I “made my wardrobe” is not something you often hear someone say. There are many motivations behind the decision to make your clothes. Watching your mother sew for you when you were a child may have sparked your desire.
Perhaps your lack of interest in what’s on the high street could also be the impetus. Not being able to fit comfortably into what’s on offer could also have been the trigger. There’s also nothing more dispiriting than turning up to an event dressed exactly the same as another attendee!
Whatever moved you enough to develop a lifelong skill there is one young lady who has turned her passion for making her own clothes into a business.
In 2016, Lydia Higginson started a year-long project to completely make a new wardrobe from scratch and to catalogue her development on her blog.
The idea was born when Lydia concluded that she “no longer wanted clothing choices to be constructed for me or dictated by what is available to buy. As I get dressed in the morning I want to feel connected to the clothes I am wrapping my body up in. Wearing clothes I have made is the most honest way I have of being in the world; it’s my little way of celebrating and expressing creativity each day”.
Her determination led her to create underwear, jackets and even denim dungarees from scratch alongside other pieces that led to the creation of her dream wardrobe.
From its humble beginnings, Lydia’s project sparked a keen interest in teaching people to sew. She then set about searching for a space in London where she could run workshops and raised the funds by pre-selling courses on the crowdfunding platform, Crowdfunder. With money raised in 2018, Lydia opened the doors of her studio space, Threadworks in London’s Clerkenwell, to her students.
I caught up with Lydia in her lovely studio in Farringdon and asked her a few questions no doubt most people think when they meet her:
I trained as a costume designer by doing a two-year apprenticeship. I didn’t attend university so my learning has been very hands-on. I’m lucky enough to have worked with some incredible designers and artists who have taught me so much along the way.
Why do you think there is such an interest in home crafting and learning?
Home crafting and learning can really soothe your soul! I think there is dissatisfaction with a lot of what mainstream fashion is offering to customers. More than ever people are craving activities that get them away from a screen and using their hands.
What are your future plans for Made My Wardrobe?
I’m super passionate about teaching the skills I have learned. I set up Threadworks to provide a space to do just that. It is a beautiful fully equipped sewing studio in Clerkenwell, London. No matter what your skill level you can come and learn how to make your dream wardrobe. I teach everything from bras to bomber jackets, dresses to dungarees. I also invite guest teachers to come and share skills such as shoemaking, pattern cutting and embroidery.
How and when did you learn to sew?
My mum taught me when I was a little girl. She still has the sewing machine she was given when she was 18 set up in her little attic room.
Do you buy your patterns or have them made or did you learn to pattern cut too?
Most of the time I make my own because it gives me more freedom, but occasionally I will buy a pattern if I’m feeling lazy!
Related reading: Should I have a Pattern Ready Before I contact a Factory?
Has your style changed as a result of this project or making your own clothes – how and why?
Yes definitely. I’m obsessed with clothes being very comfortable. I like them to fit perfectly to my frame and I’ve developed a colour palette of ochre gold, dusky rose pink, sunshine yellow and navy blue which I am always drawn to.
I honestly had no idea how to make so many of the garments you need to build a wardrobe before I started.
Did you get rid of your clothes one by one or in one go?
All in one go at the end of the year (2016). It felt amazing! I gave many items to friends and then the rest to my local charity shop. I have now only worn clothes I have made for over two years.
What have you discovered that has surprised you as part of this project/journey?
It surprised me that I actually managed to do it! I honestly had no idea how to make so many of the garments you need to build a wardrobe before I started. Making lingerie was completely new to me, but now I totally love it! I also get excited about making strong hard-wearing items such as jeans that I know will last me forever!
Has this project endeavour changed your perception of the fashion industry and how?
Yes, because it has allowed me to become completely self-sufficient. I no longer rely on anyone else to clothe me. Clothing is my way of communicating, so wearing clothes I have made is the most honest way I have of being in the world.
Related Reading: 7 Eco-Friendly Practices Every Small Fashion Business Can Do
If anyone wanted to follow in your footsteps – what advice would you give them?
Come on one of my workshops! But also accept straight away that when you are making your own clothes at home you will make so many mistakes when you start out. Making clothes is hard. But if you persevere it will be totally worth it.
Making your own clothes is a truly liberating skill to acquire. No degree is necessary in order to jump on the sewing bandwagon, just a desire to create and an ability to work really hard.
Be realistic and set yourself small challenges as sewing isn’t easy. Sign yourself up to one of Lydia’s workshops and start the process of learning a new skill now as who knows where it could lead.
Have you made your own clothes? WIll you, if given a chance?