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young women pursuing the art of sewing

Today sewing is rarely taught in schools. Read why sewing is an lost art today.

  1. Learning How to Sew Was Mandatory
  2. Sewing Allows Customized Fit
  3. Taking Up the Art of Sewing Again
  4. Alterations
  5. Up-cycling and Re-fashioning: Sewing as an Art
  6. How to Make Vintage Dresses
  7. Conclusions
  8. Top of the World Style Linkup Party No. 260


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Learning How to Sew Was Mandatory

In high school, the girls had to learn how to sew. We were told that there are at least 4 reasons why to learn how to sew. The first project was to make an apron, which I found pretty useless. Even my granny did never wear aprons in the kitchen. The next project was a nightgown!

I bought a fabric that also could be worn also as a dress on the beach and on vacation. Being a PJ kind of gal, I did not like the idea of wearing a nightgown. Nevertheless, despite I did not like what we had to sew I liked to be able to sew. As a teenager I sew at least one dirndl type skirt each summer. Here in the US, this kind is called full skirt.



Sewing Allows Customized Fit

Despite I loved that sewing permits creating pieces customized for your body shape, I stopped sewing as an undergraduate. The reason was simple. I did not have a sewing machine in the dorms. When I was a graduate student my mom got a new sewing machine. She gave her old one to me and I took up sewing again despite having only one stitch option on this old sewing machine. Back then, I mainly produced pencil skirts as I always had difficulties finding some that had a perfect fit one my small hips. Other pieces were straight skirts for work and wide 1950s-inspired skirts for dancing (see next two photos). I stopped sewing again when I was working on my second PhD.


#turningfashionintostyle woman in abstract floral print skirt and sweater
Me in a self-made straight floral print skirt and red sweater in Fort Lauderdale, Florida


Taking Up the Art of Sewing Again

When we immigrated to the United States, I had to leave the sewing machine behind. The voltage and frequency of the European and American electricity differ. This meant I would have had to find a converter. Thus, it seemed easier to buy a new sewing machine in Alaska. Learn more on the history of the sewing machine.

While in the beginning of the Millennium, I made a lot of vintage inspired dresses and ethnic inspired clothing (see next photos for examples) as well as Halloween costumes, I mainly used it for alterations since I started blogging.


Nicole of High Latitude style in a 40s inspired home-made shirt dress
Black 40s inspired shirt dress, tall Valentino boots, Gucci bag, Hermes collier de chien beltand Oscar de la Renta silk scarf (all own)


fashion blogger at the Fairbanks potato festival
Self-made turquoise 40s inspired dress with abstract floral print, Hermes collier de chien bangle, statement peridot, amethyst, and citrine necklace with matching earring and bracelet, and Valentino studs (all own)


Alaskan Native inspired self-sewn anorak called Kuspuk
Wearing my self-sewn green velvet kuspak with hat, Blodo faux fur lined boots, shearling mittens with bead embroidery. I used an old kuspuk as pattern.


stylist in a slef-sewn peplum abstract floral print dress cut from an old 30s pattern
1930s inspired floral midi dress


stylist in artfully sewn in floral shirt dress at the river
DIY floral print dress featuring the same cut as the black dress, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Russian belt buckle, Chanel bag, and Steve Madden pumps


fashion blogger in plaid dress cut from a 60s pattern
Plaid shirt dress from a 60s pattern, Russian belt, Aldo leopard print pumps, and halftee c/o Halftee




Today my sewing machine is most often used for easy alterations. Being a petite gal, I have to adjust the hems of dresses and skirts most of the time. I don’t shy away from shortening a high-low hem maxi-dress.

However, I try to avoid alterations of jeans. To get the look right, one has to sew the old hem back on. This job is tricky especially when you have 16 oz weight denim. Sewing the old hem on is really an art when you want it to look like the original. I occasionally have to do it, when my husband bought a pair of jeans. I also shortened the hem of my denim dress.


sewing fashion blogger in denim dress with sewn on old hem
Shortened Liz Claiborne maxi denim dress, ethnic statement belt, Tommy Hilfiger wedge sandals, Coach bag, Festina watch (all own), and wooden pineapple earrings c/o Green Tree Jewelry. See that the original hem is added back on to keep the vibe of the dress.



