You’ve organised your books in alphabetical order, tidied the house up, and catalogued your magazine and music racks. Now that we’re all in a quarantine of consumption it’s also a good time to appreciate and make the most of what we’ve got. So, start sorting through your wardrobe and pull out the needle and thread.
"Repairing our clothes is incredibly important," says Orsola de Castro, sustainable fashion pioneer and founder of the global non-profit Fashion Revolution. "We know that lengthening the life of our clothing from one to two years decreases their carbon footprint by 24%, so it actually has an environmental effect." Once upon a time, mending clothes —and looking after one's wardrobe—was the norm. Think back to your grandparents and great-grandparents for whom sewing was a basic life skill, like cooking. Split seam? Out comes the needle and thread. Hole in wooly jumper? Easy, just pull out that ball of yarn. Loose button? Sew it back on, duh!
But, as fast fashion took up a bigger space in our wardrobe, we spent less time caring for our things, treating them as disposable and replaceable. Chuck it out, get a new one. Why bother fixing it? It was cheap, right? But it’s not just fast fashion that's to blame. Fashion encourages consumption, and most things that we buy have a planned obsolescence, whether it was cheap or expensive. "Today’s textile industry is built on an outdated linear, take-make-dispose model and is hugely wasteful and polluting," says Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an organisation which focuses on the development of a circular economy.
According to a 2016 McKinsey Report the average consumer nowadays buys 60% more items of clothing than in 2000, and each garment is kept only half as long. In fact, one garbage truck of textiles is dumped or incinerated every second. All of this comes at a devastating environmental, human and animal cost. What can you do? Join a nudist colony and forego sartorial pleasures? I think not. But, the solution is simpler than we think and may already be hanging in your wardrobe, after all, the most sustainable piece of clothing is the one you already have. Look after your clothes well and love them longer. Repair. Rewear. Pretty easy, right? Follow the care instructions carefully; mend clothes yourself or take them to a clothes doctor. Take up that hemline; shorten the length of those trousers to make them a chic Audrey Hepburn capri style; get that dress a little more fitted so that it’s made just for you. Add some beading, add some sparkle. Hell! You can go all out and customize, deconstruct or recreate a Margiela-inspired jacket jacket out of the one you haven’t worn in years.
Mending and altering your clothes is a way of keeping them in use that much longer which means one less article of clothing going to landfill. It’s also a great way of appreciating how your clothes were made. It doesn’t matter whether it was fast fashion or something more expensive—there was labour, time and effort that went into making everything we wear. Every second, somewhere around the world, pairs of hands are deftly and swiftly cutting patterns, stitching fabric, dyeing textiles, threading beads onto a garment — and often in appalling working conditions, and at a risk to their health. Fast or high fashion, clothes don’t have to be disposable—it’s the way we treat them that is. A wardrobe is an investment. Consider mending your clothes an act of eco activism, an act of resistance against the prevailing attitudes of overconsumption. A stitch in time saves overflowing landfill.
Don’t know the difference between a back stitch and a slip stitch? Well, now is the time to learn a new skill that you’ll have for life. Here are some of my favourite blogs and websites for sewing and pattern making tutorials. They’ll have you stitching things up in no time.
Love to Sew podcast - https://lovetosewpodcast.com
Made to Sew - https://madetosew.com
Sew it Academy - https://sew-it-academy.thinkific.com
Mimi G Style - https://mimigstyle.com
Erica Bunker - http://www.ericabunker.com