Sunday, 18 April 2010


I’ve been interested in the idea of 'ecofashion' for a long time. This term encompasses many ways in which the environmental impact of the manufacturing of clothes can be minimised. My interest is primarily involving the part that includes thrift, particularly to do with re-designing existing clothes.

Ecofashion is a topic that I encounter often, probably because I'm looking for it. It was discussed at length in the book Fashion Reader, which you might remember my discussing. I stumbled across this website, Wardrobe Refashion, some time ago and it is really quite good. She encouraged people to take 'The Pledge':

The Rules were

Unfortunately, many of the posted projects there are about cutting down adult sized items into children’s clothing. Also, it looks as though she is about to change the whole thing around to try to make more money for all the work she's puts in administering the site. I totally understand that, but I'm not likely to subscribe. If you interested, best get over there soon, before it's all gone!

I always meant to ‘Take the Pledge’, but it’s rather superfluous in my case. It’s been over 2 years since I bought anything new with no hardship at all. Oops! I forgot: when in foreign parts in December, I needed pajama bottoms I’d forgot to pack and so, for modesty’s sake, bought a cheap pair of baggy knit leggings for €5 at a cheap tourist tat shop across from our hotel. Good job I wasn’t on the wagon after all. The leggings have served well since as long underwear under jeans.

I mentioned some time ago, a programme with Twiggy, which introduced me to TRAIDremade. I found any number of other links back then but haven’t managed to keep hold of them. Then, not long ago, Second Cherry wrote about eco-fashion (but darned if I can find that post) and the same week the local Metro paper published a similar article, so I started looking for some of these things to show you. You might enjoy some of these if this is a topic that interests you. Some of these sites call it 'upcycling' (is that different to re-cycling or just a spin?).

The frustrating thing is that books like AlterNations, SewSubversive, ThreadBanger and Sweater Chop Shop have designs that aren’t really suitable for serious grown ups, never mind a petite woman over 50. Etsy is full of similar dress styles, not that I've looked at even half of them, but so far I like the Blue Kimono designs about the best and I hope she does well with her shop. Of course, re-fashioning doesn't have to be about sewing. It can be about dyeing clothes as well.

Some of the most useful ideas for me, however, are probably from the 1940s when government leaflets were published here in the UK, showing how to remake and re-fashion dresses, turn cuffs and collars, make jackets from blankets, etc. I have seen these occasionally, but haven't collected them; I plan to start. I grew up hearing about how my Mom used to make her own suits from second hand men’s suits. It doesn’t sound like it would be that hard, except that she was tiny and the proportions of the features on a man’s jacket would be all wrong, so she’d have had to work around removing those.

My interest in all this isn’t just about saving money. In that area it would be more akin to assuaging guilt for all the clothing mistakes I’ve bought and hoarded. Wouldn’t it be lovely if I managed to come out with a really great wardrobe through re-fashioning all those rags into something magic? Magic is the right word.

I’m also interested in this because some of my most satisfying creative efforts have come from limiting my resources. I figure any idiot can go out and buy a bunch of stuff to do a craft. If creativity is defined as finding a new way to solve a problem, mine is most sparked when making part of that problem that I have to use available resources. This particular idiot still needs to improve her very limited sewing skills, but part of what drives me is this strange idea of creating something from almost nothing. If I manage to figure that out, I’ll certainly show it to you and then I can add ‘environmentally friendly’ to my labels.


Frugal Scholar said...

I don't know...when I want something new, I can just go to a thrift store--or even a regular store when it is having a sale. Unless you are verrrry talented, the upcycling of clothing can look very craftsy (in the worst sense). Plus, it is very time-consuming. Sewing is no longer cost-effective as it used to be.

Jersey Mom said...

I haven't purchased any new clothes in at least a year. But I did have to buy shoes (water-shoes) few days ago for dragon boat race practices coming up though...

Shelley said...

Frugal Scholar - You are absolutely right on all counts. My problem is that I sometimes wish for a very specific look that is not available second hand. Back when I liked suits, I found thrift stores tended to split up tops and bottoms. Being short, I do best if I can match or at least have top and bottom similar. I think having sewing skills is still valuable, particularly for things like hems if one is short. Though I would love to have a good outcome, I'm thinking the process of this endeavour would be nearly as satisfying for me.

Jersey Mom - It is amazing how few clothes one buys if they don't go shopping as a form of entertainment. I go looking for something when I have a very specific need - and then often have trouble finding that thing I need, hence my desire to be a better at sewing.