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Apr 25, 2016

Giveaway Winner + 5 BIGGEST CHALLENGES HOME SEWING FACES



First things first, friends.  The winner of last week's giveaway is....



LORIHALIA D!  Lorihalia, please email your mailing address to me at peterlappinnyc [at] gmail [dot] com and I will get your copy of Precision Draping out to you ASAP.  Congratulations!

Next, friends, I just finished a couple of excellent fashion-related books that I may review later in detail, Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-Hand Clothes by Andrew Brooks, and The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter by Linda Grant.  While they approach the topic of clothing from different angles -- one economic, the other aesthetic/personal -- they both address issues that directly affect home sewing.

After reading these two books and re-reading the comments in my State of Home Sewing 2016 post from earlier this month, I've identified five main challenges home sewing faces today.  Some have been around for decades now, others have arisen only in the new century.  If home sewing is ever going to be more than a niche hobby, they will have to be addressed.

In no particular order, here they are:

1) Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is a relatively new development, having arisen only in the last fifteen years.  Manufacturers of textiles and clothing have been offshoring jobs to the Far East (and the Southern Hemisphere) for decades now, but increased global trade and advances in communication have accelerated the trend.  This isn't only an American phenomenon; it's pervasive in much of the Northern Hemisphere.  When markets are flooded with cheap, disposable clothes, sewing your own wardrobe loses one of its primary attractions.  Yes, some difficult-to-fit people will still sew for themselves as will those who simply love sewing as a hobby.  But for the majority of potential home sewers, the ability to purchase on-trend styles cheaply makes sewing unnecessary.



2) Informality

Certainly since the Sixties, and arguably since the end of WWII, fashion has become increasingly informal.  American culture is largely suburban and even in urban areas, suburban styles dominate: think board shorts, flip flops, sweats, etc.  If there isn't much of a public sphere -- sidewalks, promenades, city centers -- how you're dressed isn't very important; who's going to see you?

Also, expectations have changed.  People wear jeans to church and sometimes dress casually for weddings and funerals.  At the Metropolitan Opera, which is about as formal a public setting as you'll find in New York  City, it's not unusual to see most people dressed down.   For the majority of Americans at least, seeking to impress others with our finery is no longer important.  For some, clothing is still a form of creative self-expression, but those people are few and far between.  Most of us just want to look young, as opposed to sophisticated and affluent.



3) Loss of Home Economics Classes in High Schools

By the time I went to high school in the Seventies, almost nobody was taking Home Economics anymore.  Times changed: it was considered sexist to steer girls into sewing and cooking class and boys into woodworking.  Home Ec programs were also likely cut for budgetary reasons.  But mainly I would argue it was cultural changes that doomed Home Ec.  With women entering the workplace in greater numbers, teaching them how to sew an apron or bake a cake was no longer relevant.  If a woman wanted a cake she could buy one in the supermarket -- with her own money.

But if you're not going to teach kids to sew, there isn't going to be much of a market for patterns, fabric, sewing machines, etc.  Naturally, this also relates to the earlier points about fast fashion and casual attire.  



4) The Loss of Local Fabric Stores

Again, these points are interrelated.  Fabric Stores close when there aren't enough customers.  There aren't enough customers when new generations of sewers aren't replacing the older ones.  Sure, you can buy fabric online and that's pretty amazing but it doesn't replace the convenience of being able to touch fabric or be inspired by something you stumble upon at random in a store.  Fabric stores were also centers of local sewing communities, offering classes and serving as places to encounter other sewers.  Online communities have taken the place of local ones.



5) Women Working Outside the Home

I believe anyone who wants to work outside the home should be able to, whether male or female.  For economic reasons, most families require two breadwinners to make ends meet.  Sewing is no longer considered one of a wife's domestic duties.  (They called it Home Economics because sewing for one's family was one way to contribute to the economy of the home.)

But unlike say, cooking, you can't pull out a recipe book and whip up a tailored suit the first (or second) time out.  There's a lot to learn and for many, no place to learn it.  Thank goodness for the internet, which is a tremendous resource for information about how to sew at every level.  Unfortunately, the internet can't give people more time to sew.  With so many things competing for our attention in the contemporary world, it's no wonder that sewing is evolving into just another hobby.

