One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot in conjunction with slow fashion October is that despite spending a lot of time (for someone with little kids and a full-time job) sewing, I definitely still buy clothes. I would definitely prefer to buy things that are ethically made with sustainable materials and all that. I often fall short. But I think about it a lot, so there’s that?
(My closet. Probably more than half store-bought.)
The things I buy basically fall into the following categories:
First, lovely small-batch stuff bought more or less directly from creators (like my 3rd Season dress). These purchases are comparatively rare, and often involve paying more for something than I otherwise would. But this means I only buy things I really love, so I tend to feel really good about these purchases.
Second, thrifted things. I used to thrift a lot and don’t as much anymore, mostly because I have less free time. Weight and breast-size gains have also limited my potential for success in this department. I still really love the idea, but don’t tend to acquire a lot of clothing this way since it has to really fit and/or be high enough quality to be worth the time for alterations or repairs. I think some of it is also geographical, and I’ve never really figured out the California thrift store scene.
Third, true basics. Things I could make, but mostly don’t because it would be boring and I’ve already got a better solution readily available. This mostly means leggings (I prefer these) and stretchy tops/tank tops (my current go-to is from *gasp* H&M), and perhaps underwear (typically basics from the Gap, although I’ve bought some nice, handmade ones off Etsy more recently so that might change). This is something where I will pick an ethically-made option if possible (I know American Apparel isn’t great, but it is made in the US, at least) but for the most part I have just gone with the thing I’ve found that works well.
(Stripey leggings with everything.)
Part of the issue with basics is that I’m picky. I’m picky about fit, I’m picky about fabric, I’m picky about style. I’ve certainly made leggings and tank tops before, but had a great deal of trouble sourcing fabric with the right level of spandex content to make me happy. With my me-made stuff, I’ve never gotten everything dialed in just so so that the leggings stay up and the tank tops don’t bunch up and everything sits right underneath other clothing. Similarly underwear and VPL and all that. There are probably solvable problems, but since they’re problems where I already have a solution that works, they have yet to make it to the top of the pile. I’d rather prioritize the stuff that shows and defines my style.
I also have a hard time getting too torn up about my ethical behavior here because I’m just not buying all that much of this stuff – maybe 2 pairs of leggings and 2 tank tops per year. I keep a small number in rotation, and repair or replace as necessary. (And yes, I will totally patch a pair of $30 leggings!) Maybe this will change when I stop having kids under 3 and/or if I find a magical source of very high quality, medium-heavy duty cotton knit with >10% spandex. We’ll see.
Fourth – jeans. I really, really want to make jeans! I bought the Ginger Jeans kit and everything. Then I immediately gained 15 lbs due to a medical issue, lost 5 of it after a medication change, and got pregnant. Fitting my rapidly-fluxuating body hasn’t seemed like the best investment of time and energy for the past year. Hopefully next year will be different!
Finally, there’s the fashiony stuff I probably could be making. I have a number of tops from Free People (many of which are 100% cotton and made in the US, at least), and sweaters and things from Nordstrom. This is harder to justify, but it has been valuable for trying out be silhouettes and experimenting with style. My sewing time is limited enough that I’m a bit averse to taking major style risks with handmade stuff. I’m drawn to interesting seaming, draping, and asymmetrical designs that aren’t often available in existing patterns. Buying ready made lets me try new ideas there in a way that’s realistic for my schedule. And when something works really well, a handmade version often follows.
This shirt is essentially a copy of a store-bought t-shirt that I loved (literally) to bits. And now I have an awesome pattern for it! That still feels (to me) like a victory for handmade.
Overall, I feel I’m buying less and thinking about it more. My wardrobe has gotten more focused and has a lot less cheap crap in it than it used to. There are definitely plenty of compromises that come along with dressing a pregnant/breastfeeding/rapidly changing body, and I’m still working on figuring them out. But I’m pretty happy with how I’m navigating it all!