The month of May usually brings some good things.
It means longer days and nicer weather, and 2 bank holidays in a month!
Living in the country, It’s about this time that I notice that everything has been growing! The verges and hedgerows are green and full of life.
For people who like to sew and make things, May also means Me Made May.
If you haven’t come across it before, Me Made May is an online challenge where people pledge to wear something they’ve made every day during the month of May. If you look on Instagram, you will see dozens of people who’ve posted pictures of themselves wearing the things they’ve made.
Although it’s nice being able to celebrate making things, and share what you have made with other people, I don’t join in with Me Made May in this kind of way. The main reason is because I don’t have enough clothes to wear a different outfit every day for a month, whether they are things I’ve made or things I’ve bought. And, actually, I don’t want to have that many outfits! I do the washing every week, and although minimalism is not my thing and it’s nice to have a choice, I don’t need that much stuff
The other thing is that I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of making things for the sake of making them. Having had a blog about sewing for the last 10 years, I have fallen into this hole myself. It’s one thing making a dress because you need another dress and you’ve seen some fabric you like. It’s another thing entirely if your reason for making the dress is so that you can do Me Made May and post pictures on yourself on Instagram. I’m not saying that this is what people are doing, but it would be easy for this to become the reason. I don’t want it to be my reason.
This might sound like I think that Me Made May is a bad idea, and you might be surprised to hear that actually I think it’s a fabulous idea! But there has to be more than just photos of people wearing their handmade clothes.
I prefer to see Me Made May as an opportunity to consider the clothes we wear and why we like them. It’s also a good time to remind ourselves of why we choose to go to the trouble of making clothes ourselves, rather than relying entirely on ready to wear and fast fashion.
In the rest of this post, I’m going to talk about how I am using Me Made May this year as an opportunity to consider what I wear as an expression of who I am after 2 years of the pandemic and with stages of life changing.
What We Wear is an Expression of Who We Are
Years ago, I followed a lady online who had a website about hair. I can’t remember what it was called now, but I remember the tagline was, “There’s more to life than hair but it’s a good place to start”.
I think the same could be said about the clothes we wear!
There is a view that clothes don’t really matter. It’s the idea that caring about the clothes you wear is makes you shallow and vain, and that it is some kind of virtue to wear tracky bottoms and an old t shirt instead of something nice. It’s the same kind of reasoning that would have has believe that it is a virtue to not drink enough water and to deny ourselves sleep.
Obviously it’s possible to care too much and become obsessive, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look nice. Deciding what we like to wear is a way for us to express who we are, in a similar way to the way in which we decorate our homes expresses who we are.
Having hit an odd stage of life, plus the pandemic, has resulted in me feeling that the clothes I wear no longer truly reflect who I am.
4 or 5 years ago, I really liked vintage floral prints, circle skirts and pretty dresses. Although I still like those things, life looks quite different now and I’m not the same person I was.
I actually realised the other day when I went out for a long walk (I do my best thinking when I’m walking!) that this was a change that coincided with my youngest child starting school and my eldest starting at secondary school. Before that I’d had a uniform of a tunic top and a pair of leggings which I’d wear all year round, adding tights and a cardigan if it was cold.
Now things are changing again. 3 of my boys are at secondary school, and the eldest one is about to sit his GCSEs. I only have one boy in the School of Mummy, where once there were 3. Slowly but surely, my boys are getting to ready to stretch their wings and start living their own lives as independent people.
Although it’s lovely and as it should be, I’m finding it hard. I’ve really enjoyed being a mummy to little boys, and this time is drawing to a close. Life is already looking quite different. I’ve no real idea what the future holds and, although I trust that it will all be alright, it’s difficult when everything is up in the air and I don’t quite know where everything will land.
It also goes without saying that living through the pandemic has changed all of us.
Although I still like most of what’s in my wardrobe, it no longer reflects who I am. So here is what I am doing, and I’m thinking of it as still doing Me Made May, just in my own way!
Finding What I Like
Sometimes it’s easiest to start with what you don’t like!
When I’ve relied on ready to wear, I’ve found all to often that it’s been more about what I dislike least, rather than what I actually like. Even finding advice online by people like the Frumpfighters lady still assumes a basic wardrobe of items that everyone wears.
Take jeans for example. I don’t like them. There, I’ve said it! I have no problem with other people wearing jeans. If you like them, then wear them! But please don’t assume that I do too. I tend not to wear trousers very much at all because I prefer skirts and dresses. I find jeans in particular to be uncomfortable, unflattering, too warm when the weather’s nice and not warm enough when it’s cold.
