Saturday Musings: Retail Therapy or RTW Fast? #MMMay16

"Dilemma" by zeeveez (Flickr)

Welcome to Week 2 of #MMMay16 here at Making the Flame! This Me Made May I’m sharing thoughts instead of garments because the month started out on a distinct anti-outdoor-photography note.

Today I’m talking about the ‘s’ word — shopping. Many of us sewers have pledged not to do it for a full year or more, but just as many hit up the mall regularly. Where do you fall on that spectrum? Me, I got tired with my makes recently. I love that they fit and they’re unique, but I’ve worn them all a million times. It dawned on me that I hadn’t gone shopping in a long time, so I decided to return to retail.

A photo posted by Ebi Poweigha (@makingtheflame) on

When it comes to clothing, I’m pretty organized (folding allergy notwithstanding). I have one closet and everything must fit in it. When my wardrobe overfloweth, I cull the pieces I don’t love or wear and donate them to Goodwill. I’ve donated tons of RTW clothing this way, but also many homemade garments. I am not precious when it comes to clothes! Inside my closet, I hang my clothes by group. So, all the dresses are together, all the pants, etc. When I work a 9-5 job, I macro-group my clothes by work or casual, and then micro-group each garment type within the macro-group.

So yeah, I’m organized. And I know my wardrobe very well. So I know where it’s lacking, where there are garments I really need. But my sewing does not reflect this at all! I sew what I feel like sewing based on what fabric or pattern from my stash calls out to me. Even though sewing overtook shopping as my main source of new clothes back in 2014, I generally don’t have a firm wardrobe plan when I sit down to my machine.

At the same time, the plus size clothing options in my neck of the woods have seriously shrivelled up. All my favorite stores closed or moved beyond reasonable reach via public transportation. I’m lucky to live one bus away from an Avenue, but it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the four (!!) Marshalls convenient to me sell plus size clothing. Target launched their Ava + Viv line last year, and Macy’s has a plus size section that varies in quality and quantity from store to store. Marshalls has proven to be my best bet, but I still don’t feel like I know where to go. Where do plus size women who don’t sew find clothing???

Increasingly, it’s online. And while I am thrilled we have more options, I am cheap and don’t like to pay for shipping. Also, I like to try my clothes on, or at least see them in person. I bought one thing from Asos last year and never returned it, and regret the purchase. I haven’t bought anything online since. Happily, my recent foray into local retail yielded some key summer wardrobe pieces that I have not been organized enough to sew, including another pair of white denim capris (I’m terrified of sewing jeans…).

Now that I know I can count on Marshalls for clothes and Avenue for underthings, I can enjoy my emotionally-driven sewing habit without guilt. One day, I would like my whole wardrobe to be homemade, but I never want sewing to be a practical activity that satisfies known needs. I can’t know I need a silver circle skirt until I make one! By relying on RTW to fill in the gaps, I can learn to sew intimidating garments at my own pace, without putting undue pressure on myself or sacrificing overall wardrobe quality. As the queen of DIY says: “It’s a good thing.”

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