What I Made This Week |Quarantine, Sewing, Sustainability, and…kawaii academia? | taylorjohnson.art

Sometimes, when stuck at home for extended durations while the wider world goes mad, one goes a little stir-crazy. This stir-craziness can manifest in many ways… In my case, my art just seems to get a little more unusual.

My old computer shuffled off its mortal coil last week on Wednesday, so Thursday and Friday I was limited to my phone for entertainment. I actually have been lapsing back into Quarantine Insomnia, so I found myself sitting on the sofa on Friday night, wondering what the hell people did back in the day when there wasn’t a nearby laptop or tablet on which to happily squander the brief hours of one’s life.

I couldn’t get my mind off this one project I’ve been tentatively wanting to work on: gradually shifting my personal wardrobe from its current state (too many garments, very few of which I actually like, and all of which probably came from sweatshops), to something entirely new.

I had a few criteria going in. First, I wanted to make sure that the focus and purpose of everything I did was to move away from fast fashion, overconsumption, and unsustainability. This is one of the reasons I’m not doing my whole wardrobe re-do all at once: The #1 most HARMFUL way to fight fast fashion is to buy 600 yards of fabric to sew yourself a brand new wardrobe and replace everything instantly. Because really, this is all about us buying LESS…right? DIY, but don’t DIY all at once or in excess.

Second, I wanted to ensure that what I made, I’d actually wear. I’ve never been one to own a lot of fancy clothes, but I still end up with dresses I wear once and sometimes forget I even own, or jeans that “I just never wear.” To this end, I sat down and tried to assemble some kind of game plan. I looked at what I’d like to wear, what I never wear, and what I DO wear already, and made a little map for myself of what a basic “enough to mix and match for a week” wardrobe might look like. Making clothes myself does mean less support of the fast-fashion garment industry, but it’s still harmful to the environment for me to have excess clothes, even if I make them myself. (Production and dyeing of fabric is often damaging to the environment, and plus, if I never wear something, it may end up in the trash – and there is way too much garment waste in landfills already.)

Third, and most fun: I have dressed, for most of my adult life, in a rather toned-down, conservative, “don’t notice me I’m just the receptionist” way. I have held back on the more whimsical, colorful, patterned, pastel styles I’d really love to wear, out of some strange fear of not being taken seriously. At some point around age 30, though, I realized, life is short. And life is too short to not wear the style you dream of. You think you’re too tall, too short, too big, too skinny, too masculine or feminine or androgynous, or otherwise “unfit” to your desired style?Well, life is short. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t want to lie on my deathbed saying “Gosh, why didn’t I ever put a pink bow in my hair and go out in a pinafore and rainbow tights?”

So I started cutting out fabric, and by Sunday noon I had this skirt. It’s a simple cotton skirt from pattern #1369 from Simplicity, and while I did change a couple of things about the assembly and finishing, it’s largely just view A straight from that pattern. I usually wear a size 16/18 and I made a 22 in “pattern size” (for those not familiar, clothing patterns and clothing stores operate on a nominally similar but effectively unrelated sizing system).

I love this thing. It’s so comfortable and light and flowy, and, well…me. It’s exactly the sort of thing I’d like to wear in the future. And with any luck I’ll be wearing it for quite a while yet.

The specific style of this supposed future wardrobe is actually something I’m still feeling out. I originally thought about taking inspiration from the “dark academia” aesthetic, which is, in my limited understanding, basically the look of a Victorian university student majoring in occult studies and possibly practicing magic in their spare time. But for my tastes, it was a little too much black and a little too muted.

In the planning phases, I considered Edwardian styles, or some kind of modernized Regency, or even the Gothic Lolita and Sweet Lolita looks originally popularized in Japan. Finally I came full circle and realized that what I wanted was essentially “dark academia, but make it pastel.”

And so “kawaii academia” was born. Yes, it is an inherently made-up aesthetic. It doesn’t actually derive from any real place, time, or tradition; no person, group, or location can be indicated as inspiring it. It’s just the best way I can describe the way I’d like to dress.

I don’t expect it will happen overnight. Mst of my wardrobe is still the same old items, because I don’t intend to actually throw things out before their time. (Even when things wear out, I generally salvage some of the fabric for doll clothes.) But I do plan to keep making items, as appropriate, and I will be posting on this page about it. You’ll find a new section under “My Works” labeled “Kawaii Academia,” which will house a gallery of garments I make in this series.

Thank you for reading. If you’re curious about the future of this or other projects, be sure to follow the blog to be notified when I post again. You can also follow @kawaiiacademia on Instagram to watch the wardrobe unfold and evolve there.

And until next time: Be safe, be well, and make something today.



(This skirt was made with the Simplicity pattern #1369, somewhat modified.)