When I was invited to yet another wedding and I realised it would be my fifth wedding in one year. And, while I love celebrating with friends, I was slightly worried about how I was going to afford outfits for every occasion.
A little bit of background about me: I have a degree in Fashion Design and grew up with my mum sewing, however, I hadn’t really made any clothes since I graduated (apart from the odd slapdash fancy dress costume). So, I thought, why not set myself the task of making all my wedding guest outfits? And I did just that, calling my project the #ALoWeddingSewingBee, in homage to the Great British Sewing Bee (which had recently reignited my interest in dressmaking). Here's how it went.
Why did I decide to make my wedding guest outfits?
From the outset, I hoped the project would help me save some money while also providing a fun, creative outlet. A 2018 study for Barnado's found that Brits spend an average of £80 on an outfit per person, per wedding. Wow, right? And with five weddings in my calendar, it was quickly getting into big buck territory. Based on this, the estimated cost for all the wedding outfits would have come to around £400- and that's before we even got to gifts, transport, accommodation etc.
With the worrying rise in fast fashion, I was also keen to reduce my personal contribution to it, especially around wedding season and #SecondhandSeptember. The same study found that Brits spent an estimated £2.7 billion on one-time outfits, with £800 million of that on single-wear wedding outfits. I figured that if I bought a load of outfits just for the weddings, they were more likely to be one-time wears than if I went the extra mile and created pieces that I really loved.
How time-consuming was it?
I was fully aware that the goal I set myself would be a challenge, but during the summer I made four outfits (I was a bridesmaid for the fifth wedding). Alongside a full-time office job, sewing my outfits was certainly stressful at times, especially when I only had a week in between two weddings. I made one look in the space of 48 hours.
Interestingly, though, it wasn’t always the sewing that took the most time, it was altering the pieces to fit me. For some outfits, I bought a pattern to follow, while others I drafted my own (with varying results). In one instance, I thought I'd executed a dress flawlessly in an hour before I tried it on and got stuck after barely getting it over my shoulders…
What I've learnt
I've decided to keep the #ALoWeddingSewingBee going and have plans to make outfits for my friend's 30th birthday party later this year. I love doing something hands-on away from work and my computer screen - particularly this year when I gave myself more time to make an outfit before a wedding.
Making clothes has been oddly therapeutic. My job is creative but sewing is quite logical. Plus, there's a sense of satisfaction as a garment starts taking shape and it's a huge achievement when the piece is finally finished.
There are so many other benefits of making my own outfits. I often have an idea of the outfit I want to wear – which many of us do – but then can't find the right thing in the shops or online. Now, I get to make exactly what I imagined and, not only that but, it’s tailored perfectly to my body. Did I mention you also don’t worry someone might have the same outfit as you?
Don't get me wrong - I still buy new clothes, but I shop more second-hand and pre-loved items now. Knowing how much time and effort goes into making a garment, I think twice about shopping for clothes that seem unbelievably cheap. For the most part, the amount of money I spend buying fabric ends up being cheaper than what I would’ve spent on a dress. In the future, I plan on reinventing pieces I’ve made to wear again in the future, much like Marge Simpson when she keeps giving her thrifted Chanel suit a makeover.
Would I recommend it?
Making my own clothes has become quite common now - whether it’s a cute dress for my holiday or a shirt for my boyfriend’s birthday, which has become a yearly tradition. He always gets complimented on them and proudly tells people it’s one-of-a-kind and lovingly handmade. With The Great British Sewing Bee tripling its viewing figures since it launched, and bringing in over 6 million viewers last series, the joy of sewing and crafting has certainly been on the rise lately, and only accelerated over lockdown as people made more time for hobbies. Sewing your own clothes isn’t just what your grandma used to do, but a stylish way to be more fashion-conscious, and I hope others will consider giving it a go.
Tips on starting sewing
Make something you actually want to wear. There’s no point in making a t-shirt If it’s not something you’d normally wear. There are plenty of sewing patterns of fashionable pieces.
Take it slow. If you’re looking for neat, clean stitches, then keep your foot on the sewing peddle at a slower pace. When you speed up, that’s when things start to get a bit messy.
Iron between steps. After sewing each section, press open all the seams so they are flat. It might seem like a faff and extra step, but it’ll make life easier down the line and you can just sew along and not worry if you’ve caught a seam in your sewing.
Borrow a sewing machine. If you’re not sure how often you’ll be sewing and don’t want to commit to buying one straight away, see if a family member has one lying around, or a lot of fabric or craft shops and companies offer a service for clients to rent a sewing machine to use at home.
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