Lydia Higginson has no shop-bought clothes anymore.
Well, that's almost true.
She has a wetsuit and a rain mac, but apart from that, nothing.
She gave them all away over the course of 2016 and replaced them, piece by piece, with her own designs and blogged about it along the way.
She explained to her readers that her reasons were largely ecological - after watching the documentary The True Cost she realised that fast, cheap, often unethical and environmentally harmful practices were not sustainable and she wanted to contribute to a movement that counteracted that.
She yearned to find clothes she knew were made with love and care.
And at the close of the year, after making 16 pairs of knickers, 5 bras, 3 corsets, 11 tops, 6 jumpers, 2 jackets, 2 coats, 1 gilet, 4 skirts, 10 pairs of trousers, 3 pairs of leggings, 2 playsuits and 1 jumpsuit, she revealed another reason for her odyssey.
Almost five years ago, in a very beautiful land a long way from home my body was taken from me. The house where I was living was broken into by a gang of robbers, who stripped me at gunpoint and sexually assaulted me. It was the most terrifying moment of my life. As I lay there face down, naked on the floor with the end of a gun pressed into my back, my mind completely disconnected from my physical form.
She was living with PTSD and was struggling to let go or work through her assault when she set herself a challenge;
It may sound crazy but it made sense to me that if I could reclaim my body being stripped bare, I would be able to redress myself with a new set of healing armour. I wanted to make my entire wardrobe from scratch; because I thought if I can do that, then I don't need to be afraid any more. I would have skills and strength which I can always rely on.
Lydia was taught how to sew by her mother, she had a two year apprenticeship with a costumier in London, then moved to her sister's in Bristol where she could afford to start her sartorial and spiritual journey.
It wasn't cheap, it costs a lot of money to make your own clothes, but she knows how to fix them, and she doesn't think she'll ever buy clothes from a shop again, so she sees it as an investment.
As I lay there face down, naked on the floor with the end of a gun pressed into my back, my mind completely disconnected from my physical form.
Despite her sewing skills there was still a large amount of trial and error, Lydia spoke to us about how she was inspired by Kinstugi to embrace her mistakes and imperfections,
Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. It makes the cracks stand out as part of the value of the ceramics and gives it a story. This is the philosophy I have for when I make mistakes in clothes. If I get the sizing slightly too small or something isn't sitting right I unpick the seam and add a strip of gold silk to make it fit. You will see this trademark ochre gold pops up quite a lot in my clothes. It has become my trademark. With sewing, no matter how frustrating a mistake is you have to remind yourself that you are always learning. There is an infinite amount to learn about making garments and you will never know it all so you just have to enjoy the ride and always have some gold silk close to hand.
But Lydia's journey isn't over.
I wanted to make my entire wardrobe from scratch; because I thought if I can do that, then I don't need to be afraid any more.
Though it has helped her gain massive control over her once broken mental health, she wants to carry on making, and help others too.
As I mentioned in my blog I wanted to reach out specifically to other women who have been raped and sexually assaulted to create a time and space for us to sit and make together in my studio. 1 in 5 women in the UK will be affected by rape and sexual assault at some point in their life, yet so often it can feel like you're alone. If you live in Bristol and are interested don't hesitate to get in touch. As well as these sessions I'll be running other classes in the spring for everyone to come a get to know their sewing machine like a new best friend. I promise once you have got to know how great she is, you will wonder what you ever did without her!
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