Thursday, 24 April 2014

#insideout : Fashion Revolution Day, Who Made Your Clothes?


I had mixed feelings prepping and writing this post.  I had the pleasure and pride of pulling out a stack of home sewn outfits, many more than last year.  And then I had the reason lots of people are posting their handmade wardrobes online for Fashion Revolution day: the death of over a thousand people when the Rana Plaza building collapsed.  Garment workers; mostly women, were the main casualties.  Only one day before, cracks had been reported in the building walls but workers had gone back into the building to fulfil contract orders that were due.  Its an unbearable loss of life, even worse in the name of cheap high street clothing.

photo from Laura, Behind the Hedgerows
For Fashion Revolution Day: Handmade, the question is  "Who made my clothes?".   I make most of mine and continuously aim to make more.  Why?  Primarily its not for ethical reasons-  I just love dressmaking.  I've made clothing since I was in my teens and the older and fussier I get about styles, itchiness, fibres, sustainability, (it's a long list)  the more I want to make for myself. I am also aware that by making my own clothes it takes me out of the cycle of wandering round the shops, trying on outfits with that mix of disappointment and self-loathing that only a changing room mirror on a Saturday afternoon can bring; away from the buying of stuff, stuff that I do not need or even want- if you have to make it, you consider much more deeply what you really need.


I don't kid myself that it's a cheap option.  Making your own clothes forces you to consider the true cost.  The effort, the time, the thread and notions as well as the fabric.  The mistakes too, the oddities that get sent to charity shops/given to friends/refashioned. I go through lots of thinking before I make clothes.  If I've spent £40 on the fabric, I want to make something that works, that I will wear and will become part of my wardrobe.   


And at the end of the process, I truly love my clothes in a sentimental, hard-to-let-go kind of a way. They have their ups and downs, like the time when I cut out a whole circle skirt dress back with the grain going the wrong way (shh, it's in this photo, it was Liberty and I think I got away with it)- but I love them all the same.  My wardrobe is my dressmaking journey- there are zips that took over three attempts to insert as well as necklines that worked first time.  There are many items I made for particular occasions- meet ups, weddings, sew-alongs- they tell my dressmaking narrative.


I am a firm believer in the idea that one person can make a difference, even on massive global issues like this. Not everyone can sew their own clothes and few of us can afford to pass up the cheapness of high street clothing but we can all think about our consumption and aim to reduce it a little.  Clothing is perfect to reuse, refashion, recycle. We all need to take a little responsibility and take action, however small. Check out Fashion Revolution Day across social media with the hashtag #insideout

sib blog

20 comments:

  1. What I am wondering is whether the fabric making process is any better than the clothes making process in terms of the mistreatment of those in third world countries. Do you know?

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    1. I am guessing it is just as complex and area, both for the impact on people and the environment. The fabric making process is a long production chain.

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  2. Thank you, loved this post. Making your own takes time, but so does looking for the right item....and not finding it. I once made all my clothes, I think I'll venture back in that direction for many reasons.

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  3. Very inspirational, thank you.

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  4. Great post Kerry. FYI I live in Indonesia, in a huge textile/garment making city. I had the privilege of visiting one of the garment factories there (a field trip with my sons class) - the conditions were really good, the workers seemed well cared for, and the owner gave the kids a little talk about caring for your workers, as well as providing employment for them. I was really impressed. They employ about 6000 people - people who would otherwise be unemployed. So I personally would be happy to buy clothes that said 'made in Indonesia' on the label.

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  5. Well said.
    It is a complex issue.

    And you been quite productive this last year. I've really enjoyed reading about your particular dressmaking journey.

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  6. I always find inspiration in your work, and your clothing pieces sing to me. I love to make my own clothing and rarely find anything on the rack that can compare to the attention to detail that emcompasses what I sew. I just did a post that speaks to this connection we have to our clothing when created by ourselves! As always, your blog is fantastic.

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  7. Wow, I have never heard of this. It's so sad. I have a question. I am a quilter, not a garment maker. My daughter is 14 and wants to learn to sew clothes. I'm not sure where to start. I'm thinking a basic skirt pattern. Am I on the right track?

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    1. A skirt is a great place to start. If you have some lying around, old bed sheets would be great to get her creativity started. She can cut and sew and play without worrying about wasting fabric. Then, we she has got it right, make it up in 'good' fabric. Refashioning old items of clothing is also a great low cost way to get into it.

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    2. I would recommend Simplicity 2226 pattern along with Anna's (Noodlehead) sew along which provides lots of beginner advice. She needs to measure her waist and compare to the measurements on the back- the waistband and getting the fit right on that is the most important thing so I would trace this part of the pattern off and make up a test version first but Anna covers this in her sew along. If you want to skip the zip, the Everyday Skirt download pattern by Liesl Gibson is perfect, very similar style but elasticated instead of the zip.

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  8. Your clothes fit you beautifully and that is one of the biggest benefits to making your own. ;p

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  9. Oh to have your talent (and figure!). Some of us need a lot more fabric ;)
    I have seen first hand like Deborah that there are 2 sides to every argument, and if we boycott companies for long-term gain/improvement, it is the individuals we care for, who really suffer immediately; sadly it's such a hard one.

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  10. I wore my handmade cardigan inside out today because I think it is an important point to make. Well Done you. Jo x

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  11. Beautifully written and thought out. I've enjoyed reading all the Fashion Revolution posts today but this one struck a particular chord. You really summed up perfectly my (sometimes apparently inexplicable) attachment to my handmade clothes. I'm so glad you got involved and I hope that we can collaborate on something in the future.

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  12. I would love to make clothes for me, but with the cost of fabric it's rather hard to take the leap to try and make something when you have a shape that can very easily leave you looking like a walking circus tent. With fluctuating weight I've been even less convinced (but I've also not really been buying clothes either). So I guess I'm saying that in theory I'd like to, but in practice I fall short.

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  13. So beautifully said. Thanks for joining the revolution! I hope we can make great changes!

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  14. Lovely post, Kerry! The whole garment industry thing is complicated. I spent a month in Bangladesh one night... Though I've lived in India, nothing prepared me for the poverty and desperation in Bangladesh. I literally couldn't walk down the street without people hanging on my arms at all times. People need employment there, so maybe it makes more sense to check out the companies whose clothing we like to buy and see if they use fair trade practices rather than not buying from certain countries.

    Your handmade clothing is stunning, always!

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  15. Thank you for your post!

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