Have we all just got too many clothes?

In the 1930s women owned about 60 items of clothes, and bought five new items annually.

Students at Leeds University 1930s
Students at Leeds University 1930s

During the second world war rationing allowed women to buy about ten new items each year.

1942 London fashions
1942 London fashions

Currently we buy 60 new items of clothing each year in the UK, and 64 in the US. This means that today each of us has around 300 items in our wardrobes (including tights, socks, belts etc).


You may be wondering if the clothing industry and “fashion” can convince us to keep increasing the number of items we buy and keep every year.

But interestingly, it appears, that shopping for clothes is starting to falter. After year on year increases in clothing sales there has been a marked drop across many UK retailers over the last six months.  Kantar Worldpanel, which tracks the clothing purchases of 15,000 UK residents, reports that this year, for the first time in seven years, clothes purchasing has fallen. The effect is strongest among the under 25s. This is in the context of retail spending as a whole increasing.

There appears to a fundamental change in behaviour with people preferring to spend their money on experiences – such as holidays and meals – rather than clothes. Like many people I feel jaded by the reality of shopping, and if I see something I like (such as a pair of shoes) I invariably wait until the sales – and the urge usually passes.

Our largest clothes retailer – Marks and Spencer – with 10 per market share – has seen the sharpest drop for a decade, in clothing sales in July. FCUK has not made a profit since 2012. John Lewis profits fell 75% over the last six months, and Next is struggling. Primark – the most visited high street retailer – noted sales had dropped for the first time in 16 years.

I found this data through the FT.com and no-one really knows why it is happening. It is possibly just a blip, but it may be the start of a trend. Some have suggested the weather is the cause, but I don’t think that is it. What follows is just a guess.

  • Competition is so intense between fashion retailers that people just wait until there is a discount, or they shop around for a cheaper version, reducing impulse buying
  • The internet can work in the same way. Although it is easier to click and buy to some extent, nearly half of garments bought on the internet are returned due to disappointment with fit, colour, style etc
  • Overall the offer is quite boring. Why buy another black coat, pair of skinny jeans or a fleece? Fashion at street level is not moving much and norm core is predominant.
    Typical UK street scene
    Typical street scene (actually in Dublin)
  • I have followed fashion for 45 years and I have no idea of what is fashionable at the moment beyond cold shoulders and flared sleeves. I can get a hit of these for a few quid or make a top at home. It’s not like a whole decade of change that I was used to. The 1980s had a strong trend, the 1990s had a recognisable look, but by 2000 there wasn’t really a strong decade-defining fashion.
  • My hairdresser told me that the millennials are very reluctant to wear their hair short – they all favour the long-haired look – again the most conservative “easy” style that is not a style and costs virtually nothing.
    Long haired girls, London
    Long haired girls, London
  • Fashion is particularly dull when compared to food, or holiday opportunities. A trip to Bosnia, or a wonderfully authentic Italian pasta resturant raises my pulse. Another navy blazer does not.
  • Our homes are smaller as housing gets less and less affordable. In “homes for hobbits” we have less storage space
    What could a couple actually store in this typical wardrobe and drawers?
    What could a couple actually store in this typical wardrobe and drawers? (And why would you want twigs in your bedroom anyway?)

A number of sewing bloggers commit themselves to a Ready to Wear “fast”. But while they stop buying disposable fashion they can find themselves buying fabric instead. And those with a large supply of fabric in their home often commit to going on a fabric fast too, or promise to “shop their stash” first. These pledges stem, it seems to me, from sewists feeling that their hobby might also be a little out of control. Maybe we are all suffering from the overconsumption bug. This is like experiencing Christmas dinner – you eat so many rich seasonal dishes that you feel like fasting for weeks.

I am talking about myself of course.

I literally cannot accommodate any more clothes in more wardrobe, or any more fabric into my cupboard. I am scared my newest hobby – knitting – could intensify the problem I have by encouraging me to buy more raw materials than I can convert into garments. The “problem” of having too much. This is quite obscene really, in a world where so many have far too little – to eat, drink, wear, and spend. When I think about food waste, obesity, clothes in landfill, the waste of energy and resources, the fact that I am complaining about not being able to stuff any more clothes into my wardrobe, I feel a bit unhappy.

I don’t really know what to do. I have lots of nice clothes that I enjoy wearing. They fit me. The colours enhance me. They are quite stylish and coherent without being particularly fashionable, and don’t feel like they will date. I wear each item relatively rarely so don’t even get bored with my wardrobe. I probably need less clothes not more.

