Featured Pledger: Adriana (Adriprints)

Adriana was on her way to giving up mass-made clothing when she discovered the Seamless pledge. Since then, she’s cut down on her consumption and sewn some amazing garments, including her bombshell dress featured as one of 2011’s inspirational makes.

Name: Adriana

Website: http://adriprints.blogspot.co.uk/

Pledging until the end of 2012.

Why did you take the Seamless Pledge?

The Seamless Pledge made a lot of sense to me. I started sewing really young, and both my grandmothers sewed as a means to stay in fashion and still have tailored clothing at an economic price. So, I looked at sewing and making as a means to having unique items of clothing as well as self-expression. I took the Seamless Pledge because I was already a crafty do-it-yourself kind of gal, and the pledge solidified my choice to make things myself.

What impact has the pledge had on your day-to-day life?

The pledge has made me a more observant consumer. I really look at other people’s clothing both for inspiration, and for construction. After taking the pledge, I’ve definitely made more time to sew and I sew pieces that are practical and wearable as opposed to some of my crazier sewn-because-I-loved-that-print projects of the past.

Taking the pledge also meant that I really had to look critically at my wardrobe and come to terms with some of the excesses of t-shirts and cheaply made goods I had purchased in the past. It was an enlightening thing to do, and I haven’t bought anything except some specialty compression running socks and the running shirt that came with the price of enrollment into a 10k run in June.

 Any tips for someone wanting to give up mass-made clothing?

I was already on my way to giving up mass-made clothing and the biggest thing that led me to this decision was a need for better fitting garments. Start by looking critically at your wardrobe and looking at your favorite items as well as the items of clothing that look best on you. These may not be the same pieces.

If you’re looking to replicate favorite items through knitting or sewing, start simple with attainable projects. Break down the skills you’ll need to have to make that awesome whatever-it-is you want to make. Don’t skip the basics.

And, it’s great to have high expectations of oneself, but do it whilst also highlighting the skills you already have, and adding 1 or 2 new skills you’d like to attain per project.

Make sure you check out Adriana’s blog. She’s not just busy sewing clothes, she’s been making some amazing quilts lately. You can also follow her on Twitter!

The end of my Seamless pledge

As of June 13, my Seamless Pledge was officially over. The minute I was released from my final NCTJ Media Law exam, I was able to run out and buy all of the clothes I wanted.

I’ll be honest, the pub was my first port of call…

Anyway! The end of the course and the pledge has been pretty bittersweet for me. As far as I’m concerned, the past nine months have been utterly fantastic. No matter how little I saw of my hobbies and life outside of journalism, I wouldn’t change my experiences on the course for the world.

Not to mention, if it weren’t for the course, I probably wouldn’t have started this whole pledge to begin with.  Honestly, I didn’t think I’d actually ‘make it through’, which seems daft now. After all, it’s only clothes.

Now, if I walk into a high street store, I don’t automatically rifle through the rails for bargains to add to my already swelling wardrobe. In fact, I’ll keep an eye out for sewing inspiration, but I’m more than happy to leave empty-handed.

But more than this, I’ve been honoured to be joined by a truly talented bunch. Your projects are amazing and your blogs are regular reads of mine. Honestly, if it weren’t for the rest of the pledgers, I’m not sure I’d find the pledge half as fun.

So! I’ve decided, I’m not giving up just yet:

I, Elena Cresci, take the Seamless pledge until December 31st 2012 (when I may well decide to extend it once more…) I will abstain from buying any new clothes until the end of my pledge. I will find ways to be fashionable without breaking the bank and without contributing to the cycle of fast fashion consuming the high street. I will trawl through charity shops, I will attend clothes swaps, I will look for second-hand items on eBay and I will craft my own clothes with my own two hands. This time, I’m officially exempting underwear and tights, but I will hunt down ethical and sustainable alternatives to the easier, mass-made options. Additionally, I will support and sustain the Seamless community as long as there are people willing to say bye-bye to the high street. 

You’re not rid of me just yet! Keep your eyes peeled for more on the site. There’ll be featured pledgers, some interesting interviews and I’ll even get a Seamless Pledge FAQ on the go.

Anyone else come to the end of their pledge? How have you found it?

Where do your clothes come from?

Do you know where your clothes come from?

Click on the image to see the interactive version

As sewers, generally the answer is a resounding yes. You’re not likely to forget after hours of stitching now are you? But if you’re anything like me, your wardrobe is probably mostly made up of mass-made and high-street clothing – and this is where the answer becomes less clear.

I tuned into new documentary Mary’s Bottom Line the other day, featuring high-street guru Mary Portas’s attempts to bring clothing manufacturing back to Britain. As you know, this isn’t the first time Portas has featured on this blog – this time, I wanted to see how my own wardrobe measured up to the issues she faces in her programme.

It was simple really, I just checked the labels to see where my clothes were made, jotting up the totals. I left out underwear, but counted garments I’d bought in charity shops. Obviously self-made garments came under their own category.

To be honest, the first thing which struck me was the sheer amount of clothing I own! I counted about 70 garments – who really needs 70 items of clothing?

As for where they came from – in terms of where I bought them, the vast majority come from high-street names like New Look, H&M and Topshop. With the exception of clothing I bought while living in Germany, the majority of it was bought here in the U.K.

But my clothes come from parts of the globe I’ve never even been to. Truth be told, I wasn’t overly surprised. After all, in the UK, 90% of our clothing is manufactured abroad. There just aren’t a great deal of British companies making clothing at home anymore.

