Making 100% of your wardrobe might be unrealistic for you. Maybe you just want to make a sizable portion of your wardrobe or focus on sewing certain types of garments. You likely want to make clothes that fit your body and your style, but you might not necessarily want to make every single thing yourself. Sewing takes a lot of time, and fabric isn’t cheap.
So if that's the case for you, how do you decide what's worth making and what you'd rather buy? Here are six questions you can ask yourself to help you decide what to make and what to buy.
1. How much time will it take you to sew it?
The tricky thing with impulse shopping (and impulse sewing) is that you want the garment right now, but you might not actually need it. Sometimes, though, you actually really do need the garment right now! For example, if it’s cold out and you don’t have a jacket, you might not be able to sit through the process of getting fabric, cutting, lining, and sewing a coat.
If you don’t have much sewing time, you need to be more selective about the projects you sew. Rather than sewing garments you feel you should make, you might want to prioritize the projects you really want to make. Think about how you want to invest your sewing time.
2. Can you find the right materials?
Some projects require hard-to-find notions. Denim hardware, leather-working supplies, and lingerie notions can be difficult to source. So before making something, can you source all the necessary supplies?
Another factor to consider is the quality or appearance of the notions. Sometimes, you can’t find the same quality that you would find in ready-to-wear. And sometimes, you can’t find the exact color or print you want. In this case, it might be worth buying the garment rather than making it. However, you might just need to put a little more work into researching where to buy materials—and then be patient if they need to ship from far away. We have a list of our favorite sources for indie notions here.
3. Can you afford to buy it?
Is it really more affordable to sew your own clothes? It depends on a lot of things, and you can read about that in this article. However, when discussing high-end clothing that often comes with a costly designer price tag, it is sometimes worth getting the materials yourself and sewing them.
For example, tailored coats and suits are expensive. The fabric is also expensive, but sometimes you can save money if you skip the designer label. A T-shirt might be the opposite. The fabric may be more expensive than buying a shirt in a store.
4. Can you find a version that fits you?
Not all brands carry all sizes, and some garments might not be accessible to you. Or the fit might be off. In this case, it will be worth it to sew it.
You might sacrifice a great fit even if you can afford to buy it in the store. However, if you sew it yourself, you can prioritize the fit, so you know you’re getting it right. We even have a free fitting journal that can help you do this.
Speaking of sacrifices, that's a clue for the next question.
5. Are you sacrificing something if you were to buy it?
It’s easier to buy clothes, but what are you giving up? Fit is important, but what about the fabric's color or fiber content? Does the garment have all the details you’d want, or would you love it even more if you could change a few things to match your style? For example, maybe the neckline is too high or too low. Or maybe you want pockets, and the ready-to-wear garment doesn't have any.
Think about what you are sacrificing if you buy the garment. You can’t pattern hack something you buy, so consider that before you decide.
6. Will you enjoy sewing it?
Sewing is supposed to be fun. You want it to bring you joy. If you don't look forward to making it, that’s counter to the entire idea of sewing for enjoyment. So ask yourself, are you going to enjoy sewing it? And if the answer is no, then there is no reason at all that you need to make it.
The good news is that this question can often point you to more sewing and less shopping. Think about the types of garments you love to make. If you slow down and enjoy the process, you can find joy in a bunch of different projects. This can curb your shopping because you’ll be excited about sewing it instead.
The next time you’re wondering if you should buy that pair of jeans or make your own, or if you see a T-shirt you love, but you know you have a similar fabric at home, take a moment to ask yourself these questions. Your answers will help you decide what to do. Answering these questions will also improve your attitude towards your decisions after the fact. You'll understand why you decided to make this garment and what you're getting out of the process, or you’ll know why you decided to buy this garment, and you won’t feel guilt about buying it instead of making it.