‘Overdressed’ and Why I Started to Sew

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In between school projects and studying for finals this week, I finally finished reading “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline. So many other sewing bloggers have recently raved about the book, and I felt it was high time I see what all the fuss is about.

The book was really interesting, because it reaffirms many of the reasons why I love to sew. Cline’s purpose in writing the book was to educate others on how mass consumption and fast fashion have really changed the fashion industry in the past couple of decades. For me, her story really made me think about my own history with fashion and how my style has evolved since learning to sew.

I really just started sewing a couple of years ago, when I was 26. Jose and I had just moved to Laredo, and we didn’t know very many people, so sewing seemed like a great hobby and a way for me to make a couple of new things for our home. Once I started looking for ideas on the Internet, I was overwhelmed with all the information out there on sewing. It wasn’t long before I realized – I could use my sewing machine to make my own wardrobe (!).

For some crazy reason, the thought had never crossed my mind. I suppose I assumed sewing garments was too difficult and way out of my league, but the more I researched, the more I realized that sewing a clothing pattern is as simple as following directions. If there was a term I wasn’t familiar with, I could Google it and usually find a tutorial or YouTube video that demonstrated that technique.

It wasn’t until I completed a blouse and A-line skirt that I realized I really love how simple garments look on me. Starting out with beginner-level patterns made me think about certain silhouettes that I had never considered before. It was a style awakening for me! Cline mentions in her book that retailers determine the season’s trends based on whichever style is easiest (and cheapest) to construct. This is sort of limiting for someone who shops at fast fashion retailers. Women today are not exposed to a range of silhouettes if they shop at retailers such as Target, Forever 21, and H&M.

Sewing has also made me think about my consumption. I used to go on shopping sprees and buy so many clothes because they were cheap. I thought, “I just bought 4 dresses for $100!! I’m such a smart shopper.” But then, when those dresses wore out after 1 – 2 wears, I’d go out shopping again for new stuff. It was a vicious cycle. I thought I was being smart with my money, but I’ve come to realize that really, I was being duped. I shelled out tons of money for clothes that I only wear once. Not to mention the time it takes to organize and keep track of all that clothing.

Now, after listing out all the good things that come with learning to sew, I must throw in a disclaimer. Learning to sew is definitely a life-long ambition, and creating one’s wardrobe by hand won’t happen overnight. Even though I’ve been sewing for a couple of years, I only feel comfortable wearing a couple of skirts and dresses I’ve made out of the house without worrying that my outfit looks too “handmade”. But with every garment I make, the more confident I am with the results.

In the end, I would highly recommend any hopeful or seasoned seamstresses to read Cline’s book, “Overdressed”. It really made me consider all the positive contributions I’ve made to fashion today as a self-proclaimed seamstress. The information in the book made me proud and excited about the choice I’ve made to create handmade things for my closet and my home. :)

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(Top photo of my mother’s sewing machine, a Singer Genie. Bottom photo of my sewing machine, a Bernina 1008).

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2 thoughts on “‘Overdressed’ and Why I Started to Sew

  1. I’ve really enjoyed reading this post thanks Amanda. This book is definitely going on my wish list now! I’ve been thinking a lot recently about sewing and the impact of the clothing industries and just posted about it too.
    On a separate note, you have the same machine as me – the Bernina! I love the font of ‘Genie’ on your Singer too and the flower pattern, gives the machine some extra character!

    1. Hi Kathryn!! Thanks so much for reading!! This book has made a big impact on the way I think about sewing – every time I have the urge to go shopping, I think, I could either make it myself, or find something in the thrift store that I can alter to fit me. Also, the unfortunate deaths at the factory in Bangladesh happened after I posted this, and just reaffirms my reasons for sewing – hopefully news like that will change others’ buying habits, as well.

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