Can you name this Eighties classic?

Hey, there's nothing wrong with being a hobby.  But just as most of us don't have to grow our own food to survive, most of us will never have to sew, we just like to.

***

Have I missed anything here?  Can you think of additional challenges sewing faces, today in particular?  (Consolidation of sewing-related companies, perhaps?)

If you can think of anything, please add it in a comment below.

Have a great day, everybody!

59 comments:

  1. The only thing I'd add is space. With the advent of micro apartments, it's hard to have enough room to cut or keep a judy.

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    1. I'd agree with this and also add instability-- since I finished undergrad, I've moved between cities every 1-3 years, and that's not even counting moves within cities. Sewing requires you to keep a large stash of materials on-hand, and accumulating and moving all the fabric, patterns, and notions (not to mention sewing machine, ironing board, tables, etc.) is either really irritating or really impractical, depending on your circumstances.

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    2. The lady who cut my fabric yesterday was complaining about just this problem...she no longer sews because of space constraints.

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    3. So true, I actually live in my sewing room, it's a studio apartment and I keep the machine up at all times with a cover on. It's come to this......

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  2. Peter this was a very comprehensive and engrossing recap. Isn't it amazing that we've become a society that can no longer take care of ourselves?!

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    1. Paradoxically it's the result of our (relative) affluence. We hire others to sew, grow our food, and sometimes even cook and/or clean for us. But as a result, yes, we've become dependent upon others; we've lost our skills.

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    2. I don't think this is much of a paradox. The social sciences have long history of showing that a society, in order to not fall apart, needs either religion or division of labour. Both traditional western concepts of family (including housewifes and all that) and also a society of highly specialized workers have the same function for society here - in the sense that they act as a kind of social glue.

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  3. The demise of local fabric stores, I believe, is also due to a lack of selection. Back before I lived in the city, the selection at local stores rarely reflected the type or quality of fabric used in RTW. Now it's possible get a wide variety online (though I still find online fabric shopping to be dicey at times).

    People also have lot of expectations of what clothing is supposed to look like now, whereas back in the 70s - so long as it wasn't too awful - homemade was just normal. Today everyone generally thinks that serged off seams is normal. Look into a homemade piece from the 60s or 70s and you will find that almost no one finished off seams - it was simpler. So expectations are higher now, and it takes a lot of time, experience, and machines, to get something close to an RTW look.

    And finally - women are not trapped in the home any more! (For the most part).

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    1. That's a great point I didn't think of, Jen. You don't see pinked seams much anymore!

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    2. When I was a child in the 70's all the women in my family could sew and did so sporadically while holding jobs outside their homes. (In other words they did not sew all their own clothes or their kids' clothes.) Mostly special occasion clothes like Easter dresses, flower girl ensembles and church clothes for us kids and suits and dresses for themselves, though my Mom made us matching red patent vinyl coats with navy furry linings once. (There was lots of excitement over those and not all the good kind! I think that was when I first heard my mother swear.) And while I was not too keen on having to wear most of my home sewn clothes in grade school some of my school mates (and their moms) were actually envious of some of the clothes I had and told me so.

      Then there were the home-sewn sleeping bags my aunt made for me and my sister one Christmas. But that's another story. (I still have mine.)

      The women in my family thought the insides of the garments they sewed ought to look as good on the inside as the outside, which meant linings where appropriate and zigzagging on seam allowances or folding the edge under and stitching it down or hand whip stitching the edge of the fabric. Only rarely did a seam allowance get left without some type of finish to secure the edge and I recall some heavy sighing and hand-wringing over that idea when the teacher at the Stretch & Sew store told everyone it was the way to work with knit fabrics. Then there was the weekend my mom made a flapper dress for me and an Indian dress for my sister to wear at our school Bicentennial Pageant and my mother kept fretting over not finishing the seams "nicely". (I wonder who she thought was going to look at the insides of our costumes! Hmm...The only people who would have given her flack over such a situation was her mother and her aunt and I don't remember them coming to the pageant. And, yes, in case you're wondering, they would have spent as much time looking at the inside as the outside of both garments if they'd had the opportunity.) -And I never saw anyone use pinking shears as a seam finish until I was in a junior high school sewing class in the late 70's.

