Me-Made-May 2015: I’M GOING FOR IT!

I mentioned this briefly in an earlier post… but have been hemming and hawing over the exact conditions I want to place over myself for this challenge. I’ve been following the fabulousity that is Me Made May for a year or two now, but have only recently felt ready to tackle the challenge of curating and actually wearing a me-made wardrobe for an entire month!

Oh well, here goes nothing:

“I , Jessie of jesssewfabulous.wordpress.com, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’15. I endeavour to wear one me-made garment or use a me-made accessory each day for the duration of May 2015.”

I’m beyond excited to really be challenged this coming month and to see what I can come up with over the next couple of weeks! I’ve got lots of outfit ideas and posts on new makes coming up so I hope you guys are looking forward to that ūüėČ

But for now, a lot of my stitching is going to be¬†“boring” sewing (eg. hemming UFOs, fixing zippers, sewing buttons) in preparation for MMM, so I suppose I should be glad for the push that this challenge is giving me! Wish me luck ūüėÄ

Why I Chose to Stop Consuming Fast Fashion // #FashRev

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Disclaimer: I am not an expert on fast fashion or on the production processes of the fashion industry. My aim is simply to share with you, the reader, my thoughts on this issue, and to encourage you to think seriously about what goes on behind the production of fast fashion. 

Under a year ago, before I thought seriously about handmade fashion, I used to be a fast fashion consumer. Living in a wealthy country like Singapore, with close proximity to less affluent neighbours who are an integral part of the fashion production system, it’s inevitable that consumers often play fast and loose when it comes to buying and discarding clothing. With new clothing collections being launched by blogshops (online boutiques selling clothing at lower price points than brick and mortar shops) on a weekly basis, and high street brands running regular sales promotions, and a “fashion wholesale heaven” like Bangkok just a short plane ride away, it was little wonder that I often found myself buying new clothing (and discarding new clothing) extremely frequently. I had no qualms about spending on cheap, poor quality garments (because I could afford to just donate or toss them if I didn’t like them anymore) and never questioned where my clothing came from.

My introduction to the sewing community has changed all my perceptions of all that. First of all, I realised that I didn’t wear 75% of the clothing I bought regularly because they either didn’t fit right or weren’t comfortable. Second, rather than buying something I only liked because I wasn’t sure if I would find something better, with a little effort I could make something I loved and customise it to fit my vision perfectly. But most of all, now that I have first-hand knowledge of how much time, effort and skill goes into the designing, drafting and creation of a quality piece of clothing, I simply no longer feel that buying cheap, low-quality clothing is justifiable.

This is how I see it:¬†Assume that there are two pieces of clothing that are perfectly identical in style, quality of fabric, finishing and workmanship. The only difference is that one was hand-made by a seamstress mum of two who is selling her wares on Etsy, and one was made in a garment factory in Bangladesh and is being sold in a high street fashion store¬†or in an innocuous flea market stall full of fast fashion clothing. Would a regular consumer pay a premium for one over the other? I think they would, I know I would have. What’s the difference then, between the garment in the Etsy store and the garment in the retail store? Both types of clothing involved human effort and the same number of steps to achieve the end result. Are we saying that one human being’s time worth more than another’s? No. Is the price differential due to a difference in skill level? If the garments are identical, I don’t see why it should be a factor.¬†Why then are we willing to fork out so much money for items that are perceived as “hand-made” and “hand-crafted” and that have come out of a “creative enterprise”, but are reluctant to pay even a fraction of that amount for the effort and skill expended by someone in a garment factory in a distant country?

By continuing to maintain this mindset towards fast fashion and continuing to support the tyranny of fashion brands over their suppliers / producers in¬†garment factories, we are contributing to squalid and unsafe conditions that these men and women find themselves in when they report to work every day. By demanding ever lower prices, fashion brands are applying pressure on garment factories to churn amount huge amounts of clothing at low costs – eventually, something’s got to give. Maybe workers’ salaries get cut, maybe factories compromise on the quality of the equipment used, or maybe they neglect to maintain the building and factory environment their employees work in.

Some people may argue that fast fashion provides jobs for unskilled workers and gives them a source of income (ie. the same kind of mindsets that the upper classes had towards workhouses in Victorian England). Possibly, but at what cost? On 24 April 2013, it cost the lives of 1134 garment workers employed by companies working out of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.

