This week, starting with my newly-cleaned closet, I’m going to open with a confession: I am one of those people who is given to good intentions but not always particularly excellent at fulfilling them. So one of my habits is, upon noticing a stain or a tear or any other kind of flaw in a piece of clothing, to put that piece aside and plan on “coming back to it” later. I have a few pieces to-be-drycleaned that have been hanging from the closet door since the summer; they’re practically a part of the bedroom landscape to me now, and every time my partner points them out, I have the briefest flash of Oh, yeah, that’s why those things are there.
Cleaning out my closet forces me to come back into contact with all those small damages and reacquaint myself with the pieces that “need work.” So this week, before we send all those newly-weeded clothes on to their next home, let’s take a minute and reflect.
My mother used to sew her own clothes when she was in high school, which is one of those facts that seems fairly exotic to my generation. In the modern world, nothing is really custom-made; it’s only hippies who make their own clothes and only millionaires who own bespoke ensembles. Wedding gowns, suits, jeans, prom dresses, school uniforms: all of these very personal things can be altered to fit you (a concept that is itself strange to many people), but generally you’re picking the basic look from a rack, or a web page, or a catalog. My mother chose her looks from the pages of Butterick and McCall’s, but everything else–the color, the fabric, the textile pattern, the size, the fit–was up to her. Her clothes were a representation of her personality, her moods, her feelings, her skills, in the purest way.
I’m not suggesting you start sewing your own clothes (although, if you’re interested, there are some excellent patterns out there in the world). My mother taught me to sew when I was a child, but I’ve never gone so far as to sew my own wardrobe. However, I am suggesting that there’s something to be said for picking up a needle and thread, and seeing what you might be able to do with some of those pieces on their way out the door.
First things first: mending. Invest in a good set of needles and thread in a few neutral colors, or just get a little mending kit at Walgreens. Thrift and consignment shops won’t take things with tears or holes, and don’t be the asshole who tries to shift those things onto Goodwill. Mainstream fashion has a throw-it-away mentality (why hang onto something when you can buy a newer and shinier version on the cheap?), when in fact mending clothes is typically a matter of a few stitches. Anytime I mention knowing how to sew, I’m approached by friends and friends of friends to sew a button back on a coat or patch a pair of jeans or stitch up a little armpit hole and you guys, it’s so easy.
If you’re preparing to get rid of something that could be mended, try fixing it first. Even if you don’t plan on keeping the piece, it’s worth mending it for the sake of its next owner.
But maybe mending is too tame for you. Maybe you seek a bigger challenge. Maybe you look at a T-shirt that doesn’t fit anymore and think, this could be something amazing.
While I typically forget that I even have a Pinterest, it is a great place for inspiration. In addition to tips for altering clothes that don’t fit, Pinterest is home to what seems like millions of refashionistas.
I’ll be honest here: I wish I was a refashionista. I have a stack of clothes and fabric at my parents’ house with which I fully intend to do something. (See, there’s that good-intentions thing again.) I have swooned over Instagrammed photos on Pinterest and various blogs. I have looked at projects and thought, I could totally do that. I just haven’t done it yet.
The point is, I don’t have any pretty pictures of my own to show you. In the absence of that, however, here are a few links to some amazing inspiration:
So that’s our second resolution of 2015: be resourceful. I know last week I was encouraging you to get rid of stuff, but now I’m encouraging you to do so only after you’ve given it a second look. Ask yourself: what can I do with this? Or: how can I make this better? Or: what would it take for me to love this piece again? After all–waste not, want not.