How many people do you know who regularly sew clothing for themselves or their family members? One woman in Texas recently emailed that only one store that sells fabric exists in her town of 35,000 people, making it difficult to select fabric to sew bridesmaids' dresses for her daughter's wedding. This is the same town that in years past had three of the major chain fabric stores, all having now gone out of business. Many of the major fabric stores that do exist are shifting inventory toward crafters and quilters rather than keeping plentiful stock for apparel construction. However, we'd like to think that sewing clothing is not a dying art but rather one that can and will be revived.
One setback for sewing in recent years has been the skewed sizing used by the major pattern companies. Someone who typically wears a size 8 in ready-to-wear usually needs a size 12 in most sewing pattern sizes to fit comfortably. Most women are not prepared to purchase patterns two or three sizes larger than what they normally buy in stores, even when they have taken their own measurements. Focus on size as an emotional issue in our culture creates a mental block for many women, even if they have their real measurements in hand. Furthermore, proportions of many patterns are too large in the bust and too small in the hip to allow the average woman to cut one size from top to bottom to achieve the right shape for a good fit.
Another setback for sewing over the last few decades has been the shift from domestic manufacturing of clothing to offshore manufacturing with concurrent plummeting in prices of ready-to-wear. To purchase fabric, a pattern and other sewing supplies and spend the time to construct a garment is now rarely less expensive than the purchase of cheap import merchandise.
That's where the issue of modesty with style comes in. The availability of modest clothing with true designer style is scarce. Women who want a runway look with the addition of a higher neckline, longer hemline and sleeves find the most success in sewing such items for themselves. It is our goal at Fashion Belle to continue working toward an eventual publishing of exclusive sewing patterns that will make well-fitted, modest patterns with designer style easier to find, and in the meantime, we've listed as many resource links as we can find for locating ready-to-wear clothing that fits your lifestyle.
I Agree, Gigi on March 10, 2012
I have sewn since I was ten years old (a 4-H member!), but have given it up for the very reasons you state. (1) It is rarely cost-effective any more to sew my own clothes (2) there is just one fabric store in my town and they have shifted their inventory to reflect arts/crafts. I would love to see a revival of home-sewn clothing. Count me in!