Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why Do I Sew? The Roobeedoo Manifesto

This is currently a no-sew area and I am frustrated!  But what better time for an appraisal of where I am at?
I have fallen out with the plaid fabric for my Betsey Johnson pintuck tunic.  If it looks this bad now, what will it look like after a day's wear?  It is definitely not the pure cotton it pretended to be.  I suspect viscose.  Whatever it is, I can't make it work.  It crumples, and stays crumpled.  It attracts dog hair like a magnet.  It refuses to stay aligned with my pattern, shifting and biasing like crazy, however many pins I deploy. It was cheap.  It is nasty. It is OK to give up on it.  I just need to put it away and move on.
I bought myself the Colette Sewing Book for Christmas ('cos lets face it, nobody in my household understood my need for that book!).  And while I am having real trouble slowing down enough to read it properly, there is a definite up-front message about stopping to consider WHY I sew, before diving into the projects one after the other in a flurry of feathers (headless chicken analogy, in case you are confused!)
What is my relationship to shop-bought clothing right now?
Well, I am doing an amazing job of avoiding the online January sales.  Probably because none of the things I liked full-price are reduced - or if they are, they were sold out before I saw them.  But, hand on heart, there is absolutely nothing that I really really wanted.  I simply don't like most of the clothes I see in shops. And my choice of shops is dwindling as my ethical stance gets stronger (see below).

With orange t shirt
So what DO I like?

LOVE my Velvet Bird dress!  I wore it on Christmas day and I wore it for my hot date at Wetherspoons with FL.  And my hand hesitated as I pulled out clothes to wear for my first day back at work after the holidays - could I possibly wear it to the office?

I decided not to risk it on Day One, in case I was sent home sick with an obvious fever.
What is it about this dress?

The Shape
It is simple, easy to wear and comfortable.  I think the length (or lack of it) takes about 20 years off me... and that alone was a reason not to wear it to work.  Too youthful.  Unprofessional.  Fun.  Sigh.

with aubergine t shirt
The Fabric
This is a very big factor.  It is a fairly heavy cotton plaid, slightly brushed for softness and warmth.  The colours glow and go so well with my three long-sleeved t-shirts (deep orange, aubergine and forest green)
The Versatility
As well as working with my existing under-layers, it looks great with a long cardigan on top.  Hilariously enough, the cardigan is longer than the dress!  I would love to find a vintage man's aran cardigan to wear with it.  (Vintage cardigan not vintage man!)

The Detail
The oversized bow.  It is totally nuts.  But it takes this dress from Backwoods Farmgirl to Hoxton Hipster in one easy move.  (Be gentle with me, dear readers!)

The Provenance
I can point to the person who made this.  Here she is!  Not only do I know that Vanessa made this dress for me, but I know that she priced it in a way which acknowledged her own work and she chose to make a donation out of her profit to Love146.org (to fight and prevent human trafficking in the U.S.).
What can I learn from this?

Well, apart from the fact that I am in the wrong job...!

It's not just about the look of my clothing, it is increasingly about the ethics of my purchasing choices.  It matters to me what materials my clothes are made of and the conditions in which they were stitched.  This is my main objection to the High Street right now.  I feel uncomfortable that I may be supporting a sweatshop  of exploited children.  (Those 3 long-sleeved t-shirts?  Poor ethical choice, Roo!) I don't like wearing artificial fibres.  I would prefer my cotton to be organically grown, dyed in a way that did not poison rivers, and my wool not to have come from mutilated sheep. 

And that all adds up to a scary set of selection criteria for Roo-approved clothing!

I am still struggling to find a good source of ethical fabrics. The look does still matter, as long as I have a 9 to 5 job (that'll be for the next 20 years then...) so for now I am opting for "natural" as my baseline.  I will not be weaving my homegrown nettles just yet .

Which takes me back to the style question...

I like:
Wide-legged trousers
Short skirts
Simple tunics
Vintage blouses (especially back-buttoned)
Striking details (collars, pin-tucks, buttons, lace, bows - just not all at once!)
High waist-lines
Neat-fitting knitwear
A touch of fun
That all sounds do-able!
And... you know what?  I am giving up the High Street.  Right now.

The Roobeedoo Manifesto:
I hereby undertake to make all my own clothing
or purchase it from ethically-minded independent designers.
For now.  For always.


Urban Rustic said...

I am very much with you on this one.I have not been tempted to shop in a high street store for a long while and don't intend too for sometime to come either.Trying to find ethical supplies is difficult and it all depends how far you want to go I suppose.I think that the best way I myself can approach being ethical is to take small but positive steps towards an ethical goal and that way I won't get swamped with feelings of guilt by not being completely ethical straight away.Is this a cop out?

I love the dress with its bow!I just love oversized bows!I made a couple of blouses for my daughter from a Japanese book and would love to wear them but think they look too young for me know.

