Caitlin Moran on clothes

Has anyone here read Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman?

caitlin moran how to be a woman

I’ve been re-reading it for the second time, and came across this on page 212:

“Before the high street, women would make their own clothes, or see a dressmaker, so that everything we wore was an honest expression of who we were, and what we were comfortable with – within the constraints of fashion at the time, anyway.

With the advent of mass fashion, however, not a single item of clothing sold is ‘for’ the woman who buys it. Everything we see in Topshop and Zara and Mango and Urban Outfitters and Next and Peacocks and New Look is made for a wholly imaginary woman  – an idea in the designer’s head – and we buy it if we like it, say 70 per cent. That’s about as good as it gets. We rarely, if ever, find something that is 100 per cent ‘us’, and that we truly desire – although we never admit this to ourselves. Most women are walking around in things they’re imagining to be that little bit better. An inch longer here. Without that braiding. In a slightly darker blue. It’s the first thing we say to each other: “I wish they’d had it without the collar!”

Because if you know I don’t like the collar, then you’ll know who I’m really trying to be.”

I’ve lost count of the amount of garments I’ve bought which don’t quite fit the bill. The beauty of sewing and refashioning your own means you’re completely in control of this process. Making something from scratch means absolutely every detail is up to you.

In this respect, it’d be interesting to take a look at sewing from a feminist perspective. After all, sewing for yourself isn’t sewing for some “imaginary woman”. You’re in control of every detail, and you don’t have to ‘make do’ with a garment which doesn’t quite fit you.

It’s food for thought at any rate. Moran and I may not agree on high heels, but I think she’s spot on with the clothing industry here. What do you think?

12 thoughts on “Caitlin Moran on clothes

  1. molly says:

    It’s an interesting idea, that I mostly agree with, but I think alot of people do the same thing with sewing their own clothing too. It takes a ton of effort to know exactly who you are and what you like to wear all the time, sometimes (at least for me) you just want to sew or just want to be done with the project. The end result is probably 80-90% instead of 70% acceptable though.

    • Elena Cresci says:

      I can totally see what you mean – I didn’t touch on it much in my initial post because it was a quick one written just before I went to bed, so the responses here definitely merit a follow-up!

      As for the 80-90% satisfaction rate – I have to say, while I hadn’t considered it when initially writing the post, I do agree. This is probably why so many of my me-mades are lying at the bottom of my wardrobe! It’s a process really, because as my sewing gets better, so does my satisfaction with a garment. But more on that soon 🙂 thanks for commenting!

  2. Rozann says:

    I haven’t read the book, but the whole reason I sewed when I was a teen and in my twenties is so that I could get just what I wanted, in the color I wanted and the length I wanted. I used to put pieces of patterns together as I never seemed to find exactly what I wanted in one pattern. Hooray for a renaissance in sewing! We can each be our own designer!

    • Elena Cresci says:

      Rozann, it’s such a good book, I’d really recommend it! I don’t agree with everything Moran says (with regards to heels, she doesn’t seem to like them, but for me… THEY ARE FAR TOO PRETTY NOT TO HOBBLE AROUND IN!) but she’s incredibly frank about her own experiences and how they relate to womankind in general.

      And a definite hooray for sewing 😀

  3. Layla says:

    I think this is a really interesting quote and probably pretty accurate. I know that when I bought clothes I used to have an idea of what I wanted and always be dissappointed to have to make do with what I found. However even when we make our own, we are still constrained by something or other-usually what fashion dictates is ok but also by what our peers will think of our clothes. Sewing is definitely more liberating but I’m not sure we can ever really be free of societal constraints.
    I also agree with @molly, that sometimes you don’t get exactly what you want when you sew but you make do out of laziness!!

    • Elena Cresci says:

      It is interesting – this idea of social constraints still affecting sewing. This quote struck me off the cuff really, but the responses have been so interesting, I think a follow-up post is needed!

  4. Ali says:

    Very interesting. I’d agree with her on the clothing industry, not to mention why we have so many stretch fabrics out there (to accommodate a varied shopping public) and the feeling that going to a tailor is an extraneous expense (since we cycle through clothes so quickly anyway). So we’re left with stretchy, ill-fitting disposable clothes.

    But I have to agree with @molly. I’m hardest on my me-mades because I know what went into them. Having the feeling of endless choice during the construction process makes me feel like I had (and possibly missed) the opportunity to create something that was “truly me.” Good news is I’m getting better on this front, but here’s how it’s affected my shopping: I won’t buy something I only like 70 percent (retail or thrifted) since I can now create 70-percent love at home. So sewing has actually made me demand more out of shop-bought, and since so few items live up to that, I end up making more clothes at home. 🙂

    I also love the role that choice has in all of this — great video, if you haven’t seen it:

    • Elena Cresci says:

      I hadn’t thought of stretch fabrics! It’s so true though. Before, I never really thought of rows and rows of clothing as catering towards a specific ‘imaginary’ woman – the way I always saw it was you sifted through the mundane to find things which were ‘really you’, and then you’d put them with other things to make them just that. Except along the way I’ve found myself settling for garments which are less than quality purely because they’re cheap or even because everyone else is wearing it.

      I’d agree on the being hardest on me-mades. Perhaps it’s a process more than anything – I recently refashioned a dress I made the Summer before last because I never wore it. Nowadays I wear it a lot more than I used to because I changed it up. This never would have happened with something I bought from a shop! So while the 70% remains with me-mades, at least I feel a little more inclined to change it up if it’s not quite what I wanted.

      I’ll be sure to watch the video as soon as I get a chance, but thanks for the link!

  5. aviewintomyworld says:

    haven’t read the book but I like the quote – thats why went out and learnt how to make my own clothes, cos I wasn’t able to find what i wanted.
    my results aren’t always 100% but they’re closer to it because I made it rather than bought

  6. Zoe says:

    Hi Len! I was just thinking about you yesterday, wondering how you are getting on with your pledge, and then you comment on a couple of my blog posts – sp00ky?! Anyways, lovely to hear from you. Seems you’ve been busy (if not doing as much sewing as you’d like) and your blog is looking really interesting and buzzing. I LOVEthat Caitlin Moran and have my own couple of posts planned in connection with some of the points she makes about fashion. Great minds think alike! I just wanted to say, don’t beat yourself up for not having lots of newly stitched garments, you’ve got lots on your plate, and keeping this blog as such a form of inspiration must be a time consuming endeavour in itself. Thanks also for your recent comments and for sharing your thoughts about what you like about craft markets. I agree, I love to see a stall with heaps of vintage or well curated notions amongst handmade stuff products for sale, seeing all that creativity makes me feel creative in turn and it’s great to be able to pick up a couple of starting points like notions whilst you are feeling that way. Thanks again! Merry christmas Len
    Zoe xxx

    • Elena Cresci says:

      Ooooh spooky indeed! I’d like to pretend I’m psychic or something but it’s definitely not the case! I absolutely love the book, and I didn’t really pick up on the fashiony bit the first time round – I loved your post about her as well! She’s really tapped into that feminism/fashion issue really well.
      Aw thank you so much for your kind words! It’s true, I should probably think about how much work I actually have in relation to crafting time – like I’ve said in posts before, I spend far too much time around Macs and other trainee journalists to actually get my sewing on the go!
      Hope you have a great Christmas too 😀 thanks for stopping by! xxx

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