5 Differences Between Handmade and Manufactured Clothing

Hi everyone, it’s Emily! Today I want to discuss handmade and manufactured clothing. What does it mean and what’s the benefit of having handmade over manufactured?

In fashion, we hear a lot of words like “artisanal”, “handcrafted”, “handmade”, “craftsmanship”, etc. 

But what does that really mean? And why would these terms mean better from a marketer's perspective? And what does handmade mean for my brand? Why did I decide to take that route? I’m going to answer each of these questions. :)

These terms (“artisanal”, “handcrafted”, “handmade”, “craftsmanship”) refer to some part of the garment being done by hand, the old-fashioned way. This could mean a hand-stitched collar or zipper or embroidery. It could mean a single person made the garment rather than an assembly line in a factory. (Shoutout Emily Westenberger the Label!). In marketing, “handmade” intends to make the garment seem more valuable. 

Alternative to handmade is mass production or manufactured clothing. Clothes in this setting are made from an assembly line where humans have little involvement. 

For me, I love handmade because of the human connection and my true love for the process of making clothes. I love that people are passionate enough to take the time to make it themselves. It literally puts a smile on my face to see people pursue their passions, and I want to support them!

For the record, manufactured clothes are not necessarily better or worse than handmade clothes. There are too many processes and factors that go into making a garment that factor into quality, style, sustainability, craftsmanship and so on that could make a garment better or worse. Some of the factors come down to preference, too. There can be good and bad things about hand making or manufacturing garments. 

[Fun fact: when assembly line made clothing emerged, handmade clothing was considered cheap and unstylish whereas factory made clothing was associated with designers and exclusivity. Fashion production has increased to such astronomical levels that has caused that view to flip ]

Handmade now carries more sense of intrinsic value because of its typically superior construction, detailing, sustainability, and human connection.

When I’m making clothes for my brand, I do the draping, pattern making, sizing, cutting, and sewing by myself and mostly by hand with the exception of using a sewing machine to piece together most of the garment. 

What’s so great about handmade clothing?

Besides the human touch and connection, what makes handmade better? We can’t say that solely because it’s handmade that the garment is more durable. It’s not that simple. We tend to want an easy answer, but most things aren’t that simple.

1. Durability and Longevity

What I CAN say - coming from someone who owns a handmade brand- is that I take steps to ensure durability and longevity. I use french seams. French seams are basically sewn twice and keep the fabric from fraying. These can be used in manufactured clothing too, but it is much more expensive to produce and you usually only see it in luxury brands. 

French Seam - Slow Fashion Blogger

I use smaller stitching when appropriate for the fabric. Some fabrics that stretch, depending on the style, you may want to use a longer stitch. But usually a smaller stitch will mean that the stitching will not come apart. These are construction related things I pay attention to when handmaking - but spoiler alert, a good manufacturer can tackle these nuances as well!

Longevity and durability tie into sustainable fashion because the hope is that because they last longer, you won't need to buy as frequently. They’re investment pieces :)

Small makers that hand make items themselves can take care of the minutest details, which is also why it may be more expensive. 

2. Small Batches and Exclusivity

The fact that each garment is handmade means I produce in smaller quantities, like most small makers. Each item is limited and exclusive. Some designs are very difficult to make in an assembly line, so by hand making each item, we can create very unique designs.

3. Custom Sizing and Styles

Handmade makes it easier to customize sizing and styles. I can adjust bust, waist, hips, etc, change hemlines, swap style details because each garment is individually made just for the customer, especially if you are making each item to order. When manufacturing, you can’t make adjustments for single garments because there’s processes already in place. 

4. Deadstock Fabrics 

Brands that manufacture often have lots of leftover fabric. That’s where I come in! :D

I take their leftover fabric and put it to use. You may have heard of this referred to as ‘deadstock fabric’. This, along with many other processes, adds to the eco-friendliness of handmade fashion :)

5. Transparency

It’s not hard to explain to your customers who and how your clothes are being made when there’s only one person making it! (Hi, again! That’s me).

With large global brands that manufacture, it's so difficult for a customer to trace where there clothing is being made, if the workers are being paid fairly, and if they have good working conditions. 

So I hope that answers some questions about handmade vs manufactured clothing. Like I said, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. There are so man nuances and preferences that you could sway a customers preference. 

For me, I love handmade because of the human connection and my true love for the process of making clothes. I love that people are passionate enough to take the time to make it themselves. It makes me smile to see people pursue their passions, and I want to support them! That for me is the biggest reason to love handmade <3

Comment below what you think of handmade clothing! Thanks for watching and have a great day!

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