I made this top on May Day (May 1st) to remember and honor the labor of women around the world who make our clothing. On May 1, 1886, workers in Chicago walked off their jobs to demand 8 hour work days. Today, over 60 million people are employed in the global garment industry, and most of them (upwards of 75%) are women. These women are working long hours in sweatshops for poverty wages, invisible to consumers and to the leaders of the billion dollar, multinational corporations whose clothing they make.
One of the reasons I sew is because I feel like it gives me agency to resist against this exploitation of women. With the development of my feminist consciousness over the years, I began to see sewing as a radical way to create something meaningful and to have control over what I'm wearing and buying.
But changing the global apparel industry involves much more than an individual effort to buy less fast fashion and to wear clothes more intentionally. The entire system that the fashion industry is built upon needs to change. People shouldn't have to work in sweatshops. People shouldn't have to buy clothes made in sweatshops. And even though I make many of my own clothes, I still don't know what to do about how I know nothing about where and how the fabric that I'm using is produced.
In less than a week, I will graduate from Purdue University having studied Mathematics and Apparel Design (photos from the fashion show coming soon!), and minors in French and Women's, Gender & Sexuality studies. During my senior year, I've found USAS (United Students Against Sweatshops) and have organized on campus against sweatshops. I've loved working with USAS, and the people I've met along the way are some of my favorites. Of the many wonderful and memorable groups I've been involved with, things I've achieved, and friends I've made, USAS holds a special place in my heart. Together we've accomplished so much and, in the spirit of May Day, we still have so much further to go.
If you're interested in the actual construction of this garment, it was pretty simple. I took a crew neck t-shirt pattern and chopped off the top at a level about halfway up the armscye on the front, back, and sleeve pieces. Add enough allowance to the top edge to create a track for the elastic (I added two inches because I was using 3/4 inch elastic). Then add a little bit of extra width to each piece so that it can be gathered by the elastic.
Coincidentally, I've decided to participate in Me Made May this year for the first time! I'm committing to wearing at least one piece of clothing that I've made each day. So far so good. Maybe I'll post a reflection at the end of the month?