But let’s not forget the garment workers in other countries as well. Actually, let’s not forget all workers in all industries working under these conditions due to the increasingly ridiculous demands of our consumeristic societies.

This is a long essay, and I don’t usually talk about serious issues on this blog, but I thought it was important to remember this on the 2nd-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse. How do you feel about fast fashion and the production practices of fashion labels? Do you know of any articles or organisations that you think others would benefit from? Let me know in the comments below!

If you would like to get involved and do something about this issue, there are numerous movements and organisation targeted at improving the plight of garment workers. I have listed some here, but please do let me know if you are aware of any others: 

Fashion Revolution (#FashRev and #WhoMadeMyClothes)

Ethical Fashion Forum

Fairwear

The Working Girl’s Wardrobe (& Plans for The Wardrobe Contest)

It’s one of my big goals for this year to take part in Me-Made-May… the only problem is that most of my me-made clothes are casual garments, and I will inevitably be spending a large part of the month of May sitting around an office. This means that as of late I have been focussing my sewing efforts on creating a me-made work wardrobe that I would feel proud to let my colleagues (& bosses) see me in.

Since the #WAChallenge2015 assignment for the month of March is to identify holes in your wardrobe and make plans to fill them in, I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to sketch out a rough plan of the work outfits I want to have made by the time May rolls around. It also helps that the folks over at PatternReview.com are clairvoyants of some sort and have very obligingly assigned The Wardrobe Contest as the competition of choice for the month of April!

2015 Wardrobe Contest

This means that in the next 6 weeks or so, I will be sewing a grand total of 9 garments: 4 tops, 3 bottoms and 2 garments of choice. I’m part terrified, but also really excited (though I do have this niggling doubt at the back of my mind that I’ll be able to get all of that done in such a short amount of time). ¬†Nevertheless, as good ol’ Churchill said “He who fails to plan is planning to fail”, so plan I shall, and plan I have. If you’d like to see what I’ll be sewing up in the next couple of weeks, then keep on reading!

In addition to the difficulty of the make, my main consideration was practicality and whether I would get actual wear out of my me-made garments. I thought about the kind of clothing I currently wear to work, and the various factors that may impact whether a certain item of clothing gets more heavily rotated than others. These were my choices:

Tops 

THE PLAN: 2 x Sewaholic Pendrell Blouse, Colette Laurel Top and Sewaholic Oakridge Blouse

Though I love me a nice shirt, I’ve never made one before and so I thought it would be too much of a challenge to produce a good quality one in the limited time I have. Also, given Singapore’s sweltering heat, I tend to stick with short or sleeveless tops most of the time which is why I’ve opted to make 2 Pendrell tops. I might change my mind though, if I figure out how to take the sleeves off the Oakridge… a sleeveless pussy-bow blouse sounds right up my alley!
Bottoms
If you’ve been around here a while, you may have noticed that I’ve been on a pencil skirt kick recently, beginning with this denim number and more recently, the poinsettia pleated skirt. As much as I like Delia’s pattern, I just feel that the proportions aren’t spot on for me. I’m still on the hunt for a great pencil skirt pattern and I’m grabbing this chance to make up two highly raved about patterns – BHL’s Charlotte and Sew Over It’s Pencil Skirt patterns.
I also can’t wait to sew up the Hollyburn which I’ve been putting off FOREVER. I already have the perfect fuchsia poly suiting for it – CAN’T WAIT.
Sewist’s Choice
One of the requirements of the Wardrobe Contest is that all items sewn have to match each other. This is where the versatility of the Oslo Cardigan comes in. Plus, with the estimated total production time being a mere 2 hours, it will go a long way to helping me meet my target 9 garments.
As for the dresses… quite frankly it’s a toss-up between the two. I haven’t muslined either of the dresses, so I feel slightly inclined towards the Laurel since I would have fitted it as a top already. However, I will be attending a cousin’s wedding in May that I’m dying to wear the Emery dress to… talk about first world sewing problems.
So that’s it! My very brief sewing plans for the upcoming weeks. Wish me luck – I’m so excited to get started!
PS. Can you believe that ALL of these patterns are from my pattern stash?! If all else fails at least I’d have conquered some of my “to-sew” list.