      I, and about two dozen other people (yes, two or three boys, too) at my junior and senior high school, sewed regularly enough to actually gain some skills and respect from our peers and teachers and wear our work to school without embarrassment. A couple of the girls sewed with some real artistry and made beautiful, classic adult clothes (including pants and blazers while most of us still lived in jeans and tees) and I still remember thinking that when I had sewn as long as they had my clothes would look just as good. Technically my sewing is better now, but I don't know if I can say my artistry is as good as theirs. Sigh! I think they had a gift.

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  4. You touched on so many things that have been floating around in my mind recently. I think I'm finally starting to realize that although I can't change the world, I have an obligation to educate and influence one person at a time. And hey, if everyone knew how awesome the online sewing community is, they'd want to be a part of it, right?

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  5. Great post! This weekend, I got together with several of my college friends who I hadn't seen in years, nay, decades in some cases. At one point, we talked about my sewing. I am the only one out of the group who does. I wore mostly me-made clothes, and I think it was surprising to them how much they liked them. I don't think it inspired them, though, to do it. I think my friends in their 50s just can't see taking on something that they have no experience with in their past. They never took sewing classes. Many of their mothers, they recalled, rarely sewed and certainly not for pleasure. Even as they admired something I wore, I felt that they thought it was an odd or even regressive way to spend one's time. I think you've done a great round up of all the reasons and how they coalesce into further contraction of the home sewing community.

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  6. I think another factor (related to your point re. informality) is that fashion is extremely decentralized, i.e. anything goes. While it may seem (and in some cases is) a social good and aesthetic gain that fashion is less dictatorial than in the past, there seems to be no consensus as to what kinds of clothing, styles, colors, etc. actually make a human being look attractive. This, coupled with an unwillingness and inability to pronounce critical judgment of any kind re. what kind of fashion is unattractive and the entire concept of 'style' has lost its meaning except that it's anything anyone says it is: anything to anyone means nothing to everyone.



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  7. Also, it's a gendered skill, which means you CAN pay skilled people (seamstresses) peanuts, which devalues the whole business. Most men no longer know how to do all the things necessary to keep a home functioning repairs, carpentry plumbing, etc), and even if they do, they do not have the time to do so. But we pay men with those skills a lot of money to do those things for us. Women working in sewing factories have never been paid the true value of their work because it is women's work. And when they began to demand working wages, the jobs were sent offshore, where women are so poor they will work for ridiculously low wages.

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  8. Fabulous, thoughtful post. All those reasons are just as relevant in the Southern hemisphere, at least they are here in Australia. Additionally, I would say contemporary society has become less 'hands on' - we don't manipulate materials as much in any sphere. Dad's don't do their own repair jobs or change washers, they get tradesmen in, we buy takeaway instead of cooking meals, we get gardeners in to mow and weed, etc. Children grow up playing on tablets and watching movies instead of creating puppets or making mud pies. I recently worked in a school with 12 year olds, teaching them sewing and none of them knew how to pick up a needle, put a pin in fabric. Their stitching was like a 4 year old's was in the 1960s. That sounds like a grumble but the fact is that we as a society are manipulating materials less and no longer teaching our children how to do it. We, and they, are missing out on the pleasure and physicality of creating and making with our hands and minds. And I suspect the loss of these skills and ways of thinking will be an even greater tragedy for society.

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  9. Good point, SMP. And while we can offshore our clothing manufacture, we still need the electrician or plumber to make a house call, so those wages stay realistic. Georgie, great point too. I am going to guess that a decline in physical manipulation will correlate at some point with a decline in brain function (along with the decline in pleasure and satisfaction.

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  10. Hi Peter, what an excellent article. Like Georgie, I also live in Australia and so your points on informality are especially true here which I think is a shame.

