Make Do and Mend

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A display at the Bread and Puppet Museum in Glover, VT.

As I wrote recently, reading Overdressed caused a big, seismic shift in how I thought about my clothing. In addition to reigniting my desire to sew as much of my wardrobe as possible, it also encouraged me to create a new relationship with my clothes. I love fashion, and I love looking good, but I do not love capitalism, conspicuous consumption, or waste.

I started thinking a lot about how much our relationships with our wardrobes have changed. For most of the last century, people just owned less clothing than folks today. A great example of this is the closet in my old apartment, which was built in 1909. Hangers, having been patented in 1897, were a new invention then and not widely available. Instead, the closet was lined with about eight hooks at eye-level for hanging one’s clothing. That’s it, that’s all you got. I suppose people probably had dressers, too, but have you ever seen an antique dresser? They’re so small by our standards! Point being, people just had less clothing, and what they did have, they liked it more, they paid more for it, and they fixed it when it wore out.

In this spirit, I am trying to come up with strategies as to how I can make the clothing I like the clothing I love, and how to extend the life of all my clothing. Last weekend I did a very small project to make my winter boots much better prepared for a Minnesota winter. I love these boots, they’re stylish, comfortable, and well made, but I found myself coveting the cozy Sorels everyone wears here. (I almost bought a pair of baby pink 80’s Sorels at the thrift store, but decided I already had better ways to spend fifteen bucks- like on, say, food.) So, I dug out some shearling scraps I bought at the fabulous Ax-Man Surplus store last winter and made myself some nice warm insoles. It took about twenty minutes-and it only took that long because the shearling was so thick and fluffy I had to trim it down- and now my boots are so much warmer.

Sometimes it’s much easier to just google things and fantasize about the money you could spend on a new, perfect product. But in real life, nothing will ever really be perfect once it arrives in your home, so you might as well improve the things you’ve already got.