Slow fashion October: Week 4

This week’s theme is Worn, for which Karen suggested a discussion on heirlooms / second-hand / mending / caring for things / laundering for longevity / design for longevity. I’ve thought a lot about the production end of Slow Fashion October, both as a maker and as a consumer, but I honestly haven’t though as much about mending/care/longevity. That’s not because I don’t do those things- they just haven’t been as much in the forefront of my conscious decision-making. I buy my clothes secondhand whenever possible, and keep my clothing for as long as possible in all cases, generally aiming to mend/alter the garments to keep them going, whether by changing them slightly or turning them into completely new garments.

I really like the way sashiko looks, and I really love the idea of mending as an expression of creativity, not just as a means of keeping garments going a little longer. When I was younger, I patched jeans with funky fabric, and I’ve spent a lot more energy lately on altering clothing rather than mending: my recent shirt-dress made from a giant, thrifted mens’ shirt, cutting sleeves off of too-large t-shirts to make them more wearable for exercise, hemming pants, turning a scarf into a dress. Altering, to me, means making something that’s wearable from something that isn’t, whether that distinction is based on taste or practical considerations.

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I’ve mended several items for Wes, most notably these pants. I asked him to say a few words on the pants and their time in his life so far: “Isn’t Ralph Loren like a fancy brand? They have an RL on them. They were in some pile of clothes I found back [when I was stationed] in Hawaii. I wore them with a knife clipped to the pocket a lot, so the pocket ripped out. I tried to sew them up, but I’m not very good at sewing, so it didn’t work very well. I was content to just not use that pocket, because anything I put in there would just fall through the pocket into my shoe, but then [Sarah] saw that and fixed it, so now I wear them again.”

I asked him his further thoughts about mending, wearing secondhand, and longevity of clothing: “Most of my clothes come from thrift stores or ‘free piles,’ back when I used to live in a communal/dorm setting. I have a simple sense of style, so it’s easy to bring these items into my wardrobe, as long as they’re neutral and not too riddled with holes… and kind of fit. Then Sarah fixes them.

If I need something, I’ll just buy it- I don’t have a budget for clothes. I feel like if I own something, I’m going to wear it until it’s completely unserviceable. I don’t like the idea of someone throwing away a pair of jeans, for them to rot away in the trash. Cost is probably my primary motive- I think anyone who says that the environment is their primary motive is trying to sound altruistic. I’m sure there are plenty of people who buy new clothes and believe themselves to be environmentally conscious as well. If they’re truly being environmentally conscious, they’re going to shop at a thrift store- they’re not going to buy a new product. If you buy secondhand, you can usually find something that’s so lightly worn, or practically new. For my purposes, I have no attachment to finding something fashionable. There’s the environmental aspect as well, but I can’t say that’s what motivates me. I think it’s good to reuse things, but If anything, it’s about cost- and ultimately, it’s something I don’t dwell on too much.”

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