Which is Easier and Faster:Shopping or Sewing

 A deluge has fallen over the Ohio River Valley cleaning the air of all the springtime pollen.  No longer holding the left side of my face whimpering for reprieve from the constant sharp ache I am now up and about and feeling renewed.  Over the past few days I haven’t done any sewing and cannot deliver the original article promised, but the sewing down-time has given me time to consider a question I am sometimes asked by non-sewers.

Why Sew When Shopping is Easier and Takes Less Time?

Every once in awhile I get asked this, usually by someone who is incredulous that garments can be made at home.  Or the question is followed by the derisive snort of a woman who I suppose imagines I should be doing more important things.  (Strangely this hobby touches upon strong resonant cords in the feminine psyche, not all of them positive.)

But back to the question – Which takes less time,





It depends.  When I was a standard misses size 8-10 shopping was faster.  I still had narrow shoulders, a short waist and all of my personal idiosyncrasies but frankly a poor fit in a RTW garment did not show as much when I wore a smaller size.  Additionally the time and emotional energy invested were significantly less when I shopped in the misses department.  I had fewer try-ons in those depressing fitting rooms, and if a garment was not flattering, I felt only mild discouragement.  I knew just a little more hunting would turn up something suitable at a price I could afford.

Given that dressmaking requires pattern and fabric selection, cutting, sewing with its necessary acquisition of technique, along with the fitting and finishing details – when I was a smaller woman shopping was definitely quicker and easier than sewing. Then I sewed first for enjoyment and then for fit.

Today that situation is reversed.

Even with all of the requirements listed above, sewing is now easier and less time-consuming than shopping. I am in the early plus-sizes and shopping has now become fraught for four reasons.  

First – the fit.  Now that I am plus-size fabric folds and gaps that were minor bumps in the road so to speak, are now great gullies.   

Second – my time.  Today finding a flattering garment doesn’t mean looking around one or two shops.  Now I might have to traipse close to half a dozen stores, try on everything they have, and still not arrive at the garment I want. 

Third – my emotions. The fitting room experience has grown from a tedious chore to a necessary evil.  Trying on item after item and looking good in none of them, well, it’s hard not to take that personally.  

Fourth – my money.  Yes, there are good plus-size clothes out there as so many stylist admonish.  What they don’t acknowledge is the cost.  They will admit that “you will pay a bit more.”  “A bit more” means “a lot more.”   The cost of one terrific garment is often more than my budget for an entire outfit.  Additionally, as so many women are plus-size and stores choose to limit their inventory of those items, there are fewer sales and bottom-dollar finds available to the plus-size shopper meaning she pays more for fewer clothes than her standard sized sisters. 

Given the above obstacles simply acquiring a wardrobe is difficult to say the least.  But home-sewing affords me an expedient way out.    

The Home-Sewn Solution

First – fit.  This is the most obvious place plus-size women benefit from sewing. On my figure most plus-size RTW is too tight at the stomach and swims at the shoulders on me. Buying a bigger size just means extensive alterations almost to the point of re-sewing an entire garment.  Every home sewer gets to know her personal pattern adjustments like the back of her hand.  Also a practice muslin lets her fine tune the fit much better than nearly any off-the-rack garment.


Second – time.  I can take time fitting one pattern that I use repeatedly to make a lot of clothes or I can take time going from store to store usually with a growing sense of discouragement about both my body type and of ever finding even one flattering garment.  Also I am bringing along a young child during these shopping expeditions. Traipsing from shop to shop with a bored preschooler who requires that I walk slower, calculate the most propitious feeding times, try to keep her amused while at the same time consider the best buy is a hassle and that is an understatement.  Sewing while the kiddo watches Dinosaur Train is less demanding of both my own and my daughter’s time and temperament.

Third – emotions.  Reference the above and you can imagine my usual emotional state on the department store floor. But sewing also allows me to delete the despicable fitting room experience altogether.  I look more like myself and I am less defensive trying on clothes in my own bedroom.  If I look crap in a practice muslin I don’t take it personally for some reason. I don’t feel unloved and rejected by the fashion design world.  I just move on.

Fourth – money.  I have found plus-size shopping to be so expensive that unlike the commonly held wisdom amongst home-sewers, that sewing is more expensive than sale shopping, sewing fashionable desirable garments is less expensive than paying full retail which I am forced to do at my size.

Even if sewing does take time, I can do it at odd hours and my preschooler is entertained with toys at home.  The fitting challenges in sewing are often the same as in ready-to-wear, and with sewing I have a chance to correct them. Thankfully all of those years I didn’t have to sew, I did gain enough proficiency to cut, fit and sew with a fair degree of speed.  Practice muslins allow me to assess both fit and style in a cut and dry manner with less emotional energy invested. Shopping has become a largely negative experience and sewing largely a positive one so I engage in sewing more often than shopping. 

So at this time in my life my answer to the incredulous is that yes, sewing is easier and faster than shopping, at least right now.  At one time that wasn’t the case, but times have changed.

How about you?  Where do you find yourself on the sewing/shopping continuum?  And have your feelings about both sewing and shopping changed for you at different points in your life?

Next Post: Tuesday, May 18, 2010; topic – Undecided as I now have a backlog of work resulting from time-off due to the crud.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ellen
    May 13, 2010 @ 21:48:21

    I’m with you! I hate shopping for RTW these days. It is mentally exhausting.


  2. Lisa Laree
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:28:28

    yup. You nailed it!!


  3. Sister
    May 15, 2010 @ 00:04:50

    I’m with you too – I don’t enjoy shopping and I don’t have the time anyway. It’s easier to be upstairs than to be at the mall. The kids will come watch TV or read while I’m sewing, and they think it’s cool that I can make something wearable. My 13-year-old son took the shorts I made him to change into for a party today after school, when I thought for sure he’d take his gray RTW shorts – what a compliment!

    Now I complimented somebody at work on her shirt today, and she told me it was $1 at Walmart – apparently a clearance sale was happening and tons of things were $1-3. I have trouble arguing about sewing being cheaper in that case, but I know mine will last longer!


  4. Elaray
    May 15, 2010 @ 08:23:56

    I think shopping is faster and easier. But I still sew most of my wardrobe. A few weeks ago I need a simple white blouse. My machine was in the shop, so I went shopping. I didn’t find anything that suited my needs. Luckily, my machine came back in time to finish the white blouse I’d started. It was easy to stop into the closest Lane Bryant, but I seldom find what I need when I need it.


  5. Hatty
    May 29, 2010 @ 17:09:06

    I’m a size 14 and sewing is still faster, easier and more pleasant.


  6. Becky
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 22:34:29

    Sewing also doubles as therapy for me. It’s my time for me to do what I want to do. The fitting challenges in sewing I take as challenges, in RTW I take them as an insult.
    The reward of a nice fitting outfit or my children chosing their home made things is worth the effort.


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