The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

From the HuffPost – a little video conversation

On the Huffington Post blog this morning is this live discussion which is VERY interesting……

This is NOT a choice of privileged.  Get past that – this is a choice of how you are going to buy and wear your clothing.  This is the BIG mistake that many folks make here.  Why?  Because when you purchase sustainable clothing or clothing that lasts, it’s far cheaper in the long run.  It lasts far longer than the cheap fashion.

Let’s do some quick math.  You purchase a well-made anorak – say at Barney’s for $1,250.  You wear it for 10 years (yes, I know that sounds like forever, but I’ve done it, and believe me it does happen that way.  It’s well made, it feels good, you feel good in it, and it’s very intoxicating to wear over and over like this).  So that means that the jacket actually costs $125/year.  Let’s say that you also buy a Pea Coat from Forever 21 that costs $65.  You wear it maybe 5, if your lucky 10 times, and it splits at the seams, the hem falls out, the buttons fall off, and it starts coming apart (don’t even THINK of having it cleaned, it will fall apart at the cleaners).  OK – say you’re lucky and the coat lasts thru one or two months, but what do you do the other 4 months that you need a coat?….buy another that lasts for 2 months (if you’re lucky)…that’s almost $200/yr or $2,000 for 10 years.  $1,250 for 10 years vs $2,000 for 10 years.  This isn’t rocket science and it’s really easy to see.  What happens if you buy that same Barney’s coat on sale at the end of the season for $350 (BTW, the example I’m using – it is on sale right now).  It’s classic, and will look good for 10 years @ $35/yr…..now there’s the bargain!

The disconnect here is that there is the “implied” quality, because that’s what we expect and that’s what we think we will get, and when it falls apart after three or maybe if we’re lucky 10 wearings, we say, oh well it only costs $??? and I can get another one.  What we do not realize is that this way of thinking far outstrips any bargain.  No wonder Ortega (owner of Zara) is a multimillionaire, when the consumer is snookered into thinking they are buying cheap, when they are actually throwing their money out the window most of the time on nothing.  Does anyone remember the Emperor’s New Clothes (by Hans Christian Anderson)?  As long as we’re told it’s fashionable, will the consumer buy anything, made of any old fabric, with any old technique?

I teach sewing and one of the things I teach is not only excellent techniques and methods, but to make garments with longevity.  Even if my students go through one or two classes, it’s enough information that they begin to become a smarter and more astute about their purchases. For those who do stay with me they end up creating fashionable yet classic wardrobes that last for decades.  I know cause I have the clothes in my closet to prove it – from as far back as 25 years to the newest jacket addition (about 2 years ago), I don’t need a new jacket every year, cause I have the beautiful ones I’ve designed and made for myself, that look great on me.

Recently I started making all my biking and hiking gear which is the one area where I did purchase clothing.  I’m am remarkably shocked at the varying quality in the clothing – even buying from fabric discount retailers.  When I buy good fabric, the quality is like night and day compared to what I was buying.  I never dreamed active wear like this could possibly last through one season much less one year, but that’s exactly what is happening with this clothing.

When Elizabeth Cline’s book came out, we sewists grabbed it up like a bible and have devoured her words, but this is a little like preaching to the choir, because what we have realized for years is that the marketplace was not offering those wonderful clothes that used to be available to the consumer in the 70’s and 80’s.  It’s all changed.  Ms. Cline’s description of what happened from those clothes to what we buy today is spot on.  She describes it like an addiction and she’s right, cause it’s going to take a good 12-step method to get off this addiction.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over buying cheap clothes – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than cheap fashion could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to change the way we buy clothes.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our closets.
  5. Admitted to power greater than ourselves, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have the power greater than ourselves remove all these defects from our closet and buying habits.
  7. Ask for help in making sure we don’t go off the track and start buying cheap fashion again.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to ourselves by promising only to by sustainable fashion or well-made garments from this point on.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory of our closet and buying habits.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our clothes buying habits.
  12. Having had a financial and fashion awakening as the result of these steps, we stand as an example of how sustainable and classic clothing can make better-dressed than any fashion victim.

No offense meant for any serious 12-stepper out there.  I only using this as an example, because I love this program and seen it do many miracle things – including getting of the addiction of cheap fashion!  And even thought at first glance this looks funny, which it is, it’s also serious.
My closet contents are smaller, much more functional and way more exciting to open the door when I select either something for a business meeting, teaching presentation, funky little local class, or just working in my studio for the day.  I feel dressed up, far better about myself, and my earned dollar is not a slave to any fashion du jour that happens to be waving in front of the consumer at this very second of time.

I have a closet that serves me, not the other way around.  (Yes, my closet is a slave to me!)

5 Comments
  1. Really great post Claire and I completely agree, although I do fear that people who don’t sew (and can’t or don’t want to learn) will just keep doing the same thing.

  2. ~~~~~ Applause! Applause ! ~~~~~

    What a wonderful post…the absolute BEST and most thought-provoking that I’ve read *anywhere* in a very long time!

    …thank-you!

  3. Thanks ladies – this is growing to be a passion of mine, just as much as doing fashionable sewing for we normal figure types, sewing for clothes that last for a long time and become the long-term bargain, is far more enjoyable and gratifying than any cheap fashion I could purchase. It just really upsets me to see folks buy cheap fashion thinking they are getting a deal – they aren’t they are getting taken to the cleaners (no pun!), and being gypped into buying something really useless and worthless.

  4. One possible addition to the list: when we buy something *cheap,* we should at least take the time to think about the person(s) who constructed it and respect their work, using it as best we can, as long as we can.

  5. Great post! I agree with everything you say, and I’ve been putting into practice the same thoughtful buying process. I can’t bear to walk into Forever 21, H&M or the like these days. I find those stores to be depressing. I just purchased a Burberry jacket on sale for $300. I will wear that puppy for years and years, because it’s well made, it’s classic, and it is a color that looks good on me. $30/year for a Burberry? You betcha, sign me up! Also, I would rather take my time and sew a really well-made, well-fitting classic piece than slap together garments for the sake of having a bulging wardrobe.

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