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DIY floral print dress with statement belt, and Steve Madden pumps (all own)

Who doesn’t dream of custom-made clothes. Sewing and making them yourself is an option. Read what you need to know beyond sewing to get the most for your style out of your DIY efforts.

  1. Use Your Sewing Skills for High Quality DIY Fashion
  2. Don’t Waste Your Money, Time on Cheap Fabric
  3. Sewing Blogger Tips to Design Your Own Clothes
  4. Use your Skills for Unique Style


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Use Your Sewing Skills for High Quality DIY Fashion

Many of us over 40 had a sewing class in middle school. Our project was to sew an apron. The next one was a night gown followed by a full skirt. That class implanted some sort of virus and I got into sewing. In high school, I made many of my summer skirts myself. In college, I also sew some suits. It was the 1980s, and I was in my Rock’n Roll and later banker style phase. Despite H&M was a good cheap source, DIY was much more affordable. 😉

sew your self designed clothes
Creativity is intelligence having fun. - Albert Einstein #quote Click To Tweet

Don’t Waste Your Money, Time on Cheap Fabric

I still sew (see examples below), but not that often anymore. Today often the fabrics and other materials are more expensive than buying a new item. Well, time is another issue. Thus, my sewing is more along the line of classic cuts with high quality fabric. In other words, I sew items that would otherwise be out of my budget.

mature woman in a peplum abstract floral print dress Self-sewn dress, Hermes Collier de chien bangle, and black pumps (all own)

woman in DIY black shirt dress and kelly green accessories Dress made with the same pattern like the first dress in this post, but with a different fabric, Valentino boots, Hermes collier de chien belt, Gucci bag, and Oscar de la Rente silk scarf (all own) and wooden watch c/o Jord

sewing blogger in Plaid dress for work Plaid shirt dress (DIY) with statement belt, Aldo leopard print pumps (all own) and halftee c/o Halftee

sewing blogger in floral shirt dress at the river Floral print dress made with a 1940s style pattern, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Chanel bag and Steve Madden Kelly green pointy-toe pumps (all own)

Sewing your own clothes provides a lot of degrees of freedom. It starts with the choice of the pattern, followed by the fabric, adjusting the fit (if needed) and details like buttons or zippers. This means you need great imagination ahead of time to create a unique garment.

I don’t know about you, but designing clothes from scratch was never a subject in my sewing classes. All 40+ women whom I asked also said that their teacher always prescribed the pattern, fabric material, and button size. Their only choice was the color and print of the fabric.

Sewing Blogger Tips to Design Your Own Clothes

Since better style and fashion over 40 are part of the reasons to sew, designing the clothes is an essential first step. Therefore, I asked several sewing fashionistas

What is your most important advice/secret to design your own clothes and make them look right?

Carolyn Norman posing in a self-made outfit
Carolyn Norman posing in her self-made maxi-dress. Photo courtesy to her


Carolyn Norman at Diary of a Sewing Fafanatic advises

I think the advice I would give to sewists is to know your style and be true to it when sewing. Secondly, sew for your circumstances right now. Don’t wait to lose weight, gain weight, live somewhere else – sew for where you are right now. It will go a long way in making your present circumstances better. Finally fit ~ fit is very important to how well you look in a garment, so don’t neglect learning what fits for your body and what proportions work well for you.

The internet provides wonderful access to other sewists and what they are sewing. It also offers you other places to shop for resources like fabric, embellishments and notions and this abundance of inspiration can ignite such a creative storm inside you that you consider sewing items that don’t work for your lifestyle or your body type. Don’t do it ~ stay true to what works for your body, your lifestyle, your color palette.

mature fashion Kirsten Schwalke in self made skirt suit
Kirsten Schwalke in her self-made skirt suit. Photo courtesy to her


Kirsten Schwalke at The Dress Bakery suggested

I think it is really important that you know yourself and your own style to sew really great looking clothes. I for example know that I look better in elegant and feminine pieces, so I do not sew many sporty pieces. It’s just not me. And you can see it if I don’t like myself in a piece.

For the process it is important that you can imagine wearing the chosen pattern and fabric on yourself. I normally choose the pattern first and then the fabric and I don’t have to do adjustments very often. I love the moment when my imagination comes to life and it looks (hopefully) just like in my head before.

When I first started sewing I was fascinated by the look of the fabrics and just started a piece without thinking too much. I ended up having a lot of beautiful but impractical pieces hanging in my closet. After a few years I have learned a lot about me and my style. Before I start sewing something nowadays I’m always trying to imagine myself in everyday situations since I only want to make things that I’m really wearing.