So why do I keep on making clothes?

The truth is I so enjoy the process, especially in terms of learning new skills or improving the ones I have got. Knitting has been a revelation as I know that – potentially, and in time – I can produce a knitted garment as well as a sewn one. Maybe the answer for me is to move on to new garments – socks, hats, tights, shoes, bags. Or to learn new crafts – crochet, weaving, spinning, jewellery making.

What do you think?



60 Responses

  1. Jess Page

    My grandma who has been an avid sewer all her life but not a particular fan of clothes or fashion has over the years made hundreds of cotton dresses for children. She sends them to UNICEF and Oxfam to be sent abroad for children in poverty and need. She gets the satisfaction of the sewing and helping someone in need without over consuming herself and filling a wardrobe which doesn’t need to be filled.
    She also knits teddy bears and does the same with those. Perhaps a solution?

    • fabrickated

      Your Granny is a star Jess. I am not quite so virtuous but I do send my clothes to the Oxfam shop when I have worn them a few times and I hope that someone might find them and feel pleased to have a handmade and unique item instead of something from Primark.

  2. Ruth

    I have slowed down in my sewing recently, like you I have too much and I don’t need another pair of jeans. I would say, although I haven’t counted, that I have far more than 300 items in my wardrobe. My aim is to sew selectively from now on – a good piece once a month or so.

  3. Linde

    I have to say that this is the best article you have written. I read it a few times and it echoed many of my views . I do the same as Jess Pages grandmother and sew and crochet many garments that I give away. I cannot just sit in the evenings so I crochet. As a result my daughters friends have baby shawls for their offspring. It was lovely to see a shawl handed down to each of the three youngsters of one friend. For me making these garments means I am getting it out of my system.

  4. Annieloveslinen

    It’s enthusiasm for the craft that makes me susceptible to purchasing fabric. The ease of buying on the internet also encourages overbuying. Like you, I find if I don’t use that fabric right away those initial desires wane replaced by a new need/want.

    I have far too much stuff and sometimes feel overwhelmed with the volume of it, I wear a small percentage over and over.

    I have no advice for you but will be reading others’ responses with interest.

  5. Yoric

    So , what are the wardrobe staples every needs? The rest is just dressing! I reckon the list for men is,

    2 suits, dark colours (navy and charcoal), two button jacket, each with 2 pairs of trousers. (Perhaops a black tie suit, tie etc.)
    5 formal shirts in white or blue.
    2 ties (just for some variety)
    2 or 3 casual shirts (Oxfords or similar)
    2 pairs of formal shoes (black and brown oxfords)
    2 belts (one black, one brown)
    2 pairs of jeans (dark wash)
    2 or 3 t-shirts (white)
    Pair of Converse Chuck Taylors
    Pair of “workboots” e.g. Caterpillars

    I reckon I could get through anything with that!! (Gym wear not included!)

  6. Yoric

    I forgot – a good coat! Reefer jacket or a cromby! I have a cromby that I love, I bought it on sale at Tyrwhitts, sadly Nigel Farage has one that is very similar!! 🙁

  7. Emma G

    Great post, thanks for sharing. I thought it was just me not buying clothes as I sew more! Very true how there’s little defining current fashion. The high street pic is actually Grafton street in Dublin – parts of it have become so standard, all the unique shops are on smaller streets.

  8. eimear

    It is something I wonder on from time to time. Last year I realised that the items I had made in the year previous were what I wore most often and I was well happy with my makes and didn’t ‘need’ to make more as such – it was a bit of a revalation as I was no longer just wearing jeans on my days off, and I never felt I was in a ‘nothing to wear’ place.
    I still sew but I have slowed down and am trying to be a bit more deliberate, and incorporate more patten drafting or honing a pattern. I think for most makers/sewers/crafters, its the making process thats addictive, and its the one thing I now love about crochet, I view all crochet as an attactive funtional way of storing yarn! (I will happily unravel any piece after a year of wear if I think I can make it to something else). at least with crochet you get all the yarn back whereas with fabric you are a bit more compromised.

    • pia

      LOL. But surely it depends on the type of yarn! At least for knitting anyway. I gravitated towards mohair & there just no easy way to frog the temporary yarn storage shape (aka the garment )!

  9. DementedFairy

    Get into steampunk-you’ll never have enough [and many people focus on re-cycling for the bulk of their SP wardrobes]!
    Or make for other people: I’m enjoying revitalising my wife’s wardrobe, while I recognise that I just need a few specific ‘boring’ items [black trousers, plain Ts etc]
    I’ve become good at clearing out what isn’t worn, and recognising which things should go because I’ve..er..outgrown them.
    The sewing is too much fun to stop, we’ll have to get you into corsetry or the like!

