My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

Goth is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, the expression of that in Goth rock. It looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, et al) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Sewing, D.I.Y And Alternative Fashion

I think one of the key skills any lover of alternative fashion should posses is a basic ability to sew.

However brilliant one's bargain hunting skills, thrifting abilities, and eye for style when shopping, you are ultimately limited by what other people produce. 

Even thrift, secondhand, and vintage shopping has its limitations. Someone, somewhere, bought all those secondhand clothes originally, often from a mass-producing retailer. Yes, buying secondhand clothes helps reduce waste by re-homing perfectly good, or slightly damaged clothes so they don't end up in landfill, or being recycled (the process of which consumes energy, remember), and so there is plenty of good in buying secondhand, but it does have its limitations, especially if you are trying to get hold of a specific type of item in a specific size; sewing broadens these limitations - you can buy a shirt in nice material that is too small, but with puffy sleeves, re-shape the sleeves and use the extra material to put side-panels into the shirt, and thus have something that fits nicely, or buy a skirt that is too long and take it up, or something that is very cheap because it is damaged, and mend it, etc. Being able to mend your own clothes is a good skill in general; if you have something you love, and a seam is torn, that should not be its death, or reason to pay someone else to fix it when it can be easily repaired at home.

A lot of retailers, for mostly economic reasons, tend to stock only a certain range of sizes based around average shapes that will fit the maximum number of people each, but will not fit everyone. I have the problem that I have quite dramatic curves, and if I find a top that fits my waist, it will often not fit over my bust, but if I find a top that fits my bust, it will rarely be anything other than baggy at the waist; with actually fairly basic sewing skills, I have learnt to take things in so that they have a more flattering fit. There are many things, that because of my height, I have trouble shopping for - especially skirts! Getting things at a suitable length is hard, and finding things that are actually floor-lenghth on me, especially from deliberately Goth/Alternative retailers, nigh on impossible unless I order made-to-order and custom sizes. Other people of statistical outlier sizes (the very petite, the larger, the very tall, the very short, etc.) have similar issues - if you can sew you can make alterations to improve fit; from adding inserts to taking things in, from adding ruffles to the bottom of a skirt to raising the hem, there are a lot of possibilities. 

Once you get confident, you can start making things from patterns, either bought or self-drafted and designing your own clothes! That there is the start of limitless possibilities bounded only by your imagination.

A lot of people are daunted by the prospect of sewing; it looks like a difficult art-form, and one that is quite dull to practice. First of all, sewing is primarily a set of practical skills; it is an understanding of fabric and thread, and the various ways these can be combined. I think for those who are less artistic it might be better to think of it as a form of practical problem solving rather than as a craft, because the artistic part is secondary to making or mending in a functional way. Secondly, basic sewing isn't actually very difficult, especially if you have a sewing machine (although learning how to hand-stitch neatly is pretty useful). Sewing can become difficult and challenging as you set yourself ever more ambitious projects (sleeves and attaching them straight...), but the basic skills are actually quite simple. 

There are a LOT of very good and easy-to-follow sewing and dress-making tutorials and lessons on the internet, starting with some very basic skills, and going all the way through into detailed and elaborate projects (make your own period-accurate Victorian ensemble, including underwear!). Evening classes are available in many towns and cities, most libraries have instructional and project books. The learning material is out there. Yes, it takes time and some patience, but even the basic projects can look very effective, or be vital to saving your favourite garments. Start with simple things to learn and practice skills, and then apply those skills to more ambitious projects, and then acquire more skills and attempt even more ambitious projects, and so on... it's a lot less daunting when done in small steps. 

If you don't want to pursue sewing as a hobby, that is fine, but it is still a useful skill for the repair of the garments you buy, and can save you the cost of taking it to someone else to be repaired. 


  1. I'm so glad to see someone with the same ideals. When suggesting to people on where to begin learning the rudimentary skills of sewing, I always tell them to begin by reconstructing old clothing.

    I'm quite surprised that there isn't a lot of sewing classes that advocate that-- they usually teach people using patterns first. To me, that's an intermediate skill that leads novices to the fear of sewing.

    1. I agree; in mending things you learn so much about how clothes are constructed - that should be the first step before learning to make things from scratch.

  2. I love sewing. It's surprising how relaxing it is - you can find yourself lost in a project for hours.

    1. Sometimes I get too carried away and realise that it's gone midnight and I have to be up early for work in the morning!


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