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Here we are in the middle of that maker’s fashion show frenzy known as Me-Made-May, the wardrobe challenge started in 2010 by Zoe Edwards that encourages participants to “improve your relationship with your handmade items.” Privileging handmade items to build a wardrobe is an aspect of Me-Made-May in line with the ethos of slow fashion.

My own engagement with slow fashion began over ten years ago when I discovered Sonya Philip’s 100 Acts of Sewing and Katrina Rodabaugh’s Make Thrift Mend as well as A Verb for Keeping Warm’s Seam Allowance project and Fringe Association’s Slow Fashion October. It was a time of bubbling interest in sustainability and in slowing down to enjoy and appreciate the items we’ve made.

Two Books

Engagement is a dynamic process; over the last decade I’ve continued to refine my understanding of what slow fashion means. Two books in particular have helped deepen my connection to this concept.

Central to the concept of slow fashion is the critique—and even rejection—of fast fashion. Aja Barber’s Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change, and Consumerism does an incredible job elucidating the link between colonialism and the damages wrought by the fast fashion system. Barber brings to light how the legacy of colonialism is responsible for many of the ills we associate with fast fashion: pollution, the acceptance of low wages and poor working conditions, the lack of accountability for corporations.

The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, Barber explains how colonialism is the root of the problem and follows her argument through to a discussion of our role as consumers. The second section is all about what the individual can do to challenge the system and make a positive impact. Throughout, she encourages further investigation and engagement. I’d already felt my engagement with slow fashion was political, and Barber’s book has shown me how it’s also linked to dismantling white supremacy.

Another writer who has been formative in my slow fashion education is Kate Fletcher. Fletcher has written numerous academic books on fashion and sustainability as well as Wild Dress that explores the relationship between the way we dress and the natural world.

Her 2016 book Craft of Use: Post-Growth Fashion is a bit of a hybrid. This book sharpens her focus on sustainability by looking at garments and use beyond continuous consumption. Combining portraits of individuals and their stories about the items they’re wearing with short essays elaborating on the themes of each section, Fletcher highlights the use, wear, and creation of garments and offers a way to look at fashion beyond the market.

Not surprisingly, handknit sweaters make an appearance in the portraits, and when one subject talks about the knitted cardigan jacket made by her great-grandmother, we appreciate the love and respect that has been given to it because that’s what we hope the recipients of our knitted goods feel. “I think it’s been passed down because we know that she put so much time into making it.”

And Three Influencers

Another way I’ve deepened and challenged my participation in slow fashion is via social media accounts of makers who champion sustainability. Izzy Manuel uses color exuberantly and brings a sense of play with her outfits and poses. Sustainable fashion feels fun with Izzy.

Another person known for her bold use of color is Marcia Riddington. The owner of an antiques shop, Marcia combines her home-sewn dresses (often using vintage curtains and other unconventional garment fabrics) with her handknits and thrifted items.

And check out my fellow academic Shannon Flaherty the founder of @sewqueer. Shannon pairs handknits with handsewn garments for very wearable looks. And as many of the items she’s made are popular patterns in the sewing community, her posts provide a great primer on how to combine them with other items in your closet.

The learning is ongoing, and I’m looking forward to the next ten years of me-mades. Who are the influencers and what are the books that have inspired your engagement with slow fashion?

Open to learning how to do practically everything, Claudia B. Manley teaches, writes, knits, and makes art in Hamilton, Ontario. Her textbook, Fashion Writing: A Primer, was published by Routledge in November 2022. She posts here on Instagram.

If you use Amazon, thanks for your purchases from the links in this article. Images by Claudia B. Manley, Shannon Flaherty, Marcia Riddington, and Izzy Manuel.

About The Author

Open to learning how to do practically everything, Claudia teaches, writes, knits, and makes art in Hamilton, Ontario. Her textbook, Fashion Writing: A Primer, was published by Routledge in November 2022.


  • Cal Patch is a great teacher of designing and sewing basics. Jessica Marquez teaches sashiko mending (Make + Mend).

  • I would like to suggest that instead of using links to Amazon, you choose to create a link to a site that supports independent bookstores. Especially when featuring books that draw our attention to the damage of rampant over-consumerism and the harmful effects of capitalism, that Amazon link sure falls flat. Please do better, MDK.

    For instance, here is a link you may wish to use instead for “Consumed.”

    Thank you for your consideration.

    • Yes! Thank you, Michelle. All over the internet, including MDK, I see links to Amazon. There must be a fair number by now of people who, like me, prefer not to support them. An alternative, especially for books, would be nice. And please don’t forget your local bookstore: they can order almost anything in print. is an excellent source, too.