  10. Chris

    First of all I need to say congrats on your beautiful new sweater – it turned out beautifully thanks to your perseverance. Being a beginner at anything is so difficult and most people walk away once they find a pattern confusing – I’m so glad you got enough help to succeed.
    Very thought provoking article here Kate. One solution could be to make for others.
    Or I would recommend sock making – I made three pairs out of curiosity – when I first started blogging. I was interested in learning how the heel turned and I used magic loop, instead of 4needles. I haven’t made any since as I initially felt they were a lot of work to knit, only to hide them under boots. But come winter,they are the first pairs I will reach for – as they are extra cosy and comfortable. So I may make more in the future 🙂

    • fabrickated

      Thank you for the feedback on jumper #1. That means alot, coming from you Chris, as it was you that first made me think I could do it. And I love the socks suggestion. I wonder if I would wear a handmade sock – I tend to wear just tights or bare feet so that is an interesting question.

  11. Vairë Gwîr

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post. Your ideas echo many of my concerns. I am not a prolific sewer by any means and my wardrobe is incredibly small for modern standards. But still I cannot help feeling guilty when I see my fabric (and yarn) stash.

  12. Mary Funt

    You bring up some very valid points about overconsumption. I read somewhere that the average person actually wears something like 10% of their wardrobe 90% of the time. That certainly points toward needing far fewer articles of clothing than most of us have.
    I’ve been one of the RTW fasters for a few years and find that forces me to survive with only things I have time to make. I also love working with high quality fabrics and that curtails the quantity I buy. Even so, I’m making an effort to go stash shopping rather than buy more.
    Your knitting looks wonderful and I’m amazed at how much you have accomplished. Another hobby and an even bigger stash?

  13. Ro

    When I was in the UK last year I had about 35 items with me and it was interesting – but it was also only 7 months. Now back at home, I’m buying more fabric than I need to, and making too many pieces, I suppose. But it is my hobby, and I’m still learning a lot about what fits me and how to construct different fabrics. It fills a need. I have been trying to put on the brakes a little bit, since the time spent sewing means less time exercising or cooking good food for my family, and I want to make sure I don’t neglect that as much as I have been (have gained almost 5 pounds since coming home!)

  14. helen

    I would say ‘yes’ and if most of it is fast fashion it’s also poor quality.
    I think the low price of clothing over the last couple of decades has pushed people into buying far more than they really need. When I think back to how much I’d need to save up to buy a pair a jeans as a teenager (late 80’s) to what you can pay now, it’s crazy.
    I’ve been procrastinating for a few weeks over what to sew this autumn and have realized I just don’t need that much.

  15. Emma Dennett

    Yes! Couldn’t agree more Its very easy to have too many clothes (and too much fabric in the stash, but at least that can be made up to fit at some point in the future). My pet hate of other people’s rtw is too short hems that do not flatter the wearer. I think fit is one reason why people chuck out and buy new as they are never (rarely) truly satisfied with an item. When I was pregnant I had approx 8 outfits (4-5 dresses, the Megan Nielson maternity skirt and 3 tops, plus existing cardigans and a jacket I could leave open and a specially purchased black cashmere wrap which although is a little dull, I imagine will be useful for the next 50 years if I live that long! It was bliss not having to worry about what to wear as I had so little choice – especially as half if it was dirty at any one time due to dropping food on the bump! And I liked all the pieces so felt great all the time (despite the fact that many were rtw I wouldn’t normally buy and bobbled quickly or were polyester). So am now attracted to create a slowly evolving wardrobe with a few dresses and a couple of skirts a pair of trousers, 2 jeans and a handful of tops, a handful of woollies. Some items for summer and some for winter. Which I will slowly sew learning about fit as I go…Making 5 or so garments per year sounds about right. And I like handsewing so will do lots of that so it takes longer to complete a garment.

    • fabrickated

      What a great comment Emma. I know what you mean about a maternity wardrobe. I remember the same thing. I have a holiday wardrobe that is tiny – I think 10-12 items and I feel I always look nice on holiday, just wearing the same things again and again (I usually wash them, or find a laundry – but as you say clothes don’t need that much washing as a rule). I think if I really pruned my wardrobe and stopped sewing I would actually be happy as I now (aged 60) know what I like, what I wear and what suits me. And I too enjoy slow sewing. The SWAP process really appeals to me for that reason (11 garments in 6 months). Also I enjoy making or painting or printing the fabric for my garments as it slows it down (and makes them completely unique).

