I have wondered about fashion for quite some time.
Many people sew because they don’t want to wear what is fashionable at the moment, choosing instead things that suit them. Things they like.
While I wholeheartedly agree that sewing gives us more choices and flexibility, I have to admit I am fascinated by fashion. Always have been, always will be. I read papers and magazines, I visit websites and shops and I take a very keen interest in what is fashionable right now. Not necessarily in order to follow it slavishly – for what is sadder than a fashion victim? – but to be inspired by it and to be in tune with the trends. Does that make me terribly superficial?
The thing is we are all influenced by fashion to a greater or lesser extent. The way we speak, where we holiday, what we enjoy eating, what books we are reading, for example, are all influenced by fashions, fads and trends. We seem to have a real instinct for following the crowd. Very few of us are such determined individualists that we dress completely outside fashion, and eat only what we were fed as children (tinned spaghetti anyone?). Even nun’s habits change with the times (well some of them).
If you are like me you ask your your kids, young colleagues and friends what books are good, what films are worth watching – if you try something new, or are influenced by others – chances are you are following fashion. Everything from music to what we plant in the garden, best sellers to film genres, paint colours to coffee shop design, is affected by fashion and most people who claim to be impervious to trends are fibbing or deluded. In fact those that opt out completely are often believed to be (and may well be) mentally ill. If we don’t broadly conform to fashion then we will stand out – causing either ostracisation, or (if we are trend setting fashion leaders) others to copy us and follow our lead. Those that refuse to update their look soon look dated, and aged.
So of course what we make for ourselves is influenced by fashion – both directly and indirectly. Directly of course in the shape of pants or the length of skirts. Some Indie pattern makers become fashionable and people rush out and start making a specific dress or top. But also indirectly – we read blogs, or we see the latest patterns, we look at Instagram or Facebook, and we copy others or take some of their ideas that we like and think are nice. Of course in today’s globalised and connected world there are so many versions to choose from, but at another level we all want to look alike.
Take something like the “mom” jeans. These are denim jeans that are based on the high-waisted, full leg look that was fashionable in the 1980/1990s. Ten years later and men and women alike had ditched this look for skinny jeans instead – lower cut and with very slim legs. Anyone who was still wearing the high-waisted ones looked hilariously dated – hence the description Mom jeans – so terrible only your out of the loop, suburban mother would be seen dead in them. Then in 2015 the Mom jeans came back into fashion – this time ironically. We are so cool we can now wear the dreaded baggy pants and still look amazing…
So why do the modern Moms look so stylish and modern? Firstly we had grown very tired of the skinny jean and welcomed a change. When we saw the new shape (which was actually a moderated version of the 1990s style – a closer fit through the leg, rolled hems, no belts, much softer fabrics (often with Lycra), subtly distressed rather than crudely bleached, and with up to the minute footwear – brogues, high, strappy sandals or flatforms. So if you are hanging on to certain clothes that you expect will come back into fashion, believe me they never do. The old styles influence and inform, but they are subtly new at the same time. The name Mom jeans is an in joke, not a proposal to raid her closet.
Here is a question for you home dressmakers – do you find that commercial patterns are stylish and fashionable enough? I don’t. Here is a modern London-based company I really like – Finery. I would be happy to dress in their clothes which suit a casual business wardrobe. I don’t think it would be that easy to make a set of clothes like this using commercial patterns. I looked at what Vogue has produced this season as “new patterns” and the aesthetic is less fresh, aimed at an older age group, and just boring. The independent challengers – when they are good – may have one or two items that look stylish and youthful. The rest are derivative or recycled vintage looks without the irony.