There was a time when my mother used to remove the collar from my dad’s old dress shirts, flip them and sew them back on again. The worn out shirts then looked like new. I thought my mother was very clever and resourceful. She said her mother (a seamstress) did the same thing at home with a family of six. Now I find myself mending a pair of old jeans so they last longer, because they are favorites, but also because I can. Perhaps it sounds silly but it gives me a sense of pride: to be resourceful and not wasteful in the sense that I’ll try my best to make a garment last if it fits well and it’s made of quality material such as denim.
Many of our art pieces are made with one or a series of recycled garments too. We try our best to use every inch of a shirt, skirt, pants, linen, etc. so that nothing goes to waste.
The year we lived for four months in Buenos Aires, we borrowed a sewing machine and collected old clothes from friends to cut up and use as fabric. All this in order to have enough material to create some art work. We also went to the garment district and picked through bags of remnants from factories. The result was eclectic and piecing together our designs was a challenge, but I remember the two pieces we made there fondly and perhaps, among my favorites. One was sent to, exhibited and sold in Australia. The other one was left behind with friends in Buenos Aires because it was too big to travel back to the States.
There is so much excess clothing that can be recycled, refashioned, or just plain worn again by another generation. When I walk into a second hand store I see so much potential. First, I see the clothes that look like new and we could add to our wardrobe, then I have fun finding a circus ringleader jacket and holding it in my hands like a precious treasure. How many stories that jacket could tell! Then I think about the project at hand and the kinds of fabrics at my disposal. I don’t see clothes anymore, the place turns into a source of materials. Even old cushions come home with me where I put them through the washing machine to use as stuffing.
Trying to do more with less is a challenge. We do it with our art work and with our home lives. We are surrounded by excess but are consciously making decisions we can live with. I guess you can say it all goes back to intentional doing.
*Just as I was drafting this post, I came across several articles (lots of interesting articles) under the Ethical Style section of GOOD about repurposed fashion, salvation army, excess consumption, etc.