THE MIRAGE OF THE 100% HANDMADE WARDROBE | THOUGHTS ON ME-MADE-MAY 2020

THE MIRAGE OF THE 100% HANDMADE WARDROBE | THOUGHTS ON ME-MADE-MAY 2020

We are in the middle of Me-Made-May 2020, and as you might have noticed if you read the blog or follow me on social media, I have not engaged with it at all this year.

I have been working from home for the past 8 weeks and frankly, I do not feel at all like posting pictures of what I wear everyday. My working from home wardrobe was very unappealing and boring to me and I did not want to impose that on my grid either.

I also feel that after 5 years of pledging, I have nothing new to contribute to the Me-Made-May pledge. I am wearing as much of my self-made wardrobe as I will ever be at this point. I feel that artificially increasing that percentage is not only cheating but counterproductive, as I will be reaching even less for these items going forward.

However, this is not an issue of making clothes, but of curating my wardrobe and how much of what I have reflects my personal style and my lifestyle. I have been sewing for more than 10 years now, and I can definitely tell you I am not the same person as I was back then.

So this made me think about the mirage of the 100% handmade wardrobe and how this is both unattainable and unnecessary. At least for me.

The mirage of the 100% handmade wardrobe

Why a mirage?

Well, it seems to me that the 100% self-made wardrobe is this big prize that seems to dangle in front of us ever since we learn how to sew and decide to take part in the sewing community.

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Many times I got the feeling from social media and blogs – maybe it’s just me – that the 100% self-made wardrobe is that one goal that we should all be reaching towards. Hand-made is good, RTW is bad. And we should immediately replace the latter with the former as fast as we can possibly sew.

I wrote before about this dichotomy between the two. And I still stand by my beliefs that it’s not a competition.

But in the back of my mind, the 100% handmade wardrobe mirage is still there.

I can’t help feeling like I am failing in some way when I am not wearing at least one handmade item every day. And that happens more than I’d like to admit.

Making vs wearing

Why is it unattainable?

Because the goalposts seem to be always shifting. For me, it’s not a matter of volumes, but of desirability.

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Are we all falling for the mirage of the 100% handmade wardrobe? I am arguing that it is both unattainable and unnecessary. We should be focusing on loving what we have and only making what we need.

For example, let’s look at the rate of replenishment vs removal in my wardrobe, I take out as much handmade as I do RTW. And even though I have not been buying clothes for 5 years now, so I sew all the new clothes that make it into my wardrobe, the overall percentage difference between the two is not increasing as fast as I would expect.

And that is because the rate of attrition of handmade is also fairly constant. I part with handmade as easily as I do with RTW. It’s about whether those clothes fit me, excite me or are suitable for my life.

I also have been sewing for 10 years and there are so few things I sewed back in the day that I still like. I definitely did not go through the ‘quilting cotton’ dresses phase, as I never liked prints, but I did make some howlers that did not definitely stand the test of time. Thank goodness I am not sentimental.

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One of my most loved RTW jackets, almost 15 years old, worn with a RTW top 10 years old, a handmade skirt less than 6 month old and my trainers that are 3 month old.

If anything, as I have been constantly purging RTW for years, many of the items I do still have are the ones I absolutely love and wear all the time. Whereas for handmade, the hits and misses are more likely and I will end up with items I don’t absolutely love or that did not come out as I imagined. And they just don’t get worn.

The shiny object syndrome

Why is it unnecessary (for me)?

I seem to be suffering of this in relation to my handmade wardrobe so much more than I do with shopping.

Ok, admittedly, I now shop very very little, so that does not apply. Maybe I have transferred all my ‘shiny object syndrome’ manifestations to sewing. In fact, I’m pretty sure I did.

So, the way I look at it, the more I sew, the more chances there are for me to run after shiny objects, aka new patterns, new fabrics, and end up with a garment I do not wear. So, in the quest for the 100% wardrobe mirage, I will end up with a lot of clothes I don’t love and therefore never wear. And that to me is the ultimate fail.

A top I made on a whim in an evening because I got inspired by the fabric. Thoughtful? Not really.

The antidote? Thinking about my wardrobe as a whole, looking at things that I need and the gaps. And filling them in with the right piece, whether second-hand or thoughtfully handmade.

So my pledge for a Me-Made-Year? To love all my clothes, repair, restyle or refashion them so that I can wear them as much as possible and no less than 30 wears.


DID YOU TAKE PART IN ME-MADE MAY THIS YEAR? AND HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED THE MIRAGE OF THE 100% HANDMADE WARDROBE?

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13 Comments

  1. Steph
    12 May 2020 / 9:09 PM

    Really enjoyed this post, it really resonated with me.
    I’m not a prolific sewer, I have made maybe 3 garments this year so far and I love many of my rtw pieces. I still do buy rtw but much less than I ever used to and not so much from sewing but more from a standpoint where I want to try and love everything I have. I’m lucky that I can afford to buy only from companies and shops I share values with. But I still feel like because I sew I should keep moving towards a 100% handmade wardrobe and it sometimes removes the enjoyment in sewing for me, I’m still at confident beginner stage and part of that is because sometimes I don’t want to “fail” at sewing.
    I’m not sure I am making much sense here but certainly at the moment I am trying to chill out, enjoy sewing things that I want to wear and not worry about making mistakes. Otherwise I will just procrastinate for even longer and make nothing!

