Sunday, 8 February 2009

School uniform subversive sewing

I often read on sewing blogs that people do not sew what they can buy. Very sensible reasons accompany this statement, such as economy, proper use of scarce time and lack of manufacturing equipment such as binding machines. However, I cannot fall in line with this philosophy. I very much dislike buying something that I could make.
A sensible woman, when her children go to school, would admit that a complusory uniform, able to be purchased only at the school uniform shop, does not leave any wriggle room for sewing, and give up any ideas in this direction. For some years I have behaved in this sensible manner, despite some subversion in the direction of a second hand uniform trade with other familes. I also admit to avidly searching for the particular school uniform fabric worn at my children's school, despite the school smugly informing me that the fabric was copyright, that I would not be able to purchase it, and that they would not name the manufacturer.
Last year, I responded to a panicked "I can't find my tie" at 7.30 am on Monday morning, by sewing an approximation of this item from an old, paint stained uniform that I felt was too worn to pass on to another wearer. Despite having only a 5cm school photograph and a rather shaky visual memory of this tie from which to develop a prototype, the tie garnered no adverse comments, and even better, no demerits for being out-of-uniform. My subversion started to brew.
This year, my son started grade 1, requiring a formal school uniform, and my second daughter entered high school, no longer requiring her primary dress. My daughters are tall, and the size 14 dresses they wore in grade 6 will be far too large for the wearers of their previously outgrown dresses. My son has recieved one shirt from my very kind friend with 4 older sons, but she is a much more organized person than me, I need two shirts in order to keep up with the washing (and 4 boys can almost wear out this near-indestructible polyester fabric!)
 

Ha! I think I have avoided spending $60 at the school uniform shop. I drew out a pattern directly from the school shirt, and think I have been fairly successful with my knock off. I was not able to perfectly pattern match at the sleeve cuff, due to fabric shortage, and I have pressed the inseam trim the wrong way on the sleeve cuff, but I think we can get away with this shirt. I do not have exactly the correct buttons, but will probably be able to fix this.
 
The original shirt used no interfacing, so I didn't either. I used the reverse side of the fabric. The plaid is woven in, so this was possible, and as we line dry our clothes, the outside of the dress was a little faded, which was noticeable at the hem. There was not quite as much fabric as I had hoped in the dress, and I used nearly all of it to make the much smaller shirt.
There were a few funny shaped pieces left, so I sewed two middle school ties for my daughters. These button under the collar of the horrible white polyester blouse, and tend to stay attached to the blouse that is in the wash, necessitating sudden searches through the machine in the morning, and frequent ironing dry. I thought it would be good to have a few spares. The school uniform shop tie is on the left. I would not have bought extra ties, as they are rather pricey, but I am sure these will be useful.
 

My daughters kindly drew out the pattern for the tie during what they assure me was a very tedious and repetitive school assembly. I am glad to see they are keeping themselves suitably occupied at school.
 
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10 comments:

ali4579@gmail.com said...

It's such a shame that the school is so cagey about letting you make your own uniforms. In my very early school years, our school's fabric was made available to mothers who wanted to sew.

Unfortunately, this wasn't a possibility with my high school uniform, and thinking back to the many shapes and sizes that had to try and fit into that a-line tent, the option to sew your own would probably boost the confidence of a lot of kids!

Claudine said...

Well-done! I didn't make my uniform pinafores at school (no access to fabric), but I did make all the blouses that went under them. My blouses were similar enough that they let me wear them, but they were much more fashionably cut than anyone else's. Probably the reason they don't want you to make your own is that they are afraid of snotty students like me who insist on individuality.

michelescottage said...

Hi Karen. I am delurking now. I like reading your blog.
I also had to go 'underground' to get fabric for my daughter's school uniforms. She is tall and thin and I could not bear to see her in a dress that hung off her just to get the right length. I went to a uniform shop that was out of the area that also sold fabrics. I took the uniform there to see if they had or could get the fabric and they did. I had to buy a roll, but they gave me a good price and I have enough fabric to see her through school. You could try that if you are desperate.
Good use of your old school dresses, though. Our school has a uniform pool where you can buy used uniforms for $2 a piece. I have never paid full price for her dresses and you cannot tell the difference.
Michele

michelescottage said...

Hi Karen. I am delurking now. I like reading your blog.
I also had to go 'underground' to get fabric for my daughter's school uniforms. She is tall and thin and I could not bear to see her in a dress that hung off her just to get the right length. I went to a uniform shop that was out of the area that also sold fabrics. I took the uniform there to see if they had or could get the fabric and they did. I had to buy a roll, but they gave me a good price and I have enough fabric to see her through school. You could try that if you are desperate.
Good use of your old school dresses, though. Our school has a uniform pool where you can buy used uniforms for $2 a piece. I have never paid full price for her dresses and you cannot tell the difference.
Michele

wendy said...

For some years I have behaved in this sensible manner, despite some subversion in the direction of a second hand uniform trade with other familes
Ha! My sister and I had to wear school uniforms all the way through high school, and we had "uniform swaps" over each summer with other families who were going to the same schools. Thankfully we were always allowed to wear our own white blouses so we could get away with cotton ones instead of icky poly.

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

I remember school uniforms and although some mothers loved them, I hated them. I could provide better quality, better fitting garments cheaper from my sewing machine than paying for those overpriced, 100% polyester uniforms...so I totally get you reworking the dress into a shirt and several ties!

Good for you!

ACorgiHouse said...

Bravo for working out some easy fixes, and reuses for old uniforms. And kudos for your daughters for insisting on learning creativity in school,despite apparent lack of teaching. Blue ribbons all around. K

Keely said...

Great recycling of the old uniforms. I bet the school doesn't even notice. I've spread some of that subversiveness around by showing DD's friend how she could slightly nip in the sideseams of the unflattering blazer for some shaping. Apparently it's caught on with the girls - I did warn them not to overdo it and make it too noticeable, lol.

Alison said...

I'd love to make my DD's school blouses. They are a white polyester blouse which my DD says is very hot and I could easily make a much nicer 100% cotton version. Only problem is it's got a machine embroidered emblem on the pocket. Bugger! But when they get ruined (as they will cos they're white!!), I'll be unpicking said pocket & making my own.

Congrats on your subversive sewing LOL.

Sew Passionista said...

Good for you. I love youe initiative in reworking the dress into a shirt and tie.