Case Study: DIY Fashion

by: Christine Lee


Do-it-yourself is a term used to describe artistic efforts in which participants modify and/or create something, ranging from furniture to clothing. It is said to have emerged with the rise of the punk movement in the 1970’s, in which came substantial cultural, social, and political change. The movement lead to the rise of fanzines. Stephen Duncombe describes fanzines as “little publications filled with rantings of high weirdness and exploding with chaotic design”, where producers “privilege the ethic of DIY, do-it-yourself: make your own culture and stop consuming that which is made for you.


Another theory in which DIY emerged: DIY is also said to be linked to the Arts and Crafts movement of the 1900’s. This was an international design movement originated in England. This movement also spread to the United States and evolved as a “reaction against the impoverished state of the decorative arts and the conditions under which they were produced.” It emphasized traditional craftsmanship as well as authentic material usage. This movement also evolved as a simple cost-saving technique between the 1940’s and 1950’s.

DIY vinyl wall art


Regardless of the true origins, or multiple origins, of DIY, there is no denying that it is indeed a huge phenomenon in society, forgoing any class structures by being used in high fashion as well as in the general public.

Democratization of fashion

Democratization is the transition to a more democratic approach from an authoritarian regime. There are no rules. The authoritarian regime in this case would be the power players of the fashion industry who tell us what is in style, where to buy from, which designers are considered noteworthy, and more. Well, these authority figures are authority no more as the power belongs to the individual who now decides what he or she wants for himself or herself, through DIY fashion.

Issey Miyake is one of the most innovative clothing designers today. In the mid-90’s, an experiment he started with Dai Fujiwara, a textile engineer and designer, turned into an fashion line in 1999 called A-POC. A-POC, standing for “a piece of cloth”, requires no sewing; the thread goes into the loom and the finished product comes out of the other side. The product is not limited to clothing but extends into accessories or even furniture. “This interactive new method not only reduces leftover fabric but also permits the wearers to participate in the final step of the design of their clothing: they determine the final shape of the product”. The wearers determine the final shape of the product giving power to the individual.

Erica Domesek is the founder, creator, and author of P.S. – I made this a highly distinguished DIY website further showing the democratization of fashion and power to the individual. It gives readers ideas for DIY projects and even provides inspiration boards for readers to come up with their own ideas. It also has links to the best places to get materials for particular projects.

The “Art of the Trench” is a beautiful thing.  The trench  coat is quite possibly one of the most classic staples that everyone  should own.  My friends, Hillary and Katherine of  WHO WHAT WEAR, who have a new j’amazing book, “WHAT TO WEAR, WHERE”, agree that one of the most coveted pieces this spring hails from BURBERRY.   Designer, Christopher Bailey, added a new spin on the iconic trench  coat, giving us goosebumps with metallic accents to embellish.  Severe  and sexy spikes are certainly a Spring trend to steal (say that tongue  twister!) Get inspired by Burberry, and create  your own version.  Reach for lots of chopsticks (use anywhere from  50-100 pairs or more if you crave more spike-age).  Using a handsaw  (carefully) and cut down chopsticks tops.  If you don’t feel comfortable  with a saw, try heavy duty clippers.  In a well-ventilated area, spray paint the spikes, gold.  Wait till dry, flip over- and spray to cover.  Use  chalk to outline where the spikes will go.  Use droplets of hot glue on  the bottoms of the spikes, place down- and hold for a few seconds till  they set.  Remove any straggly glue hair strands, let dry- and rock it!

DIY as OPPOSITION TO FASHION - Deconstruction Fashion

Martin Margiela was a leading proponent of deconstructionism: Deconstruction itself is literally the “dismantling of clothes and embodiment of aestheticized non-functionality. He made dresses made of fabrics that did not match with the inside linings sewn on the outside bringing the “secrets” of the fashion’s “bewitching charms” to the surface. The jackets he made were also re-cut and re-sewn, details exposed.


Another major proponent of it is to take an item that already exists to serve one purpose, deconstruct it, and assign it another purpose. E2 makes customized pieces from vintage and recycled designer wear. Some of their pieces include a kimono pieced together from an old Cacharel blouse and a robe made from a number of Balenciaga scarves.


Having emerged from a rather rebellious movement, the punk movement, DIY is comparatively subdued. Although it can be considered an opposition to fashion, it is not so much against fashion as it is a manipulation of fashion codes to fit the needs of the individual. This in turn gives power to the individual who controls every aspect of what he or she wears by personal creation.