Sewcialize: on Barbie and why I sew

I recently listened to the first episode of the Sew and Tell podcast: Deadly Under 36 Inches. The ladies hosting the podcast referenced an article on Sew News all about Barbie and how she has influenced so many different sewists. I went in search of the article because those people and I had something in common, Barbie influenced our sewing and love of fashion, whether directly or indirectly.

I was less than 5 when I got my first Barbie doll. I don’t remember if it was a Christmas or birthday present but I know that it started an obsession. By the time I was no longer interested in Barbie, I had accumulated in excess of two dozen Barbie dolls not including Ken and all of her friends like Skipper. I had Barbie’s dream house; and my Barbie had a red 2-door convertible, Wrangler, Vespa, and minivan with 3 rows of seats. When the MyScene dolls came out I had to have them too.


I had fashion designer Barbie (finding this picture was a major throwback for me), and I also had Barbie Fashion Designer. A software that one of my (oh so loving) parents found that allowed me to create Barbie fashion on the computer, print and cut it out of a special paper, use little sticky beads to put the pieces together, and allowed for my Barbie to wear something I had created myself. As I write this, I am only now realizing exactly how much money my parents spent on my Barbie obsession. I don’t think I actually sewed for my Barbie but my interest in garment making and fashion definitely was influenced by Barbie. During this time when anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I’d always respond with “fashion designer.” Fast forward to now, I have a degree in architecture.


My dad says he knew I would end up doing some sort of design for a career because my nursery teachers tried to get him to enroll me into an after school art program, but I was too young to be accepted. I went to university for an architecture degree which means there was lots of model building involved. Upon my graduation, there was a creative void in my life for a few months because I was no longer required to build models. This is how I started sewing. I needed an outlet that would allow me to make things with my hands.

It took some time to get the hang of constructing garments. The first few months of sewing made me realize that despite wearing clothes for all of my life I knew very little about how they were put together. My parents bought me a sewing machine for my birthday and I couldn’t help but think that it was a waste of money initially when nothing went right and even less things came out wearable. I think I was sewing for a year before I actually made something I liked enough to wear out in public. When the compliments roll in for something you have made with your own two hands – that is indescribable. It’s even better when you say “thanks I made it” and everyone is amazed by this because sewing has been a dying art among my generation. The only feeling that tops this is seeing my mom look on proudly when someone compliments me and she is around.

One of the first garments I wore out publicly

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