Helen’s Cassandra dress pattern samples finally tipped me over into the velvet trend, probably about a year after it started. Normally I would not think of myself as someone who actively sews trends, though I may be subconsciously influenced by social and media barrage in magazines. By definition, a trend is short term so if I want to try and be sustainable I should avoid them.
I can feel smug that the fabric is organic stretch cotton (thanks to Stof & Stil), but it won’t be sustainable unless I wear it a lot or keep it for a long time, right? Don’t ask me why I thought black velvet would make a good work dress, it is much prettier than that. I even made the hem finish beautiful with a hand stitched satin bias binding to up the luxury vibe!
Trends and fast sewing
Did you know that the idea of trends as we know them only started to properly exist in the 1950s? This was the decade where advertising and consumerism really came into its own. It was helped along by the post war baby boom and the golden age of TV which provided a big audience and an easy channel with which to target them. (Fun fact: colour TV was invented in 1951). Here is a famous quote from 1950 about the fashion world –
Basic utility cannot be the foundation of a prosperous apparel industry. We must accelerate obsolescence. B. Earl Puckett, 1950.
Even in 1950 we were wearing our clothes for longer than retailers preferred and they had to figure out a way to sell more. Enter a look for every season, and tada! Trends were invented, brought to the public by advertising, and so it continues today.
Trends and fast fashion are terms that we generally accept go hand in hand, but what about trends and “fast sewing”? Every time I see a new season pattern release or fabric update from shop (winter florals on scuba, anyone?), they are closely linked to fashion trends. This makes sense; after all, sewing is just DIY fashion. But are we unwittingly partaking in fast fashion by doing sewing the trends? As well as the who made my clothes question that headlined a Fashion Revolution campaign another question may well be, Who makes my fabric? (I will leave that discussion for another day).
Trends and evolving personal style
Alas, the trends don’t suit everyone and they do take awhile to repeat. Culottes and wide legged trousers I remember wearing when I was a kid. As for velvet, it has definitely been a 2017 fabric of choice.
Personal style evolves so for me there is generally little longevity in sewing trends. Bell sleeves and peplums are too fussy for me. Brown earthy tones that were so popular in Fall / Winter 2017 do not go with my skin tone so I avoid them. As for velvet, until now I haven’t worn it since I was a kid. My mum had made me a wine coloured dress with a scalloped neckline and gathered skirt when I was about 10. The fact that that image is burned into my brain must mean that it was either awesome, or horrible. Anyway back to the Cassandra, it doesn’t feel “me” enough to be in the favourites pile just yet though I do think the dress itself if gorgeous. I am sure the initial Morticia Adams vibe did not help but I sorted that by taking 10cm off the hem.
My evolving sewing style
When I started sewing, I made things in medium weight woven cotton because that is what you tend to use as a beginner. Needless to say, being the jeans, tee and sweater girl at the time I never wore my early makes and just wasted a load of fabric. Fast-forward a few years and I started to make semi fitted dresses and pencil skirts with invisible zips to supplement my very large corporate wardrobe. These days I still revert to topping up with RTW as I prefer not to spend time making dark skirts and trousers for sitting under the office air co.
I hardly made any maternity wear because the time period was too short. Coupled with the amount of money I spend on fabric, buying RTW maternity stuff from Seraphine seemed entirely reasonable. I notice that TATB and Sew Over It have a couple of maternity patterns since Tilly and Lisa both had babies, but if I could go back and do it again I still wouldn’t bother with maternity wear.
(Un)trendy mum-wear sewing
Now when I am off duty I don’t want to feel like a “mum” with no sense of fashion, but I can’t deny that my sewing has changed. I do a lot of continual sewing for a growing toddler. For myself, easy care jersey dresses, tops and sweaters are my best friends. Especially since I have a left shoulder permanently stained with yoghurt or banana. Even more than before I favour clean simple shapes – mainly no/few darts, no waist seams, and no closures. Faffing around with buttons or zips is not ideal! In that sense the Cassandra dress totally works – trapeze shape, no waist seam, and no closures. Luckily it seems that I am not alone. Besides the Cassandra dress, popular indie patterns such as the TATBAgnes top, Grainline Linden sweatshirt, Grainline Willow dress come to mind.
Coats are still my favourite items to make. They seem to have the most longevity and never really go out of fashion, whatever the style or colour. They take a long time but they are easy to fit, wool is forgiving to work with and I like handsewing my linings. There are closures yes but I shortcut by going to the buttonhole maker and handsewing my zips.
Is my sewing sustainable?
Well, I am not immune to a trend and I do have the odd velveteen dress moment. As for the day to day stuff, it is a constant battle to find a balance between indulging the dressmaking hobby vs making stuff I don’t need. Making 6 wool winter coats in 2 years is entirely unnecessary but they do go with everything. I saw that the #sewmystyle coat project for February is the BHL Rumana coat. Whilst I have a wool in my stash that would go perfectly with it and the pattern looks fantastic, at this moment I can’t really justify making another. A goal for 2018 is to make less new stuff and refashion and restyle more old stuff. The #sewmystyle Let me leave you with a final picture of the Cassandra, just because I can!