Up-cycling and Re-fashioning: Sewing as an Art

Besides for alterations, the second most time, I use the sewing machine for up-cycling or refashioning projects. Old saris provide enough fabric for a dress or even jumpsuit. You can find an easy instruction how to upcycle a sari into a beautiful full skirt in the post at the link.

Other easy and quick refashion projects are to


The photos below show the results of some more difficult upcycling projects.


mature woman twirling in mixed print trend outfit
L.K. Bennett patent leather wedges, DIY skirt from four silk shirts, Pineapple Moon Hawaiian blouse (all own)


fashion blogger Nicole in graphic T, tiered skirt, statment belt and espadrilles
Graphic college T, DIY tired skirt from three silk shirts, statement belt, Dooney and Bourke top handle snake print bag, Esprit neckerchief, BP espadrilles



How to Make Vintage Dresses

I sew a couple of vintage dresses over time (see above photos for some examples). Here the problem is to get the cuts. If you are lucky to find an original one, be aware. They are very expensive. Thus, it may be worth you time to search for a reprint or ask older family members whether they still have old pattern or even pattern journals or books. There are also companies that specialize in selling vintage patterns. The cheapest possibility is to take an old piece apart that you found on a flea market or in a thrift-store. Then use it as a template for your sewing project.

If you need to make alterations of the pattern for fit, I can recommend this Ultimate Illustrated Guide to Sewing Clothes by Joi Mahon.


Vintage McCalls 4754 by Imagaday is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
“Vintage McCalls 4754” by Imagaday is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0



When I was a kid, my mom used to make our summer dresses because it was cheaper than buying. Not to mention we had unique custom-made pieces. Today, time is so precious and tight, and good fabrics, necessities plus cuts for sewing are very expensive. Even custom-tailored fashion like this Rita Phil skirt or customized clothing from online stores like eShakti are cheaper than making your own clothes. Thus, it seems that with sewing being more expensive than buying high quality clothes, it will become a lost art and seamstresses will become artists.


Nicole in Rita Phil custom-made asymmetric Madison skirt
Custom-made Madison skirt c/o Rita Phil with own Hermes collier de chien bangle, DIY bangle, citrin and bone carved cat statement necklace, August Silk V-neck sweater, Longchamp cuir pliage, amethyst and pearls barrette, and Prada pumps


mature woman doing the paperbag pants trend styled with T-shirt and sandals
eShakti customized paper-bag pants, Studio multicolor gladiator sandals, Keep Calm Let the Meteorologist Handle it graphic Tee, multi gemstone necklace, twisted wire headband, Hermes collier de chien bangle, DIY gemstone cuff and Gucci ostrich bamboo bag (all own)


It is a question, whether upcycling may be able to keep the technique alive for more people than just artists and (then highly paid) professionals. The post at the link shares the secrets of making great clothes yourself.

Do you still sew some of your clothes? If so, what type of clothes do you sew? Let me know, I am curious.

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Top of the World Style Linkup No. 260

Top of the World Style linkup party every week on Thursday

Welcome to the 260th Top of the World Style linkup party.

Penny in striped cardigan, black top, pink sneakers, gray pants
Penny at Frugal Fashion Shopper became the Top of the World OOTD Readers’ Fav. Photo from her post.


Tatiana in purple blue floral maxi dress
Tatiana of My Fab Fifties became Top of the World OOTD My Fav. Photo from her post.


Darlene in white pants, yellow sneakers and blouse, baby blue jacket
Darlene of Aquamarina Style became Top of the World Style Winner. Photo from her post.


Congrats Ladies! Grab your award buttons.


Gate to the party


See these awesome looks at the Top of the World Style #linkup party. #timelessstyle Click To Tweet


Do you want to get a free feature at the party? Then send me an email.

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Photos of me: G. Kramm

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