After a stint living abroad, Tina of Down the Retro Rabbit Hole changed her attitude to consumerism forever. Find out how her time living in India transformed her attitude to shopping centres and mass-made items.
Why did you take the Seamless Pledge?
In 2011 my partner and I returned from a year living abroad in India where he was completing dissertation research for his PhD. Post-India, my views of consumerism shifted drastically. I’d lived in India before, in 1999, and was thoroughly charmed by the “walla”–a “guy” (the literal translation) who sells a specific item.
If you wanted fabric, you went to the Cloth Walla. If you needed a screwdriver, you went to Tool Walla. Want some chai (tea) or snacks? Visit your friendly corner Chai Walla! And so on. The really great thing about this system of wallas was the relationship that developed. The wallas I visited often knew me by name, my preferences, and gave me “pucca” (good) Indian prices.
However, during 2010, I observed a significant shift in the Indian economy from Walla to shopping mall/center. It was heartbreaking as it meant a shift to an (even more) throwaway society, a decrease in product value and customer service and most definitely no more personal relationships with a friendly corner walla. I started to really think about the effect consumerism, specifically Western culture consumerism, has on the world.
When we returned to the USA in February of 2011, I just could not shop at malls anymore. I was acutely aware the clothing options neither fit nor flattered my figure AND the incredibly shoddy clothing construction. Furthermore, my age demographic (I’m 33) was definitely not represented as all I saw around me were items targeted towards teens, college-aged students, and grandmas.
Then and there I decided to not buy any clothing during 2011. Fast-forward to 2012 and I found myself with clothes I absolutely detested, but rather than buy new clothes, I decided it was time to (really) learn how to sew my own clothing! I stumbled across, and took, the Seamless Pledge and haven’t looked back.
What impact has the pledge had on your day-to-day life?
I think a lot about my role as a consumer. I’m on a very tight budget and just cannot afford to spend money on clothing that lasts one season –if even that!–and then gets tossed. This thought now also extends to sewing patterns (I buy versatile vs. trendy), sewing supplies (good thread vs. cheap thread, quality scissors, quality trim, etc.), and fabric.
At first, I used whatever fabric I had on hand which mostly tended to be quilting cotton. Quilting cotton, while in abundance (and so pretty!) at fabric stores like Joann’s Fabrics, doesn’t work well *all* the time (Tilly, of Tilly and the Buttons has an excellent post about using quilting cottons).
During my first attempts at (re)learning how to sew garments, I used solely quilting cotton. The garments turned out okay, but aren’t anything I wear. Now I buy quality fabrics that fit the pattern specifications as well as my lifestyle. This means I have to be a bit more picky about what I make because quality fabric can be quite expensive! As a result, my wardrobe is still stuck in 2009, but slowly expanding.
Any tips for someone wanting to give up mass-market clothing?
Invest in a good sewing machine and its feet. Find a good Sewing Machine Repair Walla (mine picks up and drops off my sewing machine) if you’re buying an older model. Learn how to maintain your machine–I cannot stress this enough! A good cleaning of the bobbin area will cure half your machine woes.
A sewing class, if available in your area, may be of great help to you if you’re a total newbie. Buy, at the very least, one really solid but basic sewing reference–I highly recommend The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, Threads Sewing Guide: A Complete Reference from America’s Best-Loved Sewing Magazine, or something similar.
Invest–because they’re expensive–in a superb pair of sewing shears (I HIGHLY recommend Gingher–mine cut through fabric like a hot knife through butter). Change your needle often! I don’t change mine nearly enough and my machine hates me for it (seriously…it occasionally flings needle parts at my face). Learn a few basic pattern manipulation techniques; you’re clothing will fit AND flatter your figure if you do!
And finally, get involved online! The online sewing community is so supportive and
wonderful. You’ll make friends and gain skills and inspiration. The Sew Weekly, BurdaStyle, and We Sew Retro are among my favorite group-sew sewing sites. OH! And get/adopt a cat! All of us Super Awesome Sewasaurus Rex’s have one! Seriously, I have two…
A big THANK YOU! to Elena for no only featuring me this week, but for coming up with the Seamless Pledge. It’s really awesome way to think about one’s relationship to and with their clothing.