The Tide of Empowerment

It has been a traditional key feature of womanhood that a young girl must learn to sew. She must be able to make her children’s clothing; she should have a dab hand with a needle and thread. She will embroider, she will knit, she will weave, she will cut, and she shall form her desirability as a woman through her skill.

Things haven’t exactly changed today, even in our western, liberal, empowered, foot-stomping, protest marching, she-world revolutionary era that is the 21st century. Let’s be honest, women and fashion go hand in hand. Do you really need a stat to prove that girls dominate GCSE Textiles? (Statistics)

Sure we can talk about the male-role that is evidently there, but I want to draw attention as to why the ability to make our own clothes is not old-fashioned. If anything, this level of engineering is one that I think women can be proud of today. However, It doesn’t just stop there. Women can be proud DIY-ers in more areas than making their own clothes; this is a craft that I think both genders can find value in today.

My grandmas have made me clothes, my mother has always had her sewing machine at the ready, and neither of those should be taken as understatements. One of the best things about these magical women was that I could take one look at Princess Jasmine and say I want to wear what she wears, (the story about why a trouser-wearing princess was my idea of cool is for another day) but just like that, with a small hunt for materials, patience, and bearing the wearing of pin-laden try-ons, my little dream could become a reality.

Now I’m at uni, where everyone is crafting their identity, I have found something that expresses my personality, skill, determination, and love for creating, through a bit of sewing. I happened to watch a video on how to make a neon sign by two Canadians that go by the name of ‘The Sorry Girls,’ and it snowballed from there on. I was watching their videos on how to make your own bralettes, up-cycling, décor, even things that involved cutting glass or drilling wood, and it simply felt like this creative world was ever-expanding and occurring amongst our age group. These were just two out of the many modern and young ladies that are out there asking ‘how can we make this ourselves?’ and ‘how can we do this affordably?’ Then I came across ‘WithWendy’ who did a video on how to make your own mini backpack, (Fjallraven Kanken style) – in case you needed a reminder that this isn’t just a white girl movement. (Also, this lady is making her own wedding dress!)

“In this day of the capitalist and consumerist world…” do we define ourselves by our material possessions? Well, yes, we kind of do. Especially in ‘hipster central’ where the independence of indie is the trend, and where being different and standing out is “cool.” So, let’s milk this trend! Make our own things a bit more. You can follow a pattern or design like the other kids, but the materials you choose – whether it’s the wood stain or the fabric print – can make it speak with your voice. I suppose it’s comparable to some sort of horcrux-esque vibe, if you want to go down that route. Personally, I get a sense of pride and satisfaction if someone asks ‘where did you get that from?’ and I can say ‘I made it!’ The different skills that go into making something custom-made for yourself excites and impresses me. I view it as another level of independence.

Before coming to uni, buying a brand new bedside table wasn’t really an option. What did I do? Since I’ve always been into DIY and crafts, I bought one from a charity shop; cleaned it, sanded it, and varnished it. When you’ve put the time and effort into something, likeliness is that you’ll want to care for it more. Its disposable value reduces because you have invested a part of yourself into it. I’m not saying you have to grow a tree from seedling, chop it down, and make it into a wardrobe with the tools you built from scratch. However, I do believe these feats of engineering and creation, whether it’s textiles or other materials are something that both genders can aspire to as they find the confidence within themselves to do so.

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