Women’s motivations to sew clothing for themselves

Martindale, Addie
Major Professor
Ellen McKinney
Committee Member
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Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management

The purpose of this study was to understand why women are choosing to sew clothing for themselves as a leisure activity in the age of fast fashion. Resurgence in home sewing participation, specifically an increased interest in personal garment sewing, has prompted the need to explore these women’s perceived benefits and their consumer behavior as they operate outside of typical consumer culture. Due to the lack of current home sewing research, a grounded theory approach was used to reveal the reasons for this phenomenon through the experiences of the female sewers. An ethnically diverse sample of 15 female middle-class home sewers, ages 20–40 years from the United States and Canada, were recruited for interviews through Facebook sewing groups. In interviews, the participants were asked questions regarding their reasons for sewing clothing for themselves and the benefits that sewing provided them. Questions were also asked about feelings attached to sewing, the reactions of others, time spent sewing, and sewing-related consumption.

The content analysis of the interview data revealed three emergent themes: investment, control, and empowerment. All three emergent themes were interconnected within an overarching central theme of personal fulfilment. The research data revealed that these women’s decisions to sew clothing for themselves offered them personal fulfillment that was not experienced in other aspects of their lives, providing them with a sense of accomplishment, a creative outlet, and stress release. The theme of investment reflected how these women invested in their leisure decision to sew clothing through cognitive, monetary, and time aspects. Control was revealed by the increased power over their appearance that sewing their own clothing allowed them as a consumer and the higher level of self-expression they were able to attain. Empowerment was reflected as the positive impact that sewing participation had on their confidence as well as their increased desire to sew that was impacted by the support and positive feedback of others.

To illustrate the interconnectedness and recurring process of the emergent themes around the central theme of personal fulfillment, a model for women’s motivations to sew clothing for themselves was developed. An additional sew or purchase decision model was developed to demonstrate the decision-making process the women used when choosing to sew or to purchase a desired garment. This model depicts the factors in the decision-making process as well as the increased consumption stages an individual goes through in the decision to sew and not purchase. Theoretical perspectives from prosumerism, craft consumer and do-it-yourself consumption, as well as uses and gratification theory were applied to better understand the motivations of these women. In addition, these women’s motivations to sew explored in comparison with third-wave feminist handcraft reclamation.