      • Or your local library!

        • Thank you, Pennie!

    • Aptly put, Michelle—good for you!

  • I love the creativity of these designers. I think their clothes make them very happy, and so they make me happy too. More variety the better for this armchair appreciator of all things textile.

  • My life as a maker/sewer began over 60 years ago and followed the steps of my sister. Encourged by my mother and father My older sister was my mentor What a joy it has been to add crochet; knitting and all types of needlework

  • What fun! Your articles always, always get me thinking. If I saw any of these women anywhere, I’d want to meet them.

  • While I am glad to see Slow Fashion getting more play, I agree with Patricia that this important concept would appeal to a much broader audience if you had included at least some tamer styles. Those, like me, who would never feel comfortable dressing like this (or even admire it on others) are likely to not read the real content of the article. One resource that I highly recommend everyone read (or listen to) is the book Worn, A People’s History of Clothing by Sofi Thanhauser. It is long and demanding but very, very interesting and very enlightening. The making of clothes is of critical importance to the world in every way, snd this book has made me so much more aware of my own destructive learned-consumer behaviors and why I want to change them. But honestly, I would never do so and look like that.

    • Thanks for recommending the Sofi Thanhauser book! I just ordered a copy.

    • Hey it’s ok to not like something and not say “ugh” about the way other people dress. I don’t think a kind lady like Jackie O (famously a big shopper, by the way) would do that. I’m firmly in the me-made movement myself, and I make everything in navy blue (because navy blue is the hot pink of Kay). But I get a blast of joy from seeing these expressive clothes. You do you, but try to be nice about it. This is a kind community.

      • Chiming in to say I agree with Kay completely. One little thought experiment: how would you feel if somebody wrote this about your handmade clothes on a public forum with thousands of readers?

  • I tend to be a much more conservative dresser BUT I absolutely love all this color. Most of my jeans and slacks come from the thrift store but are always, denim blue, black or khaki. I knit all the time but I know how to sew. Love the idea of making dresses from shower curtains, quilts, etc. Time to up my creative energy!!!! More color is good! Thank you for this.

  • The outfits featured here may not appeal to you, but they are appreciated by many other people. Try to think of it as cultivating one’s own personal style. I can appreciate the outfits made from curtains, but know that my lifestyle and body type does not lend itself to those flowy silhouettes. However I can use that as a springboard! In fact, I saved a fabric shower curtain we had a few homes back because I love the colors and graphic print. Someday it will become a simple, boxy top or shift dress for me!! It will suit my tastes and make me happy. Others may feel otherwise, but that’s their issue, not mine. Please try to appreciate the perspective of others and allow space for them to “be.” You be you, but not at the expense of others. Happy knitting.

  • Love Marcia Riddington and her creativity.

  • I’ve been gearing up to move towards slower fashion for a while, and this is a wonderful reminder not only of the importance of making one’s own clothes but also of the stylistic freedom doing so affords. While some of these items and combinations might be bolder than I feel comfortable wearing, I really like others, and moreover you can create your own looks! I love that each of these women has her own clear sense of style, which is something I struggle with when buying off the rack, trying to find something I actually want that fits me appropriately. I’ve armed myself with some books and am looking forward to learning how to sew better so that I can wear items that please me.

    I’m another who’s going to add a recommendation for Worn: A People’s History of Clothing by Sofi Thanhauser. It’s a really informative read.

  • Amen, sister! Boho is not the only aesthetic.

    • Where in the article do you find the claim that there’s only one aesthetic?

  • Thanks for your comment, Patricia. I thought it was honest and well said, and I’m glad it wasn’t censored. I, too, was an admirer of Jackie O’s classic style, and had to laugh at some of the exuberant styles featured in this article. I probably wouldn’t wear most of them, but I’m glad to see people enjoying fashion creatively.

  • I’ve never been a fan of sewing, but the call of slow fashion increases every year. The vast, vast majority of my winter hats and mitts are handmade and now I’m trying to make sweaters rather than buy another one. Finding clothes that fit me properly has always been an issue so making them may be where I end up, but I’m also starting a family and have a demanding job. We will see what the future brings! My inspiration comes from people I know and not influencers or books, although I’m going to add these to my reading list!

  • Loved this!

  • From my perspective so much of this “Inspiration” essay is at its core about the art of making. Some of us are “true blue” makers (Kay) and some of us enjoy color and bold graphics. At the end of the day we are all linked though by the joy we find in creating. And that is a special bond. I finished my first sweater several months ago. I would wear that thing every day if I could and I have never spent so much time admiring a garment in front of a mirror! In Melanie Fallick’s intro in The Art of Making, I wept when reading of how she had strayed from using her hands and needed to make her way back to that place. The love of this process is what binds us no matter what colors we wear.

