make do and mend + pretty elbow patches

During the second world war when clothing was rationed, people were encouraged to repair items rather than buy new ones and so began the make do and mend era: torn trousers would be sewn into a skirt, holey jumpers would be unravelled and re-knitted and smaller items would be darned. It was necessary for clothes to last as long as possible when families had limited clothing coupons, and the women of the 40s were incredibly resourceful and efficient in their efforts - there are even examples of parachutes that have been made into wedding dresses.

In this day and age, it's no longer necessary to keep clothes for as long as possible - why mend them when you can just go and buy something new for a few quid? Quality no longer matters in the same way as it used to, and people are unwilling to pay higher prices for clothing when the turnaround for clothes is expected to be so short; what matters is who is wearing what, and if that can be replicated for a fraction of the price, it will be. And the week after someone new will be wearing something else and so the cycle continues.

Torn clothes may still be donated to charity or recycled, and although those things are worthwhile causes there would be so much less waste in the world if people started thinking about clothing in the same way as they did 60 years ago. Just buying fewer items of clothing and doing the odd bit of mending wouldn't hurt anyone, and would actually be cheaper in the long run, and would help save the environment. The manufacturing of clothes takes an awful lot of energy, not to mention the impact it all has on the environment - deforestation, pollution caused by pesticides and dyes, huge water consumption - and the impact that lower prices have on the people making the clothes. Part of the reason clothes can be manufactured so cheaply is that child labour is often used, and even when it isn't, the adult workers are often not given proper employment contracts, may not be paid fairly, or are not sufficiently protected from or informed about the dangers of the industry, eg. the hazardous chemicals used in the dyeing process.

Without even thinking about all that moral and social stuff, there is also the fact that buying lots of clothes isn't necessary - have people never heard of capsule wardrobes?

Any snazzy additions like ribbon over a ripped hem, a change of buttons for a new lease of life, or a corsage over a darned hole can give your old clothes a unique edge - and sometimes it might just turn out to start a new trend!

How it is that elbow patches have become fashionable, I honestly have no idea. Not even an inkling of an idea. However, it does fit in nicely with the point of this post - elbow patches were first used to cover holes in jackets, and later to prevent excess wear in the joints of clothes, but these days they've become quite the fashion statement, as evidenced by these splendid examples:


Halogen elbow patch sweater from Nordstrom
cashmere grandfather cardigan from Bloomingdales

Or check out these patches and tutorials and patch up your existing wardrobe!


heartdigan pattern by Katie on Ravelry

2 hellos:

Siobhan said...

I want to buy less and buy better. I don't always succeed though.

I do however darn socks.

There is a theory that the shopping is a mass reaction to the global bad news and that people are buying pretty things to cheer themselves up. I have no idea how much evidence there is for that though.

Vixie said...

I don't always succeed either - it's pretty hard these days.

I can understand buying pretty things to cheer yourself up - but I wouldn't buy clothes necessarily - more likely sequins - which can then be used to repair stuff! Woo!

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