Does Luxury Have To Be Bought?

Happy Sunday everyone, this weekend Adam and I have deep cleaned the house. We made five different lists, one for each space, and we’ve worked HARD. Honestly yesterday we were cleaning solidly for well over 10 hours! We have rearranged furniture, repotted plants, tidied, cleaned, polished, sorted, decluttered and it feels great. Throughout the cleaning process I’ve been considering about how I feel about my possessions and my wardrobe in particular. What things I value and why I value them.

Now I’m sat with a cup of tea and honestly, I’ve got a bone to pick with fast fashion. In my first month of giving up ready-to-wear clothes I have made a conscious effort to consider when I buy clothes and the reasoning behind these purchases. Often I like a shopping trip to cheer myself up or to celebrate a promotion, to purchase a few new items for the next season or just to catch up with friends. Shopping trips like these are normally social occasions or they result in the little emotional purchases that make you feel better. These aren’t too hard to cut out because I can just go do something else with my friends or I can partake in the ultimate endorphin high which is of course fabric shopping . Really the only time I go out or online with the very specific goal of “shopping” is for occasion wear.

In the past, whenever I have had a formal event and don’t know what to wear I hotfooted it on to Missguided or Asos to select something gorgeous, slinky and that could be with me in under three days. Purchasing evening wear like this is of course partly for convenience but also because it has never felt like something I could or should make for myself. When you go to a black tie event you don’t want to feel homemade, when you think of black tie events you think of chic women in Chanel, the idea of a homemade dress in those surroundings is jarring. Or at least this is what the fashion industry has taught us to think. This is how we have been conditioned to feel and it makes me angry because the reality is very different.

On the one hand you have an admittedly expensive designer gown bought in a shop made in one of the standard women’s sizes. Its not shaped to your body, its not designed with you in mind, its designed for their ideal consumer, to reflect their image. On the other hand you have a homemade gown tailored by you for you. You choose the fabric, you choose the pattern, you choose the fit, as garment a home-made evening gown is quintessentially you. If you were to go to a high end event and told people you were wearing a handmade tailored gown they would be impressed, as soon as you mention that the tailor in questions is in fact you that feeling turns to mirth or grudging respect or even worse, requests to make them something similar.

Why should we be made to feel as we aren’t good enough in our me made wardrobes? After all every single piece of clothing is made by somebody, clothes don’t just appear. Honestly, I’m done with it. Of course other people’s opinions don’t really matter if they haven’t got anything nice to say then quite frankly they should shut it but its the fact that this isn’t an isolated one or two people this is an example of social conditioning that is prevalent in books, films, magazines and television, from Cinderella’s homemade dress being torn to shreds to the shopping montage in Pretty Woman. Expensive clothes don’t make a woman and if they do I don’t want to be the kind of woman they make. I will admit there is a joyous sense of giddy luxury in buying yourself something gloriously expensive and decadent but honestly I got the same feeling buying my first proper sewing machine! I get that same feeling when I spend a lot on a dinner for my partner and me, I get that feeling when I book a luxury hotel for a holiday and on those occasions I don’t also receive body-image issues and self-doubt alongside the purchase.

So what am I going to do? You’ve heard the rant, now here is my personal solution. There are two prongs. Firstly, I have reviewed my current evening wear wardrobe and got rid of anything that I don’t absolutely love myself in so if I need a dress super urgently I’ve definitely got something to hand. Secondly, I am aware that occasion wear is a weak area for me because I honestly adore it. So! Last week I bought 2-3m of second hand pale blue satin from a lovely instagram destash account. That fabric has now been stored carefully in my fabric box and I am currently marking appropriate patterns that I own and PDF one’s online that would work with this gorgeous structured mid-weight satin so that if I need a really stunning dress and want something new, I can satisfy those cravings at home and make myself something beautiful tailored and 100% me.

All clothing is made by somebody so my next evening garment might as well be made by me. I will learn a lot by making one and I won’t be contributing to a global system of oppression. Sounds like a win to me!

