loss & (re)discovery

bias binding

I don’t know about you, but I am so often genuinely surprised at the quality of work when I look at some of the garments I have made over the years. Take, for example, this jumpsuit, made in 2017 and worn perhaps three times: once for a family Christmas, and couple of family events. The fabric is rather a heavy-ish crepe from EOS. You can find more of it here. It comes in a myriad of colours. I ordered a few lengths way back when: this gorgeous shade of wine red, a moss green, which ended up as a version of DKNY’s dress courtesy of Vogue 1351 (a disaster project that looked horrible on me, although the dress was beautiful), and some yet-to-be-sewn yummy chocolate brown. But I digress.

I have changed shape significantly over the last year or so, and, going through my closet one day looking for things to wear, pulled this jumpsuit out and tried it on. It’s BurdaStyle 04-2016-130.

It didn’t fit properly anymore, and would have required a complete dismantling in order to alter it properly. But here’s a photo from when it fit. I don’t have any photos of the front, probably because I didn’t like any of them and intended to re-shoot the garment, which never happened.

Burdastyle 04-16-130 back
This is actually the true shade of the fabric. Isn’t it rich and gorgeous?

As someone who has a tiny lower back and relatively large hips, this pattern fit perfectly out of the magazine. I was very impressed. But, again, I digress. Because I will never wear it again, I thrifted it. But I wanted to write about how each garment that I gift away (unless I really hate it) brings on a sense of loss, sometimes, and regret. Regret for the time ‘wasted’ in making something that didn’t actually get worn. I realize this is actually a negative voice speaking, from the last couple of decades of my life. In actual fact, each garment is a learning opportunity, and the hours spent making are practice and will end up giving me more proficiency and skill in making. When I check over the garments to make sure they’re in good condition, after cleaning them, to give away, I inevitably am surprised (why?) at the quality of work.

lined trousers

And the attention to detail, like lining trousers. I really do not like wearing unlined trousers or skirts. I think it’s because my mother taught me to sew, and, having sewn herself all her clothing when I was small from Vogue or Simplicity designer patterns, she was a stickler on quality of workmanship. I recall going RTW shopping with her, and every single garment she purchased was lined; she would not have ever worn an unlined garment, much less spent the money on it. Funny story. I recall strolling through a Chanel boutique when I was in university, and looking through the RTW garments for sale, and was shocked – shocked, I tell you! – to see that neither the skirts or jackets in that small boutique were lined. And $1250 in 80’s dollars for a 100% polyester blouse. Polyester. Bubble popped, I assure you.

hem finishing

So, needless to say, I line everything. It gives me tremendous pleasure to make something well, and finish it well. It’s like a mental health perk-up to wear a garment I’ve made that I have taken the time to carefully construct.

side zip

Slow careful sewing, and making the interiors of garments pretty, is something that I really enjoy doing. I hope whoever purchases this garment from the thrift store enjoys wearing it and appreciates the workmanship, too.

What do you do with garments you no longer wear? I see so many IG feeds about sewists making and making and making, and I wonder how on earth do they every wear everything? I don’t have a very large closet, and I have many garments that are in pristine condition. Do you feel a sense of loss when you see garments you’ve spent time with walking out the door?

21 thoughts on “loss & (re)discovery

  1. It is interesting the cultural differences about lining clothes. I was surprised when I first visited the USA and found even long pants were lined. In my country I had occasionally seen lined skirts but not very often.

  2. I relate entirely to the sentiments you expressed. And my goodness what handiwork. I’m impressed with what must be your steady hand and beautiful stitching.

  3. Re-reading your post and finally commenting as a lot of this resonates with me. I have a harder time getting rid of clothes I have made. I think of all the time and effort put into making them, and the pleasure of having and wearing unique clothing, even most of my clothing is relatively simple – it doesn’t have a lot of detail or embellishment and it’s rare that I make a lined garment. It makes it harder to get rid of unless I’m at the point where I really dislike it.

    1. I feel the same way – there is an emotional attachment to the garments I make, precisely because I spend so much time with them. I often spend more time re-fitting or re-finishing garments instead of giving them away, unless I am truly tired of having them around, or, like the jumpsuit in the post, the alterations would be too onerous compared to m;y affinity for the garment.

