Rationing campaigns took place in the UK and the USA during World War II, and one of the campaigns was to “make do and mend” your worn-out fashions, or make use of repurposing home fashions such as bedsheets and curtains to make new clothing. Once times became more prosperous, making do and mending seemed to fall out of vogue.
Then, the economy experienced one of the worst downturns in modern times – the Great Recession of 2009 (which actually started in 2007). The times made people rethink their views on disposable fashions and consumerism, and upcycling was becoming vogue again.
Even though the economic times have improved (though they’re not quite as good as they were in the mid to late 90s), individuals are still upcycling and “making do and mending”. Not only are they benefitting from the money savings, but they’re realizing the benefits to the environment. They’re also reducing the amount of waste that ends up in thrift stores. “Unusable” clothing often ends up in landfills.
In my “Make Do and Mend” series, I talk about how to give “not quite right” clothing a second lease of life.
I’m guilty of breaking one of the cardinal rules of buying fashion – buy a garment without trying it on. In some cases, I’m in a situation where there’s no fitting rooms, such as a swap meet or a thrift store. In that situation, I use a measuring tape to gauge whether the item will fit and whether the garment will be long enough for me. In this particular situation, I didn’t try on the garment, and I didn’t have the measuring tape with me.
When Jason Wu launched his Target line for a season, I was excited since I like his classic lines. I purchased this dress from Target:
It started life as a dress. This was a Jason Wu for Target dress.
There was one problem…I didn’t try it on, and I didn’t have my measuring tape to make sure that the dress was the right length. When I got it home, I discovered that the dress was too short for me. Typically, I can wear too short dresses as tunics, but this dress was too long to pass as a tunic without a belt. I was able to salvage this by wearing knee-length leggings in navy blue under it, but after a while, I got bored with that look. I wasn’t ready to get rid of this dress because I liked how it fit on my body, and it was really comfortable.
I decided to perform one of the easiest “make do and mend” exercises for a too-short dress – convert it to a top.
I measured where I would like the top to fall on me, and I cut about 3/4″ below where I wanted the top to fall. I then ironed the hem and sewed it with a poor-man’s overlock stitch (straight stick and zig-zag stitch).
After sewing the stitch, I pressed the shirt, and I now had a “new” t-shirt.
Voila! My garment gets a second life!