What's in my closet?
How does a wardrobe, a closet, evolve, become more purposeful, measured, thoughtful? As it is Fashion Revolution Week, I find these thoughts that swirl about in my head, ripe to be shared. How does one come to decide what to sew and/or purchase for one's closet? In my case this is about sewing up garments, but I know for others the issue does revolve more around what to purchase from whom.
I am feeling increasingly discerning about what my makes are, or should be. I am not much of one for throwing things out, I much prefer re-purposing or re-homing. This means I have a pile of items to bring to the Slow Fashion retreat clothing swap this July. Last year that was a highlight of the retreat for me. Watching items I had made but were no longer wearing leave with new bodies to cover. I have found myself looking at my closet and recognizing that, while I loved making a garment, may have worn it for some period, if I am not wearing it now, have not worn it in over a year (!), that I should just let it go. Do you have that situation in your closet? I am at the point now where I am on the third or fourth generation of Me-Mades and I can see a shift. (My word of the moment...) Having learned how to make pants (thank you Ginger Jeans and Lander Pants) that I will wear, I have shifted away from skirts. Once I have a pair of pants or two that I like on my body, then I can go back to an old habit of daily dressing in jeans and a top. This time, me made. I am lucky that I work for myself and have no office dress code. Having banged out a bunch of Hemlock tees (sewing knits is not really my favorite task so I batch them), and slowly amassing a proper collection of Archer shirts (love me a button down), I now have a stylish uniform that takes very little thought in the morning.
I love to sew clothing. I love the challenge of matching pattern to fabric. The attention required to cut a project out properly. I can get absolutely lost in construction. (Right now I am obsessing over button down collared shirts. Give me all the Archers and Kalles!) The feeling of satisfaction that comes when I finish a garment that represents who I think I am, that fits me well, and that makes me feel happy to wear? Well, damn, what's not to love? As I have now been sewing for decades (good grief) my percentage of successes to failures is higher. I occasionally lift my head up from my studio and think, 'hmmmm, while I've been working on this project, have I missed important things going on out there in the world?' I can literally get that lost. Sewing taps into some deep pleasure zone for me right now. I may be avoiding some parts of the larger world (ahem, politics? Why is that abomination still president? What's with Congress? Is there anyone down there with any morals or ethics?) by sewing. A small part of me thinks that might not be a good thing. More of me is just fine with it. Right now I have sewing I have to do for work. I am making up a series of Archer shirts in different substrates as a teaching tool for both the Slow Fashion retreat and the Wardrobe Basics retreat. Plus I am in the thick of sewing up the 70 (!) goody bags for the retreats. There is a legitimate reason for me to be sewing a lot right now. And I am luxuriating in it.
Increasingly I find that my closet is over-crowded, that I am smushing items into a tight space. And I wonder, why is there so little room in my closet when I keep wearing the same things over and over? Because I do keep wearing the same 15-20 items over and over. There are dresses and shirts hanging in there that I used to look at fondly as satisfying makes. Even if I wasn't wearing them, I was emotionally attached to them. I don't like joining in, but last month I did a Whole30, and am now eating Paleo. It feels good, I'll keep going till it doesn't. Since this change I haven't lost much weight, as others report with this eating approach, but I have lost a full size in my clothing. This has become an opportunity to sew up new garments, in smaller sizes, to clothe the slightly smaller body. For someone who has been suffering from barely diagnosed disequilibrium* for about four years now, which has curtailed my ability to exercise and caused my shape to change, this new development is a small piece of optimism. Hopefully a chance to get moving again. And an excuse to spend more time sewing! Each time I add a new garment to the crowded closet I wonder why there isn't enough room to store them? Now, I find myself mildly annoyed with the older Makes, as they are crushing the items I wear often, making it hard to get into the closet, and making me more than a bit guilty about how full my closet is. Ah my neuroses, here they are folks. Laid bare. Let me add to that. I cannot bring myself to take these items to a thrift store as I know much of what goes there ends up in landfills. Especially items that have no label and are not of a recognizable 'style'. So I move the unworn items to the spare bedroom and hold on to them for the clothing swap at Slow Fashion. It isn't really a good long-term solution, but right now it's all I've got. I think occasionally about 'de-stashing' (if you will) on Instagram, but then get tired and bored thinking about the listing and the corresponding and the shipping, and worry that no one would want what I made and wore for some period of time. (cue more neurosis) So into the spare bedroom they go.
I am unwilling to go fully Kondo and purge the whole thing, but slowly, it is being culled. And I am enjoying watching the changing perspective, the shift in values, about individual items of clothing. I see it wider than my household. I see it on Instagram and in blog posts. I see this community of modern sewists improving their Making skills, accumulating new techniques, stretching their abilities, trying new challenges, and becoming increasingly discerning in what they want to make. I think the flood of new pants patterns on offer from the Independent pattern designers of note reflect this shift. We now have two kick ass Jeans patterns in the Ginger and the Morgan patterns, and dressier pants in the Sasha from Closet Case Patterns. Thank you Heather! True Bias has both the white hot Lander wide leg pants that everyone seems to be making, and the Emerson and Hudson patterns. Nice work Kelli. In the looser wide leg camp there are the Flints from Megan Nielsen and the Arenites from Sew Liberated. There are also all sorts of outliers like the Persephones, the Terra pants, the Nagoyas, the Safrans, McCall's 7445. Pants were seen as aspirational not long ago, now everyone is making them. Yup, pants are exploding! And not from too much dinner. Pants are a game changer. Skirts are fun, they are beautiful, they are accessible, they are functional. But pants? All us modern women wear pants, thank you very much. Few things make a me-made wardrobe more realistic than being able to make pants. And once you make them, you wonder why it took you so long.
This collective evolution, this turn towards truly functional, pragmatic making by the wider sewing community, says to me that our collective skill level is rising. It also says that we were hungry for a way to change our consumption, and we have found it. I know not all who sew clothes for themselves do so because of their footprint. There are many, many reasons why we all sew. Some want to address fit issues. Some want to play with fashion silhouettes. Some don't sit still well and need a hobby. Some are concerned with the politics of Modern Fashion. Whatever reason you have for sewing your own clothes, it is remarkable to see how the modern movement has shifted (!) to a more sustainable, practical model. We aren't making party dresses, we're making workaday items to replace things we used to buy from corporations. The businesses within our community are adapting to our needs and demands. Our skill sets are growing to meet our desires. In the grand scheme of things I have no illusions that we are changing policy. A report on the news last night talked only about the changes in building safety since the Rana Plaza building collapse. Such a light skim of the whole story. But we must be making some small dent in their bottom lines? And hopefully we are helping some garment workers get better treatment in their workplaces. And keeping a little bit of toxic chemicals out of the environment...? If there is anything our current political shitshow has taught me it's that small incremental change on a local level is about the only place we have control. So let's wield it, no? Fitting ideas for Fashion Revolution Week.
* The closest I have gotten to a legitimate explanation for my spinniness is from my Neuro-Optometrist who says that my brain is acting as if it had some trauma and needs to be re-taught how to see the world. I have no recollection of any injury to my head, although I am getting to an age where the past is a bit of a blur. But as no one else has offered up any more reasonable explanations I feel comfortable with this diagnosis, and am seeing VERY slow progress.