  • I understand what you mean, even though I wish i dressed like these women. Sadly, I don’t, but as these are all clothes they made it means you can make anything that suits you (no pun intended), you can change fabric and cut when you make them. I think you are looking at them through a premade,
    ready-to-wear lens. Unlike pics
    store-bought clothing these images show you possibilities and to me illuminate that if you make your own, it can be anything you want it to be.

  • thanks for the book recommendations

  • I’m curious about MDK’s “Your comment is awaiting moderation” as I have not seen this before but I’m not on any social media sites. If someone has such a visceral reaction to others color & style they need to look inward & figure out why this is so offensive to them. Trying to diminish others joy of expression is a reflection on the commenter. I wouldn’t want to be in a world where we all dressed alike & looked alike. We all want to feel comfortable in our own skin, making our own choices which can change & vary as we age. (I loved my young self experimenting with clothing, color & pattern but wouldn’t wear those things now although wondering why not?) I applaud the exuberance & creativity that some people have!

    • “Yes!” to youthful exuberance and curiosity directed toward clothing choices. Mine needs tending and encouragement also.

  • The task of these reformers is not to fit in with previous cultural expectations and standards, but instead to shatter them. Many thanks for this article and the links to exciting designers.

  • From someone whose career was in fashion- first clothing, then jewelry and both in creation and design, I can say worldwide and even cultural events often inform the breadth of designers’ knowledge base which then affects the creative process which is why each fashion season we usually see common trends or threads (pun intended). But declaring colonialism as a “reason” for the evolution of style – or, for example, the current effort to popularize cross-dressing or pronounce it evidence of evolution is trying too hard – like saying something controversial to get more clicks. It comes from a small group with a singular purpose intending to tell people their opinions and taste are wrong and need to be changed. Individuals can create or push temporary trends which will fade in a season or so. Most people don’t like to be lectured to, especially regarding what they should wear because humans are thinking people, and, In my humble opinion, such declarations are an attempt to institutionalize people’s thinking by judging them and guilting them.
    Trends will come and go and few thinking people will yield to such pressure. That’s because we are thinking people. Much of what passes for “fashion,” is presented with a wink and a nod, and rave reviews are geared to temporarily influence vs. evolutional change.

  • The middle Marcia Riddington photo, a fabulous print on that green dress, and the cardigan! Sends me thinking back to the dresses in my mother’s closet, how I wish we had kept them.
    I love the joy in Izzy’s poses, too. I have some of that joy when I wear my Shakerag Skirt.
    MDK must be the reason Claudia Manning is in my Instagram feed, I always enjoy her posts there, always inspired by her makes.
    Thanks always for the daily posts and letters!

  • Thank you for this; I’ve been following Aja Barber and just finally ordered her book. My personal style also runs to the more subdued/tailored end, but I’ve been making an effort to thrift new clothes (pants, jeans) in addition to sewing and knitting pieces (tops, dresses). Part of my particular issue is a lack of dedicated sewing space, which makes for a barrier to starting any project. I’m seeing that I need to do some rearranging to solve that issue.

  • I follow Marcia Riddington on Instagram. Her style us so inspirational.

  • Thank you for an super inspiring article. I am a big knitter, but really need to get back into sewing too. And so true, you can find many fun things in second hand, and use as base to create and alter to fun pieces. Love the photos of those fun women. The world would be so much better, if we all got creative and not listen to the big fashion houses

  • I love the variety and the confidence, individuality & creativity, of the gals pictured. Wouldn’t feel at home dressed that way myself but I do go for the one-item-out-of-the-ordinary at a time vibe. I couldn’t help but laugh and think of the Carol Burnett skit based on Gone With the Wind, and Scarlett O’Hara’s drapery dress — “I made it from something I found hanging around”……

    • I believe it inspired a bridesmaids’ dress I once wore!

    • Carol, I also thought if the Carol Burnett skit (love it!), as well as the beautiful green velvet outfit that Scarlett wore in the movie GWTW.

      • Love remembering Carol Burnett, Scarlett O’Hara and also Julie Andrew’s in The Sound of Music. She sure got a lot.out of.the old drapes in her room!

  • Yikes, some of ya’ll are coming for the throats of people who are incredibly open and generous in sharing what they create and love. It takes courage to share that with the world. We are all actual humans on the other side of these screens.