One last thing that I had to learn: You’ll always make some mistakes from time to time and then you have to improvise. But the result is always even more unique and YOU than you imagined beforehand so don’t let yourself get down by mistakes. You need them to get better and push yourself to the next level and to your true style.

midlife woman in self-made wrap skirt (left) and jumpsuit
Tina Kersting at Tina’s Pink Friday in a self-sewn wrap skirt (left) and jumpsuit. Photos courtesy to her


midlife woman in self-sewn flared skirts
Tina Kersting at Tinas Pink Friday in two of her self-sewn flared skirts. Photos courtesy to her


Tina Kersting, at Tina’s Pink Friday gave the following advises

Sewing your clothes has many advantages. One can choose the cut and the fabric. Thus, the length and width is like you want it. A high quality fabric is important to me because the material of the fabric often determines the form of the clothing, for instance, flowing or stiff. Moreover, one can make matching accessories like fillets, scarves or even bags from the same fabric. This way one creates unique clothing items that nobody else owns. Even designer Vivienne Westwood advises “You can’t afford that cool designer dress? Sew it yourself!”

I sew only simple items often with self-designed cuts. There are wonderful instruction on the internet. One trick is to produce a pattern from one of your favorite cothing items. To do so I use plastic foliage (Pi-dy Kopierfolie) and a dry marker. It is perfect to copy the cut and transfer it onto the plastic foliage for a pattern. Just cut the pattern from the foliage, put it onto your fabric and pin it. Cut, sew, ready. When I face a challenge, I watch a related sewing video on Youtube, e.g. how to sew in a zipper.

Recently, I learned that one needs special sewing needles for jersey- and elastic fabrics. It is impossible to sew elastic fabrics on a sewing machine without them.
Try something simple first, like a wrap skirt. The success is guaranteed. 🙂

advanced fashion woman in self-sewn dress
Linda Make at Nice Dress! Thanks, I Made it!! in one of her self-made dresses. Photo courtesy to her


Linda Maki at Nice Dress! Thanks, I made It!! said

Whether it is something I need – a new pair of jeans – or a want – that outfit that model is wearing – it is always important to be patient and flexible. There are the choices to be made like pattern, fabric, fit, etc. but in addition to the imagination to put it all together, I think it is important to be patient and flexible. Sometimes your sewing machine, the pattern, or the fabric won’t co-operate with you! Sometimes the supplies you want aren’t available! Sometimes you can be finished a whole garment perfectly and then decide it’s not quite what you expected. If it was RTW you would try it on before you even brought it home. What to do? Be flexible and patient – change your plans, make it something that works better for you! We aren’t working with cement here, plans can always be changed. Relax, and enjoy the process!

#styleover40 Erica T. at Rejoice for the Day in her self-made poppy dress
Erica T. at Rejoice for the Day in her self-made poppy dress. Photo courtesy to her


Erica at Rejoice for the Day said

Sewing your own clothes is a perfect way to display your own unique sense of fashion. Yes, you need the imagination ahead of time to think out your project in advance; and for me, this usually involves the contemplation of which fabric to use for each garment and asking myself, will this print go with that print?

My biggest secret to getting the clothes I make look right has everything to do with the fit. It took me years to figure this one out and I had a lot of scrapped projects because of it. Always be aware of your measurements and familiarize yourself with the instructions for the pattern at hand. The size of dress that you would buy at a store is not the size of dress you will be on the pattern envelope when you make it yourself, and that is perfectly fine. Also take in to consideration the pattern ease. Depending on the brand, this can make quite a difference with your finished project.

Also, there is a lot of trial and error involved with sewing your own clothes.  Some projects work out and some do not. But once you get an idea of what styles work best for you, the possibilities are endless. Be patient and have fun!  With all the different kinds of fabric available, you won’t ever have to worry about having too many of one style, and your uniqueness will stand out every time.

Use Your Skills for Unique Style

Since we learned the skills once, we should make use of them for getting great fashion. Often the designers only have 20 something women in mind. Thus, reactivating our skills and sewing our own clothes permits us wearing what we want without looking like we rioted our (grand)daughter’s closet or got the clothes as free bees from the Salvation Army. 😉

Did you learn sewing in school? What did you sew at school? Have you kept sewing after graduating from high school? What was the last item you sew? What is your biggest challenge in sewing? See these reasons why you should learn how to sew.


When you like the blog you may also like my book How to Dress for Success in Midlife.


Photos from these Ladies’ blogs

Photos of me: G. Kramm

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