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. 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.
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?