Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Why I Sew

For Christmas, my husband got me a softbox.  More on that later.  Here's my first successful softbox photo, of me wearing my brown silk charmeuse version of the 1935 Vionnet dress.
I've spoken at length about the construction details of that dress at length before (see here, here, here, and here), and I'm not going to make a post about the softbox until I have a good idea of its capabilities.  So, I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk about why I sew.

It's not to save money.  That was my original justification for taking up sewing, to be sure.  But it doesn't hold up now for several reasons.

At this point, several years in, I have three large boxes of unused fabric, which probably amounts to over a thousand dollars spent on fabric I don't have a hope of using in the near future.  If I'd spent that money on clothes instead, at least they'd be getting worn instead of sitting in a closet indefinitely.

Plus, when I do buy clothes, I generally buy them from thrift and consignment stores.  I spend somewhere between $10 and $30 per item.  The materials costs for my sewing projects are higher than that, not to mention the value of my time.  If I spent the time I spend sewing taking on extra paying work, I could afford whatever clothes I wanted.

It's also not the case that I sew because I can't buy the clothes I need.  I'm close to a standard size in ready-to-wear, so it's not hard to find clothes that fit me.  The sorts of clothes that don't fit me tend to be suit jackets, which I don't have any interest in sewing anyway.

To take a broader view, any consideration of practicality doesn't make sense when you think about what I actually sew.  It's mainly sundresses and evening dresses.  At this point, I have a closet full of sundresses and evening dresses.  It's not like I really need that twelfth swanky evening dress.

Instead, I think it comes down to two reasons.

First, I'm driven to understand how things work and how to do them myself.  The impulse to make my own clothing is the same impulse that led me to build my own computer, learn to cook a wide range of cuisines, build a trebuchet, carry out any number of home improvement projects, and, of course, become an academic researcher.  Learning the nuts and bolts of whatever I'm interested in is my most fundamental way of interacting with the world.

Second, it's very important to me to express my creativity.  Advertisements constantly push the idea that I should consume, consume, consume.  I want to produce.  I have an artistic vision and I want to bring it to fruition.  The fact that I can do so gives me power-- the power of self-expression, the power to show off my intelligence, my skills, and my hard work, and the power to present myself in the way I want to be seen.

In the end, it may not be the best dress, or the best photo, but it's mine and I made it and it's exactly the way I wanted it to be, and I draw strength from that. 


  1. I can think of no better reasons to sew, you go!!! :)

  2. Those are fantastic reasons, expertly stated.