September marked the end of my second year committed to slow fashion, so over the weekend I took some time to look back at my sewing projects, shopping log, original commitment and one year review. With it being time to consider my wardrobe for the upcoming fall/winter season and Slow Fashion October, it’s the perfect time to gain fresh perspective, set new style and sewing goals and make a new commitment as I head into year 3.
Where I started
I ended my first year in September of 2016 feeling accomplished. I was happy with my clothes, I’d cut my shopping way down and sewn 6 new garments for myself. I’d created a beautiful cohesive mood board to help guide future projects and I was feeling inspired to focus more time and energy on slow stitch and natural dyes, bringing elements of my artwork into my closet. My goal was to use materials I had on hand and work on one project each month. Rules were abandoned because where to shop had become second nature.
“This year is simply about making. Experimenting. Creating mindfully.” – I said
That’s not exactly how I’d summarize the last 12 months and I’m hopeful that writing this all out will lead to a more focused year three.
What I Bought
I’ve been logging all my clothing purchases since September of 2015, along with where I bought them and how much I spent. At the end of year one, I was surprised to see that I’d bought 27 things in 12 months, 6 new and 21 used. This year I was floored when I tallied up a total of 68! I’m about to attempt justifying this number by breaking it down in more detail. Spoiler alert: It can’t be justified. Mistakes were made.
Brand New // 11 pieces // $380 total
I can at least say that great thought went into the new purchases and I don’t consider any of them to be mistakes. The corduroy pants, moccasins and athletic wear were purchased from companies I felt good about supporting and they’re durable items that suit my lifestyle, get lots of use and replaced pieces that were so worn out I couldn’t even donate them. The harem style pants were especially versatile, frequently taking me from a typical day of SAHM life to a family friday night out seamlessly, particularly in the combination below.
A swimsuit from Target and 5 bra’s from Macy’s make up the rest of the new purchases. I allowed these guilt free since I don’t know how to make them yet and the ethical brands I looked at just didn’t have what I wanted at a price point I could justify as a stay at home mom with a limited amount of savings. I wore the last ones until they were trash and will do the same with these. Sometimes that just has to be enough, and I’m okay with that.
Second Hand // 57 pieces // $180 total
The used items, not pictured here because of the ridiculous number, is where I should have done a better job editing. I had so many sewing fails this year that I just wasn’t adding new things to my rotation and my impatience led to a few trips where I picked up way too many pieces at once. Generally, I dig through thrift shops and take away one new treasure or just pick up clothes for the kiddo who’s constantly outgrowing things. I need to get back to that place. In reviewing the list, I determined I spent $67 on 18 second hand items which I either never wear or have already donated back to the thrift store…not cool. There were plenty of great finds that I wore a lot and continue to wear, so I’m trying to stop thinking of how I could have spent the wasted money and just let it be another lesson.
What I Made
I was feeling disappointed in myself when I first started to outline this post because I didn’t think I’d gotten much sewing done, but looking back I did work on 13 projects. Unfortunately, only 4 are in my closet and wearable, one of which was not even technically handmade but rather thrifted and mended. Two were thrifted and completely restyled and the dress was made from scratch. I can at least say I met my goal of working on 1 project per month and these are some of my favorite things.
Part of the issue was just the learning curve involved with making clothing. Combine that with patterns I bought on impulse just because there was a sale and fabric in my stash I thought I could use and it was a recipe for disaster. Even if they’d all turned out wearable, I’m fairly certain that the lack of planning behind each one would have led to total wardrobe duds. It’s no coincidence that after taking a closer look at the failures, my #2017makenine line up and subsequent projects were much more successful.
At the rate I’ve been going, and with just 3 months left, I’m not sure I’ll complete all the projects on that list, but I have one in process at the moment and so far it seems to be going well.
What I Learned
Year 1 didn’t actually undo my bad habits like I thought it had. Clearly, based on the number of items I bought, I still need a more strict set of guidelines for shopping, even if it is second-hand. In addition to the thrifting, I quickly realized without mindfulness, it’s easy to transfer bad shopping habits from clothes to sewing patterns or fabric. I’ll definitely be adding these purchases to the shopping log from now on…not sure why I didn’t from the get go.
