Friday, May 3, 2013

The Cost Of Doing It Yourself

Here is the occasional sewing-related post/rant, I normally use my sewing blog for such things but, here we go...

The ability to do something well does not always mean that a good eye and good taste is included.
That takes the willingness to accept constructive criticism and to *pay attention* when you crack open those historical fashion books or antique garments themselves. But we must also be willing to search out and debunk myths associated with historical fashion, since many of those books can offer differing opinions.

Oh, holy gods, the detail on this gown...I could do it. With enough time and patience. Pleats or tucks?
I think they are tucks that have been pressed down to resemble pleats. pleats would fall out over the curve and weight of her skirt...unless they are on top of a backing..hmmm.

I know that it takes time, patience and practice to achieve even the smallest bit of historical accuracy when we recreate clothing worn in a time before we were born. Especially these days when so many people have the attention span of a gnat. We can thank the modern technologies we keep with us that pull us in all directions for it; cell phones, television programs with scenes edited down to split seconds, email, the 'need to have it now' mentality that goes hand in hand with the cheaply made and mass produced things we surround ourselves with and waste hard-earned money on. You name it, everything from the 10 spatulas in your kitchen drawer, to the insane amount of things produced for holidays such as Valentine's day, Christmas or Halloween. Do people even really make their own decorations anymore?
We no longer create what we desire. We simply buy it, and although we say we do, we don't really care where it comes from or how long it will last.
And there is So. Much. Garbage.
Things we don't NEED, yet buy anyway.
Many might say that sewing or any form of DIY is a waste of time and money. A stupid or boring hobby for old ladies, with no place in the modern world when there are so many other things we should spend our hard-earned money on...
as if it's justifiable to spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars each year on useless plastic junk that will end up in a landfill less than 5 years from now.

There was once a time, not long ago, when most people had to sew 90% of their own wardrobe.

 1930s sewing pattern

But I digress.
So many of the historical garments I have seen recreated so often resemble these cheap and plastic items that fill our world. But it's not always the fault of the seamstress, since it has become difficult to find materials that are not themselves 'plastic'. Walk into any fabric store and you will find that at least 90% of the materials are all polyester or a blend of some kind, usually with Lycra. The rest is quilting cotton, fake floral arrangements, overpriced decorator junk and scrap-booking supplies. You're lucky if there is a knitting section...with natural fibers.
Natural fibers like silk, of the correct weight such as taffeta, faille and duchess has become not only scarce in shops, but horribly expensive. One can search out fairly priced taffeta, but it seems the only places are online which can make finding specific colors difficult. Even wools and cottons of the right content, weight and texture are proving hard to find and expensive when we do.
Lace; that is probably the most expensive item on the menu if you want something better than the plastic nylon crap they sell in most shops now. Buying vintage and antique lace is often surprisingly cheaper than their high-end modern reproductions.

Then there is the 'more is less' conundrum with cost I see so often in the sewing/costuming forums.
I knew a lady on one of these forums that complained constantly about how she wanted so badly to use silk taffeta and duchess satins for her creations, but that they were just too expensive for her. Yet this same woman would make at least 1 to 2 gowns for herself each month, spending upwards of a few hundred dollars on "more affordable" synthetic materials and supplies for each one. I was always baffled that she did not see the obvious solution; Fewer gowns mean more money for better fabrics.

I am by no means a stitch-Nazi. I don't count threads per inch on a reproduction cotton print, and I gladly use a sewing machine for 99.9% of my seams that will show a top stitch...if I'm being that obsessive about historical detail. And, I have made my fair share of synthetic historically inspired ensembles to wear out to the occasional theme night, goth night, etc.

It comes down to this; If you want it badly enough, you can indeed get it without causing your budget strife.
It's a discipline, not just a hobby, for those of us creating art while living on a budget.
If you dedicate yourself and save a few dollars in that cookie jar each week, your dream materials are available and within reach.
Just make sure you make a mock up with that cheap fabric first!


When I first saw this film, the first thing that entered my mind were the words, "Back when people functioned as people. Not as frightened insects."
I noticed there was a distinct way people carried themselves in this film compared to today. It is the way they moved, the way they held their heads UP and enjoyed the world around them. Hell, the way they watched where they were going, on so many levels.

Less is most assuredly more.

There is a beautiful thing this film captures that I think is completely lost on 90% of people that watch it.
It is the way they are all unattached to some device as we are today. We are now rushing around, scurrying, with our heads bowed, slouched, eyes drooping over the small screens of iPhones and other personal electronic devices that keep our lives scheduled, distracted, and monitored 24/7.
These people were so much more than we are.