Although I was shopping 98% secondhand already (with the rest being investments from fair fashion brands), I still felt I need to curtail my shopping a little. I decided that in 2022, the only new clothes that would enter my wardrobe would be ones I made – I can sew and crochet, so why not embrace it to the fullest?
Making your own clothes inherently instils a slower approach to fashion; you understand the cost of fabric and materials, the time it takes to cut and sew even the simplest of garments, and the skill and patience required.
"But you can still adopt unsustainable habits as a maker. I could buy metres of fabric without knowing who made it or how they were treated, I could chuck my offcuts straight in the bin, and I could use ball after ball of brand-new polyester yarn. I didn’t want to drift down that path, so I made the add-on promise of prioritising secondhand for all my supplies and resources."
When I first took up sewing again having lost the bug after finishing a fashion degree, I was overwhelmed by the choice of fabrics, notions, and sewing patterns. I had choice fatigue. Shopping secondhand, on the other hand, poses the very opposite challenge: scarcity, and it’s been the best creative inspiration I could have hoped for.
Without metres of fabric at my disposal, I had to start thinking sideways, seeing the potential in unexpected items. A lime green runner blanket became a quilted wrap around vest, a shawl became a hybrid hood-scarf (aka the cosiest winter accessory I could hope for), an old padded jacket became a laptop case, and the offcuts from that project were turned into a drawstring pouch bag complete with pearl embellishments from a vintage necklace.
"Currently on my sewing table is a pair of pink silky curtains which will shortly be transformed into a Vivienne Westwood-inspired dress and, when I’ve honed my skills a little more, I’ll be turning a pair of sturdy floral curtains into an oversized, tailored jacket."
Scarcity has also been instrumental in helping me fine tune my personal style. After all, I’d better like what I’m making from that one-of-a-kind piece of fabric as there’s no going back for more. An extension of my recent mission to really understand my personal style, making in this manner has meant I consider each make, ensuring I’m creating silhouettes and styles that I’ve loved for years and will (hopefully!) love for years to come.
Daunting at first, it’s also bestowed me with a more measured and patient approach to making. As a student, I was an erratic maker who did absolutely no planning, diving in and generating a lot of waste. But when you have 1.5 metres of fabric and no more, you must account for every centimetre, and as a result, I’m much more strategic in my approach to each piece I make. I think about pattern placement, I cut carefully, and I pin and press diligently.
Of course, there’s more to making than fabric. I’ve delved through charity shop drawers and boxes to find buttons, chains, and zips. I’ve found bags full of out-of-production Swiss 60s yarn and, perhaps my favourite, I’ve flipped through files and folders of vintage patterns. My number one fashion decade is the 80s (Marmite, I know) and in my various charity shop visits I’ve discovered patterns for voluminous blouses, broad shouldered blazers, high waisted tailored trousers, puff sleeve dresses, and button-through skirts. Sometimes they’re untouched but other times they’ve already been cut out and used, and it’s quite magical to imagine I’m making the same garment that someone else made 40 years ago.
I did wonder at the beginning of this year whether I’d miss shopping. I definitely missed out on some dream pieces when all of my favourite brands seemingly decided to have insanely discounted sample sales at the same time but, of course, that hasn’t actually had any meaningful negative impact on my life. At some point next year, I plan to invest in a piece of Pleats Please Issey Miyake, as it’s been on my list for over a decade, but other than that I’m more than happy to stick to scouring charity shops for blankets, offcuts, curtains, and all the other treasures they hold. Fashion feels so much more joyful and fulfilling when it’s a blend of creativity and spontaneity.