I realized I needed to get a new job when my manager sneered at my Me-Made coat.
This was three winters ago, and my antennae already were frizzing with lots of hostile vibes from her. But her reaction was the strongest signal yet that I needed to find something else.
I’m Diane from the blog Distaff, and I’d like to share my journey of fitting Me-Made clothing into the working world.
I hadn’t sewn apparel for years, but I decided to try after I could not find a RTW long dress coat that I liked. I painstakingly made the kind of coat I really wanted, Vogue 1276. While the coat has some flaws (that hem is unfortunate and the belt is a bit short) I was proud of my coat and eagerly showed it off. I got lots of compliments. But not from my manager.
“I see,” she said, looking my coat up and down. “And how do you have time for that?”
“Oh, I squeeze time in here and there,” I said. The coat had taken me four months of nights and weekends to make, but I wasn’t going to tell her that.
I tried to change the subject. “What do you like to do in your spare time?” I asked my manager — a workaholic type who’d send me emails at 2 a.m. on Saturdays.
“Oh,” she said, fingering her ever-present strand of pearls, “I like to read.”
“Oh really? Me too. Do you recommend anything?”
She rattled off the titles of several business books. Oy.
I seldom wore that coat or other me-made things to the office after that. Instead, I went on a Me-Made binge, sewing a half-dozen projects from the Japanese sewing book “Happy Homemade Sew Chic” by Yoshiko Tsukiori and blogging about it — just for fun — and they were all intentionally casual looks that wouldn’t work for the office anyway.
These clothes were simple and fun and I could enjoy them, judgement-free. Sewing saved my sanity at a time when I’d cry myself to sleep over my stressful job situation.
I started an excellent new job a few months later, in a much more formal office. My first week coincided with a weekend dressmaking class at Workroom Social in Brooklyn. I was reluctant to tell co-workers about it, for fear I’d get branded a freak, one week on the job. I decided to make a work-appropriate dress, just to see if I could make something that looked RTW. Do you think I succeeded?
I got compliments on it and wore it to work often, but I didn’t spill my secret. I kept my Me-Made items mostly for telecommuting days and weekends.
Fast-forward a year, and comfortable in the new job, I took the plunge. I had heard about Me-Made May and wanted to participate, but I knew I wouldn’t get far without some work clothes. I sewed up a small capsule wardrobe (pants, skirt, two tops, a jacket, and a cardigan) and hit my goal of wearing Me-Made at least three days per week in May.
The last day of May, the zipper on the pants broke while I was at work, and I got through the rest of the day with a strategically placed safety pin, but I did it.
What’s more, I owned it. A coworker complimented me on an outfit and asked if I’d been on a shopping spree.
“Nope,” I said, “a sewing spree. I sewed all these clothes.”
I held my breath.
Then, an amazing thing happened.
Instead of being ridiculed for my hobby, people sought me out because of it:
- I fixed a co-worker’s fallen dress hem at my desk, while she waited in a bathroom stall.
- A co-worker asked for advice on where to find tulle and other decorations for her wedding.
- I helped a co-worker refashion a cheap dress into something suitable for a black-tie event.
- A co-worker sought advice on whether a RTW dress could be altered to fit better.
- A co-worker and I went fabric shopping in India.
- I tutored a co-worker on how to hem her daughter’s jeans.
- I helped at an office volunteer event where we sewed “surgi-dolls” for sick children.
- I gave a speech before my office Toastmasters club on the ills of fast-fashion and how to recognize a quality RTW garment.
What’s more, I connected with some new friends at work — including women who are immigrants or first-generation Americans — who come from places where home sewing is a much more common and valued skill.
This year, I’m going all the way in May, wearing a Me-Made item daily, fearlessly. Here’s a picture in my office bathroom mirror from April — in Me-Made from head to toe!
Do you wear your Me-Made garments to work? Do your coworkers know the secret to your style? I’d love to hear your story!
I used a sweater that I had made myself, and the textile designer I’m in practice this week was not so impressed when I used it yesterday…She pointed out only mistakes I had made when I sewed the sweater and I became a little less confident on my sewing techniques and clothing style. (And that’s why I don’t use so much of what I have made)
Oh that stinks. Sorry. I hope you keep trying.
Of course I will 😉 I still like the sweater, and I like wearing it on days when I feel cold.
For me my “style” is so different. (I work at home) That it seems less professional to admit- yes I made this. Especially since I’m older and have a disability. I’m already judged for so many other issues with work. People do praise my me made clothes I sew my children.
My daughter who works in a law office was wearing a new blazer the other day- ready to wear. And I thought- I could have made it better! Ready wear is not superior in quality to hand made.
So true about the quality! I do a lot of couture finishes in my work wardrobe that you seldom see today.