Kestrel said...

Good for you! I feel the same about the high street - I now find most high street clothing shoddy, boring or baffling (sequin hotpants, cropped vests?! Where would I wear those?!). Ok, I'm thinking primarily of Topshop here, but in general it holds little interest for me. Any time I inspect an item in a shop the obvious cheapness of the materials means I cannot justify the purchase. And of course, there is the ethical issue that you just don't know where it's been made - or it's best not to think about it. I have to admit I know very little abot ethical retailers and would like to know more.

Doobee64 said...

That is a great undertaking, and good for you for heading in this direction. You should post as you find ethical supplies so that more people become aware...looking forward to watching your sewing goals unfold this year...

Donna said...

Yay! I think you have all the tools you need to stick to your guns and make clothes that you like and are ethnically produced. :)

Annie said...

Good for you!! Please let us know what ethical fabric and yarn supplies you fine :D

Kat said...

Good for you indeed! Since I started sewing a year ago I have definitely noticed my attitude to high street shops change. There is just not so much that I really want anymore, now that I know I can make something that may well fit me better and also in a fabric I have hand picked for the purpose. Also, I love the dress and you should absolutely wear it to work!

Scruffybadger said...

Fantastic manifesto roobeedoo. I'm totally behind you, and Think you've written the thoughts of many of us in the online sewing community. Looking at your list of style faves- more echoes of perfect taste ;-)
It's interesting that this was prompted by some irritating sub standard fabric .....

Jane said...

Yes! You've put it much more eloquently than I ever could, you go for it, that's a great manifesto. Your list of likes is identical to mine with the exception of simple tunics (too easy for me to look pregnant in them). x

Minnado said...

I like the manifesto Roo. You put your point across so much better than I could do. I do love the Velvet Bird dress. The big bow is the icing on the cake.
Sometimes People Tree sales have nice and ethical jersey knit shirts for basics.

mooncalf said...

Oh I had to buy myself that book too. Shame on everyone for not understanding how much we wanted it.

I also received a bunch of stuff that I did want though and, as a result, haven't actually cracked the spine of it yet. Maybe this weekend?

Sigrid said...

I love your Manifesto! I am truly excited to hear someone say, "I can do this-- in fact maybe I already am." And I am guessing that considering your self-made wardrobe and your commitment, it is not going to be such a big deal to actually execute.

LinB said...

Wow. Can you extend your ethical boundaries to re-fashioning used garments? It seems to me that the wanton discarding of garments made by slave labor cheapens the labor even more. I might not buy them new, but I will honor the makers by using their work to prevent it from being tossed in a dump, when I can. Plus the thrift stores provide jobs for those who have difficulty finding work; and often raise funds for charitable efforts of which I approve.

Maureen said...

With you all the way! I only got my sewing machine about 3 months ago and I've found my need to browse in normal high street shops has totally disappeared. I'm happy to rake around in charity/vintage shops but that's usually for things I can recycle or vintage/retro material. Bye bye high street :-)

christinelaennec said...

Good for you! I look forward to reading more about how you'll do this, and where you'll find ethical fabrics, etc. I used to try to buy clothes from People Tree and the Natural Collection, and in the end found they were very expensive and didn't fit or didn't last. Perhaps things have changed and I should try again, since realistically I'm not going to be sewing t-shirts and yoga pants for my daughter (or sewing anything else for that matter, at least not for a while yet!).

jo90 said...

I am with you on this. I made a pledge last year to make clothes and no buying. I managed the no buying but didn't quite make it on the making! this year though... I also bought the book myself! Happy sewing and I look forward to your posts.

Sølvi said...

Great post and a fantastic manifesto! I love it.

About the dress length, you commented on if I wear my short one to work. So far I haven´t - but that is much a practical matter, as I move around a lot raise my hands in the air (conducting choirs and such will have you do the oddest things!), it´s just too short for that. I do wear just as short skirts to work from time to time, but I guess the dress code in the music business is rather forgiving;-). I love your dress, and hope you can find a way to make use of it for work as well!

Sarahel said...

Inspiring. I'm aware that I'm woefully ill informed about fabric/yarn/clothing ethics. I know a little more about food production and that has an impact on my consumption. I clearly need to join the dots in my life.

You look great in the amazing dress.

shivani said...

love your manifesto! you've put into words what I've been thinking. I received the Book for Xmas (because I spent two months dropping unsubtle hints) and it's really made me think about my wardrobe and shopping choices too. great post. (And the dress looks fab on you)

Joy said...

Great manifesto! It's definitely doable (I'm going on almost 4 years...) and it seems like you already have a good baseline of "you" garments to start out. One thing I just love about reading sewing blogs, especially those who have been sewing a little while, is seeing their clothes become more and more "them".