I started to sew for a simple, selfish reason: I just wanted cool clothes that actually fit my body. I was a very tall teenage girl in an era long before online shopping was popular, living in a small town where the mall options were limited at best. (Our mall did not even have The Limited.) And I was lucky enough to have a crafty midwestern mom who had a sewing machine set up in our basement. One day, I started using it.
I did not think then that I was forever altering my relationship to buying clothes. If anything, I was just following a teenage whim. I rode my bike to the Goodwill up the street, bought some floral bedsheets, and turned them into pajama pants. (This was not couture. I remember mismatching the crotch seams and having to resew them with my mom’s help.) Soon after, like any good grunge girl of the mid-’90s, I made a skirt out of neckties. And then I was hooked.
My skills improved as finding clothes that almost fit and adapting them became a hobby, then a habit. By college, I was making whole garments. The era of fast fashion was dawning, but Forever 21 and H&M had yet to make inroads into my town—and didn’t carry pants with my lengthy inseam anyway. In order to have an aesthetic I loved at a price I could afford, I had to make most things myself.
Having a basic understanding of how to make and alter clothes has fundamentally shaped the way I dress myself. But if I’d grown up in the age of $10 Shein tops and $15 PrettyLittleThing dresses, I’m not sure I would have found my way to a sewing machine. This is doubly true because fast-fashion brands are now
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