Sewing Project: Pyjama Shorts

This time last year I asked my sisters what they wanted for Christmas and they both asked for pyjamas. My middle sister jokingly asked for ‘Crab Pyjamas’ so I went fabric hunting! I made one pair of brushed cotton monster patterned pyjamas for my eldest sister who lives in the UK but I decided to go with pyjamas shorts for my middle sister as she lives in a Australia. Above is the result! I found the most incredible fabric from Liberty, its so soft and cool to the touch and I love the little crabs so I used this and then bought a t-shirt and applied an appliqué crab patch to the top so they made a matching set. Today I am revisiting this pattern as my eldest sister also wants a pair for her birthday (which was in April but lockdown prevented me from getting elastic!). Here is my lovely cotton from Fabrics Galore, for pyjamas I like a fun and interesting pattern and my sister wanted something space themed.

I’m going to have to do the pattern in two stages not because of time but because I have really struggled to get hold of wide waist elastic during lockdown as all the sewing shops shut and I couldn’t get hold of quite the right size elsewhere online. As these shorts are a present, and lets face it I can’t go and give the shorts to her, I decided to wait for the perfect elastic. This cotton is wonderful to work with and so soft so fingers crossed she likes them!

  • Pattern: Simplicity 1563A
  • Fabric: Black Spaceman Cotton, Fabrics Galore
  • Time to sew: 4-5 hours
  • Pattern Cutting Out & Adjustments

This is a lovely easy pattern to use. I would say that the waist/torso element of the pattern is very very long so I cut that down. Also stupidly the first time I used this pattern I cut it to my size rather than leaving it so I have measured the difference between the current pattern size and the size I want and I have added that measurement at the edge. As I’ve used this pattern quite a few times I didn’t want to pin it so I used some travel books, little city guides actually make really good pattern weights as they are small and flat and slide easily on fabric. I then measured out the difference and used my blue pencil to mark out the new pattern line.

  • Assembly

These shorts are a lovely easy sew, I really took my time and they still only took about two hours to assemble. Straight seams to start with for the leg section and then you turn one leg inside out, slot one leg inside the other right sides together and sew around the u-shape. Then, voila! You have a basic pair of shorts.

  • Buttonholes

I did my first ever machine button holes on this project and it was so much fun. I normally do my button holes by hand but I thought it was about time for me to learn how to use the function on my machine and I’m pleased with the result. They are a bit messy due to the size but they have to be big enough for a large ribbon drawstring. Although I do not recommend using black thread on black fabric for your first button hole as it definitely complicates things and makes it much harder to see what you are doing! I marked my buttonhole length with white tailors pencil which did help a lot.

  • Hemming

I always do the hems on this pattern before I start with the elastic so I can work with the fabric flat rather than distorted. I do a reinforced double hem on the edge of the shorts because pyjamas are worn heavily and need to be able to withstand all the weird stuff we do in our sleep. For the same reason, I do a zigzag stitch up the middle of the centre seam from front to back which reinforces the seam as well as making it sit flat. I then measure the waistband and press the edge down firmly as a guide.

  • Elastic Waist & Drawstring

The most important part of the elastic waist for me is the width of the elastic. For pyjamas you really want a lovely wide elastic for maximum comfort. If its too narrow, the elastic can dig in and make the shorts uncomfortable. In terms of length, I always make the elastic waistband a couple of inches shorter than the waist size so that it fits comfortably with a bit of stretch. When sewing the waistband I take the front off my sewing machine and use the sleeve set-up so I can pull the elastic taught and sew the waistband straight. Then I thread the waist ribbon through normally using a chopstick or similar. I used quite thick grossgrain ribbon which moves well inside the waistband and I leave the ribbon on the spool until it comes out of the otherside of the shorts and I can assess how long I want the ties to be. Honestly I do this bit by eye and then I double fold the end of the ribbon in on itself and stitch a square to secure.

  • Finished!

Then give them a good press with an iron and you’re done! Here they are in all of their glory. I’m pretty proud of these to be honest and I hope my sister loves them.