Once upon a time, most women and girls wore clothing that was made at home by either themselves or another family member. As "store-bought" dresses and other items became more easily available, and affordable, more and more people of means started to purchase their clothing "ready to wear".
Over time, it not only became cheaper to buy clothing off the rack, fabrics, patterns and notions became more costly, relegating home sewing to the diehard purists and eager-for-something-unique hobbyists. Store-bought clothing also served as a sign of status in some communities, and children (as well as others) who wore home-sewn garments were often ridiculed.
Even though clothing construction at home saw a decline as more people were able to pay for clothing made by others, there were still plenty of men, (yes, men!) women, and even children all over the world sewing in the hems of pants, replacing buttons on shirts, and even adding patches to torn clothing. The reality of the matter is some people simply didn't have a choice.
As a result of those with limited means not having a choice, old clothing was often recycled, or rather upcycled to make new garments -- as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Even though those "hippie" and "peasant" items were looked down upon at the time, many were later inspiration for high fashion garments. Now upcycling has become "the new black" of sewing.
It drives me nuts when people say that sewing is a lost art. If that were even remotely true we'd all be walking around naked. There would be no fashion designers or clothing stores or even upholstered furniture.
Four years ago I wrote a craft article for helium listing a number of web sites which offered free sewing patterns for creating dresses for girls and teens. If I were writing that article today I would probably stop at listing Pinterest. There are so many great projects pinned on the popular bookmarking site, it's completely changed the way we search the internet.