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Rebecca Hoskins / Her Campus Media

What Sewing my Own Clothes Has Taught me About the Fast Fashion Industry

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

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That’s all I did. Everyday. 

Oh, and checkout. Of course.

It was too much of a bargain to deny. The top was alright, but for only $4.99, I needed it. 

Soon my drawers began to overflow with t-shirts while jeans spread all across my bedroom floor. Repelled by the mess, I would grab a trash bag and stuff whatever clothes I no longer needed into it, hoping the donation center would deal with the huge surplus. As I grabbed some old shorts that were too pilled to wear and my childhood basketball hoodies, I would come across an occasional brand-new piece, with a crisp tag still dangling by the sleeve. Stuffing all these into the same trash bag, I felt a sense of guilt. However, the guilt never hit me hard enough as the cycle continued the very next day with me browsing the Urban Outfitters website. 



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“Fast fashion” was not a new term for me. I understood the detrimental impacts on the environment and unethical labour practices that these money-hungry companies caused. Yet, I continued to feed them the very money they needed to survive. And I was not alone. Everyone understands the negative effects of shopping fast fashion; and like most people, the facts and statistics aside were just not enough to convince me to change my ways. 

Somewhere along this cycle, I learned how to sew. I taught myself through YouTube videos and instantly fell in love. I loved the idea of creating a completely unique dress for my high school semi-formal, eliminating any risk of clashing with someone. I loved the idea of ensuring my blouse would be the perfect length: just long enough to be tucked in but not too long so that it’s bulky. And most of all, I loved the idea of shouting, “I made this top!” when a friend complimented my outfit. But as I got better and started to create more, I realized my love for sewing did not come from the action of stitching pieces together but rather the overall results.

The excitement disappeared when my sister would ask me to alter her dress pants. Instead, I despised the simple action of rethreading the machine from a blue to black thread. And when people would ask for my help with alterations, I did it out of courtesy and not for a boost to my bank account. I found that I didn’t care how much money someone would offer me, as I would either help them to be polite or reject them because the job was too difficult for the small set of skills that I had The thrill of whipping out the machine just wasn’t there, no matter the price. However, as soon as I drew up a design for my next personal project, the passion would instantly return again. 

Making clothes is difficult. Pleating the fabric for those cute tennis skirts takes hours of concentration just to ensure the material is evenly distributed among each fold. Cutting the sleeves for a simple t-shirt is surprisingly difficult as each piece must be measured to perfection to fit the armhole. And when all the preparation is done, just stepping on the pedal to run the machine becomes a pain when the pieces are sewn on the wrong side of the fabric. Then a difficult decision is to be made: rip all the hard work apart and restart, or just pretend that it’s the look I’m going for. It was these factors that opened up a new perspective for myself in terms of fast fashion.

I began to realize the immense efforts that go behind the scenes as companies launch hundreds of new styles each day. Sewing a single tank top took hours of persistence, but it was worth it to me as soon as I tried on my finished masterpiece. However, the workers in the industry don’t have the opportunity to show off their awesome new dress at brunch. Instead, the dress is being priced on clearance and thrown around the store while they are compensated for their hard work with an unlivable wage. From this, I made the decision to do my best in joining the fight against fast fashion. 

There are many methods to join the fight against fast fashion; a simple one would be to shop second-hand and research ethical companies, but notably, making a sharp change to cancel all fast fashion is difficult. It is important to remember that the issue is not purchasing a single pair of leggings from the mall but rather excessive overconsumption. Simple things can make a large difference whether it be removing that extra graphic tee from the cart, ensuring the final-sale mom jeans are the perfect fit, and mentally planning a few outfits before purchasing that statement bright pink puffer. I too am working on one little thing at a time. My struggle has not been from the clothes itself but from my demanding sneaker addiction!

Ultimately, my experience is only another reason to end the habit of overconsumption. As numbers themselves cannot convince most people, including myself, I hope this narrative offers a different perspective to spark change. 

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Jessica Ho

Toronto MU '24

Zainab is a 4th-year journalism student from Dubai, UAE who is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus at Ryerson. When she's not taking photos for her Instagram or petting dogs on the street, she's probably watching a rom-com on Netflix or journaling! Zainab loves The Bold Type and would love to work for a magazine in New York City someday! Zainab is a feminist and fierce advocate against social injustice - she hopes to use her platform and writing to create change in the world, one article at a time.