A particularly busy time at work means that I haven’t had the chance to fire up the sewing machine very much lately. I have made one dress, (a relatively boring modern one). Photos of that are to come, once my betrothed has stopped commandeering the camera.
However, often when I am stressed, or down, or bored, or happy, or motivated, or tired or frustrated, I think about fabric and clothes. I suppose it’s obvious really, but because I make quite a lot of outfits, I just become more aware of them in general. I notice what people wear, and I notice how they fit (or not). My sewing has also informed the way I shop for clothes, and I have recently come to suspect that my personal ‘shopping rules’ that have consequently arisen may be not be considered normal by my peers.
The following ‘rules’ have formed over time, but the more I sew, the more they inform my non-sewing part of my wardrobe:
1. Wear natural fibres*
This would be my number one rule. I have quite a few reasons for this; some rational, some probably more psychological. I can see that many would argue this rule, and that’s OK. But for me, it’s something that I really try to stick to. Every time I deviate from it, I regret it. Firstly, natural fibres just look and feel better. They wear better. They BREATHE! The idea of wearing plastic (polyester, nylon, synthetic fibres etc) just disturbs me.
*There are a few obvious exceptions to this rule: Underwear, swimwear, and sportswear. The latter doesn’t really have much relevance to my wardrobe requirements.
It’s amazing how restrictive this rule is when you start shopping. I view this, most of the time, as a positive. Most retail clothes feature very little nature fibre content. It’s quite a saving and a turn-off. It makes me realise how much of a ridiculous markup there is on these clothes. Or they are just cheap, crappy, poor quality plastic imports. The GFC also seems to have brought with it a significant reduction in the natural fibre content of even premium brands, for both men and women. I would prefer to buy fewer items of better quality. They will last longer, look better and feel better. It only becomes frustrating when you are desperately searching for something specific and NOTHING in any of the stores is made from natural fibres. That’s where being able to sew is useful!
One further thing on this very important rule. If you wear natural fibres, you are more likely to cope with extreme weather. One of my biggest gripes is when ladies, in winter, complain of being cold, and they are dressed in nothing but acrylic/nylon/polyester. Usually without sensible layering. There’s a reason why sheep exist! Wear wool! And embrace woolen/cotton spencers and singlets!
Similarly, wearing polyester in the middle of summer is crazy. And gross. Even if it’s some cute and floaty fake chiffon garment, your body would cope far better if you wore, say, cotton, or linen or silk.
2. Avoid stretch fabrics where possible.*
Harsh I know, but again, there are exceptions. This is mainly a subset of rule number 1; ie – don’t wear stretch fabrics made from fake fibres. They are the epitome of eww, unless you are playing sport. I don’t know why girls insist on stretching stretch fabric to its maximum stretch – it’s just not cool, I’m sure it’s not sexy (a quick poll of some of my male friends confirmed this) and 99% of the time, it’s generally not flattering.
Knits from natural fibres such as wools, cottons etc are ok. A lovely wool jersey dress in winter is cosy, and it breathes.
*Again, the underwear and sportswear exception applies! I also occasionally stretch the rule to allow garments such as fitted but not-too-tight trousers to be, say, 97% natural fibre with 3% stretch.
3. If it doesn’t fit properly, don’t buy it.
I was amazed last year to discover that a lot of people buy their clothes off the rack without trying them on first. How is this possible? Fit is so important! It might be a fantastic garment on the hanger, but if it doesn’t suit your body shape, or it doesn’t sit properly on you, then, no matter how great the item in question, it’s going to make you, and it, look bad. My number one gripe – ladies squeezing into skirts/dresses that are obviously too tight across the hips/thigh area. The skirt bunches and wrinkles up; if there is a split in the back, it warps; the seams are stretched and the whole thing just looks terrible. Even if it looks great from the waist up, if it’s not right elsewhere, it’s still going to be wrong. I could go on about all the ill-fitting clothes I see being worn every day. Half the time, I don’t think people even realise! It fascinates me, yet also drives me silently crazy (well, less silently now!).
4. Iron your clothes.
Annoying I know, and this can probably be viewed as a number one reason why people don’t stick to rule no. 1. But, it’s so completely worth it. There is NOTHING like beautiful crisp cotton. Rumpled and crumpled clothes never look good. This goes for guys too – so-called “iron-free” clothes, aside from violating rule number one, just look cheap and make you look lazy. When you sew, you spend so much time pressing and ironing during the whole construction process, that it becomes second nature. And if you’ve spent all that time and care and effort making a garment, you want to display and wear it to its best advantage, so ironing just becomes standard.
5. Wherever possible, wear a slip or petticoat.
Without getting too Nanna, there is a reason why these exist. If the garment isn’t lined (and let’s face it, store-bought items usually aren’t), then wear a slip (petticoat) underneath. They stop things being see-through (another gripe!), they make everything hang and fall better, they are great for stopping stockings sticking to dresses and causing them to creep up, and they help smooth out any unwanted lines etc. It’s totally worth it.
So there you go; my top 5 personal rules for all items of clothing – whether store-bought or handmade! I admit that sometimes I deviate from these rules, but every time I do, it comes back to bite me.