because “I’m useless with a needle”.) Since then I have been busy procrastinating from my real job by making lots of lovely things. Looking at my collection so far, I discovered a personal style I never knew I had.
Making my own clothes has forced me to really think about the aesthetic I like, the type of structure/material I’m comfortable in, and how often I can realistically wear something (as I want to be able to wear my creations often!) For instance, I have a weakness for buying more formal dresses, but I rarely go places they’re appropriate. I have this Modcloth dress that I would enjoy recreating, but so far I’ve only been able to wear it twice this year anyway. Having 2 iterations would mean wearing both of them half as much.
So, on to the things I have made. Turns out I really love dresses with fitted bodices and flared/full skirts. I find them immensely flattering, they’re easy to wear, and they make me feel confident. I particularly like ones you can just pull over your head, and prefer to make zipped ones slightly oversized. I don’t like a lot of restriction around my ribcage which can happen with off the rack things as I’m short-waisted. Skimming instead of hugging is much better! Sticking to knee length and not a lot of cleavage means I can wear them to work, as well as out with friends.
I’m also huge on interesting prints, to complement a relatively simple style of cut. The dress below was the first one I made, before I really thought about what I like wearing. Notice how it’s not as flattering as the others?
I used the same fabric to make some leggings. They are supremely comfortable, but brought home to me that I really don’t like mixing and matching prints. I’m not very comfortable wearing leggings as pants (live in a small city, could run into professional acquaintances), but my love of patterned dresses means I have very little to wear them with. I like one loud item, and then everything else a simple black/grey/blue.
Similarly, I have made 4 skirts, and am not going to make any more. The first was just for fun. I had some spare African wax print and wanted to see what I could do with it. I have since given it to charity because I didn’t wear it outside once – pencil skirts just aren’t my thing. I feel more comfortable in others but they still have not been worn nearly as much as my dresses because I’m not huge on mixing and matching tops and bottoms. My daily default is a dress, and rather than buying or making things in the hopes I’ll change, I’m just going to embrace it. I helped a friend make a Frida Kahlo skirt earlier this week and despite my jealousy over how gorgeous it is, I resisted the urge to make myself another skirt I’ll never wear.
My shopping habits have changed since taking up sewing. I get such a joy out of wearing something I’ve made, that fits me perfectly, that I’m much less tempted to impulse buy something unless I’m certain it will give me that same feeling of joy. It’s just not worth it otherwise. I’m also better equipped to assess the quality and fit of storebought items now.
One last thing: making your own clothes means you never have to spend hours shopping, frustrated you can’t find that one perfect item. 2 years ago I hunted everywhere for a particular style of shorts to take on honeymoon, cotton running ones that weren’t too tight or long. I gave up in the end, but now I’ve been able to sew my dream pair!
Oh, and also pockets. Pockets are bloody fantastic and deserve to be on everything.