DIY fashion

The year was 2011 and the re-emergence of 90’s fashion crashed into my preteen world like a tidal wave of high-waisted mini-skirts, chokers and halter necks. Like many other girls my age, I joined the crop top cult and took it very seriously. While most transitioned from child to teen gradually, slowly hiding their beanie babies and tentatively sipping blue WKD at parties, it was with an almost ceremonial velour that I brought my childhood to a close as, kitchen scissors in hand, I pulled my wardrobe ‘post-watershed.’ There, in a bedroom littered with scruffy ends of band t-shirts and old school skirt hems, began my adolescence, a year long exposure of my naval and my obsession with DIY fashion.

Those scissors remained my fashion accomplice for the duration of my secondary school years much to my mother’s disgust. She would see me return home laden with charity shop gems and sigh as I transformed maxi skirts and tunics into (very) frayed reinventions of Baby Spice’s debut ensemble in ‘Wannabe’. It wasn’t until I started frequenting pop up vintage stores and fairs that I decided to refine my Edward scissor hand technique and swap the shears for a sewing machine.

This decision was sparked by economic reality and a situation we have all found ourselves in. Sifting through the rails of a particularly lovely vintage hole in the wall, my hands ran over the silk of some deep blue circle skirts with Japanese style embroidery and a price tag which caused an audible in take of breath. £45 for a circle of fabric? I hastily moved myself out of the way of temptation and into the shirts section. Daisy print baggy vests authentically stained with the beer of parties past, jersey tie halter tops probably pre owned by a chubby 7 year old in 1997, still with similarly gut wrenching price tags. Enough was enough.

It’s commonly known amongst all die hard modern art lovers that the renowned way to spot a philistine is through the utterance; “But… I could do that!” The point is that you didn’t, we calmly reply to them as they stand unimpressed in front of an unmade bed, a strategically placed pile of tin cans, a block red canvas. It was time I thought, to apply this advice to my clothing. Thus, like all good millennial’s, I took to the internet. Ordering some cheap fabric off amazon, scouring youtube for non-Obnoxious, non-’50’s housewife style’ tutorial videos I once more covered my room in dodgy hems and haphazard strips of fabric.

I’ll admit, I had imagined I would take to sewing like Ru-Paul to a catwalk, that my bedroom would begin to look like a ‘Project Runway’ workshop and that Tim Gunn would soon burst through the door applauding my creativity and flawless hem lines. My reality was a little more pin pricked and wonky but with the guidance of the internet and talented friends with whom I had embarked on this DIY craze, my creations slowly began to resemble the sort of clothes my 15 year old self may have deeply considered adopting from the rails of my beloved overpriced vintage fairs.

Of course, I do still buy clothes. I feel like total self sufficiency in clothing is to me what veganism is to the well meaning vegetarian who loves a good poached egg … Possible, applaudable, but just not gonna’ happen. Saying that, it’s true that replying to an outfit compliment with the line; “Thanks, I actually made it myself!” feels great and seeing someone’s face when you reveal that your choker began life as a laddered pair of winter tights? It doesn’t get old. So believe me when I say that there is no falsity in the claim that making your own clothes really is not as hard as it seams.

Never mind that it’s a whole lot better for the environment, and you don’t have to worry about the source of your clothes because you know exactly where it was made; right here, in your bedroom.

Here’s a few tips which could help you out…

  1. Pilfer Charity shops: Never despair again that most charity shop finds are likely several hundred sizes too big, or shoulder pad filled or far too long. The more you sew the more you start to see every cheap item of clothing as just another piece of fabric ready to be rescued and turned into something new.
  2. Ask for cheap scraps or ends: Be it a fancy fabric shop or the John lewis craft section, most stores that sell fabric will have a scraps box and are often more than happy to sell them to you for pennies or give them to you for free.
  3. Use your own clothes for patterns: Its easy to become intimidated by trying to convert and decipher measurements for what you want to make from patterns online. You know what you like and what fits you so, use what you already own! Take your own clothes and some brown paper and use them as your basis to design patterns for yourself.
  4. Get inspired: Pintrest is obviously a great place to start but also try Depop; see what handmade clothes of their own people are selling. It’ll give you a great idea for things which are achievable to make but also an idea of how expensive or time consuming something is to make based on how much they are trying to flog it for.
  5. Get your friends involved: I’ve never really understood the phrase ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, but i’m going to loosely apply it here and imagine it refers to the benefits of sewing together. Not only is it a great way to avoid making mistakes (thus saving nine.. I think) but pooling resources like fabric or patterns makes the whole thing a lot more cost effective.
  6. Sewing courses: it’s a hard art to teach yourself with no help; why not try finding a course online? There’s plenty to choose from, often specific for your needs, and they don’t cost a heavy penny.

Illustration: Miki Lowe