Once I started knitting, I stopped buying clothes for myself.
Well, that’s a lie. I still buy clothes. Hell, I can’t even sew, so replacing my whole warddrobe with handmade pieces would be impossible. But when I was in my early twenties, single, and in my first job with disposable income, I got in the habit of buying a lot of clothes. All around me were stylish women in cute feminine clothes. I had never been a clotheshorse, but suddenly I wanted to be a fashionable working girl.
The issue is that Japanese clothes never fit quite right. In those days, I was little smaller, so things theoretically went over my body, but they fit strangely. Too tight around my waist. Way too tight around my bust. Constricting at my shoulders. The only thing that was right was the length on things (yeah, short girl in Japan!). But cheap clothes are just as ubiquitous here as they are in the United States, and I didn’t feel bad for buying stuff that wasn’t right. Even if they didn’t fit perfectly, the price was right for close-enough.
(close-enough, if I sucked everything in, didn’t raise my arms, remained motionless, etc)
So I bought a lot of clothes. There are a lot of things that I adore and that have gotten lots of wear. But other things would stretch out after a couple wears. Or they were uncomfortable. Or they just weren’t right. So I donated clothes to the secondhand shops, bought more clothes, and donated them again within a year or two. Wasteful. In the end, I didn’t get a lot of pleasure out of most of those clothes. I was trying to reach an ideal that is impossible for me.
Cut to a few years later. I started knitting, mainly because I liked the idea of creating scarves for people I love (now I’m mostly a selfish knitter who only really knits garments). I didn’t set out to create a handmade warddrobe, but once I discovered the joy of creating clothes – real clothes! – I stopped yearning to buy so much. I’m also about ten pounds heavier than I was, and that ten pounds put me over the top as far as finding clothes in the cheap-o shops. Except for maybe Uniqlo, but Uniqlo has its own issues. I also found a work “uniform” that I really love, which is a sweater over a crisp shirt over a skirt, tights, and boots. So I wanted to make sweaters that fit well and looked wonderful, rather than cheap acrylic stretched out sweaters.
For me, I’d say the biggest impetus in making my own clothes is to get things that actually fit me (not that I’ve been all that successful at that). But creating my own clothes has taught me how much better care I take of those clothes. How much more I cherish them. I want to feel that way about all my clothes. So I don’t think I’ll learn to sew any time soon, but I’d like to buy better-made clothing that really really fits.
I’m new to thinking about sustainable fashion, so I think my goal for this month will mostly be to pay attention what other people are saying, and to learn a bit more about the situation with the Japanese clothing industry, and its stances on ethical clothing. I’ve also got a bag of clothing that I never took to the secondhand shop, so I’d like to pick through it to see if there’s some way to salvage some of that. Then also, I’d just like to properly iron and layout my clothes, come up with a few different outfit ideas, and just generally think about the stuff I have in my closet rather than going out and buying lots of new stuff for autumn.
Last, and a bit removed from the concept of fashion, is just to get out and exercise a little bit more. The Craft Sessions post a few months ago on weight stablization and a sustainable warddrobe stuck a cord with me. If you don’t fluctuate too much in weight over the years, you won’t have to buy as many clothes. Simple enough – my own size really hasn’t changed much since high school. However, I used to run a lot, and have fallen out of the habit since getting married. On the scale, I’ve only gained a few pounds, but it’s all gone to my shoulders and upper body, making a lot of my blazers and jackets horrible snug. I like those jackets, and I want to be able to wear them, not buy new ones. If I shaped up a little bit, I’d be able to better fit into clothes that I still like but are just a bit too tight right now, rather than buying all new clothes.
(Weight and body size and dieting are all such sensitive topics, and I largely deal with my own hangups by just … not thinking about it. But I recognize that’s a privileged position, and am interested in what others have to say)
Anyway, I’m excited to learn more during Slow Fashion October, and hope to make some new friends (and teach you all more about my beloved Ihatov, and the joy I experience knitting here).