During this pandemic, TONS of people are learning to sew and make their own clothes. This makes me INCREDIBLY happy because it's something I wish I'd learned earlier. It's such a superpower and a fun, creative outlet.
I learned fashion design, sewing and tailoring when I was 32. I was NOT one of those people who sewed with their parents, making things for myself since I was a kid. I have been fascinated by fashion from when I was a kid though and after a bit of reflecting, I know how it started: Rashida's Dress Up Closet.
My best friend in 4th grade was Rashida Bradley. She has an awesome family, 3 younger brothers and sisters, GORGEOUS parents and a great, creative vibe in their house. One of the things they had in their attic was a dress-up closet. This was a bunch of old clothes, thrift clothes and costume stuff that was there just for the kids to play dress-up and put on skits . Oh, I did love this. Whenever I used to sleepover at Rashida's place, all of her siblings and I would dress-up and act out skits of space travel and Hollywood and exotic adventures and so much more. This is where my love of fashion started--when I saw it as an art form that could transform you into a different person who lived in a different world.
I've been getting a few questions lately about people whose kids want to get into fashion design or tailoring. These parents are wondering where to start given they don't have sewing experience.
My journey was 100% self-taught and as follows and I think it might work for you or your kids:
- Build a fun dress-up closet. Gather up your old clothes, things that don't fit you, thrift store clothes, remainders of costumes and put them in one place. Feather boas, pins and giant necklaces are your friends. You can get a TON of stuff on eBay for very cheap. Put together fun outfits. Figure out 5 ways to style this coat. Take pictures. I currently have a VERY fun dress-up closet and it's often the starting point of new designs for Prima Dona.
- Basic hand-sewing. The first thing I did when I realized I wanted to make my OWN clothes was start getting familiar with hand-sewing. Just a needle and thread and nothing else. Tons of videos out there on how to do this. I started sewing my own buttons back on. Hemming pants that were too long and adding an extra piece of fabric to make skirts longer. I started taking in oversized t-shirts in the back so they actually fit me. I started adding panels to skirts that no longer fit me to refresh them, etc.
- Machine-sewing. Once I realized I really liked hand-sewing, I decided to get myself a sewing machine (mind you, I had NEVER owned one before). After reading a bunch of reviews, I got a basic Brother machine. I watched a bunch of videos and then just practiced sewing straight lines and basic stitches. My first creation was a tote bag. Two pieces of fabric and a handle. This was no work of art, but I still have it to this day.
- More advanced sewing. Many people sew doll clothes as their next step. Since I was a grown-up when I started, I decided to sew myself pajamas. I got a bunch of fabric, traced a pair of pajamas I already owned, cut the fabric, sewed it and put in an elastic waist (again, by watching YT videos). The first ones were terrible--but the second were not. EVERYONE got PJs as gifts that year from me. This can be a fun project you do with your family--WFH-wear for everyone.
- Sewing from patterns. The next thing I did was learn to read a sewing pattern. This is a recipe for a sewing project and is pretty straightforward. There are tons of sewing patterns sites out there and you can buy patterns in envelopes at every fabric store or online. For beginners, I like this site for tons of simple beginner friendly patters. For my first project, I chose a simple top that had no closures (buttons, zippers) or sleeves. The other thing you can do is garment duplication. Just trace something you like (something simple, like a t-shirt) along the seams onto a sheet of thin cardboard and make your own pattern. This was something I learned to do in fashion school that's served me incredibly well.
Two bonus projects that you can try that I have only dabbled in:
- Knitting! It's easy to start and there are a huge communities out there who do this. I am not good at knitting--not enough patience.
- Fabric painting! Really easy to get a fabric/textile painting kit online, some bedsheets and you're in business. You can easily turn this bedsheet into pajamas or a top. I've just started to do this as experiments for one-of-a-kind pieces for Prima Dona (not painting bedsheets--but plain fabric!).
So that's some ideas-I hope you do some of them. Please do send me pictures of what you create!
Dona is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Prima Dona Studios, a fashion line that helps women achieve economic power. When you put on one of our pieces, we guarantee that you'll feel like the total bad@ss that you are and be compelled to pursue your wildest goals.
We also pay the woman who hand-tailored your garment Seattle wages no matter where she lives. To learn more about us, visit us here: https://primadonastudios.com/