Sew 281 – Simpler ways with clothes

Jo wears upcycledClothing is different to fashion, as discussed in an earlier post. Clothing is traditionally used for warmth and modesty while fashion makes a statement of individual identity or conspicuous displays of wealth and status.

With the Sew it Again project this year, my friends and I are doing clothing rather than fashion. choosing to rework existing clothing in ways that are thrifty, sustainable and ethical – as well as simple, unpretentious and individual.

It is affirming to yesterday discover the Simplicity Institute in 2012 wrote about a simpler way of dressing which – for simplicity’s sake and because the words are simply brilliant – I’ve copied verbatim below. 

  • Dress down: Wearing simple, humble, and functional clothing can be an outward statement of simplicity, an expression of one’s opposition to consumer culture. Don’t get sucked into high fashion.
  • Rethink your image: If you are someone who has typically dressed in new and expensive clothing, consider reinventing your image. This can be an exciting journey on the transition to a simpler life.
  • Buy secondhand clothing: Vast quantities of clothing get dropped off at second-hand clothing stores everyday. Second-hand clothing is cheap, cheap, cheap. There is absolutely no need to spend lots of money on clothing.  Furthermore, searching for treasures in secondhand stores is great fun.
  • Dressing simply doesn’t mean giving up style: There is nothing wrong with expressing yourself through what you wear. But you don’t have to spend lots of money on clothes if you dress creatively. Develop your own ‘post-consumerist’ style. Who wants to look ‘brand new’ anyway?
  • Learn how to mend: There is no need to throw out your favourite jeans or t-shirt just because it has developed a tear. Learn how to mend a tear or sew a patch on an elbow. This can give your favourite items character.
  • Make your own: If you are more ambitious, you might even spend some time learning how to sew your own clothes. This can be an exciting and creative experience, as well as one that can save money.
  • Arrange a clothing swap with some friends: Sometimes it’s nice to have a change of clothes in your wardrobe. But this doesn’t necessarily require going shopping. It can be fun to arrange a clothing swap with some friends. One person’s old clothing is another person’s treasure.
  • Beware of cheap department store clothing: It can be tempting to buy the cheapest clothing from department stores, but often it is cheap because of its exploitative manufacturing processes. When in doubt, avoid the purchase.
  • Just imagine: Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent every year in the fashion industry. Just imagine if even half of that money was redirected toward green energy or humanitarian initiatives. We would lose so little and gain so much. Again, how we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world.
  • Dressing simply can be liberating: Wearing expensive clothing tends to limit our actions, since we don’t want to get them dirty. When you dress simply, however, you don’t have to think twice about lying down on the grass or doing a spot of gardening. Dress simply and be free.

Jo wears upcycled Thanks to the Simplicity Institute for these words. They are thought-provoking and affirming – and the Sew it Again philosophy, of reworking existing clothing to suit oneself, combines a number of these elements.

My sister Jo is on board and Sew 281 is one of her creations which combines resewing and dyeing. The red jacket was a dress she made a while ago, from which she cut off the bottom and re-hemmed with bias tape. The brightly coloured skirt was another dress (a friend’s cast-off), from which Jo cut off the top and then used an elastic waistband to create the skirt. The silk shirt was an unflattering lemon colour, to which Jo applied black dye to achieve a lovely grey shade (Silk being a protein fibre takes dye really well). Thanks Jo, a lovely refashion.

Jo upcycles dresses into jacket and skirt