  4. I have saved many of my tailoring projects and now really must clear out the closet. Have been happily surprised to sell them on Poshmark, labeled as Vintage, handmade, designer,😎

    1. What a wonderful way to pass on your tailored me-mades! That is an excellent idea. The Harris Tweed coat I made for DD1 12 years ago was successfully sold on ebay once she outgrew it. I was pleasantly surprised to actually recoup the materials cost in the sale.

  5. I’m not making a vast amount of clothes for myself now but I find I’m better at choosing styles I will really enjoy wearing now. I’m fortunate that my sister is the same size as I am so she’s quite likely to take anything I no longer wear to try out. I agree with some of your other commenters – it’s slightly baffling where/when some bloggers/Instagram sewers get to wear all that they make.
    Your garments look good enough to wear inside out which shows the care you take. I agree that lining is essential in most cases.

  6. What a thoughtful post. I find myself often so in love with a fabric that I design in my mind so many garments with that fabric that I cannot allow myself to actually make any one thing. So I do not sew more than I can wear. No, just the opposite. I find myself lacking appropriate clothing.
    As to the couture clothing without linings, women used to have an entire wardrobe of appropriate undergarments. Linings were then unnecessary and even wasteful in the sense that undergarments are washed and reworn. Women even had removable “dress shields” made for the underarms of blouses and dresses that were washed and reused. Slips, camisoles, tap pants etc are hardly available now so we have to line everything.

    1. I remember using and making dress shields for my clothing. No one else wore them in my peer groups, much less had even heard of them! I remember my mother and grandmother wearing slips even if garments were lined. Interesting.

      And what you say about imagining 1000 different garments from one length of fabric…. I do the same, and then get ‘frozen’ and end up making nothing. I, too, lack pieces in my wardrobe for that very reason. And the fear of messing up a gorgeous length of goods.

    2. This is such an interesting comment to ponder, as I had not thought of it this way before. Was that also true of couture jackets? All of the vintage jackets I have seen or owned, dating back to the 1930s, had a lining, including a limited amount of couture bought second hand way back when. That said, I still have my mom’s old slips and camisoles from way back when as well as I always found them useful when a RTW garment was too thin or I didn’t think the lining provided enough cover, or a smooth line.

  7. I loved this post! I make things rather slowly and at erratic intervals, plus am not a master seamstress, so I don’t really have this issue. I do have the issue with knitting, however, as I don’t like giving away my sweaters (except to family) and so I have too many sweaters that I don’t wear much. In the last decade or so I have slowed down my making to more thoughtful knits – maybe one or two a year – so I have less of this problem.

    I understand the desire to make and so I don’t judge people who make a lot of stuff unkindly. At the same time, there is one blogger in particular who posts many garments, often making multiples of the same thing, posted in the same entry, and I wonder how she ever wears even a small fraction of what she makes! She must op shop many of them eventually. I agree with you that making lots definitely improves one’s skill.

    I often have the surprise about the quality of my own work when I look at my work work, rather than my sewing, although my sewing has improved over the years (though maybe not always to my highest standard). Sometimes I look back and something I did at work when I have to revisit an old issue and I think, “I did that! Wow! It’s so sophisticated!” It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised by oneself.

    With respect to lining, I agree with you completely. I was looking for suit jackets last year in Florence and went to the fancy department store with all of the big-name designers. I was horrified but not surprised to see that many of the jackets were unlined. The sales girls were saying that it’s to “keep the garments cool to wear” (my arse). My grandmother had beautiful, tailored clothes and so I grew up understanding how garments should be made. I would never even consider buying an unlined jacket, unless a casual denim thing. Same with skirts. Some fabrics like denim are better unlined in my opinion. The only thing I disagree with you on is pants. I grew up with lined pants and always purchased better-quality tailored trousers when I started my career, always lined. I hated the lining in pants, which would twist or swish inside the trousers. I think it really depends on the fabric and type of trouser, and I think the separate lining shorts that some people make is a reasonable solution to get a smoother line, but I find that with appropriate undergarments pants are best left unlined for me. I don’t wear them so much and the fabrics are buy are high-quality wools, so they last a long time without full lining.

