I’ve started doing something I aways swore I’d never do. I’ve been making clothes for other people.
This is nothing about generosity - although given my rooky pricing it probably is - but about a need to earn some money and being absolutely terrified / totally unwilling unless I absolutely have to, to go back to my previous career.
This may sound entitled but I detested my job and industry (read misogyny; demotion when I went back after having a baby; never being taken seriously despite being way more experienced in my field than my superiors etc) - to the point it made me ill - plus the hours were long and that is not conducive to life with my kids. Also - I absolutely don’t know where to start in looking for a new career.
I will no doubt have to, but in the meantime the one thing I can do, with minimal overheads, is make clothes for other people.
Five garments in and I’m remembering why I said I’d never do this. My kids are off school so the only time I can sew is in the evenings. This means 2 am finishes and 6 am starts. This is not good for my mental health, or - my poor kids - for parenting.
It started when a friend of mine very sweetly held a kind of Tupperware-style party (trunk show?) for me but for custom clothing. I took along a bunch of inspiration images and examples of my own clothes to show how I make things and how different fabrics feel / hang and came back with 20 orders. This was completely unexpected and slightly overwhelming!
I felt so loved, supported and is if I actually do have a talent. There was also the feeling that actually this is a thing that could work.
But is it something that I can sustain in the long run and will it actually give me the income I need? I’m doubting it.
I’ve just finished making a bridesmaid’s dress and the 40th birthday outfit that is featured in this pics. So many hours drafting, fitting, tweaking the design, sewing toiles, making alterations, sourcing and deciding on fabric and then actual sewing went into these that I’m definitely in deficit in terms of the cost per hour.
That said, I’m proud of the results, and I think the recipients are happy.
I’ve reached the conclusion that I want to focus on making more upscale day-to-day clothing rather than special occasion pieces. The kind of things I enjoy wearing.
But then I come to the sticky issue of money. How can I price pieces to reflect the custom-fitted, potentially one-off nature of the garment and the time that goes into this, whilst being competitive with higher-end every day wear in boutiques, but also doesn’t price me out of my customer base? And is that income enough?
I have some other ideas to support this - but as always never ever the time to do anything about it.
Sorry this isn’t meant to be a moan, more stream of conscious about whether I can make this viable.
It’s a question I’ll have to ponder some more and try and get some advice, but in the meantime can I just boast about this …?
Fortunately the friend who commissioned this loved it, but it just about fits me so I was kind of hoping she didn’t so I could keep it. I hope to get some shots of her wearing it but in the meantime it’s me.
The top is a flared, mandarin collared, open neck blouse which is gathered in at the waist with elastic. It has sheer flutter sleeves that are caught in the side seams.
The skirt is bias cut and flared and has an elastic waistband. My friend wanted chic but comfortable and loved the idea of elastic waisted pieces. Both pieces have silk habotai lining and an Anna Sui floral lace overlay. The whole thing is self-drafted.
The construction of the skirt was very simple, just french seams, a tiny rolled hem, and a two-piece waistband with elastic threaded through. The lining and lace are only joined at the waist.
The top was a lot more complex and involved lying awake at night thinking of construction options. I ended up using the habotai as underlining for the top so that it would sit better. This involved a lot of thread basting and heaps of stay stitching. I then referenced various tutorials and books to create the front opening with a facing and without a CF seam. Matching lace - no thanks. The facing is held in place by the collar and also understitched and slip stitched to the lining. This means the insides are entirely clean.
When I’d finished the top, I was removing all pins and basting stitches, but couldn’t get one pin out. I just couldn’t figure out where it was. Turned out I’d stitched it underneath the facing. That’s a new one even for me!
It was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed making this. My friend was very clear on what she wanted but also willing to let me just make choices as I went along.
I think I’m going to make a version of this top for myself, perhaps in a lightweight white voile and with some lace inserts between the bodice and the sleeve, but we’ll see where it takes me and also where it sits in the epically long sewing queue I have that I can’t get to because of all the commissions. Sigh.
So my sewing brain is really happy to be working on projects like this.
My right foot is not happy because it’s very tired and sore.
My body is exhausted.
My apartment is an utter dump.
My blog isn’t happy because these photos are terrible: taken in a hurry on my phone, in poor light, without make-up (or apparently a hairbrush)!
And the practical side of my brain can’t figure out whether home garment sewing can be a lucrative, family supporting, business.
I’d love thoughts, advice, and your usual kindness!
See you soon x