      • sew2pro

        I heard this on the radio and my heart leapt at the thought that the backlash has finally begun. My friends and I have a tradition of giving each other present at Christmas and birthdays (stationery, candles…) but I’ve come to realize that Kondo’s view of such things being a burden is correct. I just give wine or chocolate now: easy to dispose of.

        • sew2pro

          That comment was supposed to go to the bottom but my connection is slow at mo. Here I meant to say that the current advice on washing clothes has also changed so that after being a runner for 15 years I learn something from a complete newbie friend who was told when buying her first sports bra that if she rinses it from time to time it will last much longer. After all It’s not like we spend our days down coalmines.

        • fabrickated

          I totally agree. I do find it a burden when I am given a present. I much prefer giving and receiving flowers or food. Even so I often “regift” them to the kids. They laugh that I never buy presents, only pass them along….

  16. Lynn

    So insightful! So timely! In spite of carefully constructing a Capsule Wardrobe for travel, I found I have just packed three jackets, eight pair of pants, and 18 tops for a month in Europe. That’s in addition to what’s on my back. It sounds like over-kill on paper. We’ll see how it works out and if I could have gotten by with less.

  17. Abbey

    Excellent post, Kate. The retail statistics you put forth are very intriguing: I would love to learn more about those spending trends.

    I have no helpful advice regarding your existential “stuff” quandary–a polite word to describe my own fabric stash would be “impressive”–but your thoughts resonated with me. While I know I will either turn my fabric into wearable items or recycle/donate it, thinking about how much “stuff” I own makes me anxious and, as you said, a bit unhappy. And yet, sewing clothing has brought joy and creative fulfillment to my life in a way I could never have imagined. On the whole, quite a contradictory set of emotions surround my hobby. It becomes an internal battle between self-fulfillment and being a more responsible (global) citizen.

    I know I won’t “quit” my hobby, and I can be fairly sure that at some point in the future, I will buy more fabric; in light of those truths, I can only try to lessen the impact of my actions by recycling or donating what I don’t use, making fewer–but more thoughtful–purchases, and ensuring that I really use the things I have and then divest myself of them in a responsible way when the time comes.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us: I really enjoyed this post and the comments beneath it.

  18. Mary

    Process! That is the key word for many of us. I really enjoy understanding the process of how to make something and then trying it myself. So often I will see a detail on a garment in a magazine, movie, or on the street and enjoy finding/creating a pattern and having a go at the design. I watched a 98 year old rancher make a lariat. He gathered the horse hair, spun it into a yarn, and twisted and braided it into a 10 ft. long lariat. So fascinating and something I will never have a need to do but learning the process was so absorbing. The practical side of me loves that I can make my own clothing while I feed my hunger to learn. I have a friend with a very elaborate garage set-up where he spends hours happily tinkering with cars and engines and all things automotive. I relate to him very well as my tinkering is with textiles. If you look around many people have a world they tinker in and ours is the world of textiles.

  19. Linda Galante

    Great post! You made me slow down long enough to reflect for a change. I think I sew like crazy because I love the creative process, not because I need more clothes. For me, it’s the joy of finding something that inspires me, then figuring out how I can create something like it myself. I love the hunt; finding the pattern, the fabric, then taking the time to construct. The process for me is rarely driven by what I need, but it’s more about what looks like fun to make. That being said, yes, I am a big time consumer, a fact I justify by giving things away. That way, I avoid the overwhelming feeling of too many possessions (fabric or garments) to manage. But it’s a constant dance, sometimes a bit crazy, but a process I never want to stop 🙂

  20. karen

    I think that your age, social standing, background, fashion sense even climate has a lot to do with your shopping and wardrobe choices. I live in Canada and am 61. I tend to wear items for a considerable time “to get the use out of them”.. Also, I am older and not as inclined to wear the latest styles as they are unsuitable for one of my age. One needs to have appropriate clothing for the weather in Canada. Varies from hot enough to cook eggs on the sidewalk to cold enough to hurt your lungs just breathing in the winter. You cannot afford to replace your whole wardrobe each year. Too costly.
    That being said, I still sew for myself (as well as beloved relatives) to try to obtain a better fit on a changing aging body.
    I buy fabric bits and pieces on occasion, but mostly try to use up my stash. I have to go through it and recycle . fabrics that I have “gone off” or will now never make what I thought would be so cute when I purchased it. I try to keep the wardrobe pieces down to what I actually wear. Not as easy as it sounds. lol

  21. Su

    I, too, enjoy the process of sewing clothes and knitting sweaters. There’s the thrill of seeing something emerge and take shape from your hands, skills and tools. I have my moments where I think I have too much I need to move towards becoming a minimalist, but I like variety – colour, texture, shapes and styles. But then I also live where there are 4 distinct seasons and I have a summer wardrobe within a wardrobe – different outfits for when it’s 23C versus 29C with high humidity.