    • Agree! Big yikes. As someone who wears mostly black and was once a clothing maker, it’s refreshing and inspirational to see pops of print and color mixed with personal style. If you can only see this as “UGH” in fashion, self-expression, creation, and art—you might be missing the point.

      • When I Am Old

        I am an old woman I shall wear purple
        With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
        And I shall spend my pension
        on brandy and summer gloves
        And satin sandals,
        and say we’ve no money for butter.
        I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
        And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
        And run my stick along the public railings,
        And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
        I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
        And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
        And learn to spit.
        You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
        And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
        Or only bread and pickle for a week,
        And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
        and things in boxes.
        But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
        And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
        And set a good example for the children.
        We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
        But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
        So people who know me
        are not too shocked and surprised,
        When suddenly I am old
        and start to wear purple!

        –Jenny Joseph

        I couldn’t help thinking about this poem while reading the comments. I was also thinking how, beginning some vague, insidious time after college graduation, I have spent the majority of my life waiting for “some day” to look and dress the way that I really want.

  • After reading all the comments of others on this article, I want to speak up for the people who voiced dissenting opinions about the article: while perhaps a more balanced use of language that made room for those who appreciate alternative styling and colour combinations would have been more polite, I think the article itself makes claims that provoke a response that propels readers to one side or another. If you want more balanced feedback, provide more balanced content. Beyond Jackie O there is a world of handmade fashion that looks sophisticated and speaks to quality and longevity. My own mother is a seamstress by trade and I have spent my whole life appreciating the quality of her handcraftsmanship (which I am unfortunately unable to replicate in sewing, but am working on with knitting).
    Style is a personal thing and we all have opinions about what we like for ourselves and appreciate (or not) on others. Try to remember that the right to dissent is what makes democracies work! And thanks for the engaging discussion!

    • It was the word “ugh” that got me.

    • I have to respond to this! It is not MDK’s job to provide balanced content. They’re not public television. In fact, I love that they have a distinct point of view. I remember the Yarn Harlot saying that reading her blog was like being invited to her living room. You don’t go to people’s homes and criticize their decor or insist they change their curtains. It would be helpful to apply that framework when leaving comments. The internet has, sadly, made people forget their manners. If you wouldn’t say it to Kay and Ann, (or Izzy, Marcia, Shannon) in person, then don’t say it in the comments.

      Now, my own opinion. I dress colorfully, I’m Indian so maybe it’s in my DNA. I am always struck by how much people compliment my clothes and accessories on a daily basis, while they continue to wear their dreary shades of beige, taupe, gray and black. There is a distinction between classic and dull, alas, many are on the wrong side of the divide.

  • There’s really nothing like sewing your own clothes, with all of the learning and pitfalls and trial and error, to make you really appreciate all the work that goes into a well made, well-fitting garment. And being able to tailor the look, style and fit to your own tastes and body needs is priceless. If you like ‘classic’, do that. If you crave exuberance, you can explore that with great happiness. Hating on others’ looks and style is just toxic and a waste of energy.

  • “Unraveling “ by Peggy Orenstein made me much more aware of the fashion industry contributing to climate change. We must get better!

  • I’ll throw in my 2 cents with something that happened to me quite a few years ago. I was in the exam room with my doctor asking if a patient assistance program was available for a medication he was suggesting I start. He commented that I could certainly apply, but would not be accepted based on the designer clothing I was wearing and how I should be more willing to spend that money on healthcare. I had made every stitch of my wardrobe that day from fabrics from the thrift store, garage sales or estate sales, including a pair of linen curtains. I don’t think he believed me when I told him everything I had on from head to toe cost less than $15.00 including purse and shoes. Please don’t judge others based on your views.

  • Cliadia’s Instagram is fantastic:

  • Ugh? Seriously? So rude. Those are people there.

  • Oh my goodness, thank you for introducing me to Marcia Riddington. She is Goals, as my students would say.

  • Please remember these women have feelings, we should always try and be kind on line…express our opinions by all means but not be unkind

  • Why is the OP not allowed to share her opinion? These women placed themselves in the public eye and WANT attention. The OP did not attack these women personally. Really, how many of us are going to dress like this?

    There’s an influential book from the 70s called Cheap Chic. I’m sure everyone deeply interested in this subject has read it. At least, I would hope so. It presented these sort of liberating ideas and attitudes about fashion, and did it CHIC-ly and lightheartedly. Check it out if you can get a copy.

  • White supremacy? Really?

  • Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press, Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline, Loved Clothes Last by Orsola de Castro

    Katrina Rodabaugh, Cal Patch, Sonya Philip, Karen Stevens, Liz Haywood, Meg McElwee

    • Many thanks for the mention, Liz 🙂

    • thank you Liz for such a thoughtful list.

