The Project

Digital Dressmaking: Gender, Technology and Craft in Britain’s Contemporary Sewing Communities

The traditional practice of home dress-making is experiencing something of a revival in Western countries. Popular culture has also seen renewed interest in the craft, with shows like Channel 4’s This Old Thing encouraging viewers to alter and repair vintage clothes, and the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee recently completing a third season. Alongside these popular media representations has emerged the development of a vibrant online presence, with substantial numbers of sewing bloggers and tweeters establishing an apparent community which collectively I call “digital dressmakers“.

Predominately female, digital dressmakers are engaged in a range of innovative practices online: sharing makes; learning/exchanging skills; designing, selling, purchasing, reviewing ‘indy’ patterns; planning virtual events and meet-ups. While other craft revivals like knitting have received considerable scholarly attention, particularly from feminist scholars, there is a scarcity of empirical work on the current sewing revival (Hall & Jayne 2015). This project aims to be first to explore the digital dressmaking community considering the interaction between a traditionally material craft and new technologies.

Historical research tells us a great deal about the value and role of home sewing in previous eras yet curiously we lack similar insights into the current revival. This project will fill this void through a multi-modal ethnography involving online and offline data-gathering.

The project involves a virtual ethnographic study of digital dressmaking activities on Twitter and Instagram, and a series of interviews with British sewists, to talk about their various digital practices.