Starting Out In Dressmaking

A jumble of differently coloured silk threads on spools

Have you ever bought an item of clothing online, based on what it appeared to look like when worn on a model, only to find that when it arrived, it looked completely different on you? Yes, me too. And it happens all the time – mainly because most items of clothing have a single dress size rather than a set of specific measurements. What helps the matter even less, is that dress sizes vary from shop to shop, which defeats the point in having standard sizes at all. This is not even mentioning the fact that many shops stock only a limited range of sizes, and if you fall outside of this range, you might find nothing at all that fits you.

Scissors and measuring tape on jeans

About a year ago, I decided to no longer buy new clothes – apart from underwear (there are some sacrifices that should not be made). There are many reasons for this, which I will sum up in one sentence: the fast fashion industry is exploitative, wasteful, toxic, and horrendous quality. To avoid buying any new clothing, my primary tactic is to address my material expectations – most of the time, I don’t actually need any more clothes than the ones I own. So I am trying to be more mindful of my consumption. Secondly, when I do need new clothes, I buy second-hand. Charity shops, eBay, and Depop are my best friends. I am currently wearing a wonderful chunky hand-knitted jumper that I bought for £15 on Depop and I feel like I don’t want to take it off ever.

Blue silk thread

My third tactic is a new one, and motivated by the reasons above – women’s clothing, even in standard sizes, is designed to fit a very generic shape that is not always naturally my shape. Also, sometimes I want the feel of excitement of a new item of clothing, without actually having to buy new. I have recently started to teach myself (with the help of the glorious internet) to alter, update, and customise my existing clothing. This started with taking in a baggy t-shirt that had always made me feel slouchy, and altering it to have a more feminine, fitted shape. I did this without a sewing machine and it took all of a few hours. It might not seem like much, but it was the first time I had altered a garment. I felt like I had a whole new t-shirt.

I am starting out on this journey of learning the basics of dressmaking and I already have so many plans to alter clothes that I would otherwise have gotten rid of. Of course, my new obsession with sewing has meant that I have purchased an unwise number of dressmaking books, sort of contradicting my attempts to reduce my consumption. But hey, at least they were also second-hand.

Blog by Jessica Edney