Why I Don't Sew for Other People Any More
Way back in the 1960's I sewed for other people. I did it because I was a stay at home mom with time on my hands and I liked to sew. I didn't have a large clientele, but the people I sewed for understood the art of fine garments and appreciated good fit and one of a kind designs. I made career suits, gowns for balls and many fun outfits for very appreciative clients.
Many years later, in the 1990's after retiring from a career in teaching I decided to sew again for others. The world had changed, and no more were there ladies who wanted fine garments. Now they just wanted cute and cheap. Oops, I should have said inexpensive. I did pick up a few clients, and the surprising thing was that most of my clients were the morbidly obese who wanted nice garments like their thinner sisters. One sweet little lady said she used to be my size but when her husband died she just ate her heart out. She had tried a seamstress before, and the results were a disaster. I made her three well fitting dresses that made her very happy.
Another client was a young high school girl who was as big as a barn. She was in desperate need of a good fitting bra and had no idea that bras could be purchased in such a large size. I am guessing something in the range of 50+ DDDD to J cup size might have helped. And, yes, those bras do exist. Fittings were a major challenge because I never knew where her flesh was going to land. We got through the fittings, and when all was done she had a prom dress and sweet little jacket to match. The expression on her face when she tried it on made the effort worthwhile. I think these very obese women were two of my most appreciative clients.
Now you would think I would continue sewing for other people but a move to New Mexico from California gave me a different clientele again. This time there were no redeeming aspects in the ladies who came to find out what dressmaking was all about. We would discuss what they wanted, I would quote a price and they would just stammer and gasp and tell me they could buy a dress cheaper. No kidding. Because I am happily retired I just didn't feel like wasting my time on these go nowhere interviews. Nor did I want to see the look of horror on someones face when I quoted a price. Heck, they don't hesitate to pay their plumber or mechanic more than I charge. And that is why I only sew for myself and family, if they catch me in a good mood.
Why I Sew for Myself When I Can Buy a Garment Cheaper (Maybe)
I have been sewing since I was 3 or 4 years old. That is a long time. Many of those years were spent sewing my own wardrobe. Why I continue to sew for myself can be summed up by three reasons, (1) I like clothes, (2) I like well fitting clothes, (3) I like clothes that I can't afford. It is easy to understand 1 and 3, but 2 is the heart of what fine garments are all about.
Firstly, I am vertically challenged. I used to be 5'2" or 3". Age has brought me down to 5'1". No sense lamenting the garments that my tall sisters can carry off. Sometimes even 1/4" makes a difference in how something looks. The best I can do to off set this handicap is to stand up straight and walk well.
Next I will work my way up, starting with my feet and look at why ready made garments just don't work. My feet are just about average, and my toes are fairly even and straight so I can splash on some polish and wear a nice pair of sandals. Ankles are trim and calves are a bit thin but fairly well shaped. Once I get to the knees it all falls apart. My knees are just plain knobby and well, the thighs are definitely not in proportion to the calves. If the calves are a bit thin the thighs are definitely hefty. And to make matters worse I had had varicose veins since I was in high school. The only way a dress works is with a pair of tights or leggings. Ankle length dresses, when they are in fashion are sort of OK. Regular pants are too long and petites are too short. I decided a long time ago that if I have to alter anything I would just make it.
My over all silhouette is a pear. I can live with that. But when I was younger my upper body was easily two sizes smaller than my hips. Age has helped. The difference is only one size smaller now. I am long from my waist to crotch and short in the torso. Compounding the fitting is a bust measuring 32 D. Shoulders are narrow and sloping with the ball of the shoulder rolling slightly forward. Chest is hollow which disguises the large bust but only in looks not it fit.
When you sew as many years as I have you get to know your body really well. Now that I know all the reasons why ready made clothes just don't look good on me I can work on making garments that do work. Most of my pattern alterations are in the length except the increase in bust size. I can either draft my own pattern or make the alteration on a commercial pattern. Because I look best in classic lines without to many extraneous things going on I tend to use a pattern for years and vary it ever so slightly.
I started with my feet so I will end with my head. Thanks to good genes and a good surgeon I continue to look younger than my years. Somehow my hair is still its natural color. To sum up my feet and head are my best features, and what is in between requires careful fitting to compliment the good parts. And that is why I make my own clothes.