    I don't think people should dress up in order to look more affluent or sophisticated, but as a society, we seem to have lost that care in how we dress that people from the past seemed to have had. Much of the older generations are still mindful of this though. I often notice when old ladies do their grocery shopping, they are so well put together - they're not wearing clothes that are necessarily expensive or fashionable - or new for that matter - but it's clear that they've put thought into what they wear and how they wear they clothes too.

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  11. Time was the main thing I wanted to say. When I was a kid we got sent outside to play. Now, kids go to six extracurricular lessons, two sports practices, three tutoring groups and band rehearsal. And(usually) mom had to take them all over town to do it. And spend all the spare money on activity appropriate clothing and gear. Very little time or money is left for her hobby. Or even to sleep really. People in my guild for the most part are over 45 because that is when the kids can finally drive themselves, and there is starting to be a bit of money leftover for sewing machines, fabric etc.

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  12. Melanie Griffith in Working Girl - a great movie with a star studded cast!
    I agree with everything everyone has said above.

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    1. REgarding that film and clothes: https://youtu.be/-RAbihStst0
      (or "$6000? It's not even leather!")
      Another reason to sew your own clothes: the expensive pieces aren't that well made.
      My sons learned to sew. My elder one took a full year of home ec for an easy A to show off his sewing skills.

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  13. Working Girl with Harrison Ford and um , oh yeah, Melanie Griffith. Amirite?

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  14. All very good points, and all are interrelated. I don't think it's necessarily women working outside the home that is a factor, but available time in general. Regardless of gender, crafters who work will typically run into the challenge of balancing all their obligations. Many of my friends run into that challenge, and many have let hobbies fall away because of it.

    I would also add tight budgets to the list of challenges. The cost of sewing has gone up considerably over the years, and I'm sure most of us are well aware of how project costs can add up. It's easy to see how people will gravitate towards fast fashion instead of sewing, just like it's easy to see how heating something up in the microwave is easier than traditional cooking.

    Our school barely had a Home Ec program in the late 90's, and was generally only available to students performing under a certain threshold to help boost their GPA. It's particularly sad when you think about how badly most young folks really could use a robust program to teach them practical things. The courses wouldn't even need to be gendered. Everyone could benefit from lessons in basic clothing repairs, how to do laundry, how to set and stick to a budget, cooking basics, etc. I think the idea is that parents will be teaching their kids, but so many of my peers were clueless when they came to college.

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  15. PS Peter, great analysis. Makes me sad and nostalgic--I think we're around the same age. <3

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  16. Distractions, specifically e-gadgets. Personally, though, I'm a bookworm.

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  17. There is a paradox going on, we are getting poorer as a group (spare the top few percent) in terms of real wages and free-time, yet we crave the ease and conveniences afforded the affluent and idle.

    It would seem the Great Depression made home sewers and menders out of many (along with creative cooks), but now it's more a matter of clearance rack scouring and visiting thrift stores (or getting in the long line at a drive-up window).

    This is consumerism on the downbeat, and it reigns supreme above self-reliance and skills development. I see coworkers living paycheck-to-paycheck who will get the newest cell phone on payments, but forgo owning a winter coat. Carry-out food is now the norm, and cooking at home is the exception. Priorities have either shifted materially, or are so out of line, the next financial contraction will reveal precisely how convoluted the want of being seen as prosperous has outweighed the most basic of needs.

    Fast fashion, status coffee shops, carry-out food, and the like are a mask for validation in the face of financial and free-time dilapidation. Home sewing, like many creative art forms, is yet another casualty in this downward spiral.

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  18. I am pushing 70 and have lived through most of these changes. I think the sending of jobs overseas has a great deal to do with it. Our fabric used to be made here and there is a great deal of difference in what you could buy then and now. Of course with the woven cloth being so lousy, the clothing industry turned to knits, which in the 70s were horrible. Now we have lovely machines that we didn't have before but the fabrics to make our own clothes are just not here. Hence we have quilting instead.
    I learned to sew a bit in 6th grade on a treadle, and embroidery on dish towels, I was introduced to knitting at age 8. I made dresses and skirts in 7th grade and wore them to school. We underestimate our children today. We need to spend as much time on skills as we do on sports, but we don't.

