4 Steps to Sewing Ready to Wear Clothing

One of the best compliments I have ever received from a non-sewist friend was this:

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Now, depending on my mood, that could have been taken as an insult because everything I make is completely custom…so I want to be recognized for that.  However, from the perspective of someone who doesn’t sew, it was a great compliment simply because the clothes I make look like they came from a store – where there are teams of people who design, sew, model, photograph, and sell clothes to the masses.  Let’s be honest, if it hits the rack at Target, we’re all gonna look at it.  Some of us will buy it straight away and some of us will deconstruct it thinking of the most perfect piece of fabric in our stash to recreate it just for us.  I’m going to share the tips and tricks that I have used to create clothing that looks like you bought it ready to wear (RTW).

Tip #1 – Trend Watch

When wanting to fit in the RTW crowd, it’s important to know what they are wearing.  Let’s start with structure.  Comfort is key right now.  Knits are huge with kids as they are great for active, bouncy littles.  There is very little structure in the sense that most clothing is loose, easy fitting, and comfy.

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Fall is approaching so layering is important, but it doesn’t mean that you have to create nine layers like those Pinterst outfits! You just need the illusion…especially with boys! Add a long sleeve underneath a short sleeve to layer and voila!
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If this ^^^ is how your kid looks, you’ve gone too far! :)

Tip #2 – Pattern Selection
As you all probably know, starting with a good base pattern (and designer!) is a huge part of creating a successful piece. If the bones of the pattern don’t come close to what you are wanting to create, there’s either going to be way more work than necessary or you are going to end up frustrated when your idea doesn’t match your reality. That being said, when you find a good pattern (and designer!), find ways to alter it slightly to make it look like it’s totally different.

Take these tops from GAP that are currently a part of their new fall arrivals.
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The shirt on the left is knit, the one on the right is quilting cotton. Both shirts have the same basic structure with a bodice and gathered skirt. However, the details are different. The neckline is scoopier on the left, the right has buttons. One is cap sleeved and the other sleeveless. However, the basic structure is there between the two.

Here’s the same structure made a little longer with a placket over the buttons.
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Guys – it’s the same pattern! Minor adjustments make them all look so different. Are you seeing it?

What about the boys you say? It’s the same for them. Sweats are huge in the fall lineup. Why? Boys need room to run, jump, and sword fight of course!
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Now, take a look at the structure of these pants. We are back to cuffs, drawstrings, and little details for boys (like colored zippers or piping). Check out the knee pads. This is an easy addition to any pants pattern. Make your patch, serge around the ends and sew ‘em on. Look – you just made sweats that look like they’re from GAP!

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Check out this top. Add a bit of gathered chiffon to the hemline and BOOM – you just made Children’s Place.
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Tip #3 – Fabric! Fabric! Fabric!
If the fabric of the season is stripes and all your clothes are polka dots, you’re clearly not wearing RTW. Also, if you are pairing fabrics that have no business together, it’s a dead giveaway. Cue the dowdy curtain-esque fabric you found in Great Aunt Sophie’s garage last year…great for curtains, not clothes…after all, we can’t all be Julie Andrews! {Swoon}
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So, when thinking about creating a piece of clothing, think about the fabric and what’s in style. Right now, it’s all about stripes, geometric prints, flowers, and mixing and matching…

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…and cats?!?

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…so many cats…
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I mean come on! Look at this one?!?

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Tip #4 – It’s all in the details AKA Know your Strengths!
Have you ever seen a handmade shirt that has wonky top stitching? It’s a super quick indicator that it was not store bought. If a RTW shirt has buttons off kilter or top stitching that’s not quite right, it’s called a second. Seconds don’t make the cut and end up in deep discount stores, thrift stores, or tossed out. Don’t believe me? Just google factory defects and see for yourself. It’s a whole industry. If you want your clothes to look RTW, you’ve got to pay attention to the details. A big part of that is knowing your strengths. What do I mean by that? Well, if you are just learning to put in zippers for instance, don’t pick a pattern that is totally reliant on zippers and get upset when it’s not perfect the first time…and if you do pick a pattern with a zipper, have a seam ripper handy and practice! There are so many tips and tricks out there that getting a clean, professional look can be achieved, even by a beginner.

This also includes fit. If your pattern says make a muslin. For pete’s sake people – make a muslin! Really! I’m the worst at this because I want to just get sewing, but let me tell you, it matters…big time. Even with kids clothes.

I saw a dress on Etsy. It was gorgeous, but as a sewist, I see clothing, deconstruct it, and then head to my studio to rebuild it my way. (Tell me you do that too and I’m not bananas!) I made a muslin (out of old sheets) because I was not about to cut into my silk taffeta AND I was piecing together patterns to get the look I wanted. Turns out, using a muslin saved me a ton of time because the neckline detail was all wrong the first go around. The final dress was a huge success, but was not perfect (in my eyes) because I was learning. I gave myself room for error in the muslin and really ramped it up for the final dress.
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I took my time, was careful to measure, ironed a lot, and did multiple fittings. The dress is stunning in person and I know where I made mistakes, but I learned so much during the process, which is a huge step toward making more professional looking clothing!

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All those steps don’t have to be included for a t-shirt, but when you slow down, pay attention to the details, and the fit of a garment, you step outside of the “that looks homemade” to the “where did you buy that?” realm.

Here’s my $85 inspiration.

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And that’s my $20 creation!

There’s something in me that gets all bright and sunshiny when someone asks me where I bought a piece of clothing and I get to say that I made it. Their eyes get big and it never fails – they ask if I’ll make them one. I just smile and say “thank you, but no. It’s one of a kind.”

xoxo
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Becky Benedict

Sewist/Graphic Designer at Crafty Betty

mother of four. sewist. photographer. graphic designer. scrapper. all around silly lady. Find her at Crafty Betty

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  1. 6

    Christy says

    Great post and great thoughts!! Definitely appreciate them (and agree!). Now say more things about that girls dress you made – that’s a showstopper! Just lovely. (Aaand I have to make my eight year old a dress for my sisters wedding and clearly this is the one because – in my daughters words – “she has pink hair too mom!!!”)

  2. 7

    Kristy says

    What a great post! And I love that little girl’s dress. So sweet. And the top you made…. amazing! Thanks for the tips.

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