Our relationship with our clothing has changed a lot over the years. Previous generations would make their clothes last and made due with what they had. They would wear and re-wear what we today would consider a capsule wardrobe and, when something was damaged, it was repaired. When a garment was passed down from one child to the next and the fit wasn’t right, alterations were made. If a work shirt lost a button, one was sewn back on. When something felt dated in the current state it was in, it was reinvented into something new.
Now, in 2022, the access and excess has never been greater. Clothing is produced cheaply on a massive scale and so when a garment shows any kind of wear, they are often just discarded and no longer seen as useful. With the unbelievably low prices of fast fashion garments, we no longer see value in our clothing and therefore see fashion as disposable. Something to wear today, toss tomorrow, and then on to buying the next thing.
When this process gets slowed down, when we consume less, when we value and appreciate each item we have selected for our wardrobes, we can see our garments in a whole new light. What if we started treating all our clothes like handmade items? Because the truth is, all of our clothes are handmade. Whether it’s the dress from a local sustainable brand that you saved up to buy, or the $15 top from a big-box brand, hands constructed that garment.
As someone with minimal skill in the sewing department, I know it can feel like an impossible task. I have managed to fumble my way through many button fixes, hole repairs and minor clothing alterations (which usually just involve my scissors). I am fortunate to have a mother-in-law with some real skills, who helps out with alterations and bigger sewing repairs with her machine. I tackle the simpler hand stitch repairs, but I still have a lot to learn. So where can we learn if we are wanting to repair, mend and alter to extend the life of our clothing? Or where can we access some assistance? I’m here to help! —Jen Pistor
think thrice. Metro Vancouver and its Think Thrice Clothing Campaign has a website dedicated to reducing, repairing and reusing. I recently came across the site, which has many videos teaching how to do everything from stitching a hole to darning a sock. It also shares information about how to remove stains and general care for your clothes.
awl together. Awl Together Leather is a great option for those feeling completely out of their element with repairs. If you need help, there are professionals for that. Awl Together Leather offers a wide range of services including: shoe repair and cobbling, bag repair and restoration, visible mending and darning, and much more. They can even overhaul your beloved Birkenstocks.
look online. A quick online search, can connect you with tailors, dressmakers and alteration professionals close to you. There are many people in your community you can both support and get the skills you need to prolong the life of your clothing.
watch youtube. YouTube is another great resource. There are thousands of videos on the platform that will take you through some of the sewing basics as well as more advanced sewing tutorials. I recommend checking out: Evelyn Wood, whose channel focusses on mending, refashioning and garment making; sustainable fashion brand, Encircled, which has a couple of quick and easy-to-follow how-to videos on its channel, including lessons like, “How to sew a button” and “How to sew a snap”; and the Sewn Company channel, which I have found to be helpful with some basic hand stitching tutorials.
instagram hashtags. I follow many fashion stylists on Instagram and find them to be such a useful source of inspiration. Just seeing how they are able to shorten a hem for a length more suited to them or alter a neckline to give them the desired look or even completely reconstruct a garment into something new, inspires me to see my clothes beyond their current state. Some great hashtags to follow to help you find mending tips, styling inspiration, as well as some tutorials are: #mending , #visiblemending , #howtosew , #slowfashionstyling , #lovedclotheslast.
personal challenge. This month, challenge yourself to go to the pile of clothes you have that are needing a mend, or a repair or maybe a real refresh and give it some love. If you’re like me, those items can stay out of circulation for a long time, so it’s like having something fresh and new to wear again once you complete the repair. Loved clothes last, so give them some love and make them last.