Garments made from reused fabrics

Stitching & Sustainability: Home Garment Making Skills as a Tool for Change in Fashion

Researcher: Sara Wilcox

Program: Apparel Design

How do home garment makers’ skills and knowledge inform their decisions about their clothing throughout its lifespan, including making, maintenance, and disposal?

Textile waste is a rapidly growing problem, and consumers must find more sustainable ways to meet their wardrobe needs without creating endless mountains of clothing waste. One important step toward sustainability is treating clothing as valuable rather than disposable. Consumers' garment use and maintenance practices are important to study alongside design to improve sustainability in fashion. Home garment makers are a unique group because their knowledge of garment production may inform their decisions about clothing use, maintenance, and disposal. The purpose of this research was to understand the connection between clothing value and sustainability in garment makers’ practice through in-depth interviews with fifteen makers.

Themes resulting from their responses include significant investments of time and creativity in their handmade garments, deep knowledge of garment making techniques, and sustainability as a major factor in their motivation to make garments, all leading to very high value attached to garments. Participants value their own time, skill, and creative energy in making clothing, and that translates to valuing the work behind retail garments as well. The results suggest that increased instruction in garment making methods could lead to consumers placing higher value on clothing items and thus an overall decrease in textile waste.

Funders: CDes Design Graduate Program