Sewing for my daughter was so much fun when she was little. I’d mix colors and patterns, add on some appliques and she’d have a one-of-a-kind dress or shirt she was proud to wear. “My mama made it!” was a good thing.
But now she’s 13 and things are…. different.
Mostly she just wants clothes from the mall, just like all the other kids her age. Either that, or clothes she has bought online, now that it’s the new way to shop. There are so many online shops out there nowadays, such as Umgee Clothing and many more, and even I am guilty of using them. But every now and then I get a request for a mama made garment. I made a bathing suit for her last summer, and then this fall I made the dress she wore to the Holly Ball.
What I’ve learned from the few projects she allows me to make for her is that sewing for teens is very different than sewing for little girls. It’s taken some hits and misses, some successes and some sewing fails, but now I think I’ve got a handle on sewing for teen girls.
So if you’re moving in to the realm of teenhood in your house, here are my best tips for sewing for a teen girl:
Take measurements and take them often. Just because you got your teen’s measurements last month doesn’t mean they’re still accurate. Their bodies change quickly, especially the younger teens, so before you start make sure you’re working with an accurate set of measurements.
Minimize fitting sessions. Obviously you’ll need at least one fitting session while sewing the garment, but keep them as brief and painless as possible. My daughter HATES a fitting session. It makes her feel awkward to wear a half-finished garment that may or may not fit. I’ve learned to be efficient during a quick fitting session. Also make sure any language about fit is 100% body positive.
Listen to what she wants. Let your teen be the designer. You are the production department. My teen will dismiss or actively dislike just about anything I suggest, just because I was the one who suggested it. Mama is just not cool any more. So I let her tell me what she wants, and unless her wishes are inappropriate or unworkable I’ll keep my opinions to myself. And when you can bring their designs to fruition, you’ll get rock star mom points. But….
Don’t expect visible gratitude. Every time my daughter approaches me with a sewing request, I get this fantasy in my head where I will produce the wished-for item and she’ll look at me with hearts in her eyes and tell me I’m the BEST. Yeah…. That’s probably not going to happen. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deep down appreciate what you’ve done for them. When I showed my daughter the finished Holly Ball dress, her reaction was just a short nod of approval before going back to her phone conversation. BUT… a few days later, when we were on our way to the event, she tells me, “It’s so nice to have a dress that fits and is comfortable!” That was her 13-year-old version of hearts in the eyes gratitude, and I will gladly take it.
Go the extra mile. Take the time to make sure your seams match up and they’re finished nicely, as much like ready-to-wear as you can do on your home machine. Splurge on good fabric and quality materials. It will show in your final product. When I was making the Holly Ball dress for my daughter, she was afraid other girls would look down their nose at the dress I made. So instead of buying a cheap polyester taffeta from the chain fabric store, I ordered a silk taffeta from Mood. Not only was it a nicer fabric but the fact that it came from Mood gave it the cool factor she was looking for.
Custom made not home made. When all the cool clothes come from the mall, it can be embarrassing for your teen to tell their friends their clothes are home made. But that doesn’t mean they should be ashamed of what you’ve made them. It’s just a matter of how you refer to it. “Custom made” has a nicer ring, doesn’t it? “Home made” feels like what you do when you can’t afford the clothes you want, but “custom made” lets everyone know that something was designed and made specifically for them. It also allows them to have free rein in being able to make and design clothes that they love, instead of just buying them because they need new clothes and have no other choice. Who knows, it may even lead to them designing and printing their own shirts with somewhere like this custom t-shirt Houston company in the future, just like my friend has done. And hers look great. When you “custom make” your own clothes, it can open up a variety of different avenues, so it could work out for the best. And if they’re making clothes that they love, then isn’t that what truly matters?
This is what I’ve learned so far sewing for my teen. I’m sure I’ll have more to add as we move through the teen years. Do you have any more tips for sewing for teens?
I can relate to this ! I have 14 & 12 year old daughters, (with champagne tastes, beer money!…), the eldest liked a skirt in a shop costing £26, it’s got less than a metre of fabric I think how much can it cost to make? Well a remnant of fabric at £2 and she has a pretty identical skirt that I had to draft a pattern from scratch for. I think she liked it – she wants another one in white…feeling chuffed! 🙂
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Her dress is beautiful and she is beautiful in it.
thank you for your 6 tips…. I am now sewing for a grand daughter who is almost 6 feet tall …. So I needed those reminders from when I sewed for her Mother, aunt and uncle!!
It is kind of a consolation that all over the globe we are sooo alike! My daughters are in their twens and it is NOW they really appreciate the value of mother’s custom sewing. Girls may not be able to show their gratitude but my goodness young women do and as a mother one gets the feeling that it was all worth it.
Good suggestions. I think, too, that being current on the trends and techniques of off the rack clothing goes a long way toward feeling custom vs. feeling homemade. I feel lucky that my teens appreciate that Mom can sew.
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I have just entered this stage you cleverly captured with 10-year-old and 9-year-old girls. Last night, I stayed up late finishing a dress with a striped fabric they both picked together. When daughter one tried on the finish product with vertical stripes, the other daughter announced she wanted her dress with the stripes going horizontally. Problem is, I had already cut out the fabric to have the stripes run vertically AND the material only stretched one way. So much for the I-love-everything-mommy-makes-me-cause-its-new stage.