The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Getting off the fast fashion habit

One of the big puzzles for me, is that so may consumers today continue to purchase poorly made clothing with poorly made components.  Even after understanding and seeing the benefits of sewing and the experience and knowledge that sewing gives you, many people prefer to ignore this, thinking that sewing takes more time, is lesser quality and reflects an old-fashioned notion and expectation of style.

I understand that there is a habit involved and breaking a habit.  But even after seeing the savings in time, upgrade in quality, better design, and a more individual look, and yes the savings in cost; most folks continue to purchase what they think is a bargain.

We all have busy lives.  Both mom and dad are working and the kids are all at school and after-school activities and before you know it they need shoes for soccer, gym clothes, stylish clothes, overnight stay, vacation, winter, spring, summer, fall clothes and on and on and who has the time to go make all those clothes when you can run right out and pick them up at the local big box retailer for practically nothing.  Who cares if you have to do go scrounging around 6 to 8 times a year to find the cheap clothing to replace the last batch of cheap clothing;  so what if the shoes only last a short time;  so what if the clothes get torn apart in the wash or come out looking sad or otherwise shabby looking?  They were cheap and it’s not all that much, to begin with.

Does anyone count this up?  Does anyone actually sit back and look at the expense of clothing compared to the use of the garment?

If consumers actually do begin to count up the money spent on clothes that wear out so fast, and the time it takes to go shopping for all this stuff 6 to 8 times a year and compare that to what it would cost to make your clothes, there were be a huge movement toward well-made clothes at the least, and sewing at the worst.

This requires a complete re-thinking of our clothes and our wardrobe.  Think of it in terms of a garment made of a paper towel.  How long would you expect to wear that garment or how many washings would you expect it to endure? How much would you pay to wear that garment?  Would you pay 59¢ for a top?  Would you pay $1.49 to wear a jacket made of paper?  How many times would you expect to wear it?  If you wear a jacket or garment to keep you warm in the winter, would you pay $5.00 every day to wear that jacket?  Would you go shopping to buy 30 jackets a month to wear during the winter?   Compared to clothing of the 70’s and 80’s, today’s clothing is exactly that….paper clothing.

You would no more purchase paper towel clothing no matter how cheap it was. I’ll bet you wouldn’t wear it even if you were paid to. Why?  Because you know it wouldn’t last. Because it has no value. Because you don’t want to take the time to go shopping for 30 jackets every month.

That’s exactly what clothing marketers are expecting.  They believe that you will buy anything as long as the price is low – and that means anything!  They believe that most consumers think that there’s no other choice.  Marketers are betting that most people won’t learn how to construct a garment so that they know what makes that garment.

One of the benefits of knowing how to sew is that you become aware of what it takes to make well-made clothing.  Further, you become aware of what a well-made garment is, and the components it needed to make quality clothes.  Most consumers today have no idea about this and as a result, marketers are not likely to tell them what a cheap piece of goods they are getting.  The marketers and retailers don’t care because they are making a mint on the consumers who don’t know a good piece of clothing from a bad one.  The fast/cheap fashion industry is counting on the consumer not knowing what quality or for that matter basic well-made clothes are like so that they can use that lack of knowledge to swindle millions from consumers every day.

Taking a look at some of the styles out there:

This has no shape and just falls straight from the shoulder.  That means that if your bust or hips are wider than the rest, then it will widen to fit that, but after it fits those wider parts it just hangs there.  In the middle version the model is chest heavy, in the right versions, he is hip heavy.  All this dress really does is accentuate the larger portion of your body and makes the other parts look large too. No shape and certainly no style.  But it does expand to shape just about every size.  The problem is that once it expands, then that’s the shape you are.  In my book, not very flattering to buy something that just spreads out everywhere to fit the largest part of your body.

zara2Here’s another one.  The view in the middle looks warped here, but this is the original view on the site.  The view on the most left, looks normal.  I had to darken this up to see the detail in this white garment.  The bottom is not lined at all (too expensive to line it). As well it has a gathering effect around the hem.  Honestly, if you were making this, would you accept that as a “finished” look?  And yet, most consumers will accept this.  The set-in sleeve has a squared seam at the bottom, which is a fine look, and this seam can be made to fit, however in this garment, the sleeve looks baggy.  If you’re just a tad heavy in this area, forget looking nice with that baggy set in sleeve, and you certainly wouldn’t accept that as a “fit” or in your own sewing.

Why do you think that the owner/creator of Zara discount clothing is one of the wealthiest people in the world?  Do you think it’s because he’s a smart investor?  Do you think it’s because he had a lot of money from his mom and dad?  It’s because he built up a huge discount clothing business and built it on the backs of stupid, uninformed and addicted consumers. Like cocaine for a drug addict, cheap clothing is the same drug for the mass of consumers that are addicted to cheap clothing, not even realizing that they are being taken for a song.

What the knowledge of sewing gives to consumers, is just that – – knowledge.  With that knowledge, a consumer can begin to purchase items that actually last.  When a consumer buys quality over quantity, she saves every time.  And the savings aren’t only in the pocketbook, but in the time saved as well.  For me, shopping at these cheap places is a continual education into seeing how cheap the fabric is; how cheap the notions, thread, zipper, interfacing, and other components are; how flimsy and frail the garment feels.

