Make Do and Mend

As the credit crunch hits and the recession is in full swing, we are reminded of the importance of being frugal. No longer can we return home guilt free with our arms full of shopping bags are we are reminded of job cuts, companies closing down and the depreciating value of our houses.

It has made me think about my clothing history. When I was a child my mum used to dress my sister and I identically, the unfortunate result of being the youngest she had to endure the wretched outfit longer as everything was handed down. (The role has since reversed and as I take up my never ending student status I live in her “cast offs”).
As things were in limited supply or cost more people used to be more considerate about re-using and keeping things that little big longer. With the introduction of stores like Primark fashion becomes more accessible and it encourages us to participate in a “throw away” culture. I think it is fantastic that it presents an opportunity for everyone to participate in fashion but as the quality reduces, clothing can’t be re-used or handed down – the majority of charity shops reject this clothing.
I recently had a chat with a fashion historian who has the luxury of deconstructing historic garments to record how they were made. She told me that as she deconstructed a corset it was visible that is used to be a dress and had been re-made.
This brings me to the Make Do & Mend movement introduced during the war effort when clothing was rationed. The booklet was produced by the government and provided step by step guides to make clothing last as long as possible. To make children’s clothes, larger items were cut down and re-styled. It even shows the reader how to make a shirt from an old bed sheet.
As clothing was so expensive people become more creative and made their own. As this was what the majority of people did think about the skills and experience that was shared. The majority of us don’t know how to hem our trousers, mend a zip or sew on a button – never mind create a complete garment.
We can take note and learn from these resourceful methods. We don’t need to enrol in sewing master classes or resort to cutting up our bedsheets (just yet) but was can be more considerate by valuing out clothing. make & mend
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