TYRANNY OF THE HANDMADE

by Daughter Fish

Since starting to sew seriously for myself, about a year ago, I’ve tried to wear as many things that I’ve made as possible. At first, wearing my own clothes felt intimidating. What if my seams busted? Or what if people thought my creations were ugly, but didn’t want to tell me?  Really, I didn’t have anything to worry about.  I live in Brooklyn, a magical borough where most people worship handmade anything and you can’t go half a block without stumbling upon a new craft/artisanal/small batch something or other. We’re basically living in a long episode of Portlandia. I mostly love it, but could do without the handlebar mustaches.

Over the past year, though, I’ve noticed a rising snobbishness in myself over wearing anything I haven’t made. As my closet has filled with me-made creations,  some very nice store-bought clothes have sunk deeper and deeper into the wardrobe. If you make your own clothes, or furniture, or artisanal sausages, say, you may identify with this Tyranny of the Handmade. For this exact reason, I’d considered giving away the black Calypso dress pictured up top. I picked it up on deep discount ($20 down from a ridiculous $220) a few years ago, but never wore it because the neckline was too revealing. I’ve held onto it, though, because it’s made of the most luxurious silk jersey.

On Friday, I needed a little black dress with pockets ( my weekend job has a loose dress code of black with pockets). An unrealistic  part of my brain thought I’d be able to whip a black, pocketed sundress up in an hour (silly me!). Out of time, I dug the Calypso dress out of the closet and decided it was time we were on better terms. If I hadn’t made her, I could at least alter her.

I used a black, spandex running dress I’d made as a muslin last year to create inline pockets and a demure undershirt to battle that plunging neckline. In all, the cutting, ripping,  and sewing took about an hour. Once it was done, I realized it should be illegal for any floofy dress NOT to have pockets. I used lingerie lace I got from my grandma’s stash to edge the top of the cami. As I descended a set of stairs on Friday night, and the silk jersey hovered in an undulating cloud around my legs, I was reminded it was a total tragedy to keep this dress locked in a closet. She will be making many outings this summer (silk jersey, btw: best fabric for muggy summer nights!).

Sewing has definitely changed the way I think about buying clothes. I don’t really buy new clothes anymore (only second-hand or vintage finds). But it’s a bit silly, and largely wasteful, to disown the clothes I already have just because I didn’t make them. I think I’ll continue to try altering what I already have to fit me and my style better.

How about you? Anyone out there fallen under the Tyranny of the Handmade? Is there anything store bought in your closet due for a makeover?