Saturday, 5 February 2011

Sewing: A cure for shopaholics?

Are you a shopaholic? Do you buy clothes on a whim that end up sat in your wardrobe never being worn because you don't feel like they're 'you'? Have you lost large amounts of money because you couldn't resist buying that item of clothing? Desperate for a cure? Well I've got one for you.... sewing! No, seriously...

I've been thinking about dress making and about shopping for clothes on the high street, and how in the short time that I've been having a go at making my own clothes my urge to go shopping and buy new clothes has almost completely subsided. I'm the first to admit that I'm a complete shopaholic, I love shopping and I love buying new clothes. My problem has always been that I get an idea in my head, usually related to an item of clothing that I've seen someone else looking amazing in and I decide that I must have it myself. So I go out and I buy something the same or similar and then I never wear it because I feel stupid in it and like it's not really 'me'. Or I see something I love in a shop that isn't really my usual sort of thing but I convince myself that I'll wear it and then surprise surprise, I don't. Or I decide I must have a new dress for going out to a specific party, wear it once and then do the same thing over and over again so end up with a selection of dresses that have only been worn once. So over the years I've ended up with lots of clothes in my wardrobe, but a lot of them remained unworn or worn once, maybe twice. Any clothes that are still in new or good condition and haven't been worn for 6 months go on Ebay. I looked at my statistics this morning and in 2010 I sold 26 items of clothing or shoes, 17 of these were brand new or had only been worn once/twice and 6 of those were brand new still with the tags on. That's awful isn't it? Granted I'm not one to buy expensive clothes because I was always more about quantity over quality, but even selling on Ebay I couldn't get back all the money that I spent on those items. Through my own calculations using figures from Ebay and a rough estimate of the prices of the garments, I've calculated that I lost about £80 on the brand new with tag items alone, and about £300 in total. Quite scary I think.

But moving on. Since I've started sewing my own clothes I've bought one item of clothing, an £8 blouse. It's like sewing has given me a brand new point of view on shopping, I go to the shops and I find I've turned into my mother. I find myself thinking, '£40?! I could make that for less!' (this is particularly true in certain high street shops which charge way over what they should be for the quality of the garments they sell) and instead of buying clothes, I use them as inspiration for things that I would like to try and sew myself, I see them as a challenge. I find it a lot harder to part with my money these days, especially when I see something which I know I've got a pattern for at home. And the items I have made myself, I love, partly because I know how much effort I put into making them and partly because the process of planning a garment means that I spend time actually thinking about what I want to make, rather than just buying something on a whim. I sit and think about the style of the dress, I think about the fit, the fabric, the colour, and with those thoughts come extended thoughts; 'I love this fabric but if I use it to make a dress what will I be able to wear it with?' or 'That's a really pretty style but will I realistically wear it in my daily life?'. These are all thoughts that don't even enter my head when I'm whizzing around the high street and buying on impulse. And there's no chance of the garment I've made sitting at the back of my wardrobe because I don't feel like it's 'me' because I've put my self into every aspect of the garment - my choice of style, my choice of fabric and even my own wonky sewing.

Some people say that making your own clothes is too expensive, especially when you have the likes of primark around. Well, my heart print dress has cost about £9 to make, the average dress in primark is about £15, maybe more if it's actually lined. Granted, I don't buy expensive fabrics because I'm a student and I'm a beginner at sewing, I don't want to risk sewing with fancy fabrics yet. When I shop on the high street I shop at the lower end of the high street in the cheap shops and I'm slowly learning that even I in my novice state can make something that's less likely to fall apart than something from primark. I'm hoping that dress making can turn me into a quality person rather than a quantity person, in which case the expensive fabrics will be worth it but I don't trust myself that far yet. For someone like me, who buys on impulse and ends up with hoards of never worn clothes, sewing isn't expensive. It's teaching me lessons about myself and encouraging me to hold back when I'm out shopping and everything I've made has been worn on several occasions already, there's no chance that any of it is going to be ending up on ebay advertised as 'BNWT'.


  1. This is the story of my life! I've got a wardrobe of "bargains" (again primark is the biggest offender) and probably only wear a quarter of the clothes in my wardrobe, I know how shameful. I havent been buying clothes as much since taking up sewing either, I'll look at a piece of clothing and think "I'll make one, when I get better at sewing." So already I'm saving a fortune by walking out of clothes shops empty handed. I'm going to have to come up with a way to sort through my unworn "bargains", its too late to take them back and Ebay can be so tedious.
    I completely agree though, sewing is the cure!
    Hayley x

  2. I agree too!! For the fancier fabrics such as silk, is a good one! :) I certainly wouldn't sew everything in silk, but its nice for those extra special items.
    Since I've been learning about fitting, I'm more critical of how shop bought items fit me, and now walk away because things never fit right. I blame my chest. lol

  3. Totally agree - well said! I've barely bought anything since I started sewing - my new vice is online fabric stores...

  4. Hi Lucy,

    I've just discovered your blog and am totally inspired. I've been sewing for over 9 months and have only made 2 pieces of clothing (everything else has been bags, cushion covers and the like). I love your heart print dress, and am musing about buying that pattern now.

    You are so right though. Even though I haven't made many clothes yet, my actual clothes buying last year was tiny. As Hayley said in her comment, I don't want to buy anything I think I may be able to make someday soon (hopefully).

  5. Thanks for all the comments, I really appreciate them! Hayley, I agree, Ebay is tedious and the less time I have to spend listing stuff the better! Ashley, thanks for the tip about cheap fabrics :) Carly, glad you agree!

    And Law, I'm glad I've inspired you, i'd really recommend the pattern (it's only about £3!) and you can give me a shout if you need any help!