    I’ve started the semi-annual wardrobe switch and as I put items away I’m thinking – why haven’t a worn some of these items – why do I keep them? I’m sure as I pull out some of my fall clothes I’ll be thinking why did I keep this – it’s past its wear by date. It’s hard parting with clothes that I’ve made. My fabric stash is small compared to others that have a closet full – it fits in a shallow plastic bin under my bed and I don’t stash yarn.

  22. SJ Kurtz

    What a fine piece of thinking about this!

    Costume making and alterations have absorbed a lot of my drive to make things. I become less interested in sewing for myself as I age and face body changes I don’t appreciate viewing in selfies.

    But let’s get to the point here: do yourself a favor and only buy yarn for the thing you are about to start knitting. I don’t mean the sweater you’re going to knit next month; I mean this week. Sweaters take so much yarn and time and inevitably you will either buy too much or not enough, and it’s virtually impossible to go back in time to buy one more skein or three less. Sweaters are expensive and harder to recycle (though not impossible – borrow a swift and ball winder for that). My other suggestion is: get on Ravelry.com. It’s the best, biggest yarn party evah! It will spoil you for the rest of the internet. That and it’s full of information about this and a billion other topics.
    Plus yarn swaps. You’ll need that. That’s how I cleaned out my stash once CTS set in.

  23. Stephanie

    This is of course very interesting as I am always strugggling with guilt over stockpiling and waste. The Vintage Traveler had some excellent links up recently about these trends in buying (or not buying, as it were). Shall we also offer some credit to Marie Kondo? 🙂

    I have a lot fewer clothes than most and travel with very little. Even for a month+ away in autumn I might have three pairs of trousers, four shirts and two sweaters, two pairs of shoes. This is not due to virtue but simply because I discovered a long time ago that I am much happier when I have fewer choices (in everything….). In fact I feel that too much choice in life has prevented me from moving forward in many ways, which sounds horribly ungrateful. My happiest times have probably been the times at which I had the fewest possessions.

    This is also possibly why I only keep a small apartment and basically never buy new furniture. My mom was laughing with her husband yesterday as she went through my place declaring “She still has that! And that! She has had that sonce she was five! ” My mom incidentally has just sold or given away all of her stuff again and is moving back east in two weeks with basically herself, dog and husband (though not in that order!).

    You might have noticed that I get excited about a bunch of ideas that I never bring to fruition. SWAP is a good compromise because it gets me to push some boundaries for learning and pleasure purposes while not producing too much of an oversupply. I have completed only two garments since SWAP and purchased three necessary work items and that is it for me this year for new acquisitions; I have recently gotten rid of more (basically all of my older summer wardrobe).

    I don’t write any of this to make others feel guilty, as I am clearly struggling with finding my balance and how to satisfy my creative urges, too. In the end whether I have twenty suits or three probably doesn’t make any difference to the world if I am a good and productive citizen. I think big questions of self-definition, knowledge, actualization and contentment are at stake for me, which is why I obsess so much over this.

    • fabrickated

      Yes, thank you for mentioning this Stephanie. I have to admit that the planning is satisfying in itself and probably a good substitute for actually making things! I know someone who does virtual (imaginary) yoga, and also someone who does acupuncture without needles. Why not? I agree that SWAP is great as it means 11 garments over 6 months, or even a year if you don’t do much else. That is probably more than I actually need in a year.

  24. sew2pro

    I heard this on the radio and my heart leapt at the thought that the backlash has finally begun. My friends and I have a tradition of giving each other present at Christmas and birthdays (stationery, candles…) but I’ve come to realize that Kondo’s view of such things being a burden is correct. I just give wine or chocolate now: easy to dispose of.

  25. Kerry

    I enjoyed reading your post, Kate. I believe your way of thinking is normal and natural for anyone who has had years in which to accumulate clothes, or ‘stuff’ for projects, until one reaches a point where one realises they have more ‘stuff’ than is needed or perhaps wanted, or (ahem) because ones cupboards and storage are full.

