Hey there! My name is Megan and I'm the sewing, pattern making girl behind Dolly Henry. This is my blog, where I share my own creative adventures and hope to meet fellow fabric enthusiasts. I also design and sell sewing patterns through my online boutique, alongside a beautiful collection of clothing and dolls. Thank you for stopping by!


A Serious Chat About The True Cost of Clothing

There are so many reasons being creative is wonderful. I have come to think of it as essential.
Essential for joy, essential for having something that makes sense when somedays, depending on what news you encounter, nothing else seems to.

This blog was started because I needed to find my way back to creativity, after a long stint of making to sell had drained my resources and general love of creating. The journey this has taken me one has been quite amazing, I have learned so much and met lots of new people.

I have learned obvious things such as new skills in sewing and crochet. I've learned how to make my own patterns and handle all the techy stuff I never thought I'd be able to.

I have also learned quite a lot of things I never expected. And I have learned how important it is to cultivate this delicate creative industry, how to cherish those who rely on it for their bread and butter and why supporting small businesses in this industry is really important.

 I didn't ever think that creativity or sewing or quilts or making clothes could be harnessed with politics, serious reforms or the national economy. But it turns out that this creative industry is and it's quite amazing because a large portion of the population still see sewing and hobbies as something that isn't totally necessary and at the most, is a fluffy thing to do that we don't actually need. And one we shouldn't be paid for.

This isn't the case. I don't touch very often on bigger more serious topics and I always try to keep a balance of positivity and lightness on my blog. I am so aware of how many messages we are hit with on serious topics from however many different outlets now and creativity can be an escape from all that.

I'd like to point out a few things though, that creativity has taught me and why I am constantly learning so many more things about the world around me through my sewing and design. One of them being the need for reform in the fashion and clothing industry.

Before fashion revolution, the need to question the ethics and origins behind the clothing we buy, I was already finding my way down the path of discovery. This is because I was making lots of small clothes and finding myself unable to keep up with demand. I went looking for an answer and for most people, this is manufacturing.

My creativity led me to research this as an option and that was when I learned about some of the serious problems in the fashion industry as it stands. I feel also that I have a deeper insight into the hard work that does go into creating a single garment from a seamstresses point of view.

I have lived the long hours, felt the aches and pains this caused in my body and the small amount of money I was given for my labors.

Inevitably, my personal experience and research into how the clothes in my cupboard are made has helped me make small changes in my own life, and appreciate that making my own clothes is actually really important.

Aside from some of the appalling conditions many women find themselves having to work in, the environmental pollution and waste created in the fashion industry helped me to see how necessary slow fashion is. Why it's a matter of environmental importance and human rights that clothing is priced correctly.

I have learned so much and I continue to discover new things that lead me to believe that it is vital we change our perspective on more 'expensive' clothing and products because there is a far bigger cost lying underneath. I feel justified in demanding a fair wage for the products I create, in the same way another might demand a fair wage to be a teacher, retail assistant or therapist.

Everyone else in Australia believes they are entitled to a fair wage so I believe women sitting at a sewing machine do too - whether they work here, or somewhere over the big blue sea.

The job is incredibly labour intensive and expensive. There are a lot of costs involved. A handmade or ethically made product may be a lot more expensive to purchase, but you can be almost sure that the profit margins are still lower than the big markups most of us pay on cheap mass-made items.

It's also like comparing apples to oranges. The price comparison shouldn't be made because the quality difference is enormous. A handmade dress or doll is also not a bottle of milk or a bag of flour. The consumer doesn't need to purchase it week in, week out. It's a one of a kind, investment purchase. And one that will bring both the customer and the maker a lot more satisfaction.

For all this excessive spending on cheaper clothes and frequent discounts (my phone sometimes chimes three times a day from clothing stores telling me there is nothing under $40) I don't believe it's made anyone feel any happier, or better about themselves or their life in general. Being happy to throw something away means you never loved it very much at all.

As for op-shopping, it's almost impossible to find something of good quality for less now. A lot of stuff is only suitable for a season before the fabric wears out and it feels awful to look at racks of second-hand clothing that never should have been donated in the first place. The only clothing that holds up are those have been well-made. I can't help but think of all the 'vintage' pieces that are still being worn nearly sixty years later (60 YEARS) and feel a little sad that most garments we buy now won't last even a tenth of that time.

Handmade garments and clothing that has been made well, to that old tried-and-true standard will however. And they will be passed on to a new generation, probably discarded by the next until the fashion circulates and what was old is once again trendy again. There is a history and a record in these pieces of clothing. There are stories in the quilts that are made from the faded memories of a party dress.

So with all this waste, this inability to understand that clothing should not be cheap, that people should not go unpaid, should not be working under such huge amounts of pressure for very little, the piles of unworn and unwanted clothing piling up on the planet, we are in fact paying a very, very high price. It just doesn't always come out of our bank account.

And that doesn't make it right.

My eyes were opened a little further reading this article on the HuffPost about how automation is endangering the jobs of women in clothing factories overseas. It's interesting as the topic of wages often comes up as an issue with cheap clothing but this article offers further insight into why the need for so much cheap clothing may eventually also cost these women their jobs - jobs that they absolutely cannot do without.

 I can't help thinking when I read this - there must be something we can do to change this industry and ensure that not only do these women continue to have jobs but that they are paid much more fairly for what they do. In my opinion, it's hypocritical worrying about things like a gender pay gap etc when women just like you and me are struggling to make ends meet or live in a way that we would like to live for the sake of women like you and me having 10 dresses in the wardrobe.

Yes, we should address all these issues. But we need to do SO much better. These changes start by caring, understanding and changing our perspective on the cost of clothing. Whether that is for a handmade dress in Australia or a factory made garment overseas. These clothes are made by people and the resources to make them were made by people. And those people, whether they live in Australia or in another country, deserve to be paid and to live WELL.

Until we change the way we think about clothes, nobody will benefit from the current system.

Megan xx

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