The fashion revolution is a global movement that encourages us to buy fewer clothes, care more, and know how to make the clothes you love last for longer.
I had a little fashion rebellion of my own two years ago when I decided to stop shopping for clothes and to make my own. I wasn’t being particularly virtuous – it was partly due to being unwell and housebound and going a bit mad. Throw in a very tight budget, and a serious love of clothes, then I found out more about where our clothes actually come from… Perfect conditions for a personal fashion revolution.
Here’s how it happened for me, with some tips for you to follow if you are interested in starting your own fashion revolution. Mine took about 7 years, from shopaholic to conscious sewist, and I’m still working on it!
Here I am head to toe in me-made clothes. Not perfect, just happy.
If you’re interested, the patterns are: Sew Over It Kimono jacket; Merchant and Mills bantam vest, Merchant and Mills Strides trousers. The bow was just a touch of silly because I had some leftover fabric. All fabric was given to me by my mam and fashion designer brother in law! Yes I am THAT lucky.
- The Motivation
I was a new-ish mum with a body that was suddenly much fatter, and a bank balance that was suddenly much thinner. I was housebound a lot of the time (I had M.E.) and so going a bit mad on account of the loneliness and feeling kind of useless. So I couldn’t really afford new clothes, and then I began to learn about fast fashion, which frankly took a lot of the fun out of shopping. Bah.
I live in Brighton which is ever so stylish and cool.
I felt like such a frump! So the seed was planted to find a new way of clothing myself.
Question for you. Do you want to feel better about how you dress, and where your clothes come from? I did, so I started here…
2. The ten-item, curated, mindful, wardrobe
The lure of looking like a Parisienne got me into reading Jennifer L. Scott, the author of the Madame Chic series of books.
Jennifer did something which for me was revolutionary – she got me thinking about how I could feel good and appreciate a small number of good quality clothes. All part of her “Ten-item wardrobe”. I loved her YouTube channel and how she blended style with moderation and caring for your clothes.
I started saving up to buy good quality items and thinking about how to dress in a way that felt fun, but not chasing after every ruffle and cold shoulder and hemline that the catwalk suggested each season. I watched Marie Kondo and I purged my wardrobe of all clothes that didn’t ‘spark joy’. Our local charity shop did well out of this!
Recently I started following the sagely advice of Anuschka Rees in The Curated Wardrobe. This is helping me untangle my excited brain as it tries to plan making all of the new shiny sewing patterns that are released each month. My output is Very Small, but in my head I am Coco Channel.
Top tip – read or watch on YouTube the likes of Jennifer L. Scott, Anuschka Rees, or Marie Kondo for help if you are feeling overwhelmed about where to start.
My good friend and Fashion PR expert has written this blog post – Diary of an Honest Woman blog post on Fashion Revolution – which is very helpful and inspiring for anyone keen to make their clothes shopping more sustainable (and fun, because shopping!)
3. The Sewing Resurgence
I was so happy to see that sewing was coming back, I couldn’t wait to join the party!
I had wanted to sew for years, I had visions of me sewing garments of joy, wafting around in highly original colourful fashion dreams. I had a sewing machine that I didn’t know how to use. Sewing was in my DNA, I grew up around a nana, a mum, and an aunty who all sewed. I have nice glowy memories of being small and listening to them talk about sewing, patterns, and fabric. I slept on a Z-bed in my nana’s sewing room when we visited, and I can still smell the oil of her industrial overlocker. Yet I felt intimidated, as surely dressmaking was something you had to have learned at school?
Then this happened.
The Great British Sewing Bee. Aha! Ordinary people can sew! Maybe I can?! I started sewing bits of fabric together into bunting, while day-dreaming of making clothes.
Then this happened.
A beautiful sewing shop opened 5 minutes walk away from our house. Kismet! The sewing resurgence was bringing dressmaking to our town centres and tellies. Hurrah! The owner of Oh Sew Ditsy, Juliette, is oh sew encouraging and kind. She is all about getting people started, and about experimenting, and absolutely not about getting anything perfect. She offers a sewing space with everything you need, so you can get started even if you don’t have a sewing machine.
I bought a pattern and some fabric, and never looked back.
If you want to make your own clothes, congratulations! A very joyful choice! Feed that feeling – visit fabric shops, talk to the staff, visit your local library and book shops and flip through sewing books. Don’t worry about learning all the things – just look at the pictures and imagine yourself sewing. I find Japanese sewing books highly inspirational, though I’ve yet to use one!
4. The independent pattern companies and the wobbly new clothes
So its been a really happy joyful choice for me. I began wearing handmade clothes of dubious quality, wobbly hems, weird fabric choices, not-great fit, with the pride of a small child.
All because I found sewing patterns that were designed for beginners, they knew I didn’t know what a seam allowance was, nor how to sew curvy bits.
It began in Oh Sew Ditsy with my mam. She basically told me to stop faffing about and buy a sewing pattern. She probably bought it for me. It was the Bettine dress by Tilly and the Buttons. A revelation! Dressmaking demystified! It took me weeks, I practised the nice round neckline on a series of tops, then I took the plunge and made my dress.
This is me in March 2016, all proud and stuff, in a top I made to practice the Bettine dress neckline. It is well wonky and I love it! I wear it outside in public and everything.
Here’s another practice top, hacked from the same pattern, see the big daft grin? I wanted to tell strangers, “I made this!” I was still quite poorly, but I wanted to get out of the house, just for a coffee, because I’d made an actual piece of clothing.
This is my first skirt, and first zip-based adventure…In April 2016 I made a skirt from charity shop curtains. My husband named it “Skirtains”.
Then came the Sew Over It Ultimate Shift Dress. Another great beginners’ pattern with nice clear instructions. My first one was a bit too small…
My second one was a bit too big…
And I love them both! I’m still wearing them.
If I told you all about the sewing patterns I’ve learned from you would soon get bored/exhausted. I have mentioned here the 2 that got me started in the first 6 months of sewing. There are now many wonderful companies out there for beginners to learn from. I can highly recommend: Merchant and Mills, The Makers Atelier, Helen’s Closet, The Grainline Studio, Closet Case Patterns, Seamwork and Colette, Sew House Seven, By Hand London, Nina Lee London, Cocowawa patterns … plus there are many many more to explore.
Start sewing with pattern designers who will hold your hand and feed you tea and biscuits and pat you on the head. You know, sort of, in the way they teach you so very clearly. I started out with Tilly and the Buttons and Sew Over It, and am still learning from them 2 years down the line.
Wear your wobblies with pride. Share your makes on instagram because the sewing community are very generous and kind, and love to see new sewists join the party.
5. The YouTubers
I’m not sure I’d be making my own clothes if it wasn’t for YouTube. I searched something like ‘sewing’ (obviously) and found Lisa Comfort. The signature tune of her Sew Over It YouTube channel still takes me back to the feeling of pure excitement I felt when watching her talk about and model clothes she had not only made, but designed.
Since then, and possibly inspired by her, 100s of sewing vloggers have emerged, and I welcome every one.
So if this has been interesting to you, you can do a fashion revolution too.
Welcome to this happy world. It has brought me far more than new clothes, I have made new friends and found a creativity I didn’t know I had. Its enabled me to be generous when I’ve had no money, as I can sew gifts from fabric leftovers. And I am part of a gorgeous, positive and growing community of makers. Yay this.
The fashion revolution
A mindful wardrobe
Feed the need to sew – gathering inspiration and happiness
The sewing pattern designers who got me started