I need to move beyond high school home economics skills to master garment construction and fitting before I can make my Allessandro Michele for Gucci dreams come true. In order to accomplish this, I’ve forced myself to set aside the guilt that comes from creating waste so I can just sew through bolts of muslin to learn my craft and gain the confidence required to cut into an expensive piece of fine fabric and know I won’t be throwing my money down the drain. I’ve already picked up my first bolt.
Owning a Fabric Stash
My fabric stash was mostly useless. Adorable vintage fabrics I’d thrifted never felt like ‘me’ when I’d dig through the bin to find something for a project. Some of my favorite’s are small pieces that need to be one element in a specific design while the remaining fabric will need to be purchased. Even pieces I bought brand new and excitedly prewashed in preparation for a project didn’t get used because they were either the wrong size, color or material for what I eventually wanted to make.
Based on this article I found while google searching ‘KonMari for artists’ I won’t be stashing fabric without a plan anymore. It seems pretty obvious, but I was 20 years deep in the “just in case” mentality with enough “imaginary work” to last a lifetime if I had no other obligations. The article is a good read for creatives on the path to simplicity. My overstuffed creative space is getting closer and closer to a simple little sewing corner with no extra stuff hanging around. I plan on using this method moving forward:
Project Idea -> Commitment -> Deadline -> Materials Hunt
Personal Style & Wardrobe Planning
The biggest mistake I made was confusing creative inspiration with my personal style. I created this mood board thinking it would guide my sewing and shopping until I had my ideal wardrobe, but as my closet began to align with this vision, I started to crave more color, variety and vintage flair. This mood board inspired me to create, but doesn’t represent my forever closet.
Removing all of my art related content from this blog and compartmentalizing my separate interests helped me come to this conclusion, and reaffirmed my decision to separate the two. It’s obvious to me now why so many designers have uniforms. Not every idea belongs in my own everyday working wardrobe. They can simply be channelled into individual bodies of work while my personal style remains separate. Of course, there will be some overlap at times, but in hindsight, I see where I went wrong. The fact that when I created this mood board the dominant color of blue was mostly non-existent in my current closet should have raised a red flag. I love some of the blue pieces I added, but this whole wabi sabi theme I was so drawn to when creating this collage just isn’t what I’m actually wanting to wear every day.
Maybe I should just buy a black turtleneck and call it a day…I kid…sorta?
Well, a few weeks ago I turned 37, and in addition to realizing I’ve been working towards an aesthtetic that wasn’t totally me, I suddenly felt like half my closet should belong to a teenager. I treated myself to a new book, The Curated Closet, created a pin board called 37 to gather new wardrobe inspiration and promptly took that inspiration thrifting and scooped up 9 new pieces to add to my wardrobe…yeah, the exact thing I was just saying was a big mistake I made earlier this year!
So, next on the agenda is no shopping for a while. No clothes. No patterns. No fabric. I’m starting to work through some of the exercises in the book in order to recalibrate and be sure I’m heading in the right direction with any new additions.
Once I’ve worked out a list of any gaps, I’ll select my next sewing project and allow the occasional thrift shop visit. I realize I’m completely contradicting what I said in this post in terms of loosening the reigns on shopping, but I wrote that before assessing my year of shopping and I guess either I wasn’t being honest with myself or perhaps had just completely forgotten how much I’d really acquired. Can I still blame mommy brain at almost 3 1/2?
A New Commitment / Note to self:
- Forget perfectly cohesive visual representations of your style and keep a small file of whatever you truly love (and really wear!). Figure out how it works together.
- Keep a well thought out and prioritized list of items to sew and/or purchase over time. Take it slow!
- Practice sewing. Practice pattern drafting. Do the work. Master your craft.
- Buy second-hand. No poor quality items. No temporary filler items. No items to upcycle unless you’re shopping for a specific planned project.
- Support socially / environmentally ethical companies when you must buy new.
I think dedicating this space to slow fashion, personal style and sewing will keep me more focused on my goals so I don’t find myself so far off track again. At the same time I have to laugh at how I’m beating myself up over such little mistakes when just 5 years ago I was buying brand new clothes every week without a second thought. In the big scheme of things it’s just second hand clothes, but I am determined to get this whole wardrobe thing figured out so change is more of a slow evolution than periodic overhaul. Let’s see what year 3 brings…