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?

Challenge Accepted.

pincushion

Three years ago, I saved my sewing machine from the attic and taught myself how to thread a machine and wind a bobbin via the wonders of the Internet. Since then, I’ve used the bustling online sewing community to navigate the ins and outs of home sewing.

So I like to think I’m a dab hand with the sewing machine, even if sometimes I can’t quite manage to sew in a straight line. Let’s not even get started on the evils of buttonholes.

You’d be forgiven for thinking my mad skillz with a needle and thread (but not buttonholes) mean my wardrobe is full to the brim of self-stitched clothing. In actuality, my self-made items take up only a tiny part of my drawers. I’d estimate I made or refashioned about 5% of my wardrobe.

There are plenty of excuses I could give for this, but it’s a pretty poor statistic for someone who goes on about stitching as much as I do. Lately I’ve fallen into a sewing rut and back into my lazy clothing habits, and our generation is pretty lazy when it comes to clothing. “Make do and mend” was the motto during the second world war but nowadays we’ll settle for something which will fall apart in a matter of months if it’s colourful and cheap enough. Fast fashion reigns supreme on the high street and in our wardrobes, and mine is no exception.

Yet across the blogosphere there are plenty examples of people who have put down the shopping bags and picked up their needle and thread instead. Take Mena Trott of The Sew Weekly. In 2010 she took on the hefty challenge of filling her wardrobe solely with clothes she had sewn herself. A year on, she’s encouraging a whole communityof sewers to do the same.

Then there’s Zoe of So, Zo…, a seamstress very much concerned with sustainable fashion. You name the garment, she’s probably made it. We’re talking coats, dresses, jogging tops and even pants. In March, May and September she challenges her readers to join her in a month of wearing nothing but self made garments.

simplicity 2591

In more productive sewing days...

As for me? For the past few months I’ve been in somewhat of a sewing rut, to the point where I’m at the risk of edging out the me-made side of my wardrobe completely. This will not do!

So I’ve set myself a bit of a challenge.With the Interwebs as my witness, I plan to spend the duration of my postgraduate diploma at Cardiff, which ends in July 2012, sewing or refashioning all of my clothes. Under no circumstances am I allowed to purchase ready-made garments from any shops unless they are bonafide vintage or second-hand.

This blog will serve as evidence I’m keeping up with my pledge meaning you can all tell me off if I end up slacking. If I fail miserably, then you’re all entitled to point, laugh and tease until you’re red in the faces.

So what can you expect here at Seamless? I want to explore the avenues outside of mass made clothing, whether that’s through sewing, knitting, trawling through charity shops, gawking at vintage wares or using good old eBay. Wish me luck!