On Ethical Fashion and Bra-Making

Fair warning, here there be (non-modeled) underwear. But first, a story. Well two stories.

One of the great things about maintaining a blog (fairly) consistently over nearly 8 years, is that you can conveniently provide a time stamp for when you said something you've totally just contradicted yourself on.

In this case, it was April 30, 2008

"You see, I have this *crazy* idea about slowly crafting an entire wardrobe - except t-shirts and underwear, because I'm not that crazy."
-Me in 2008

Clearly, I am that crazy now. Because I've started making my own underthings, and it's awesome and I'm kinda obsessing about it right now. 

But how did I get from 2008 to here?  A lot of it has to do with how the sewing blogosphere has really embraced lingerie-sewing and indie designers are coming out with great really make-able patterns. But for me it really comes down to story #2, which is something I've (perhaps surprisingly) not talked about on the blog as of yet.

You see, what it really boils down to is that in January 2014, I bought a pair of grey corduroy pants on clearance for $2.98. I know that there are lower costs of living, and loss leaders, and economies of scale. I also know that to sew a pair of pants, even assembly-line fashion, takes some time. And I knew that there was no way you could pay someone a fair wage and sell their product for $3. 

I'm sure the company sold those pants at a loss. They were on clearance and a online-only extra long size (which I hemmed in about 5 minutes). I bought the pants and I wear them a TON in the fall and winter. There's nothing wrong with the pants, I quite like them, but for some reason at that moment, I realized that thanks to my ability to sew and sufficient disposable income to make choices about my own clothing, I could do better.

And so, I decided that from there on out, I would make what I had time to (which is fairly limited) and was only going to purchase clothes from ethical sources.

Ethical to me means:

  • Second Hand Purchases.
  • Made under ethical working conditions, including Made in the USA (or other first-world country), Fair Trade, or other production method that provides a working wage and safe conditions to its workers. 
  • Made to last. 
  • As possible, Organic or Sustainable Materials.

In truth, the first  ten months or so of this experiment involved a lot of returns to teeny little companies trying to do the right thing. Some things just weren't my style. Some had odd or inconsistent sizing. Some didn't have quality to match to the price. Fortunately, I've found a few companies who I adore and fill in the gaps in mywardrobe when I need it. 

One thing I just haven't had much luck with was underthings. There are definitely companies out there making quality, ethical underwear and bras, but none of them seemed to fit my body just right and/or were at a price point I could handle to meet my growing need for replacements.

And that's why I finally figured I'd give sewing underthings a go. And I am sorry that I waited this long. 

The pattern below is the very popular Watson Bra and Bikini. I made a bunch of modifications to the bikini to be more full coverage (raised the rise by ~1 and lowered the leg line by about the same), the bra I sewed as is. 

The fabric/notions/etc. for the first set all came from a kit from Grey's Fabric. The kit made it easier to get started, because most of this stuff  isn't available at my local fabric stores. I made the briefs and bra over a weekend and then the next Monday morning found myself making orders from places called Spandex House and Sew Sassy, to get more stuff to make so many more sets. So far I'm up to three pairs of undies and am sewing my second bra. It's seriously addictive and I'm eyeballing other patterns to try out (Marlborough Bra, I'm looking at you!). I'm probably going to keep going until I have a drawer full. 

Sometimes, it's good to be a little crazy.

Watson Bra made by Ms. Cleaver
Watson Bra made by Ms. Cleaver
Watson Bra made by Ms. Cleaver
Watson Bra made by Ms. Cleaver
Watson Bra made by Ms. Cleaver
Lacy Watson briefs sewn by Ms. Cleaver

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