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.
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!