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  19. I think the loss of sewing being taught in schools is just the tip of the ice berg. Cooking and budgeting a monthly income have also fallen by the wayside. And what was once found in just about every household all across the USA... has become a rarity... A SEWING MACHINE!

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  20. I wonder if I'm over-generalizing here, but I have a feeling people lack the patience needed for sewing or perhaps not even the patience but the willingness to become more patient. In the age of instant gratification, sewing and the time it takes to become even mediocre at it, can seem daunting and maybe just not worth it.

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    1. Excellent point!
      -Ellie

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  21. Conspicuous consumption has always been a status symbol. What's more conspicuous than a ton of new, disposable clothing?

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  22. I think you hit the nail on the head. Very thought-provoking.

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  23. I'd like to add another - bad experiences. You have no idea how many women I've talked to who say that they took sewing classes in the past, or even made a project, only to find it completely disheartening.

    It makes me sad. I wish they had a great experience. It would be fun to have more friends who sew - especially in my age group or near my home.

    And, BTW, I grew up in the midwest. I went to middle school in the 80s, and we STILL had home ec. The boys and the girls did everything. I must say, I didn't love metal shop, but woodworking has served me well over the years. I would support a return to this type of education in our schools.

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  24. Nice commentary on sewing. Sewing Today is usually for:

    1. alterations, still cheaper to do it yourself then to have someone else do it.
    2. home dec, curtains, slip covers, pillows blankets etc, it is still much much cheaper to sew for your home then it is to have custom drapes etc made. or trying to find something at homesense
    4. Creative outlet - inspired by project runway etc, to make clothing that is like high end rtw in beautiful fabrics and materials that you don't get in fast fashion or making your own custom handbags, designer jeans etc that fit. that reflect your personal style and unique fitting challenges

    outside of the above, it is easier and cheaper to buy basics like underwear, socks, basic shirts, tshirts, and jeans from walmart or target

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    1. forgot point no 3 - Upscaling sewing projects- getting used clothing from the salvation army/thrift stores and making the clothing modern and upto date is also a big trend these days

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  25. When I was at school (10 years ago) home economics was the class you took to learn how to cook and eat correctly, textiles was the class you took to learn how to sew but it leaned into the art department, so your final project couldn't be a pretty dress just because you wanted a pretty dress. Still I have hope for the sewers of the future. I watched project runway junior and those kids were enthusiastic and so skilled. Maybe the loss of fabric stores has more to do with online stores, as other people have suggested. I live in Australia where the online fabric store hasn't become popular, I assume because our postal system is still really expensive, and independent fabric and yarn/knitting shops are doing really well.

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  26. Peter, you and all the commenters here are right on the mark. Fast fashion, fast food, high speed internet, and the loss of home economics classes in the schools, have brought the home sewing industry low. Everyone wants instant gratification. However, I think there is a revival happening out there and it is driven by people wanting a quality garment, that fits well, and the pride that comes from having made it yourself. We need to keep this conversation alive and when we have the opportunity, support independent fabric stores and pattern makers instead of the JoAnns and the big four pattern companies. We should also find opportunities to share our sewing skills with the younger generation.

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  27. Even in rural America, we have lost classes like Home Ec, Shop, etc. However, I help my neighbor who teaches an extra-curricular cooking class to kids in elementary and middle school. We also have 4H that offers sewing classes and our local shop teaches classes as well, specifically for kids. I do agree with the prior post that there seems to be a revival out there and people want to learn how to sew and make things unique to them. I'm thankful for all of the independent pattern companies I've stumbled upon. I think they inspire a lot of young sewists, both men and women.

    Lastly, I sewed because it was ALWAYS economical. Back in the 70s, $5 would buy a pattern, fabric and notions and I'd have a new article of clothing. Nowadays, I have to be very careful in determining if sewing the item will cost much more than just buying it. For me, sewing is relaxing and I enjoy it, so sometimes, the cost doesn't matter.

    Love your blog.

