Making your own clothes is a sustainable step to a slower wardrobe, but it can create plenty of its own waste. Chloë Cipra discusses slow sewing, a necessity for your ethical wardrobe.

Like most creative hobbies requiring supplies, sewing can become the opposite of low waste if we let it. It’s easy to become a fabric junkie or a pattern hoarder. But if like me, you are on a journey to a slow and carefully crafted wardrobe that is also as sustainable as possible, there are a number of things you can do to ensure you are doing your bit for the planet.

In Part I of this series, we will explore the idea of slow sewing, the foundational mindset to an ethical me-made wardrobe. Next month, we will cover more practical tips that can be used during the making process.

#1 Make mindfully

The idea of sewing slowly and mindfully is probably the most important piece of advice because it’s really all about your mindset and it can make a world of difference. 

When making new things for yourself the slow way, the idea is usually to have something that will fit you perfectly and that you will cherish for years and years — a combination that can be quite difficult to get in a mass produced RTW (ready to wear) item. 

The temptation can be strong to sew yourself dozens of dresses, shirts and pants; because you’re enjoying the process, or because you love wearing new things, especially if they fit you well. Granted, sewing ten #memade dresses is probably more ethical than buying ten dresses from a fast fashion retailer. But isn’t a slow wardrobe one that is carefully thought out and curated?

To me, being mindful with my makes means I’m trying to:

  • Create timeless pieces, ones whose style and colour I know I’m not likely to tire of in a year or two. Ideally, I’ll still be wearing them in ten or twenty years. This means having a good think about what exactly are my style and my colour palette. I’ve found Pinterest very helpful in keeping a record of my style inspirations; and I’ve been reading about how to create a personal and cohesive colour palette that suits the colour of my hair, skin and eyes. Researching and carefully planning your makes this way minimises the risk of error. Of course, if you bought a fabric or pattern that you end up not liking, you can always sell it on an online marketplace or a sewing group.
  • Buy quality durable and eco friendly fabrics where possible. Did you know that fibre and fabric production together account for around 70% of a garment’s environmental footprint? Cotton and synthetics have the highest negative environmental impacts of any fabrics (including the highest carbon emissions). Eco fabrics to look out for are linen, hemp, tencel, and organic cotton. Deadstock fabrics such as the range carried by The Fabric Store are also a good option. I always check out their remnant baskets when I visit their store: you can get amazing deals on end-of-roll fabrics. I made this dress out of a 1.1m remnant of their natural heavyweight linen.

Further to this, I’m trying to be mindful with my wardrobe in general. This means that if I am looking for something specific, maybe I can find an existing pre-loved item, and so I may not necessarily need to make it. I could find it second hand, or I could shop my closet to mend or upcycle something I already own but haven’t really been wearing because it doesn’t fit perfectly. 

I hope these thoughts have inspired you to become more of a slow sewist. Stay tuned next month for more practical tips in building a sustainable me-made wardrobe; and until then, find out more on my Instagram!