How Sewing Is Weaning Me Off Fast Fashion

Sewing and fast fashion might seem like completely different ways of dressing oneself. One is slow and methodical, the other is impulsive and cheap. Apples and oranges. But for me, I find the more I sew, the less I want to buy something from H&M.

It’s not that I NEVER shop fast fashion– I still succumb to impulse purchases if I find a dress or a top that is OMG SUPER CUUUUTE! But if you really look at the designs, they’re pretty simple. What gets you to impulse-buy something is usually a cute print, a bright color, or some kind of detail (I think in the fashion world they call it “interest”) that makes it special. So simple design + cute fabric + optional INNNNTEREST (I’m trying to say it all pretentious) = cute garment. The difference, of course, it that cute fabric does not always mean quality. Skirts shrink, armholes rip, etc. etc. Take for instance, my apple dress from H&M:

08 Aug19 apple dress

I bought this at the Dallas H&M. I was living in Austin at the time and went to Dallas for a conference. Dallas has (or maybe had, I’m not sure) the only H&M in Texas, so my friends and I were all excited to get our fix. I have a thing for apples (I’m from Washington, my name starts with A, I have an apple tattoo, I don’t know I just do), so of course I felt I needed this dress.

A few washes later, the length was becoming a problem (in this picture, I’d had it only about 4 months and it’s already shorter than I’d like). I think it hit me when I sat down on the bus and realized there wasn’t even the protection a thin layer of cloth could provide between that bus seat and my ass. Eck! Dress Over. I wasn’t ready to give it up, though. I don’t like throwing out clothes after a few months, even if it was only $20. So I hacked off a few inches and made the dress into a little peplum top. Cute!

Until, of course, a few washes later and now even the top is too short (I don’t even have a picture of it because I only wore it a few times). AND I STILL DON’T WANT TO GIVE IT UP. Now it’s sitting in a closet waiting for a few inches of trim to be added around the hem. As I’m writing this, though, I’m realizing I’m fighting a losing battle.

So what did I save here? I’ve had the dress only two years and it has already become unwearable twice. I know I’m supposed to have thrown it out at this point or given it to a charity shop (which, by the way are now overrun with clothes they can’t even sell). During my Save the Apple Dress phase, I started to realize how much work and money I put into salvaging my cheap clothing (trim, after all, isn’t free). Think about all the cute things I could have made in those two years that could still be wearable. I still have my Hilary Duff lemon dress that I made four years ago and it’s in great condition (as well as a reasonable length).08 Aug19 lemon dressSimple design + cute fabric. The fabric wasn’t even expensive or particularly high quality (it was from Joann, along with the McCall’s pattern, on sale for $1.99).

What I’m getting at is that fast fashion isn’t as cheap as it initially seems. I’m not even going to get into the ethical problems of cheap clothing (I think that’s common knowledge at this point and it clearly and sadly isn’t stopping most people from buying it, including myself). But if over the course of a year, your $15 or $20 dress is supposed to be replaced AT LEAST once, now you’ve spent $30-40 as well as time at the mall (eck), possible mending (even if it’s turning a dress into a top), and that probably won’t last another year. Why not spend the $30 on cute fabric and a simple pattern and make something that fits well and is unique? Or bust out something from your sewing stash? I should ask myself those questions next time I’m tempted by something I think I “need.”

Obviously, not everyone has the time to sew and for some, fast fashion is a necessity. Understandable. But why have a closet full of craptastic clothing if you can afford to create something better?


2 responses

  1. That’s great to hear that sewing has made you more mindful of your clothing purchases. I, too, have been trying to not make purchases at “fast fashion” stores unless the convenience and price outweighs all other options.


  2. I agree. Sometimes convenience and price are more important, and sometimes something else is. The more I wear something that feels good– whether it’s ethically, aesthetically, both or neither– the more I think about what feels good and what doesn’t and discover what I like and what I don’t. But experimentation with what feels good is part of that, and that I think is where clothes with value from its price and convenience comes in.


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