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How We Lost Our Ability to Mend

In lieu of recent news of Karl Lagerfeld‘s passing, I thought I would pen a post about fashion — instead I thought I would share a post that’s a bit more important. A fascinating dissection on mending wears. Troubling, and equally eye-opening, it’s important to understand where we’ve been and where we’re going with fashion.

It’s interesting what war will do to economies, culture, and country:

Out of this came a British “make-do and mend” ethos, whereby civilians were encouraged to patch up and repair old garments, rather than buy new and replace. When garments couldn’t be patched up any longer, they were “deconstructed” so that their raw materials could be recycled. Raggedy sweaters, for example, were sometimes “unknitted” so that the yarns could be used to darn old knits or makes new ones entirely. The Ministry of Supply even organized a fashion show to demonstrate how new clothes could be made from old garments. 

Women weren’t the only people mending during this period; British soldiers and men back home were also encouraged to fix their clothes. In some of the  “Make Do and Mend” ad campaigns, the government specifically targeted men. Pictured above are some of my favorite war-time tutorials on how to make buttonholes, reinforce areas for extra wear, darn holes, and patch shirts. 

I have (too often) found myself frustrated, scared, and confused as to how to mend a rip, a hole, a tear, or the occasional missing button. It’s too bad that high-octane retailers like H&M, Zara, Forever 21 or even Target go to such great lengths to get the cheapest, fastest commodity into stores in forever increasingly divided shorter fashion seasons. We all end up with wardrobes that are too homogeneous, shitty, tattered and honestly of poor quality, and astoundingly, we spend more money on clothing. It’s only getting worse with the ease of subscription retailers and Amazon.

An excellent example of mending of cozy sweater worth mending.

A dear friend of mine has jeans that he can never part with, and have over the years fashioned a makeshift zipper garage (that is what it is called) out of a paperclip and sewing magic. I love a good Macgyver-approach to mending.

Apart from dieworkwear‘s incredibly important links to tutorials, resources, lovely images on mending and guides for alterations — this post has a lovely quote I just want to share verbatim:

I am endlessly touched by men’s sentimental attachment to old clothes: Shetland jumpers that are more hole than whole, Panama hats missing half the crown, shirts with collars so frayed you can plait the edges. One barrister friend, who’s just turned 50, has been wearing the same leather jacket since his student days. No matter that, nowadays, he’s more Sid James than James Dean.