I bought a shirt from Big W today, and it cost me $5. Even at the marked price of $25, it would have been cheap. At $5, it genuinely feels like stealing.
I know it is not possible to sell a shirt for $5 without exploiting someone, and probably multiple people, involved in its production. Who made that fabric? Who did all that top-sewing? How much could they possibly have been paid? I hope it added up to more than I spent, that’s for sure.
But the shirt fits me quite well, actually has darts and well-placed pockets, and is just what I was needing for a trip I’m going on this weekend. So I bought it, and I will wear it a lot.
Of course there are some minor fitting issues. The arms are quite firm around my forearm when rolled up. And there is some extra fabric in the back. Perhaps a tiny extra FBA would make it perfect across the front? But not much, and it’s very wearable as it is, which rarely happens for me with shirts. If I had made it myself, honestly I would be thrilled.
So I should be happy. Great shirt, cheap, easy. But experiences like this are a bit deflating for sewers. With all the effort I would normally go to, in order to make myself a nice shirt that I enjoy wearing, this is a slap in the face.
In contrast, I had an important meeting this morning where I had to get up on stage and speak to a large group of people, some of whom were very senior. I went to my wardrobe looking for something that would make me feel professional, comfortable and confident. And I am pleased to report that the handmade items won out, hands down!
While I know Colette have had to accept a lot of criticism after the recent events now known as Ruegate, I do love their Myrtle dress pattern. Cowl necklines are great on hourglass shapes like mine, and help camouflage a larger bust somewhat.
It works well as a top, with sleeves added from another pattern I had in my stash. The sleeve pattern I used was way too loose initially and I needed to bring it in quite a lot to get the fit I liked.
(Editing to add: this was a very easy hack so just find a sleeve pattern you like and go for it – remembering to lengthen the bodice hem to a nice length at the same time.)
I made this in a very soft bamboo fabric and love wearing it. I am currently tweaking it to get the neckline just right before making a whole dress as it was a bit on the low side. This top now has some thread on the inside of the cowl to stop it from draping too low. I think it’s sitting well now, but the next one needs to be shorter across the front cowl, to accommodate the fact that I am short, and therefore also short from shoulder to the decolletage. Which I would prefer not to display.
The other great thing about the Myrtle dress is that it creates a double layer in front. That would be great for slightly sheer fabrics or lighter colours, but also helps smooth the curves nicely so you get less of an outline from your undergarments. I really like this and in bamboo it also feels divine. Perfect for a speaking engagement.
And the Hollyburn skirt. Well, it’s a classic for very good reason.
There are so many versions on Instagram – check them out here for inspiration and to see it made in different colours, fabrics, lengths and treatments.I will definitely be making more in the not-too-distant future. Non-shiny fabrics with some body are best I think.
I can’t recommend this skirt pattern highly enough. The pockets are great, the shape is supremely flattering, and all you need to fit is your waist circumference and decide on the best hem length for you.
I made mine an inch shorter at the front than the back – the tiniest of subtle mullet hems which is just a little more flattering I think. But in this fabric, the waistline has stretched a little which means the hem is sitting a bit lower all round than originally. So if I make it again in a similar fabric, I might hem it slightly shorter to accommodate future dropping at the waist.
It is very comfortable and I wear it constantly – to work, and in life as well. In black, it works with almost every top I own.
So where does that leave me in considering my conscience? Fast, cheap fashion (my new denim shirt) or rewarding slow fashion (my Hollyburn skirt)?
I really like both garments. But there is no sense of achievement in buying a shirt. Making something genuinely useful, by contrast, is extremely rewarding.
Luckily, le pooch forgives me.