That’s inexcusable. Constructive criticism is useful when carefully handled, but destroying people’s enthusiasm and confidence can be soul shrinking – especially for the people doing it. Fab that you used it to spur you on, Diane. Hope it works that way for klaugen 🙂
Your coat looks great even if it’s not perfect, not surprising your colleagues thought your newer makes were nice for RTW! And I love the way you casually dropped in going fabric shopping with a colleague… in India 😀
I’m so glad you’re in a healthier work environment now and connecting with people who share similar interests. Bosses can really make or break a job. Don’t worry, she’s alone and miserable and will stay that way forever… heehee.
I’m in a bad work situation, too, but there are some coworkers who know I sew and think it’s so cool. I do have to turn down requests for commissions, though, since my free time is very limited.
Best of luck with Me Made May! You’ll feel great every day in clothes that you love and that love you back. 🙂
Thanks for the sweet remarks and encouragement. Sorry you’re in a bad work situation. Now is a great time to look for something new, if you’re interested.
Oh yeah, I got my escape plan in the works 😉
That’s fantastic how you are rocking ‘Me made May’ for work!!! You go, girl!
I’m glad you fired that sucky manager (good riddance!) and hired a new one! 🙂
I’m in a new group at work and I think it’s a cool group. My manager mentioned the other day that she keeps her sewing things under a new cabinet she was showing pics of, and it perked my ears..So yeah, I might bring it up casually and see how it goes.
Thanks for commenting. I say Go for it!
I totally relate to this. Some years ago I had an absolute pig of a boss. I came to work one day in a coat I’d made and my friend pointed to it and said ‘look what Rachael made, isn’t it amazing?’ My boss sneered ‘I don’t know why you’d both making that, you should leave it to the professionals’ he then went on to say that he’d dump his girlfriend if she ever gave him a handmade gift. Yep, I don’t work there anymore, thank god.
Good on you for getting out of there!
Every time I read this, I just want to go home and sew something. Thanks for the inspiration!
Thanks for the comment. You go!
I wonder what work would be like if there were no objectionable, bossy, narcissistic types to contend with. I bet productivity would go up. Over years I learnt not to volunteer the fact that I make my clothes. Too many times it’s taken as an invitation for a put down, or an invitation to be taken for granted as a free dressmaker. If pushed I mumble about a talented little woman I knew who ran it up for me.
Wow – work with no bossy narcissists? What paradise is this? Sorry you have to deal with this crap too.
Ohhh, I empathize! Your coat (and all the makes you have here) are gorgeous! I like that once you found a better work environment, your sewing was celebrated and led to relationship-building and community. That’s a sign of a good work place – celebrate what people are good at!
One job I was out with my sewing and people were really into it and graciously indulged me when I shared plans and patterns ideas. Now I’m selectively out with my sewing at work. I’ve dropped it casually as a hint, but most people, I have found, don’t “get” it. I don’t think people quite realize garment sewing is a whole thing, with a big community. That’s okay with me, I enjoy that no one can tell the difference between my me-made and my RTW. And I didn’t want to asked “did you make that?” about everything. I like having it as my own little secret when I where a me-made to work. 🙂
I proudly wear me-made garments to work, wherever I’ve worked. The sadly uninformed former supervisory you had ought to go back to kindergarten to review manners and obtain another outlook. I’m happy for you to have found a better place to work, and the bonus is that you have friends who seek out your talents. The folks I work with don’t understand the process of garment production but they do admire what I wear, because no one has anything similar to my wardrobe. Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the comments. I’m so glad you have admirers at work.
Given I’m not a girly girl and have been working in very male dominated environments (oil business both offshore and office!), I was a bit shy to talk about my hobby in the beginning. But every time I got a compliment, my answer was “Thank you! I made it :)”. And even though some colleagues did look at me a bit weird, most of them were impressed and encouraged me on 🙂 Today I’m laid off, but I own my own little fabric store online that I opened two months ago. It’s scary, it’s a whole new world but it’s something I love and enjoy doing 🙂
And by the way: I love you coat! (And a lot of the other items pictured here 🙂 )
That’s a great story. Thanks for commenting. There’s a saying that if you follow your passion, you’re sure to win in the end.
I love this!! Definitely has given me the confidence to wear some of my own Me-Made stuff!
Glad to hear it! Go for it!
Your new coworkers sound much lovelier and more supportive 🙂
I’ve dragged my coworkers along on my dressmaking journey. I told them that I wanted to re-learn but didn’t think I had time; I told them I’d bought a machine and was giving it a try, and I proudly wear even my wobbly beginner me-made garments to my office. I work in a business environment and wear a (RTW) suit at least a few times a week, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying my best to be proud of my work.
Way to go!
Reading your story, and other people ‘s, makes me appreciate my workplace! A lot of people know I sew, and there are quite a few others who knit or crochet so I started a stitch and bitch club at work. And thanks to a push for good mental health they also support clubs so I even managed to buy a sewing machine for work 😊 keep up the good work and maybe investigate with HR… You never know!