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  28. You bring up a lot of great points, Peter. Two more that I thought of as I was reading: First, related to the idea of cheap "Fast Fashion" is how much faster fashion trends change these days compared to 50+ years ago. So you put in all the time, effort, and money into a custom-made garment only to have it look dated in a year or two. Second, it seems to me that learning to sew and purchasing the needed supplies and equipment is more expensive today than it used to be. Just look at the prices of even entry-level sewing machines from the top manufacturers. Yes, there are great deals to be had on powerhouse vintage mechanical machines out there, but it's very daunting for anyone who has never touched a sewing machine to try to evaluate a used machine that they don't know how to thread, won't be getting any classes or support on, etc. Then there are the special scissors, notions, etc... When you add it all up, it can be just as expensive a hobby as something like golf. So instead of people feeling good about being thrifty when they sew their own clothing, they now feel guilty about spending more than necessary -- especially when they end up with an unbearable "wadder" and have to start all over again.

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  29. Considering sewing was once popular largely out of necessity and the economic, social, and political advances the world has made since then (and have contributed to sewing's current conundrum), I think about what it might take for it to once again achieve its former necessity. And then I'm reminded of the saying "I don't know what WWIII will be fought with but WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones." I'm not sure I want to live through the time that will require we all know how to sew.

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  30. There are so many different trends and genre when it comes to fashion thse days You can be yourself and wear what you like. My relatives in the 40's would never pants and the fashion was pretty much what was in style at the time and you did not venture outside the box. When I look at my vintage photos from that time period nearly everyone has the same jacket, blouse and skirt and the same hairstyle. The only accessory that was more individual were their hats but kept with the fashion at that time. I have ton of 1920's wedding photographs, almost replicas of each other, there was no individuality when it came to the dress, bouquet or headpieces. Today, there is just too much to choose from, you can buy it, have it made for you or make it yourself. You can wear vintage or whatever is in trend and nobody would question you or bat an eye. Sewing should be pleasurable, and for many women back then it was tedious and not very enjoyable. It was just another chore that they had to do. My aunts all hated sewing, it was constricting where patterns were concerned and they would rather be painting or doing something they liked. Sewing also takes up way too much space when it comes to dressmaking.

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  31. Very thoughtful post. Since you really cannot save money sewing clothes any more (clothing being so cheap and sewing supplies being relatively expensive, as others have pointed out) there has to be another motive for doing it, and it has to be a strong enough motive to get you through the steep initial learning curve. For me sewing is a creative outlet with a practical side (I am hard to fit in RTW) but the woman who taught me (my mother) sewed to save. If Mom were alive today I doubt if she'd bother with it.



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  32. Hello Peter,

    This subject is so dear to my heart that I am posting here for the first time. In addition to what has already been said I would add :

    The self fulfilling prophesy that "no one sews anymore", which became the mantra for closing department store fabric departments three decades ago. The demise of Singer Sewing Machine Co. (around 1980?) limited access to decent sewing machines and supplies. Few new sewing stores opened (how can a future small business owner get a bank loan for a dead retail category?). Limited access to fabric, supplies, and equipment made sewing less convenient and therefore less attractive as an endeavor.

    Cheap, poor quality sewing machines, low quality fabrics from China, and sew-easy-sew-fast patterns with instruction sheets that would confound an experienced sewer equal lousy results which cause the unsuspecting beginner to conclude that he/she 'just can't sew'. A first project sewn on a $200 piece-of-junk machine with low-end fabric and without good instruction is doomed from the beginning and adds credence to the mantra "no one sews anymore".

    It seems to me that the few remaining independent fabric stores are owned by the so-called boomer generation who are soon to retire, and rarely can the owner find a buyer for business. Joann Fabric is not a viable alternative. Many people do well with web orders. I do not. I order 100% cotton but i get poly/cotton. Web site says it's 'sage' but all I see is 'lime sherbet". Web site says its a lightweight jersey but I get a medium weight interlock.

    I am blessed to have an independent family owned fabric store just 5 minutes away from my home. I've been a loyal customer for 30+ years. However, the owner is not getting any younger. (For anyone in the Greater Boston area, I'm talking about Sew-fisticated Fabrics on Morrissey Blvd. in scenic Dorchester, MA, as well as stores in Cambridge, MA and Framingham, MA. The prices are great and the selection of apparel fabrics is probably as good as it gets).

