Why Sew?

This morning I’m doing something a little different. I also write a weekly outreach that is geared toward a sewing-minded audience, whereas the blog is more general. IOW, the blog is geared for those who might not necessarily sew but are interested in it. But this morning, I’m writing the same for the blog and the outreach. Every once in a while it’s good to review where you are and even though most people know what I do, they may not necessarily understand why I do what I do.

First and foremost, I sew because I can create exactly what I want. In a world that is full of everything the same, where we all have the same smartphone, tablet, computer, the latest shoe trend, clothing garment, and car, sewing can be my break-away from the sameness of everyone else. At the same time, I’m really not interested in looking like Lady GaGa at the music awards in her meat dress!

It’s different, but it’s definitely not even close to me!

Different is distinguishable from the sameness of everything but doesn’t have to be weird. It can simply be individualized and personalized. Different is not simply for the sake of being apart from everyone else, but more as an expression of who I am as reflected in what I wear. I’m not wearing the standard tee with dark pants and a dark jacket. I’m wearing an individualized top that has a hem cutaway that is flattering to my shape, size and style, with a pant that fits what I’m doing today, not what someone else thinks I should look like with a jacket that is not only reflective of my activity for the day but is comfortable and flattering to wear. Clothing has been so categorized and marketed for the last 20 years to the point that any individualized fashion is way beyond the means of 90% of the clothing consumer.

This is fine, and it will go far, but where’s the individualization in this look? Where’s the difference between this person and another where one may be more concrete and the other more abstract, how is that reflected in the clothing?

But this is also a great look for the office or any business meeting and yet it’s totally individualized. It’s not something seen on every other person’s body at the office or in a business environment. Of course, this look is dismissed because this person is wealthy and therefore she can afford this sort of look, because those clothes cost a lot of money, and therefore this type of individualization is not affordable for most (like 90%) of the buying public. And you know what? You’re right. It isn’t. If one were to take this look apart, those pants are probably $500, the elegant draping cardi is probably a cool $800, the matching top is a $300, and those kickin’ boots are in the $700-$900 range. This makes for a whopping $2,300 to $2,500 for this look, and that’s out of the range of most people.

Even if you go for a more elegant look….

This is a total business look, and yet when you do a business look search on Google, nothing like this would come up, because it’s individualized for Amal, although it’s totally appropriate, and would look flattering, personalized and reflect a person’s serious and responsible attitude toward their day job.

This is the huge hole that both the fashion industry and retailer can not, does not and in the current configuration, cannot fill. The clothing market has become such a thinly-margined business, that selling anything of a quality nature, is booted out instantly. Whereas Tom and Kate Chappell wanted to fill a gap in the personal care market with products that were thoughtfully made, any person wanting to do a line of clothing that is personalized for the individual, cannot compete in a market that the garment is unreasonably priced with unreasonably thin margins. The only people who can dress like this are the extremely wealthy or those who can sew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that even though I don’t look like I’m wearing raw meat or have a stuffed swan around my neck, I do look like I’m different not because these styles are hardly seen, but because they are individualized for me. They are specific and personal for my style, shape, and size. The bike outfit could retail for around $100 easy, and the see-thru top with Capri leggings could also retail for around $100, but the tunic green see-thru top and the coral suit would easily retail in the $1000’s for those outfits. And yet they aren’t all that kooky or strange.

Why this is, is a whole other subject, but it is what it is. This is one of the huge reasons I sew. I can’t stand having someone else tell me what I prefer, what I should prefer and what I can wear simply by offering me choices that really aren’t choices. Clothing consumers today are relegated to a very limited amount of clothing and have a very limited look. When I go to pick out a pear at the grocery store, I’ll look at a bunch of them – are they ripe, are they too ripe, do they look mealy, do they look healthy (no bugs or mold), and most likely (if they are in season), I can find some that are worth purchasing. When I go to the store to purchase flowers, the same is true – do I like the color, do they look like they will last the longest – are all questions that I’m asking. But when I go to purchase clothes, does this come in another color – no; does this come in my size – maybe; does this come in a little different style – probably not; does this come without all these added things that take away from the classic look – no; does this come with practical pockets that can hold my phone – no. Pretty soon I’m relegated to a garment that is usually not my size, not my style or shape, does not flatter me, and almost always uncomfortable. So why am I buying this? Because this is the best RTW can offer.

To be honest, this is a depressing state of fashion and retail clothing marketing. When the consuming public can’t even get some basic needs met – comfort, attractive and unique – to the point that price is the all-consuming factor of purchasing a garment, so much falls to the wayside. And unless you are truly part of the upper 10% of the population wealth, you can not enjoy clothes that really flattering, comfortable and reflect your individualized style and as more generations come and go, the consumer that did once enjoy those personalized clothes is disappearing — that is – unless you sew.