    I agree with Stephanie, I’m happier with fewer choices, in clothes, in life…but I also recognise I have bowerbird tendencies, which I do try to keep in check. But I need to have books and projects ready to hand so that I am not looking for something to do, a habit of a lifetime. But I also love to chuck out stuff – recycle it – knowing (hoping?) someone else will enjoy it. As I have gotten older I enjoy experiences such as rediscovering and being able to wear shoes I bought twenty years ago, of course they are not what a twenty-something year-old would wear but they are classic styles and haven’t dated. I like that I can enjoy looking good without worrying about trends.

    A bit off-topic, but I love that young(er) people have taken up knitting socks and making clothes, it has become trendy to take pride in the homemade garment. On the flip side I am surprised at how few of the younger generations know how to hand sew a hem or fix a missing button. Clothes that need mending end up in charity bins, I guess.

    • fabrickated

      And thank you for your interesting reflections Kerry. Yes – I like a (small) suitcase of clothes to work with rather than nearly unlimited choices too. I do pass my hand made garments on and I know they sell well in our local charity shop as they send a letter every quarter saying how much they made for the charity. I am glad younger people are beginning to appreciate hand made – I always used to buy hand knitted jumpers in charity shops as I really appreciated the work involved. And recently I got a vintage Vogue designer dress for £5. It makes shopping fun!

  26. Fifty Dresses

    Thoughtful observations, Kate, and well stated. Fashion sewing is much more than adding to a wardrobe – it is, as you said, so much about the process. I will take quality over quantity anytime! I think a trend in that direction may be behind the falling sales of RTW.

  27. Bunny

    Wonderful post, one of your best. I am seeing this decline on this side of the pond as well. I thought perhaps some of it was the fact that shopping malls are dieing. I can remember in the early nineties going to the mall for the afternoon was a form of entertainment and of course you had to buy something, if not a lot of somethings. Throw in on line etailers and people wanting to downsize on material goods and upscale personal experience, and the decline ensues.

    But on a personal level, I feel what you are feeling. I have more than enough. I’ve made my cashmere coat, my Chanel jackets, jeans, heirloom children’s clothing, etc, all those milestone type garments. They are what I LOVE to sew. I can spend 24.00 on a pair of GV Amanda jeans and have them fit my butt and waist close enough to fine, so to spend that at a minimum and probably much more for such a utilitarian garment just doesn’t do it for me. Time is money for me. I will pay the 24.00 and sew something else that I can actually get passionate about. Right now I am not passionate about any piece of clothing for myself. So what’s a sewist who loves challenge and detail do? I have rediscovered bags and in particular bags from Indie designers. I am really enjoying the challenge of coming up with the correct recipe for interfacing combos, topstitching, hardware usage, etc. It’s a new world that feeds my sewing beast.

    I do think I would be sewing more clothing if I didn’t feel in such a fabric desert. My little local Joanns is a Godsend for notions and patterns, but the fabric, ugh. I need a five hour drive to Massachusetts get decent fabric at a decent price. I know I could go over the border to Montreal but the haggling and the exchange just turn me off. I think until I plan that Massachusetts trip I will be stuck in my fabric desert. I’ve shopped online but it just doesn’t ignite my passion like the real thing. I am inspired by the real thing. So garment sewing takes a back seat. I can get great quilting cottons online and know what I am getting but garment fabric, not so much. It’s just not the fun to shop on line, but then again, maybe I need a glass of wine first. 😉

    There is so much playing into this phenomenon. I look at Kanye West’s collection and ask myself who on earth would wear such awfully constructed leisure wear? I understand designers have a viewpoint but so do buyers. I loved the pictures you posted. They may be of women with few garments than myself but oh, how tailored and lovely they were! Oh, well.

    So I continue to sew every chance I get, right now that being lots of bags for gifts. I look back over fifty plus years of sewing and know that this too will change. For me it all comes in cycles but always comes back to the clothing. Just give me inspiring fabric and designs.

    • fabrickated

      I was thinking of your tremendous bag making Bunny when I wrote this. Making great and rather intricate bags, perfecting the techniques, and blending fabrics in new and creative ways has got you hooked! This is a wonderful outcome as you are so skilled but now fully clothed, as you say. I also love that you give many of them away – I am sure they will be treasured for generations. In terms of fabric I have access to good cloth – no shortage here – but I have such a pile of nice stuff in the house I really cannot justify buying anymore. So I have to use what I have. As Annie mentioned when we first buy materials we have a great concept, but if we don’t pursue it the desire fades. Then all we have is a pile of fabric and dreams….I think we all work on cycles so maybe our passions will return, morph into a new passion, or subside and we will focus on other things. I am pining for more rest, peace, outdoor activities and fresh air. For me writing the blog remains very interesting and good fun, but it strikes me that many fade after a couple of years, and maybe I will go off it at some point. I just feel a bit guilty that I am not writing up many garments, which is what I assume readers want.