  • The slow fashion discussion is something I’ve been following over the last ten years. Thanks for the book recommendations. My library and local independent book stores are my go-to places.
    There is nothing boring about this opinion piece! The explosion of color and texture and style almost gave me whiplash and definitely got my attention. So much joy!
    It is refreshing to see people express themselves in self-styled creative boldness. Lately I’ve found myself playing with more colorful choices and pops of intentional creativity. It’s fun, it’s unexpected. It shakes up the status quo and lets in a beautiful effervescent lightness. Cheers to all of our unique selves.

  • Why get upset about it? They’re just clothes.

    And by the way, Marcia Riddington is MY new muse. If you see me on the street, I suppose you’ll just have to look away. I’m

  • I could quote the authors I have read but, to be honest, my parents were by far my strongest influence. I was born in the fifties to parents influenced by need, frugality and early concern for the planet. My parents encouraged me to read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring along with them. My mother knitted as much as possible with Briggs&Little wools as there were no dangerous chemicals used and all dyes were safe. My Mum and my Dad darned, patched and remade the fabrics in our home. My Mum’s homemade curtains hung in three homes before becoming an apron and finally a pot holder. My Dad owned “camping” jeans that were not only no longer blue nor recognizable as denim but that finally disintegrated in the wash! I went to a private school and was the only child whose mother made her summer uniform and used the left over bits to make cushions and pin cushions. I could go on but…

  • I’m in my 70s and I see some outfits here that I would be happy to wear, that look comfortable and joyful. Yes, I miss some of the classics, but am in awe of people who make their own clothes. I haven’t sewn in years, but I think I could manage some basics. Thanks for the article, the food for thought and the inspiration.

  • I went back to yesterday’s comments to see if MDK (which has become my morning go-to for my hit of reading about fiber) had indeed “moderated” that first comment that was not so fangirl about the post. Thank you, MDK, for leaving it up to see what would transpire. It was an interesting dialogue! Reading the many points of view this morning from many wonderful commentators enlightened me and now I apologize if my own comment was negative. It must be hard work to write and curate images 24/7 for all of us, a very mixed bag of readers and makers. You do a fabulous job. It’s fun, useful, enlightening, and has led me many times to very happily purchase patterns, yarns and kits from MDK.

  • OH MY GOD!!! These colours, these clothes, these women are AMAZING!!!

  • What I find most interesting is that people who are enraged by negative comments about this article are so quick to pile on to others’ opinions. This is why I’ve mostly stopped reading comments and, in fact, most articles on this site–which, BTW, is trying to sell me stuff I don’t need on a regular basis, because it’s a business. I’m really feeling sad that people who talk so much about being proud of one thing are only able to express that in opposition to something else. This is why the cutlure war rages on. There is room for everyone if we allow it.

    • I noticed the same — one critical comment (one) written in slightly (slightly!) salty language, and out come the knives. Why are people so upset that someone didn’t like something in the article and provided feedback to that effect? This is exhausting.

    • Mel, it’s the meanness in the way it was expressed that seems to have gotten to people. Totally valid to not like something and say it, but what I keep seeing is remarks like, hey, that “ugh” was a bit much, would you say that to that person’s face in that way? I know some people would, of course, there’s always the people who delight in blunt honesty of opinion no matter how it may land. But I see the community responding to tone more than content. I haven’t seen anything that sounded enraged, but you are correct that comment sections unfortunately seem to devolve into unkindness instead of thoughtful discourse. That’s why moderation tightens up, it’s not about freedoms of speech but about community boundaries.

  • Very intrigued by this discussion. In the fall I’ll be teaching a class on textiles and fashion and I want to cover the range of issues the creation of clothing raise for consumers. This article and the comments tell me it will be interesting to get the reactions of the students! Thanks for the article.

  • I may need some technical assistance or guidance. I’ve clicked on both the hyperlinks which seem to be associated with Shannon Flaherty and both are taking me to Instagram accounts which are pretty cool but do not seem to contain any posts that resemble the photos that accompany the article. Can someone help or clarify?

  • Thanks to MDK for posting articles that make me THINK! I might have thought “ugh” at first glance but after reading all the comments I say GO FOR IT! Thanks and more thanks!

  • I agree.

  • They look like clowns. How sad. So talented. No taste at all.

  • These women have amazing style, and even if their style is not what you’d wear, looking at and reading about them is an inspiration. I don’t know about you, but how inspiring or fun would it be to read about someone who dresses exactly like you? These women put themselves out there, and you responded with “Ugh?” Rude.

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