    As for a the cheap fashion factor and the loss of a shared sense of 'style' I offer the example of a friend who is extremely style conscious. She will only buy current style, be it clothing, furniture, wall paint, mulch or plants. The problem is that her sense of style is informed by what she sees in TJMaxx/Marshalls, Lowes/Home Depot, Macy's, which is what 'EVERYONE' is wearing or buying. Corporate America has won her over. I think the future rests on the success of the Indie pattern companies and more responsible behavior of web based fabric vendors.

    Claire

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  33. Working Girl with Melanie Griffith, Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford

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  34. For me personally, the working/lack of time and lack of local fabric stores that reliably carry decent garment fabrics are the biggest roadblocks to sewing.

    I have many quilt shops, Joann with all their fleece and stiff/scratchy costume fabrics, and one independent sewing machine-fabric store, which is down to mostly formal/bridal and quilting fabrics. I had better luck with finding decent garment fabrics at Hancock :-( . I hesitate to do internet fabric shopping for the reasons Anonymous just posted - unexpected colors, wrong fabrics, and I'll add flawed fabrics, being shorted, or ordering x yards and getting it in multiple cuts.

    By the time commuting and time at work takes up 12 hours of my day, sewing on weeknights is rarely done. Weekends it's cleaning/groceries and now gardening.

    Fast fashion is the least influence for me - they rarely have tall sizes, so I don't even think to look in those stores. Too many times I've been told they only have tall & larger sizes on line. I say they can p*** off! I don't have any more time to waste with ordering and returning than smaller people.

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  35. Sadly, all these comments apply here in the UK. Don't be fooled by the BBC Sewing Bee - people watching a sewing competition on tv is not the same thing as people sewing. On the whole I think there isn't the interest/patience/motivation to learn any skills. How many people bother to learn a musical instrument now?

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  36. The only upside is that a lot of the boomers who learned to sew as kids, like me, are coming back to sewing because RTW is awful and doesn't fit us. And shopping's no fun either. Plus we need a challenging hobby as we get older - and if we have a Significant Other, that person quickly learns not to bug us when we have a hot iron in our hands, so we get space.

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  37. Lots of food for thought here. I thought I might, on a less somber note, direct your attention to a young woman who is, nearly single-handedly, resurrecting the textile manufacturing in her town. CHeck it out! http://foxglovesandthimbles.blogspot.com/2016/04/i-made-my-clothes-i-made-my-fabrics.html

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  38. I enjoy sewing and handcrafts. My sister does not. That doesn't mean she is lazy, incompetent, or helpless. She is quite a capable cook for one thing. I think most commentators here feel that the decline in sewing was imposed on people. I think most people just don't want to sew, the way I don't want to descale/clean a fish fillet or knit my own socks.

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    1. True, many people would never have any inclination to sew, and would resent the time spent sewing if they were required to sew for some reason. However, that doesn't discount the fact that sewing, along with many other "artistic" or "craft" type skills have been devalorized over the last 75 years or so.

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  39. Almost globally, and certainly in western society, we have allowed a capitalist economy to develop unbridled, with fewer and fewer regulations to maintain any sense of balance or social conscience. In this process, the elements of a liberal education (art, music, language, sewing, etc) that include knowledge and skills that are not directly related to the most efficient way to accumulate wealth in this globalized capitalist economy have been devalorized or abandoned. (Or placed on the “voluntary” list, which is the same thing as being abandoned.) We have allowed a select few to convince us that if you have enough money you can buy whatever you need to have a “rich” and fulfilling life, and furthermore, in a Calvinist sort of logic, that if you don’t have enough money it is simply because you are a lazy good-for-nothing. In this context, skills such as sewing, are relegated to those individuals who are too stupid or lazy to do something important (i.e., something that is sure to make a lot of money) or to individuals who are financially secure but willing to be associated with people who are so stupid and lazy that they need to sew their own clothes. Anyone adhering to the true value system in today’s society simply pays some poor sucker to do that kind of work, and has a difficult time understanding why anyone would do otherwise. Sewing Enthusiasts for Philosophical Revolution (SEPR)

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  40. I was born in 1952, and I grew up in a small town in Nova Scotia. There were 3 dress shops and 2 fabric shops. The stylish girls sewed, because we didn't like the boring and unfashionable clothes in the shops. We pinked our seams.