    I’m so sad that you felt you had to gave away that stunning cranberry jumpsuit. You look like such a stunning diva in it, even though I can only see the back.

      1. Likewise your knitting! I hope you never give away any of your spectacular hats. As for sweaters…. I have so many, and love to wear them in the winter, but cannot bear to learn how to knit because I am sincerely afraid to go down that crafting black hole. I have a horrible propensity for stashing fabric, along with the initial ideas for the making of it, and I just cannot bear the thought of having a yarn stash to boot! I am always in awe of knitters’ garments. It seems a tremendous amount of skill goes into knitting something well, along with all the calculations (something that would send me ’round the bend, as I barely passed high school academic math!)

        And how tremendously affirming looking back at your previous work would be, seeing how well it was done. That is definitely worth a smile, a pat on the back, and a ‘well done’!

    1. You are the second person to mention separate lining shorts, which I have never heard of until this post! haha! I have run across crotch shields, similar to dress (underarm) shields, which I only ever see for sale in Fabricland, of all places. I shall look into the separate lining for trousers. In contrast to your experience, I loves the swish and feel of lined trousers, even if they’re the most divine wool. I think, though, it depends on the fabric used for lining. My preference is bemberg. Denim definitely doesn’t require lining, I agree. Or perhaps looser fitting silk crepe or linen trousers. But I still like to line these, even to the knee. I just feel like they’re unfinished somehow… my quirk!

      1. Good point about only lining to the knee. That would work. I probably still prefer to wear tap pants or comfortable briefs over a lining, but I can see the shorter lining being effective. I should try it sometime. I guess it was rather obvious that denim wouldn’t be lined. I also always line with bemberg, which I find luxurious and comfortable in dresses.

        Knitting is actually pretty easy once you get the knack of it – a bit like baking bread – but stashing can also become a bad habit! Not to encourage you to collect more goods. I have the same issue as others with beautiful fabric. I often don’t make anything with it as I spend all of my time imagining what I could make with it.

        I have seen patterns for dress shields that intrigued me, but in Italy they still sell the stick-in dress shields so I buy those for summer wool garments and silk blouses! They are called Til Fallai if I recall correctly. I have a box in the bathroom cupboard right now. 🙂

        PS Re the hats I live in fear of losing one of them. They are like my children, since I don’t have any real ones!

  8. What a thoughtful post. I am constantly at odds with my desire to make more clothes for myself and knowing that I probably really don’t need more. As a consequence, I have a lot of items I just do not have occasion to wear very often, especially dressy ones, which I love to make. Others, of course, I wear and wear and wear. It’s difficult for me to give away pieces I have made, and when I do, I definitely have a sense of loss. I’m not sure how to reconcile all this for myself! But thank you for getting me thinking about it.

    1. I empathise with you! I have several lovely, carefully made dresses that get worn rarely, but I cannot give them away, either. And the pieces that get worn, I wear out completely.

  9. Same here, it’s rare that something is unwearable, and the rest gets worn into rags. So I am not a big source of donations to thrift stores. Still, online fabric shopping can lead to mistakes, and the worst of these can go, but still as fabric.

    Funny this inherited obsession with linings though. I agree about jackets, which are not nearly as wearable without one. But I would not make any others. I find it much more practical to make slips or pant-petticoats for garments like wool pants. They can get laundered more frequently and replaced more easily, making them a lot more functional in the long term. And much use of linings I see otherwise is simply a failure to select the right fabric to begin with.

  10. I have a lot of clothes that worked well in my previous life that don’t work as well for me now. I have a hard time giving some of them up though! I have more clothes I’ve made in my closet these days but they are more casual. I have trouble making things just to make them, and like you I want the inside to look as good as the outside!

  11. What an interesting post! I love that raspberry colour on you. I give things to charity shops when I’m done with them if they’re still wearable, but I’ve found in recent years that my sewing productivity is lower and my success rate is higher so clothes tend to wear out before I get fed up of them. I only make work and casual clothes these days though. I have enough fancy dresses to last a long time and I’m trying to rewear them more. After all, no one is going to remember what I wore to a wedding a few years ago.

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