I have a choice. I’m not relegated to one-choice shopping, and I continually choose to make my clothes.   I wish I could say that my main reason for sewing is because I’m green, and all eco-conscious, although I do like that as an added benefit.  It’s because my fashion sense won’t let me buy something that I know there are “only” 100,000 other copies out there just like it.  I would be a stamped copy the minute I walk out the door.

I walk through a room and people look at my top or pants or ensemble and can’t think where I could have purchased it cause they haven’t seen it, and yet I look so together.  I’m immediately labeled an artist and therefore most folks discount even thinking of looking individual or different in a good and flattering way.

Don’t pre-sabotage yourself into thinking that you have to be an artist to sew.  You don’t have to be an artist.  You don’t have to be a designer.  Haven’t you ever wondered how many starlets and TV notables get into the design business and yet they have no background in designing whatsoever?  Why expect more from yourself than a starlet or notable would expect?

Sewing enables you to say: -PPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP to all the cheap marketers and retailers and rich moguls selling cheap/fast fashion, and for you to not only have fine clothing but have time to do other things with your valuable time.  It also enables you to have an individual look and style, and the most subtle of all, it gives you the knowledge to recognize well-made clothing over cheaply made clothing.

Learning about sewing is not a domestic skill dissed by an out-dated movement in the mid 20th century.  It is a life skill as much as knowing about cooking so you can shop for food wisely; knowing about home repair to keep your home in good stead;  to know about fashion so as to buy clothes that are fashionable on you, and to know about sewing so you can purchase clothes that are well-made.

Not knowing or learning how to sew, means that you are a target ready to be taken by the multitude of ruthless charlatans out there.  To prevent that, you have to know how a garment is constructed.



  1. This topic is something I have been giving a bit of thought, in a slightly different vein. Recently retired, I have had the time to become more aware of dusting “stuff”, moving “stacks” from here to there, creating new ways to “organize” and therefore, purging any annoying stuff that is just in the way of enjoying my time. As I purge, I am angry with myself over the money wasted on “stuff”. Of course, this includes my clothing.

    I sew well but working at least 60 hours a day/6 days a week, I must admit that I have bought the cheap clothing; knowing full well how poorly made and ill fitting, regardless the cost/store/designer. But I must say, no one else was dressed any better; as they too shopped RTW. Maybe not an excuse, but the only one I have. I did make time to sew for others on special occasions.

    So, I have been watching HGTV and people buying a house and “needing” a walk-in closet at least the size of another bedroom. Thank heaven I never had the time to shop that much – well, if I did I would have sewn for myself. I want to know how much money they have spent on clothing, how many times they have worn each item, how long the “style” can be worn without being “out-of-style”. Do they even realize how much of their house could be paid off with the cost of all that excess; and most probably the interest on the charge cards? And, all for clothing made from materials, workmanship, and fit that lack any sign of quality/originality. (I also wonder how many children could be fed with the excess.)

    Of course, I am back to sewing. And loving it! Soon, every bit of RTW will be gone. I’m sure my blood pressure is back to normal, too. Ah, the wonders of creativity!

    I started teaching my grandkids to sew. One is extremely creative with design and one is outstanding with her sewing skills. Each one begged me for a sewing machine for their birthday. I was more than happy to comply! When we do go shopping, I point out that they can copy/change this bit or that, and the poor quality of the item. They are thrilled to show me the same. Such wonderful sponges! This has been so enjoyable that I am thinking of teaching children to sew.

    • Doreen – I totally get what you’re saying. In my “Mary Tyler Moore” days when I was a young and single pup, I had no time to sew at all. At least that’s what I thought. I sewed, but without the information, knowledge and guidance, I was lost, and all I did was mess up time and again. Back in those days, sewing was considered synonymous with nerdiness, dorkiness and ickyness (which was catching if you got too close to someone who even thought about owning a sewing machine!). So there wasn’t much instruction available. But here’s the thing that I see, not only with my working students, but with other sewists out there in the land of internet: that people who are 1.) desperate for their own individual look, 2.) sick of ill-fitting, mis-shapen, poorly-made, temporary clothing and 3.) frantic for clothes that work for the wearer not the other way around, and working full-time and often over-time jobs, sew and sew well. They do it with time management. That sounds really like it came from the lips of a bean-counter devote, but the truth is that aside from how dry it sounds, it really does work.

      I recently (about 4 years ago) went through this with my active wear….my bike and hiking gear. I decided to throw out all the cheap stuff, and make my own. I own 2 pairs of hiking pants (they are designed so I can make them into shorts, so they are convertible), and about 5 tops, shirts, undershirts, etc., and a biking ensemble or two, and I’m shocked at not only how sturdy and useable they are, but they are exactly what I want. They are so strong, that the thought of picking up a top or pant here and there, is so totally inapplicable to me now that I’m really shocked. Not only that but it’s freed up gads of space in my closet so I can again see everything.

      I’m so glad you’re passing this on to your family. It’s a gift that they will treasure always -and if nothing else you are teaching them what good construction and quality components are.

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