When you actually break down the contents of my wardrobe, no less than 18 countries are represented. One blouse bought from New Look came from Bangladesh while another garment hailed from Turkey. The only British garments in my wardrobe came from small clothing labels Rare, Love Label and Quiz. Ironically, a dress I own from Lipsy London was made in China.

As I said, it’s not particularly surprising, yet it wasn’t anything I’d really considered before. Generally I don’t have a problem with buying something made abroad if it was made by people being paid a fair wage (and that’s a topic which deserves its own blog), but I didn’t quite realise how little I own is actually made in the U.K.

On the plus side, the self-made portion of my wardrobe is growing, slowly but surely. Progress!

What do you think? Does it matter if most of my clothes weren’t made in the U.K? Where do your clothes come from?

What do you do with your old clothes?

Hands up who has a wardrobe overflowing with clothes they just don’t wear?

Coat hanger by Cara Photography

Image by Cara Photography

I know I do. There are even a few items of self-made clothing gathering dust at the bottom of my wardrobe. It’s a pretty shameful yet almost normal part of this culture of excess we’re living in.

Take this article by the Guardian, which while being from 2009, is still very much relevant today.

On average £470 per British woman was spent on items that were never worn and – as an extra sartorial slap in the face – one in 10 just chucked them in the bin, contributing to the estimated 900,000 tonnes of clothing currently thrown into landfill each year.

Whether or not this is the same today in 2011, I couldn’t tell you right now, but it’s pretty shocking, especially to me, as Cardiff women are named and shamed in the article as the worst offenders.

The fact is, whether we like it or not, as consumers of fast fashion we are flighty by nature. I’ll hold my hands up and admit I’ve complained I have nothing to wear when actually my wardrobe is bursting with clothes I’m actually just bored with.

This again boils down to this feeling of dissatisfaction Zoe spoke about when I interviewed her. How often have you seen a feature in a magazine criticising a high profile female celebrity for wearing the same outfit?

Advertising makes us feel as though we should wear something completely different every day because if (insert celebrity name here) can’t get away with it, then why should we be able to?

Rather than make a real commitment to a well constructed garment, we’ll happily fork out a fiver for something which will provide the quick fix satisfaction we crave. After wearing it once, it’ll probably end up in pieces in the bin a few months down the line.

Over the years I’ve filled charity bag after charity bag with clothing I no longer wear for whatever reason. While I won’t just throw something out after wearing it only the once, I can’t say hand on heart I haven’t thrown away clothes when they’ve worn out. Considering the amount of clothing I have owned over the years, this is worrying. This is without even taking any scrap fabric from sewing into account.

What I’d really like to learn more about is textile recycling. Textiles are one of those things which tend to be absent from the list of household recyclables. On top of this, I have to wonder what happens to the clothing high street retailers can’t shift.

Over to you. What do you do with your old clothes? By old, I don’t just mean those which are falling apart; I’m also talking about those impulse buys you were never able to take back, the clothes which don’t quite fit or even ones you just got bored with. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Is fashion shallow?

There’s an interesting post over at Gertie’s New Blog For Better Sewing today about her recent trip to see Wicked on Broadway. The costumes really captured her imagination:

What’s most impressive is how the clothing tells a story in such an authentic way. It’s first a product of good writing, I suppose, that Elphaba’s iconic witch costume comes off as real, rather than kitschy. There’s a story behind each piece: the hat was given to her as a cruel joke by classmate Glinda, for example.

You can check out the full post here, it’s a lovely read, as is the rest of her blog.

As Gertie does often, she threw the discussion to her readers, asking:

Are you ever made to feel shallow for being interested in fashion and garment construction? Do you think that fashion is a powerful art form, or is that overstating it?

For me, fashion and sewing have always been two separate things. Sometimes I’ll take inspiration from fashion supplements in newspapers, but more often than not, my sewing habits pay little to no homages to the current trends.

There are certain aspects of fashion which I do find shallow. After all, fashion is all about how you look. When I think fashion, I inevitably think of Cardiff high street (or any city’s high street for that matter) and its plethora of cheap, fast fashion on show.

For those of you who have read/listened to my interview with Zoe, she speaks of the “feeling of dissatisfaction” which seems to drive the industry, and I can’t help but agree. We’re bombarded with advertising which subtly promises something “better” if you upgrade your wardrobe. In the world of the glossy and the airbrushed, you can achieve anything if you have the right dress and shoes.

Yet, as Gertie says, there are often times when fashion truly is an art form in its own right. I’m sure more knowledgable fashionistas could list off many designers who do great things with their seams!

As for me, I don’t necessarily look to haute couture – I’m the kind of person who identifies more with grassroots projects, and it’s this human touch which adds depth to fashion and clothing. Inevitably I look to the online sewing community for that and there are countless examples of people on the street who can pull off statements with an outfit alone.

One particular example deserves a post all its own, but take a look at this video from The Uniform Project. The idea was to wear the same dress every day for a year to raise money for the Akanksha Foundation. I always think of this example when I think of fashion which makes a point and makes a difference.

Uniform Project Picture Book from Uniform Project on Vimeo.

As for sewing, I can honestly say I’ve never been made to feel shallow for making my own clothes. Sewing is a craft and a skill in its own right. It may be growing in popularity, but it’s not as common as it used to be. As a trainee journalist, I’m learning shorthand, and I often think you could draw a lot of parallels between the two skills. People wonder why I’m learning shorthand when I could just buy a dictaphone in the same way as some people wonder why I’m sewing a pencil skirt I could easily buy for under a tenner.

What do you think? Is fashion shallow?