The art of handmade clothes
Today I’d like to tell you a story, rather than just writing an article, about the art of sewing. It is something that is deeply connected to my childhood, and I hope it might move some of your hearts who had a similar experience!
From time to time, when I look at my nonna, Laura, I think about my childhood and the long afternoons I used to spend beside her, watching her working at her sewing machine. Having it been a lifelong hobby and passion, after she retired, she kept being a seamstress for herself, family and friends. I remember about the things she used to make: beautiful, colorful dresses made out of long meters of fabric bought at the local market, as well as shortening trousers or narrowing their waist. I’ve always loved to look up the fashion magazines my mum red, so I usually brought my grandma cut outs of their pages and begged her to make those clothes for me.
It was wonderful, for the eyes of a little girl, to see those pieces come to life after long, patient hours spent measuring, cutting, sewing.
My mum is a clothes lover but not a good sewer (she still remembers, laughing to the point of tearing, about the first time she stitched a few buttons to a night gown and after she put that on, they all suddenly burst out). She is more of a knitting kind of person, something her mother, my other beloved nonna, Edi, thought her to do. When I was younger, she used to knit winter scarfs, bed socks and little lovely doilies, pieces I still cherish nowadays, well kept in a box of memories, something I one day might pass to my children.
Another knitting lover is my friend Giulia: she took up this as a hobby during Covid’s first national quarantine, as a way to calm herself during such hard times; she also says that she finds her clothes to be more special, both for emotional value and for the environmental impact, when they are handmade by her or even just embellished. She wishes one day to open her own little online shop to make handmade clothes for all bodies, fitting them on people instead of using common sizes measurements.
Last Christmas, for our little Secret Santa me and my girls have, she gifted me with a super cute, blue and white crochet bag, handmade by her. She excused herself as soon as I opened the gift: “You must excuse me Ire, the bag has a few imperfections here and there. But I hope you like it, l’ho fatta con le mie manine!”. Looking at the little bag, I thanked her so much and reassured her that it was because of those little flaws that it was even more beautiful and precious, ‘cause they would remind me of the hard work and time she spent making it for me as a gift! She has also agreed to teach me how to knit.
This is exactly the point I’d like to state by telling you about these memories made with my significant others: no matter how imperfect they are, handmade clothes are for me something more and more special as times passes. Thinking about the time, the love, the creative ideas that lay behind the fabric, I can’t help but get a little emotional and be thankful for those unique pieces. It was normal for our grandmas to make clothes for themselves or go to the local seamstress and commission her a few dresses to wear daily or for special occasions, experiencing the intimate moment of measurements taking, fabric choosing and fitting trials. But in times where we (and I’m among those “we” too, guilty!) all want to wear in-trend things, exiting fast fashion shops with bags full of cheap clothes, made by exploited people who have no rights nor money to live a dignified life, clothes that next season we will already find off, I think we should cherish the ones that were made by the hands of a loved one. It is the same, if not more, value that we think lays in vintage, second hand, clothes, knowing that they have once been worn by people and keep a secret story in the links of the cloth.
Since last year, I have tried, with many failing trials, to make a few clothes for myself with my grandmother’s, Edi, old sewing machine that my mum well-kept in the loft for years. By now, I have made two skirts, a shot pink one and a long, blue denim one, perfect for those days where I want to dress like the protagonist of a k-drama.
Looking up on Tik-Tok and Pinterest, I’ve noticed that this “sewing mania” did not take over me only: many people, especially Gen-Z babes, have started to post video tutorials and pictures of their hand-made clothes, showing the whole process that took them to the final piece. A lot of them attend fashion schools, and I think that it is amazing to see that people have started to see again that fashion is not only made of designers and managers, but also of creative minds gifted with the capacity to make stunning clothes with their hands (and a little help from professional machines).
Even TV programs about sewing have started to get popular: the latest one, in Italy, is “Tailor Made”, a competition for young seamstress who want to work in the fashion industry, where one of the three judges is Elide Morelli, the memorable seamstress of Maison Valentino. In an interview, Elide Morelli said that she is happy about new generations: even though they think they already know how to do everything, they are, on the other hand, more hardworking than before and willing to learn new things every day.
The best portrait to hold all of this, I think, is Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, stated by LYST as “the hottest fashion brand of the second semester of 2022”, sitting in his living room armchair, knitting with his little chihuahua assistant on his lap.
And what about you babes, do you have lovely sewing memories and experiences to share with us?
Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s creative director, knitting with his little chihuahua assistant https://www.instagram.com/p/CJVvOdCKXMT/