  2. Alix Davis
    12 May 2020 / 9:35 PM

    Very much agree. I know that I often sew things because I like the fabric, the pattern or want a challenge. Not necessarily because I need it. Have had many me-made fails (Jasika blazer!) that have instantly been given away. HOwever I also have many items that i’ve worn waaay more than 30 times. 100% me made is not something that I’m aiming for at all, and I don’t feel like a failure because of that. My goal would be to become a bit more thoughtful about what I make – but I do enjoy being adventurous and trying different things as well!

  3. 12 May 2020 / 9:43 PM

    This was really interesting. It’s actually the first me made may when I’ve had enough pieces to take part. So I am enjoying that. But I’m just ignoring the pressure and documenting it when I can, so I’ve only done photos on half of the days.

    I see what you mean though, consumerism can be transferred from buying to sewing! Equally as wasteful.

  4. Janet Moore
    12 May 2020 / 10:04 PM

    Why do people who think a completely hand-made wardrobe is desirable? Ready to wear clothes are now much more affordable, available and better made than in the past . I grew up in the 1960’s( I’m now 73) and made clothes as a teenager and young women, partly because the choice of ready to wear was more limited. Also my mother encouraged me and my sister to make things for ourselves.It was often also cheaper to make something for myself and often better fitting. Most of what I made were, skirts, blouses or shirts, skirts, dresses and trousers. I’ve never felt the need to make coats , jackets or underwear. But as I went out to work, then married , had children, still worked full-time, sewing clothes became something put on the back-burner. I don’t think of myself as a failure at sewing because I don’t make those items. Sewing is a skill which takes time, effort, a certain amount of money, and I think in some cases seems to be becoming competitive for no very good reason. As it happens, in me-made May, I am wearing a me-made shirt, but tomorrow, I probably won’t be. My me-made wardrobe is very small , I only make things that will fill a gap in my wardrobe, and I can’t find anything suitable to buy to fill it. I also have made plenty of household items, cushion covers, curtains, bedcovers and so on.

  5. artcoopsville
    12 May 2020 / 10:40 PM

    It also resonates with me. I make less than I used to buy, especially when my hubby worked for Asda and got 10% off. Im not one for all the new patterns and will often weigh up if I really need to own something before I buy. I also try to sew from my stash when I can.
    One of the reasons I sew is fit. I used to get so disheartened when clothes shopping as I often found clothes didn’t fit me and my self esteem would plummet. Now I can have jeans that fit and dresses that skim my body top and bottom and my confidence soars. Yes I too have sewn howlers, and I do cull clothes at least once a year. But I still have dresses I made back in 2012 that I love. (Currently altering an early make, where the waist seam was too low. I was quite surprised how well I’d made it as it’s taken an age to unpick).
    I’ve also not bothered with me made May. I was going to try wearing new combos of my clothes, but lockdown means I’m wearing the same uniform day after day. Today me made Cleo pinafore, striped top and knickers. Bought and darned legging. And a hoodie- which has to be the least cool item in my wardrobe and the most worn as it’s comfy, warm and easy to throw on. It’s RTW. It’s a kids item. It was a hand me down from friends whose boys are a couple of years older than ours. Then my Son wore it for a couple of years, now I have it. I would call that sustainable. Even if it’s not fashionable.

  6. 12 May 2020 / 11:09 PM

    Thank you for this insightful post. I agree with so much you’ve said and find this post refreshing but I am participating in me made may this year for a few reasons. I am not working at the moment, my industry is not one in which I can work from home so I’ve got the time. I have sewn all my life because I love it. I like clothes that fit me and reflect my taste. It’s a creative outlet which I share with a online community. I enjoy seeing what other people are pulling out of their closets. Photographing & sharing something I’ve made every day is helping me reassess what I already have.
    However I am always wary of jumping on bandwagons and following trends ‘just because’. It’s been on my conscience for some time that the fast fashion consumerist mindset mindset exists with fabric and patterns too, as you pointed out. Then there’s group pressure to buy the latest this or that Indie pattern, follow the herd. Um no. I am working toward a small, useful, cohesive wardrobe. I am so impressed that you’ve achieved this but for me it’s a slow process. I want to cull carefully. You could say I am doing me made May mindfully. Re the perceived goal of making 100% of your wardrobe, it just puzzles me. I see it as over the top in the realities of living in today’s society.

  7. Cindy
    12 May 2020 / 11:41 PM

    Thank you for this insightful post, as always.

    Me Made May doesn’t really resonate with me, mostly because daily selfies are not how/why I participate in the larger world of Sewing Instagram. I don’t participate as a way of motivating myself to wear my me-made items; I do that anyway. I participate in Sewing Instagram to see how different patterns look on real bodies: that’s what motivates me to post, and those are the posts that resonate most with me. It helps for me to be clear in my own mind re why I do what I do, otherwise I get bogged down in activities that (for me) feel forced.

