How much happiness do you derive from fabric shopping? (or pattern shopping, or anything else for that matter). My initial suspicion that I was not alone in feeling overwhelmed and not filled with joy with too much stuff turns out to have some sort of basis after all. I am grateful for everyone who has participated in the #makeyourstash conversations on Instagram or reached out to myself or Pilar, sharing how they feel about their stash and often echoing the “too much” sentiment. So the question for today:
Why do so many of us have so much <insert fabric, patterns, other item of choice> and if we don’t like it, why on earth are we still doing it? How can we stop?
I recently listened to an episode of the Wardrobe Crisis podcast by Clare Press, featuring Richard Denniss. He authored “Curing Affluenza” (which I am also reading) where he discusses the madness that is our culture of happiness. We have grown up to believe that status is linked to buying things and then throwing them away – and the more expensive the better! As someone who loves a bit of realism, Richard’s words were utterly refreshing (and he’s Australian which automatically made the podcast even nicer for me). Feeling inspired, here’s my two cents on the matter.
My fabric shopping gives me “transient happiness”
Richard’s description of “transient happiness” is pretty spot on when it comes to my fabric shopping. Over the last few years I have mindlessly amassed a load of stuff. Here’s the breakdown my shopping cycle.
By the time my fabric arrives I have totally lost the excitement I had when I bought it. In my subconscious I have already seen and worn the garment so it is not new and shiny anymore. Which means I was ready to move on… before I even had a happy post day. Honestly the shopping hit of happiness is probably not too different from the social media drug – you might have seen some articles like this one which outlines the addiction (a hit of dopamine with every “like”). As an aside, I feel particularly sad at the thought that social media might be causing childhood depression.
Why do we keep on buying?
I really like the term affluenza as it describes so much of how I feel about the commercialism surrounding sewing that has really grown in the last few years. The makers movement and sewing is often associated with words like slow, considered, mindful. Conceptually this works; you are much more likely to love and care for your clothes if you put in the time and effort to do it yourself.
However being an active participant in the sewing community in the last few years I have also observed that people fall so hard in love with sewing that it almost becomes DIY fast fashion. Every year in the UK there are more patterns, more fabric, more shops and there are definitely trend patterns. Bloggers are everywhere, new resources (e.g. YouTube, books and podcasts) are released frequently, Instagram is huge – and so is the inclination to buy and consume.
Is it a problem?
For many home seamstresses, sewing is a way to avoid fast fashion as we care more about the stuff we make and take the garment worker out of the equation. So the buy, wear once and throwaway cycle is less applicable. However, what IS completely applicable is the tendency to buy a lot of new stuff – especially fabric. Every year there are more small online shops, more indie patterns, more bloggers… Though in the grand scheme of things you could argue the percentage of people who make their own clothes is likely pretty small relative to the mass market so its not really a problem.
Even if not clothing, disposability also permeates other areas of our lives. Single use coffee cups, single use coffee capsules (this can be such a problem you might have heard of Hamburg in Germany banning capsules in government buildings), and of course the ubiquitous plastic water bottles. We grew up in a culture where its ok to use things once and throw them away – and for the most part we still think its ok! <rant over>
Waste does not disappear when you throw it out – it has to go somewhere
What can we do?
Embrace materialism instead of consumerism
This might sound weird – but maybe it would be a good thing. If we are material and love what we buy (instead of loving the act of buying) then we would have a lot less of a problem. In the case of fabric, if I am honest with myself I have loved buying more than having or making. But this is really personal preference. In last week’s “why use up your stash” weekly conversation a few people said that they loved their stash because of the awesome clothes they would make, and because there would always be something to sew when inspiration struck. I really like that they were totally fine with having a lot of stuff because they loved what they had and its useful to them so in that sense it is not wasteful.
Channel your fabric budget into something else
When you make a conscious choice to spend elsewhere other than buying fabric you can make a difference. Richard Denniss makes the argument that the economy doesn’t necessarily stop growing because we stop buying stuff. We still spend money but if we as a collective buy enough other services we can change the shape of the economy. For example, we could buy sewing classes, or spend money altering or fixing our clothes if we didn’t want to do it ourselves. If everyone who had a broken dress zip went to get it fixed or learned to do it themselves instead of buying a new dress, there would be a lot more shops offering to fix these dresses or teach you how to DIY. Pretty comforting thought don’t you think?
Personally I will be embracing what I have and using what I have via challenges like #makeyourstash, thinking about how much I want to have and clearing out the rest (and not replacing it), and channelling my money and time into other sewing type things. Keep you posted on how it goes!
How happy do you get from buying fabric versus sewing the garment? Are you a minimalist or do you love stuff? Do you unwittingly partake in disposability culture even if not with clothes?