  28. Amanda

    Very good points made here, and interesting to consider whether this is indicative of a permanent change or if it is indeed a blip in a longer trend. I have noticed in the last few years that the women I know are more and more inclined to shop second hand, trade with a friend, or make something they have work rather than purchase something new. Where I live and I know in many major cities worldwide, the focus on reusing/recycling and the impact of consumer industry on the environment have had a major impact on our lifestyle choices, so that very likely impacts people’s decisions regarding fashion as well 🙂

    I’ve also noticed that fashion trends vary so much less widely from year to year that a person who does care about being on trend can theoretically re-use their items for much longer than they could previously, making them perhaps more inclined to purchase fewer items of a higher quality in the hopes that they will last, rather than more items of a lower quality designed to be worn a few times and discarded.

  29. Kim Hood

    A very thought provoking post Kate. I know that I have a much smaller wardrobe than many friends (despite, or because?, of sewing professionally). I should have more time in the near future to sew more – but will have less reason for a large wardrobe. I would prefer to make more time consuming garments I will be proud to wear, but will also last well. Perhaps the general ‘temperature’ is returning to investment dressing rather than disposable clothing.

  30. Sue

    I certainly could do with fewer clothes, but I enjoy the creation far too much to stop producing them! I no longer buy any clothes at all, including underwear and tights, and I’ve almost stopped buying fabric. I attempt “slow sewing”, but I’m not good at it – I am still not used to having endless time at my disposal. I also feel as though fashion is pretty boring. I have a book on decades of fashion and really it all stopped around the 2000s, as you’ve pointed out. So disappointing. I agree about the experiences. My family no longer buy me presents, they buy me experiences, and it’s wonderful.

  31. Carmen Bouchard

    Great subject! I have 6 or 7 coats planned with all the fixings to make them and I think this is something I have to address. I don’t need that many coats. I’m thinking of outfitting my sisters…
    I love that people are more mindful of what they buy. It’ll benefit everyone.

  32. pia

    Maybe start sewing for the Have Nots? I wonder if there’s any charity that can facilitate that. I suppose one could sew up straight pattern sizing & donate to charity shops. But then the fit might not be great. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these people get to experience having something made for them? Kind of like those charities that source business appropriate clothing for poorer ladies trying to help themselves.

    And no, adding new hobbies would only exacerbate the hoarding problem! Speaking from experience here! 😀

    BTW one of my friends return online purchases not so much because she was disappointed but because it has become the lazy/busy person’s way of trying on clothing without having to go down to the shops. Some shops don’t help themselves by offering free returns.

    • fabrickated

      It is a great idea. I have suggested the idea of a sewing workshop with some of younger social tenants (who cannot even thread a needle) to show how to do repairs and alterations. I would find that satisfying. But we didn’t get much interest. And I know you are right Pia about new hobbies, new equipment and new supply stash.

  33. BMGM

    I have enough clothes for several women.

    But, I’ve been sewing for 30+ years and I cannot let go of some things that no longer fit. (I don’t care a wit about what’s currently in fashion. I wear whatever I like.)

    I’m good about getting rid of worn or ill-fitting store-bought garments. But I hang on to me-made clothes because they represent a portfolio of my maker life.

    I’ve given some away to my DD, a friend, and a friend’s daughter. Some, I know I will keep forever.

    I even have one item my mother made for her first formal. She couldn’t bear to part with it either. Although it doesn’t fit me or my DD, I know it will be kept as an heirloom.

    So far in 2016, I have purchased one blouse. Other than shoes, belts, underwear, socks and a scarf, I have made every other item of clothing. Since I started tracking clothing in/out for the Wardrobe Refashion challenge, my purchasing has gone down drastically.

  34. Giorgia

    I had only read the tile and my mind had one headline-size answer. YES.
    I know I do and pretty much every single woman I know has too many clothes. Whereas I think this downfall in spending only timely given the current economic circumstances, it does present a challenge for the passionate maker. How to stop yourself from working on that project or testing yourself on that challenge? I am lucky enough to have just started my sewing journey and have a closet full of RTW clothes I am more than happy to slowly send to the closest charity shop, but I can see this becoming a problem for my future self too.