Other things I can safely cross of the list include animal prints, anything where there’s too much flesh on show, and anything that feels nasty or needs ironing.
When it comes to what I like, it’s actually reassuring to find that in some ways, things haven’t changed that much! I still like pretty things, florals and natural fibres. I’m more willing to consider bright colours now than I used to, but I still like pastels. Dresses are the most comfortable things to wear. Having gained some weight during the lockdowns, I’m finding again that skirts are less comfortable as they tend to ride up over the cake baby and the stomach muscles permanently ruined by too many actual babies!
Where to Find Ideas For Clothes You Might Like
The most obvious places are Pinterest and Google Images, but knowing what to look for there can be tricky.
You might try:
A particular period from history
Crazy things from fashion shows
Clothes you have already that you love
Expensive clothes shops that you wouldn’t normally visit
You don’t have to worry about recreating things exactly! There might be something in particular you like about an item. Perhaps it’s the colour, or the neckline, or the shape of the sleeves. Try to identify exactly what it is you like and make a note of it.
I still like dresses from the 40s and 50s. Colourwise, I like green at the moment, and I think orange is an underrated colour.
Having identified what kind of things I like, the next task is to come up with some possible outfits that I could consider making.
Maybe you designed dresses in the back of your maths book as a teenager. Now it’s time to rediscover that younger version of you with those dreams and that imagination.
If your drawing skills need some work, don’t worry! As with lots of things in life, there are tricks to make things easier.
One trick with designing clothes is to use a croquis (“croaky”).
Do you remember paper dolls from when you were a child? There would be a doll, made from cardboard, then a series of paper outfits that you could put her in. They were the same size and shape as the doll, so they all fit her perfectly.
A croquis is the same kind of idea. You draw a figure and, go over it in black pen. Then when you want to design an outfit, you pop a piece of thinnish paper over your croquis and use it as a guide when drawing your outfit.
If you get bored with her being in the same position, you can either redraw or photocopy her onto card, cut her up and rearrange her pose, then draw round her.
Drawing outfits is a lot of fun in itself, even if they don’t all get made!
These are some that I’ve done. I’m still working on them.
Turning the Outfits I’ve Designed into Clothes I Can Wear
It might seem like an impossible task to go from drawing an outfit to actually making it become a reality. But trust me when I say that it is possible! I’ve done it before and you can to!
Starting with one of the designs, the next step is to work out what pattern pieces will be needed and what they might look like.
If you’ve made clothes from patterns, you’ll already have an idea of the kinds of shapes they will need to be.
If you want to try this, but you don’t know how to draft pattern pieces, there is a wealth of information on the internet, including several posts here on Tea and a Sewing Machine.
Another option is to take elements from patterns. So if you have designed a dress, and you know you have a a pattern for a similar bodice but the skirt is different, you can use the bodice part of the pattern and either draft the skirt yourself or look elsewhere for a pattern you can use.
Another thing you can do if you don’t want to draft the pattern pieces is to take apart existing garments and use the pieces as templates. You could even mix and match the pieces from the things you’ve taken apart to make something new!
Other Things You Could Do With Your Designs
The point of drawing the different outfits is to focus more clearly on what you like.
Making those outfits by drafting the pattern pieces is one option. As I’ve said, if drafting the pattern feels too intimidating at the moment, then you can use bits of existing patterns and existing clothes as a starting point.
Other possibilities include:
Using charity shop finds to create the look you want. This could involve taking something apart, combining it with another item or removing or adding bits to it.
See if there is anything already in your wardrobe that you could modify.
Make changes to an existing pattern to create something unique.
This is What I am Doing, and You Can Do it Too!
For me, Me Made May is not about having a lot of outfits or posting on Instagram. It’s a chance to reflect and to consider, and to plan and to make some things if I want to.
I know that making my own clothes matters. It provides more scope for styles, colours and fabrics, it gives a real sense of value to the clothes I wear and is an alternative to fast fashion and a throw away culture.
I’m going to see where things stand in a month’s time!
If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, you might also like this one about designing a handmade wardrobe.
I’ve also written a couple of ebooks on the subject.
Making Clothes Without a Pattern shows how a simple circle skirt can be adapted. The ebook guides you through making a skirt, a top and 4 dresses.
Designing and Making a Dress From Scratch walks you through collecting ideas, designing your dress, drafting the pattern and sewing it all together. It includes a set of printables to help you to record your ideas and plan it all out.