Last year one of my new year’s resolutions was to cut down on my fast-fashion (and to be honest, most fashion) spending. Alas, the lure of next-day delivery and impossibly cheap body-con dresses tempted me back over the spring, and I (almost immediately) failed on my personal goal. By autumn, however, friends of mine had started pointing out the impossibility of maintaining the politics I hold and still purchasing from companies whose supply chains are murky, and whose prices are so low that there’s no feasible way for anyone to be paid a fair wage to produce the garments.
It’s common sense, but as one of the gal-dem editors pointed out this week, often we find it so easy to ignore or see past the problems and inconsistencies that inconvenience us. As someone who is frugal at best, and downright cheap at worst, I found it difficult to wrestle between being able to afford to dress the way I wanted and use my purchasing power to make a difference. Often, I chose just to look the other way, and still buy £2 leggings.
This year, however, equipped with the wonders of YouTube and a sewing machine for my 29th (eep) birthday, I’ve changed my ways. I’ve become obsessed with online sewing communities and the content they share, and have started making the sustainable wardrobe I want – freeing up head-space and money to invest in brands who are actively changing the way that the fashion industry behaves.
After watching an old friend post their homemade outfits on Instagram, I fell into a rabbit hole of hashtags that were a delicious mix of adorable puns and political nods (#sewcialists? #inclusivemaker? #diversknitty?! Get out of my brain!) and found my way to a series of YouTube tutorials on recreating clothing from items you already owned. One pair of flared trousers later, I was sold. I was becoming a sewer, a sewcialist, a frequenter of the #memade universe. As someone with very few real skills in dressmaking, and even less patience, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how easy and cheap it is to mock together an outfit from old duvet covers, up-cycled used clothing, or even jumping in the deep end and buying fabric specifically for a project.
While I’ve relied heavily on YouTube for many of the fits I’ve made, the community of sewers and makers comprised of women of colour on Instagram has been my go-to for motivation, inspiration and encouragement. Read on for some accounts to follow for making inspiration in lockdown:
Miranda’s account is one I follow for fun and beautiful makes that seem so practical and easy to wear. Her outfit shots (taken by her almost-6-year-old daughter 😭) get me hyped for patterns to test and try out. Her feed is a lovely mix of sewing and knitting inspiration.
Gyasti Averia’s wardrobe is what I aspire to – knowing that my distracted bamboozled mind won’t ever get there. It’s clean and elegant with a clear sense of style, no matter what garment or colour she wears. Her account is a great one to follow if you’re looking for new patterns to test or try out. By tagging the maker and showing the finished fit from a variety of angles, her feed is like a little-black-book of indie pattern designers to buy from.
Another maker who’s wardrobe I just want. Abolaji’s projects are always cute, relaxed, and with a vintage style. She uses earthy tones to keep bright colours wearable and makes a point of spotlighting ethical designers.
Denise Bayron is a knitwear designer who I found from @mirry_maker’s feed. She’s designed a series of lovely knitting patterns for jackets, wraps, and tops, and is currently working with vogue on an online knitting course.
I can’t actually type the letters @withwendy without getting a flutter in my tummy. I’m a stan. Wendy’s videos on YouTube are what got me ready to sew, and her imaginative “thrift flips”– taking clothing from second-hand stores and modernising them for cute outfits, or thrift-store celebrity outfit recreations are my go-to for relaxing, inspiring, and joyful content. She’s currently running Sunday evening “peaceful craft times” live on her YouTube to raise money for global relief efforts… as if I couldn’t love her any more.