How can I stop my clothes looking home made?

posted in: Style advice | 6
Top made from a 50s curtain
1985 Wedding in home made suit

The basics (applicable to shopping for clothes too)

  • Style – choose the right style to flatter or disguise your body shape
  • Colour – choose a colour that complements your colouring

In addition, if you are making your own clothes, you need to consider

  • Fit – make sure the pattern and garment fits your body measurements
  • Fabric – if in doubt, use the fabric proposed by the pattern designer

I firmly believe if you make a well fitting garment in a style and colour that flatters you, in a suitable fabric, then you will stand out from the crowd. If you also construct it beautifully you will be ahead of even the richest or most beautiful celebrities. In this post I am just going to address construction.


The seamstress' best friend
The seamstress’ best friend

In my opinion, if you want your clothes to look great you need to pay attention to the following ten areas

  • Use sharp scissors
  • Cut accurately, on the grain
  • Transfer all the pattern markings
  • Press at every single step
  • Use the correct interfacing
  • Measure everything carefully
  • Follow the instructions – you may learn something new
  • Make your garments symmetrical (check collars, hems, lapels, etc religiously)
  • Trim to reduce bulk
  • Take your time – if it is going wrong sort it out. If you can’t work it out, try sleeping on it. (Not in it).
Measure everything. Twice
Measure everything. Twice

Every “mistake” is a learning experience

Some bloggers pass off their mistakes as “design features”. Mistakes can occasionally be positive. But I think the best thing is to learn from your mistakes. You will not be good at button holes, or zips, or pockets the first few times. It is like learning a language or an instrument – it takes a lot of practice. Mistakes and failures are an inevitable and necessary part of learning.

I would recommend going to a good local authority clothes-making course, with a qualified teacher, where you can make a few garments under supervision until you gain confidence. You will learn such a lot from your teacher and fellow students. There are also some good technique classes where you sew sample pockets, button holes, zips, sleeves, seams etc. It seems a bit dull making samples rather than garments, but it is all about gaining confidence and learning what is possible.

I have made dozens of garments that ended up in landfill, unfinished. I have spent hours making something which I have never worn. I have worn truly horrible garments that I made myself. Like this one for example, taken on holiday in Spain (that’s why I am brown), newly engaged, wearing an all in one jump suit, in a horrible textile. It was the 80s, but there really is no excuse for those shoulder fastenings. And the matching hair band.

Jump suit - own design, 1984
Jump suit – own design, 1984

I have learnt the hard way – believe me.

It did not surprise me that a woman in her 80s was the winner of the Great British Sewing Bee 1. Getting good at this is truly a lifetime’s work.

6 Responses

  1. ab

    As thia post is about construction, albeit clothes not buildings, it would appear that the carpenter’s motto still apllies: i’Measure twice, cut once’.

  2. Joyce

    I was not surprised either. experience is the only way to go with this craft. I have just returned to sewing after many years. I am rusty and a standard pattern no longer “fits” this model. I think your blog is fantastic. I will be following with nose to the screen. I also follow Sew to Pro, she is also excellent. I’d like to thank you both for sharing your blogs. They are in inspirational and encourage me to keep at it. Right now, Im recovering my own sofa and my friends…so a drift from fashion sewing at the moment. I do not blog but I feel the need to respond to your every so encouraging posts. Keep em coming!

    • fabrickated

      What a lovely comment! Upholstery and furniture covers are a whole different and equally challenging ball game. Good for you Joyce. Thank you for your feedback and I do hope to hear from you again.

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