Thursday, September 07, 2006


I read that during the time of WWII when people became more frugal with everything, that this hurt the fashion industry (among other industries) quite a bit. Unlike today, when people can buy cheaply made inexpensive clothes, things were made to last. That wasn't the problem so much as the fact that because people were paring down, they couldn't afford to buy new, nicely crafted, more expensive garments that last. And so the Americans of this generation learned to mend and darn. Actually, I think people have been mending and darning for thousands of years prior, but perhaps the war hit at the time of the birth of disposable things, and so Americans went back to mending and darning. I think that for the people of this frugal generation, the idea of mending and darning and saving and reusing was a hard one to give up. For some of them they continue with these old ways, even to absurdity.

People who mend and darn and reuse and remake are odd, eccentric even. I should know because I'm one of them. We look at things and determine their worth based on their potential. But there is certainly a point at which you say, this needs to be replaced. I'm a firm believer in giving old things a second life. I'm often taking old garments apart and remaking them, or using the fabric from something to make another thing. But this only works when the integrity of the material is still in tact.

I recently had a client ask me to mend a bed sheet. This bed sheet in particular was one that I had "mended" about five years ago. She had me cut it down the middle and sew the outside selvage edges into a center seam. "That way I can get more wear out of it, since it was wearing thin in the middle," she told me. Well it was work at a time when I needed it, so I did it, although I think it is completely ridiculous to put seams in bedsheets. I don't care how nice the cotton is (or in this case was). This same sheet came back to me a few weeks ago, ripped in several places and with a whole piece missing. It was even patched back together wrong by some amateur. Fabrics wear out. They dry rot. They become thread bare. I did my best with the sheet, it looked awful and terribly uncomfortable. One firm tug on the sheet over a rough toenail and "rrrrriiiiiiiippppp" it'll be in shreds once again.