Now, to be on the real side, here, there are other factors as well that I like about sewing. Sewing allows me to leave a better footprint on the planet as I not only have less waste in the production of my garments, but I have less waste in the disposal of my garments because they last for so long and I’m wearing them for 5 or 6 years if not decades. I’m not having the waste of making a whole set of garments every 6 to 8 weeks, nor the waste of having to dispose of those garments every 6 to 8 weeks. And a lot of my garments have the ability to be recycled or up-cycled. I’m also more self-sufficient in that I’m not dependent upon clothing-store buyers who only make available to me what they think I will buy, designers who think they know what my style should be, marketing retailers who think they know what I want, clothing manufacturers who think my only concern is price and an industry that is groping to cope with appealing to a consumer base that is growing more and more dissatisfied with the product that is available. And then there is the part about saving money when I sew, which slays me since the industry believes that only the cheapest garment will really sell which is the most expensive and wasteful way to market clothing. If the consumer really wanted to be cost-effective, then garments would really last longer. In reality, they don’t which is a far more resource hungry model than the one that makes durable clothing that lasts for years and decades. But that model isn’t as financially rewarding as selling the cheap clothing that needs to be replenished every 6 or 8 weeks.

There is something else here that occurs that’s very hard to describe in the importance and fulfillment that a person enjoys in this process. The very idea that I can take an abstract thought and convert it into something that I can touch, see and wear, but that becomes a useful part of my life is incredibly satisfying. There is the message to me, “I did that!” This is probably why you see so many successful blogs and sewing sites entitled: “Yes, I Made That,” or “Me Made.” Yes, there is frustration, confusion, and bewilderment, but overcoming those or working past them is part of the sense of satisfaction and pure joy that the accomplishment brings. That’s why when complimented, sewists can’t help but enjoy, “Well, thank you. I made it,” becomes a very intoxicating mantra! Then to wear this satisfying-induced item so that all day long, I’m thinking, “Wow, I envisioned this and the turned it into something concrete, and it’s beautiful,” is the feeling that artists get when they have accomplished an artistic work. There are university studies that cite that the endorphins that musicians emit when playing music are the same as those emitted when enjoying a favorite food (think ice cream). And although endorphins like this are not classified as addictive, they are extremely sought after. This is what compels an artist to create — the satisfaction that it brings is a high.

Sewing for me is above all a personal reflection of who I am.

it’s a chance for me to create.

It allows me to leave a less intrusive footprint on this planet.

It more economical.

And it is a joy – so addictive, I cannot not sew!

And I’m not the only one. Most sewists find this true in their experience of sewing.

7 Comments
  1. Well said. I sew for the same reasons as you. I love the satisfaction of turning a piece of fabric into something useful and beautiful.

    My other problem is fit. I have a plentiful bust so finding RTW that fits is a challenge unless I want to wear a tent.

    Added to that it gives me something to do. I think in this modern world we are in danger of losing our sense of worth, of what life is for. By producing ourselves one of the basic human needs it grounds us and helps us to see what is really important in life rather than what the media wants us to think is important.

    • FrenchFancy – that’s a very good thought about losing one’s own sense of worth. I’m never sure this is an individual thing with me because it was so ingrained in me at such an early age, that when I had success at something – such as a new ball gown design for Barbie – there was such elation, that – well – it hooked me from the beginning. I get the same feeling when I play a beautiful piece on the piano, or when I draw a good drawing or a good watercolor, but it does not even begin to compare with the feeling I get when I create clothes for my self or my clients. And being a feeling I’ve had virtually all my life, I almost thought it’s individual – that grand feeling of accomplishment, and I would hope that others experience it too. Now I know that we all experience that with something, and hopefully, it would be something positive, not anything like drugs, etc., and I would hope that each and every one of us can experience and find that accomplishment that gives us ultimate pleasure. For me it’s sewing, so naturally, that’s where my bent is! I love your bringing this up! Thank you.

  2. Very well said. I particularly like the last paragraph about how we can’t no sew or create. I’ve felt this way for a long time!

    • Yeah – I’m pretty much hooked and have become a full-time pimp to get other hooked!!! 🙂

  3. “The very idea that I can take an abstract thought and convert it into something that I can touch, see and wear, but that becomes a useful part of my life is incredibly satisfying.“ Thank you for stating this in such a wonderfully clear way. I’ve been thinking about this but struggling for the words.

    • This is such an abstract idea in and of itself, that it’s difficult to conceive, much less express. But I liken it sort of like seeing a wisp of a cloud in the air and plucking it out of the air and with your hands and imagination, it becomes, fixed, tangible and real. It’s the real part that always gets me! This is at the very nature of what artists do – they change a wispy thing that goes by that most folks simply think – “Oh that’s nice,” and then go on about their way, but artists grab it out of the netherworld and poof it becomes real. The whole concept is so ethereal that it’s hard to explain!!!

  4. Very well said!

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