Very cool! I’d love a club like that at work.
I once wore a dress with Eiffel towers on it to substitute teach for a French class. All day long the kids commented on how “cool” it was that my dress matched French class! It was when I had the older students in the room that I casually mentioned that I made the dress. I was pleased with the student’s responses. Most of them were positive about my skills. But some went further and wanted my contact info so they could heir me to sew their prom outfits! That was a surprise!!! I am more confident about wearing my Me Made clothes now than ever! 🙂
What a great story! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for sharing this story, it has made me realise how lucky I am to work with a bunch of people who eagerly look forward to seeing my makes on Mondays at work. They even ask to see the quilts I make and they are so supportive. Reading the comments has made me appreciate them all so much more. Oh and should I mention I work in construction so I work with a bunch of middle aged men 🙂
That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing.
Great post! I think you have an amazing skill and the clothes look great!
Thanks that’s so sweet of you to say.
Better an unique piece of home-made clothing between all colleagues wearing the same RTW-garment then you all wearing the same. Be proud of you make your clothes are beautiful.
Seriously! Everyone has the same Topshop dress!
I really enjoyed this post, thanks. Vogue 1276! Such a great pattern. I hope you enjoy wearing that dramatic swirly hemline.
Glad you have found a more positive working environment. (And yes, I wear my own sewing to work too, but my colleagues don’t notice clothes at all)
Oh yes, I do love it. Thanks for the encouragement.
I’m doing me made to work this year too, this will be my first time completing the challenge.
My colleagues know I am an avid crafter including sewing (it is my stress release) I am often getting complements on clothing I have made and having colleagues ask me on advice where to purchase craft supplies
That’s so cool! Thanks for sharing.
Good for you. You’ve made some lovely things. I think the linen dress with the sari belt is really special and would like to make one but I can’t find the pattern – I’m wondering if the number is right?
The dress is McCalls 6989. It’s a princess seam bodice and an 8-gore skirt. Looks nothing like the pattern envelope photo. The belt is an add on – something I bought rtw.
Thanks very much for your info about the pattern. I just looked on Pattern Review for it and by coincidence your review was there. Really helpful to see what modifications you made. You clearly saw the potential in that pattern!
Thanks – the pattern envelope picture didn’t do it justice.
I think your outfits look well-made and really profession all! I actually got into sewing because I wanted to make more modest work clothes in breathable fabrics. (Seems like all I could find were see through items that were too short.) I wore what I made to work and my colleagues were impressed that I made them (they were not of great quality, though). At my current job, I would feel weird about wearing it…I would need to make suits and I don’t think my skills are there yet!
Thanks for sharing your story. Maybe you can start with unlined jackets and work your way along to more office wear?
I recieved a Joann’s gift card for my birthday from my office mates in my current job, but previous jobs haven’t been supportive. I normally get compliments about the things I wear, which are fun novelty print things. I work in a more casual counseling office as a child therapist, so I can wear more Me Made than at previous, more formal jobs.
It sounds like your me made things fit in your work life very well.
I’m so glad you found a job where your coworkers appreciate your mad skill! My office is VERY casual, and everyone wears what they’re comfortable in. My outfit usually contains a pair of me-made jeans, and the “you MADE those??” moments are pretty priceless. When I wear something a little more out-there on a day that coincides with a meeting, my boss introduces me as “This is Kat, she’s an American, and she makes her clothes”. He was also my secret Santa this year, and he bought me the most luscious piece of merino fabric to make a sweater with.
Well I find me made jeans pretty impressive too. Sounds like you have an awesome office
These “You made those” moments really are the best!!
[…] What’s your Me-Made look for work? For more ideas and perspective from me, see this blog I wrote last week for Sewcialists. […]
That is such a sweet blog post and I’,m happy for you that you found such a nice job. At my work place quite a couple of colleagues are into sewing, but only three wear self-made clothes, including me. These two women and I now sew together, which is so much fun, especially since we have three completely different stiles. One just wears nautical fabrics in blue, gray and some pink, the other loves everything bright, colorful and with cute prints and I’m into more subdued hues and pretty patterns. If we wanted we could sew for half of our office, so many people have already asked if we couldn’t make something for them. We deny these requests, but we are always happy to teach everyone else how to sew!
That sounds like my dream office!
I forgot to mention how beautyful your black dress is. I will hunt down the pattern to also make it, too!
Thanks! The pattern envelope picture is awful so don’t be turned off by it.
When I leave my work for the last time, I will lift my hands and be thankful that I survived.
You do great work. I cannot understand why people do not appreciate creativity and hard work. I have bought plenty of clothing at the store and thought, I can do this and in a better color.
Thanks for the compliment and encouragement
[…] I got sick and said the hell with it. I was proud to have managed two weeks anyway, and I shared my story of Me-Made officewear with The Sewcialists […]