June 24th, 2016
# 6 Mend your clothes: The art of fixing: on the verge of extinction?
Outfit: Black dress worn forward, ribbon lace applique basted onto neckline, Miz Mooz wedges (fave shoe right now). Pearl bracelet, hoop earrings.
How many people do you know that will discard a garment because a seam came undone or a button fell off? A lot of people consider the problem a manufacturing flaw rather than simple wear and tear. Having worn the same garment for weeks on end I came to a realization I hadn’t had before. When you wear something often, it requires repairs! There’re tears from getting caught on the dog’s gate, the hem came undone at one point, and points of strain are getting worn. Suddenly I knew why the pioneers would spend the evenings around the fire with a pile of clothes to mend! They were rebuilding their clothing. This is one of those things we take for granted in our society, because sometimes we don’t wear the same blouse for weeks. Then the wear and tear is not as obvious to it. I truly believe that in spite of saving us hours of alterations by the fire, we’ve lost instead of gained. I fear that by not having to fix our everyday clothing we’ve lost a connection to the creative process. We lost the pride and feeling of accomplishment that comes from solving a problem to a very real dilemma. We’ve also lost that connection that came from spending time with others performing small tasks. This is very similar to the knitting circle article (Day 38), where we talked about how the human element to crafting together actually is beneficial to your well-being. Who knew?
I cannot tell you the amount of people who’ve told me, they can’t buy something because it’s too long or the sleeves are the wrong width, or it is just a bit too big? Ever considered altering? Here’s the thing…and I say this with love… (again in retail), when you get people complaining that the garment at hand does not fit them properly so they will not buy it because shortening it is too expensive, I often find myself thinking “Are you kidding me? Let me get this straight, you are all for mass-production, ready-to-wear-cheap clothing but you want it to fit you and your friend perfectly because you are both a small, never mind that she’s 5’1 and has a 36” bust and you are 6’ tall with a 38” bust. And you want it all for $19.95?!”
We are a society of oximorons. We want it cheap, unique and perfect fit. Unfortunately we can’t have all three at once. So, when I suggest a simple alteration like shortening the sleeves. Often I hear a ‘Oh…I never thought of that!’
How about it? Wanna give it a try? Wanna learn how to hem your pants so the edges won’t fray from dragging on the floor (can’t even imagine the amount of stuff that collects there). Wanna learn how to sew a button back up so you can do up your jacket? How about learning to darn a hole or re-stitch a seam? It seems daunting when you didn’t learn from the get go. Maybe your parents didn’t know the skill, or maybe you had no interest in learning it. But right now, we are approaching a time where the skill of sewing is disappearing and I feel it is crucial to bring it back. It is not only a life-skill like learning to cook or do laundry, it is also beneficial to basic motor and hand eye coordination, which is good for your brain!
To prove my point, check out this article from the Guardian, in the UK, “The rise of mending: how Britain learned to repair clothes again” acknowledges the need to bring back mending to society and encourages people to pick up the habit.
There are many ways to learn to mend clothes. You can take a local class or simply go online. Lots of tutorials on Youtube, but I realize that can be overwhelming. I found two great resources. The first one is ifixit.com they have lots of guides to repair almost anything. They’ve partnered with Patagonia to teach consumers how to mend their product line.
The other website is called Love your Clothes, and it is a UK campaign to reduce the impact of clothing on the environment. I LOVE this site. There are so many great resources in it, but their mending tutorials especially, are great.
I wanted to leave you with an example of how easy it could be to learn to sew a button: Here’s a picture of Victoria my youngest, sewing a button on her teacher’s gift. Now, if a 9 year old can do this…so can you!