  8. Andrea (fabricepiphanies)
    12 May 2020 / 11:56 PM

    I am participating in MMM this year but only when I have an outfit on that I am feeling good in. Those tee and track pants days or repeats I am leaving out. I do find MMM forces me to look at my wardrobe with fresh eyes and I really like looking back at my outfits down the track for inspiration. I have been using a Wardrobe APP for a couple of years now and this has really helped me see what in my wardrobe I actually wear. Unsurprisingly, black navy and neutrals are my most worn colours so rather than change this I am working with it. I do buy rtw but am also aware of my large fabric collection and I am trying to use what I have before buying anything. I am also mindful of trends (jumpsuits come to mind here) and not buying into these too much. The 30plus wears is something I aim for but one thing my app has taught me is that this happens less frequently than I would like.

  9. Bunny Sewista
    13 May 2020 / 2:42 AM

    While I’ve never fallen for the whole Me Made May thing, I have read and seen the concept of sewing 100% of one’s wardrobe being dangled out there as if it were the Holy Grail. It’s not. It will not give you a bigger crown in heaven, as my Mom would say. Almost all of my clothing is self made but that is because I enjoy sewing, not because I have any sort of goal to make it all self made. I just sew a lot and have for a long time so I have a lot of sewn clothes. But this concept is ridiculous. There are things I have no desire to sew. I just go buy those. Even more important. there are things that I think are a waste of my time and talents to sew. Let’s face it, why would I make a tee, really, unless I want a silk one for a special evening? It’s just not worth my time, especially when I could be sewing something I really want to sew. I don’t know who originally thought up MMM but maybe in this new world we are all living in, it’s time has come. Time to move on and figure out what sort of sewing will make us happiest as we sit in our cocoons waiting for this all to pass.

  10. 13 May 2020 / 6:23 AM

    I have never done memademay but then I’m not of the selfie generation. I enjoy knowing that most of my daily outfit scontain clothes I have made, refashioned bought second hand, or had for a really long time. And it’s always bothered me that I’ve had to make a lot of duds before I was good enough at sewing and fitting (and finding the right fabric and design) to make clothes at least as good as rtw.

  11. Ina Krahl
    13 May 2020 / 6:43 AM

    Thanks for your thougts, they sound so negative for me and I do not know why. Memademay means different for me. I participate the first time and I joined Insta about a year ago. A lot of sewing profiles I follow post every second day a new garment, that bothers me, Iam wondering how big their closet is. Memademay relaxes this by showing handmade clothes a second time, remember them a have a look how people combine it with their other clothes. I post every second or third day, because I do not change my clothes every day, I never did and never will. I do not feel it is about showing 100% handmade and I never read I word that RTW clothes are bad.
    I can only talk about myself, I never liked shopping clothes or shoes, sewing is something I like to do, learn new things, have challenges. This is better than hopping from one store to another not finding what I needed.
    Insta is good for me to see how certain pattern look on different bodies, what fittings were necessary, patternhacks and so on. I already found out, what I do not need (Cardigans, wide leg trousers, ….), I can resist them very well. I do not buy new patterns on their release date, but keep them in mind to the point I have time for them. For me, I can not follow your thoughts 100%.

  12. 13 May 2020 / 10:20 AM

    Like yourself, I haven’t bought RTW for ages, but it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t if the right thing appealed to me. I regularly wear RTW jeans (I dislike making jeans) and a few sweaters. And don’t get me started on underwear…I have a love hate relationship with it in that I struggle with the fit of shop bought stuff and have even been known to alter shop bought knickers…but making them? It just doesn’t appeal to me.

    As an aside..I’ve noticed that those of us that are used to going out to work struggle more with the dressing at home part during the lockdown. I haven’t worked outside of the house for decades, so for me the word loungewear doesn’t really exist and I’ve learned how I like to dress while working at home. So believe me it does take time to adjust and get a whole new different mindset. Don’t worry about what you wear for now, just getting through this strange time and being kind to yourself is what counts xx

  13. 13 May 2020 / 10:30 AM

    thank you for the thoughtful post. my wardrobe is a mix of me-mades, thrifted buys, and stuff that somehow endured (I still wear a summer top from 1982!). The lure of the 100% handmade wardrobe would be a type of goal, but it would mean saying goodbye to some clothes that have a great history for me (ie my favourite is still my silk kimono top ….it seemed to fit for every occasion), or there is a recent thrifted buy of a pin-tucked blouse, as there is no way I would have ‘run’ that up as I truly would not have had the patience for it. I still prefer my me-makes to wear, especially trousers and dresses as off the rack is not going to fit me right, and I find as I am getting older (53) the cuts dont work especially if there is a waist seam (I never could understand what a thickening waist was until a few years ago….. and no amount of hula hooping was keeping that at bay!)

So, what do you think?

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