work in progress

May 5, 2011

It’s almost a year since I’ve started the challenge to create my own wardrobe and written the very first post of The Dress I Made. I’ve learned a lot from sewing all these clothes, and without this self-induced incentive of writing a blog I would never have started on a wintercoat for example. With making my own skirts, dresses and trousers, I learned about quality too. About the luxury feel of a dress that fits perfectly and about the secret pleasure of a blouse with hidden french seams. Now that I’ve spent endless hours handstitching hems to attach them invisibly, I recognize (and value) real craftmanship even more.

One of the reasons to start this project was the feeling that something’s wrong in fashion industry: fast turn-over rates, horrible working conditions and a total lack of respect for our resources. Recently I’ve visited a textile recycling innovation centre, where they told me that 30% (!!) of all clothes and textile goods produced are destroyed without ever being worn or used. Apparently in food industry figures are even worse, but still this is an insanely high percentage of waste, isn’t it? When I started this challenge I thought that I would really miss shopping, but that’s not the case. My love for quality has grown, and combined with a loss of appetite for mass-produced goods I’ve now got and even more expensive taste than before. And less money.. But that’s a side note, I just wanted to explain why I totally admire the work of Monique van Heist, who has the guts to not design a whole new collection every season. And the work of the ladies from I-did slow fashion, who make a continuously evolving collection with the help of ladies from their neighbourhood.

The pictures show a top I’ve been working on for a few evenings in a row now. I’ve explained earlier how I’m fascinated by 3D structures and textures in textile, and this is another example. I hope the result will be just as pretty as the image in my head, and so far it looks promising.

PS To celebrate the 1-year anniversary I invite you all to a ‘swap the clothes that you’ve hardly worn’-party the 25th of May in Hoop Creatief warenhuis in The Hague, from 7 to 10 pm. More info will follow!

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  1. so true, and 80% of the clothes in our closets we don’t even wear…
    Absolutely love designers / brands who dare to bring basics or follow their own rhythm.
    Quality is the thing to aim for when shopping, and don’t trust the media to dictate the trends, or to tell you what is ecological, follow your own aesthetics and common sense and you’ll be fine.
    I’m almost 6 mnths in the no shopping zone, and must say, I envy you, I don’t have much fabric in stock anymore, so I tend to hesitate whether to sew now or to wait till fall…

  2. super gaaf dat het nu al een jaar is :O deze blog is zeer inspirerend, en ik denk dat ik het zelfde ga doen, alleen dan zonder blog ;) het is veel leuker om dingen zelf te maken!

  3. Thanks fpr the interesting post. I stopped buying new clothes a couple years ago, and also found that I don’t miss it. Now when I look at clothes, so many of them look cheap and ugly. I am very slowly trying to convert to a self-made wardrobe, and it is forcing me to finally really think about what I want to wear.Can’t wait to see the finished top.

  4. Hi, I report for The Atlantic.com and am wondering if you might be available for an interview on the year anniversary of your project. I tried emailing you, but received an error message–that your email is over quota, or something along those lines. Best, Leah

  5. Great post! It was enlightening to read your reflection on your one year shopping sabbatical. Since I buy mass produced clothing, I hardly know what quality is. You are lucky to know it and wear it!

  6. Thank you ladies for your thoughts on this!

  7. Hi! Like you I’ve been making all my own clothes for years too. Although I’ve kept some of my oldest RTW pieces to wear as well, just because I love them.
    The sculptural quality of the blouse you are making prompts me to recommend to you the Pattern Magic books, by Japanese designer Nakamichi Tomoko. They are an amazing learning experience for somebody interested in pattern and fabric manipulation to achieve unique and interesting sculptural effects. There are three in the series.

    • Hi Carolyn, Thanks for the tip! Somehow the japanese seem to master the art of making elegant and sculptural clothes, those books are on my wishlist now :-)

  8. Hi,

    I was going to suggest Tristram Stuart’s book ‘Waste’ – but I see you’re there before me! Certainly I think there are parallels in terms of the manufacture of desire by retailers and the press – equally horrifying as his images of trenches of rejected chicken, or fields of not-good-enough tomatoes.

    By chance there is a similar discussion going on (and shameless book promotion by a fashion journalist!) on fashion and consumption here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/may/08/fast-fashion-death-for-planet

    I’m still not sure where that leave my sewing and clothing consumption though. Although I have the satisfaction of creating some of my own clothing, I still find that the RTW manufacturers have access to by far the nicest fabric, and it is not always clear where and how my fabric has been made, and what I find available is often far from good quality. I could buy and take apart second hand garments, but as a fairly novice sewer, I find it easier to follow patterns, and to cut from new cloth. All very tricky!

    I’m not sure what the solution is, although certainly to consume less is certainly one. Meantime your blog is a source of plenty of rich food for thought and for the eyes, and (relatively) low carbon.

    • Hi CamberwellGal,

      You’re right that it’s a very complicated problem. I’m very conscious that only making my own clothes is not a real solution. Making things from new cloth is a form of consumption as well, and I can’t control where the fabric comes from or how it is produced. Just this weekend I read an article about kuyichi jeans (who claim to make eco-conscious clothes) in a Dutch newspaper, with the bottom line being that real sustainable fashion is next to impossible. They are in business for a considerable lenght of time now and they still don’t make truely people & planet friendly jeans, because they couldn’t influence (and change) the whole chain. Already the whole eco/bio/organic cotton thing is difficult, because cotton as a plant needs a lot of water to grow, leading to erosion. It’s all rather discouraging, but not a reason to stop trying. I think that sewing your own clothes, even if it’s hardly possible to find ‘green’ fabric, at least makes us aware of the value of work. And besides, to see what we are capable of making with our own hands is a fun and rewarding experience!

      Thank you for your thoughts on the subject, and for the link too!

  9. In NL you can find eco fabric at neidig.nu. It’s expensive but of good quality.

  10. What a very inspiring blog again! Your blouse to come, your story of working on the blog and making your own clothes and your sensible ideas behind it for already one year! Fantastic this recommended website “I-did slow fashion”.
    Congratulations what you have achieved this year! Good on you!

  11. I’m really glad i chanced upon your blog. This is great stuff! :)

  12. In addition to neidig, you can also buy ‘left over’ fabrics of dutch brands/designers at trickle down fabric, the also have a great selection of ecological fabrics..
    http://trickledownfabrics.com/ buy online of visit them on HTNK Onedayshop 28 May@Club Trouw Amsterdam… If I were allowed to buy I would ;-)

    • yes, I think I’ve mentioned them already a few times here. Some other eco-fabric stores are sew natural and natuurstoffen, both in Dutch.

  13. […] Renske put away all of her ready to wear clothes and sewed up a hand made wardrobe from scratch. Love it. I’m also loving those shoes but that’s a whole different blog post right there.. Renske in one of her awesome makes.. […]

  14. gorgeous blog .. Not only pairing any dress to look you great and attractive but , to learned also how to make a dress with great inspiration . excellent

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