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  41. Some suggestion on the many interesting comments here:
    1. To get get quality fabrics for garment construction, a good source locally is often your tailor. He/she has access to "higher end italian wools and fabrics, that you generally can't purchase as an individual, only as a business owner/designer or professional in the garment world, much like an interior decorator for home dec fabrics. If you are going to be doing a lot of home sewing then getting a business license might be useful and you can attend trade shows.

    2. Notions and supplies, wawak.com is a really great source for everything.

    3. SewingMachinePlus.com has pretty much any sewing machine/serger you could find. there is a lot of cheap china junk out there so becareful as far as sewing mahcines go, unless you have 1000's of dollars to spend which most folks don't, then Janome is a solid brand that will meet most of your sewing/quilting needs for good price points, they are easy to maintain.

    4. for garment sewing it is great to find online resources like this blog or othere who detail construction techniques and show you clearly how to complete a project, whether, a dress, jacket, pants etc

    5. maybe others can chime in on tips for online fabric shopping, i have always found this difficult, since touch/feel and creative inspiration come from seeing, and feeling the fabric

    i think what is important is there are ways around the difficulties of remote living, limited sewing shops, and fabric suppliers and just requires a bit of creative thinking

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  42. The saying, (The game is) Not worth the candle (you have to burn to watch the game), comes from the days when candles were expensive and time consuming to make. Candles of the time were actually used almost like money....

    By late 19th and early 20th century, housewives were ecstatic kerosene lamps were so readily available, and so cheaply. . . .

    Then electric light bulbs became common. . . . .

    Today, almost no one makes candles themselves, though some do for fun and small profit. . . .

    On my boat is a kerosene lamp, which throws SO much heat I can't use it except spring and early fall. I now use LED lights in the cabin on my boat. I've never made a candle, though I have sewn cushion covers for my salon seating. I've also made a bookcase for an odd-shaped corner of my apartment, when nothing from IKEA would fit. I also once knew a guy who made an end-grain black walnut end table from scraps collected over a long project. Beautiful, and would go for several thou $$ in a store if you could find one in a store.

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  43. I was talking to quite a few older women today and they told me they were taught many things because it was expected of them as future wives, but it doesn't mean they enjoyed it or wanted to do it. It was something you just did. Many hated cooking, which is my least favorite thing to do as well, but it was the wife's duty to cook and take care of your family. Some of the women didn't enjoy motherhood either, but it was something that you did and you would never say otherwise. Today women have so much more choices. Lots of men in the house prefer cooking and enjoy it. My mother has a male friend who is an avid knitter, he loves it. My mother learned embroidery, knitting and sewing like most girls did back then. She only liked knitting and still does. Most of my friends enjoy DIY projects that involve paint and old furniture, for them this is more fun and rewarding. I enjoy sewing, knitting and paper crafts. I do these because I want to and they are not expected of me. Women do not have to pretend to enjoy what they are doing anymore.

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  44. All great points, and even the chain fabric stores are closing now which isn't a good sign. It's too bad crafts (sewing, woodworking, etc) can't be structured in schools the way sports are as after school, voluntary activities.

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  45. Interesting post. Lots of interesting comments. I learned to sew to use fabulous fabrics available to me, and I enjoy it especially as my sewing has improved over the years. I think sewing and other hand-made activities have lost ground as our culture is more and more insatiable for instant results. The idea of building skill over time is almost lost, as if there is no difference between jeans and tees and tailored classic suits. The capacity for working "in the zone," of enjoying the result of hours and hours of effort, is losing ground in a culture obsessed with electronic fake sociability that has no private time. It expects people to be constantly open to interruption, if there is a focus that can be interrupted.

    I liked the comments above about capitalism and how activities that don't make money are devalued. I have some experience with this, as a sewist, a calligrapher, a cartographer and historian--perhaps our failing economy has something to do with our values. Fewer people have the means or the time for developing skills that do take time to finish. Kris

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    1. I agree, Kris. Thanks for expressing it so eloquently.

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