You may have spent an entire day slotting together an uncooperative flat pack wardrobe (not so much easy-to-assemble as an-easy-way-to-end-a-relationship) but it’s unlikely that any of the clothes inside your actual wardrobe were handmade by you too. All that could soon change…
There’s a growing band of people, armed with nothing but a needle, thread and scissors, determined to get us fashioning our own wardrobes (quite literally) and masterminding a unique look for every outfit. And you don’t have to be Stella McCartney or Victoria Beckham to pull it off - with a bit of practice anyone can do it for themselves…
“The stigma that sewing is a fuddy-duddy hobby is changing. Now when you say you sew, you don’t get that funny frown from people.” Lisa Comfort, owner of sewing café Sew Over It is determined to breathe new life into the lost skill. After graduating from London School of Fashion and working for designer Bruce Oldfield, Lisa set up shop in buzzing South London. “The café’s fresh and colourful but also quite homely – we tried to make it a nice place to be to enhance the enjoyable experience of sewing. People often say they don’t want to leave.”
The café is particularly popular with professional women in their late 20s and early 30s – “they work in offices and want to learn to sew because they want to do something creative with their hands.” The majority get involved for the dress-making, “they want to have a wardrobe that’s unique and fits them. Some are petite and sick of paying £10 every time they need to get trousers taken up, or they’ve got a big bust and slim hips, and need one size on top and one on the bottom. Unless you’re wearing jersey, and are a standard size all over, clothes will need fitting and altering, and it’s great if you can do that yourself.” Lisa has a strict rule – if she can make it, she won’t buy it. “I make all my own dresses, shirts, trousers and blouses. I buy knitwear and shoes. I love going shopping, but it’s for inspiration not for purchases.”
So does making your own clothes actually save you money? That all depends on the level you shop at. “If you’re a Primark shopper realistically it’s not going to save you money. If you’re a high-end high-street shopper it will. I can make a dress for £30 that I know in the shops would have cost me £100 if not more.” And if making an outfit from scratch sounds too daunting, Lisa is a big fan re-styling too, “studding, distressing and beading are all things you can do with no skillset sat in front of the TV, and very cheaply as well. At the end you’ve not only been doing something you enjoy but you’ve got a physical result you can see and touch too. That gives you a real sense of achievement.”
JP is a stylist, fashion writer and founder of his company EffortMade, presenting campaigns and fashion events up and down the UK. "My clients know how it feels to have their clothing speak volumes about them before they even open their mouths. When it comes to nuances or re-fashioning, be that from a subtle sleeve roll on a tee, cutting an old pair of unworn jeans into some grungy shorts, or darting the back of a shapeless frock to transform it into a figure hugging jaw dropper, the power lies at our finger tips (with the right advice!). As a stylist, when it comes to grabbing press attention for a client, personality is the key, if I put a different twist on something then suddenly there's a bespoke feel that doesn't always exist on the high street alone. Make the outfit your own personal creation and nobody can ever steal your thunder."
And you don’t have to hire a stylist to create your own hand finished item for big event. Gema Enseñat is a DIY blogger obsessed by upcycling and refashioning – whether it’s making a dress from a curtain, transforming a charity shop find or simply jazzing up a pair of old shoes. “If I can do it anybody can do it. I wasn’t good at school, and by that I mean I was very bad. I got chucked out of Home Ec for breaking the needles.” Now Gema’s a dab hand at salvaging old or unused items, reinventing them and posting the results on her blog Sequins and Slippers “With a £3 plain black bustier I found on a sale rail I can create hundreds of looks using, lace, applique, even feathers.”
Gema’s passionate about keeping hold of clothes that mean something to you. “When you go to a party you have a good time and you love the thoughts that garment carries for you. There’s an emotional attachment. The problem now is that with sites like Facebook you can look back at photos and see the same dress at five different weddings. By customising a dress, everyone thinks that you’ve got something new.” But the real payoff comes from knowing you made it yourself. “When someone complements me and asks where I got my outfit from I get a real buzz from saying ‘I made it’. I get goose bumps I get so excited.”
So with wedding season fast approaching and most of us keeping a keen eye on the bank balance, it’s the perfect time to pull out those unworn clothes from the back of the cupboard, dig out your sewing kit and try a bit of customisation first hand. You can update your summer wardrobe at a fraction of the cost and maybe even sooth your soul in the process! JP has an ethos: “Never underestimate the power of an outfit”. And if the source of that power comes from your own fair hand so much the better. So pick up your needle and thread, channel your inner seamstress and join the sewing revolution!