    Passing on a garment is a great way of going about this, but doesn’t often work. Especially with handmade clothes the style is so specific to ourselves that it will resist going with others. Still the only rule I can possibly see working for you is the one eye for an eye rule.

    My partner and I have a rule that oddly enough started with him. He has a collection of backpacks, totes, pouches and purses than amply surpasses mine. One day, while debating whether or not to buy the umpteenth computer bag, he looked at me firmly and pledged that for every bag he would bring into the house, one was going to leave it. In our overstuffed house it made so much sense we now apply it to everything!

    It’s really hard to let go of perfectly fitted, flattering clothes but it sounds to me that your pleasure of making is stronger than the pleasure of owning. Perhaps, if you are strong willed enough to choose not only the project you will start, but the garment you will “sacrifice” for it you will reach some sort of balance.

    Of course, you could make for others as well. I am looking forward to the challenge of fitting a body different from mine, unexplored and unknown!

  35. Kimwei

    Fascinating stuff! Loved reading this. I am a minimalist and a maker. Then I first started making I found it all too easy to bring that mass production attitude to the making of garments – eg, I’m going to replace my 300 item wardrobe with 300 home made items. But as time goes on I’m more and more excited about wearing and repairing my clothes and making new ones from scratch only when they wear out. I find that frequent contact with well worn items on my body makes me feel secure and at home. Energy that used to go into making MORE stuff, now goes into decorating mending altering what I already have. I love the idea that our clothes can grow and age with us.

    • Giorgia

      Such a lovely comment! I really like the idea of growing with out clothes and I definitely have this for jackets and shoes. I find it really hard to part from a jacket which has molded into my shape. And yet when clothes start to do that I consider them worn..how is that? Thanks for bringing me a new perspective!

  36. Violet

    I am glad if the trend towards buying less clothing is for real , and hope it continues. I don’t think we consume at quite such a rate in New Zealand because we pay a lot more for clothing here, even the sweatshop made items. I myself had to stop buying yarn when my partner lost his job and am really careful about spending on fabric, but like another commenter here it’s necessary to get lists of practice in order to achieve a good standard of fit and construction. Great article!

  37. Barbarags

    I am rather late to this debate as I have been away. We do not need a vast amount of clothing, we do need well made and well fitting clothes that suit our needs and are in an appropriate fabric. In addition we need the skills to be able to carry out repairs to said clothing so that it lasts. Better for us and better for the planet. All this is made much easier to achieve if we make our own garments as we can then have exactly the length, weight, pockets, amount of ease etc. that we personally require and can chose the right type fabric in a suitable colour. As you get older( and, as you may guess, I am ancient) I think you realise that having a spectacular wardrobe is probably more of a hindrance than a help- in my case the less I have to chose from when dressing in the morning the better. Many a time I have seen people struggling to stop their dress riding up due to static or continually hitching up their strapless bodice or being irritated by a seam that rubs in the wrong place – and so on – and I’m sure those annoying garments will soon be thrown away because they were purchased in the sort of mind haze that descends when you try on a new dress that looks half decent in the mirror. However, having argued this, how can I then justify my delight at seeing an exquisitely crafted haute couture gown that is totally impractical and the price of which would feed and clothe a number of starving families in the third world? Incidentally, if you do travel to proverty stricken countries, may I suggest you check http://www.stuffyourrucksack.com/ and see if any of your excess clothing could be taken to your destination and given to any of the list of charities on this site.

    • fabrickated

      What a lovely set of thoughts Barbarags! I agree about clothes that fit badly – Primark describes its smallest size as 8/10 (which means four sizes should wear one size compared the usual two) and then avoids darts and cuts them short to save fabric and invariably off grain, and then assume horrible, cheap, scratchy or sweaty fabrics – no wonder they just feel uncomfortable. And yes I too admire the impractical couture! And thanks for the link.

  38. talliswoman

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m a really slow sewer – partly because I really only sew seriously on the weekends, and partly because I’m aiming for a high standard of finish and I obsess about the fit. But after four years of serious sewing, I really don’t need much in the way of new summer clothes anymore – and can see I could easily get to the point of sewing clothing I don’t need. And I make some of my partner’s shirts as well. I don’t see how too many me-made clothes are ethically much better than too many rtw clothes. But despite all of this, the temptation is still there to buy faster than I sew. And then I get a bit bored with the fabric before I get a chance to make it. I really don’t like this feeling. Self control is required!

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