Thursday 24 March 2022

Worn Again

After looking round the Makers' Festival I called in briefly to the Norwich Central Library [in the same building] and  this book caught my eye. The book is by Orsola de Castro, founder of the Fashion Revolution movement.
The blurb says 'this book will equip you with a myriad of ways to mend, rewear and breathe new life into your wardrobe to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle'
'a call to creative action: reveal your hidden craftivist and become a more conscious consumer'
'helpful and inspiring...with simple steps that we can all commit to and benefit from'
And I thought that all sounded good. Damaged clothes should be fixed, and worn again. 
But the book itself is a strange mishmash [hotchpotch?] of ideas and statistics and 'tips'
Orsola begins with statistics about clothing discarded because it is damaged - and says if only we learned to mend/darn/sew on buttons etc, we could make clothes last longer [helpful picture of some buttons, and a note that if you cannot sew, your dry cleaner will replace buttons for you]
She cites Japanese wabisabi and boro techniques [but not sashiko] and has a diagram showing how to darn. Cover the hole on a jacket lapel with a brooch [it was another brooch that made the hole, I suspect] Embellish the moth hole in cashmere with embroidery.
But she also writes about the waste within the fashion industry [where she has worked for over 25 years] and the horrendous chemicals used to prepare and dye fabric, the workers who are made ill because they are distressing or sandblasting jeans. In 2013 the Rana Plaza Building collapsed in Bangladesh, and over 1100 garment workers were killed. These people were making garments for the Western market. Primark were among the first to admit this was one of their suppliers, and quickly tried to set up compensation schemes, other companies later 'fessed up' - but many tried to avoid their responsibility in the matter - even though the workers had been telling management that there were huge cracks in the walls etc. This disaster was what prompted Orsola to start her campaign. I applaud her for that.
We need to recognise the true cost of our clothing, in terms of the toll on the workforce, and the desecration of the environment. She deplores 'greenwashing' where a brand claims they are 'eco' - but misleads the consumer to thinking it is a significant aspect of their operation. She talks of a company producing jackets 'made from recycled bottles' - but they were found to be buying in new bottles, in order to destroy them to make the fabric. 
Orsola explains the problems behind the indigo in our denim, the production of synthetic fabrics, the pesticides used on the cotton fields, and the joys of linen.
She explains why we should buy the best and buy once, and why cheap fashion, bought in the afternoon, worn in the evening and discarded next morning, is killing the planet. She extols vintage and charity shop gear, and renting for 'one-off occasions' And all of that is helpful and interesting. If you have never looked into the subject, it is helpful and thought provoking.
But the book irritated me when she gave her 'personal' fashion tips. She has three bags- all genuine Gucci - two vintage inherited from her grans, one a wedding gift from her Italian in-laws. She has a 'vast collection' of vintage Hermes scarves which will improve any outfit...and then she berates Mums who have to buy the £10 budget polyester school uniforms. Look lady, it's not easy being poor and green!
And as for her practical tips - they were just plain weird. When she is tired of her woollen tights, she turns them upside down, cuts off the feet, cuts out the gusset and crochets round the raw edges to make a new top. Seriously??!!
And 2 of her husband's shirts make a new skirt. 

For your benefit, dear readers, I've demonstrated this technique. I took two of Bob's shirts [one plum, one plum with stripes] and followed her instructions. "You look like a woman with two shirts tied round her waist" said Bob. [observant chap] I decided a harlequin effect with contrasting colours would look even worse!
I do agree with her on many points
read the labels
try to buy from ethical/fairtrade companies
make do and mend
don't go in for 'fast fashion'
second hand/CS/vintage/hand-me-downs are good
rent or borrow for 'one-off' events
But her own background is a million miles from mine - I have never been to London Fashion week, or bought a Gucci bag. And I am never going to go out with an old pair of inverted, gussetless tights as a jumper, and two of Bobs shirts knotted round my waist. And some of her sentences were so long. Many around 60 - 70 words were almost unintelligible. It took me a while to make sense of some paragraphs.
So sorry, Orsola only *** from me.


  1. The writers of these books are often quite well off!
    And the trouble Is, a lot of people are very time poor and fatigue limits imagination.
    I wish companies would just stop producing so much! I (&, I recently discovered, CBC

  2. ), feel physically sick when going into a massive shop full of new clothes- there's even a smell there is. I love the second hand market!

    1. Yes about the writers of the books. I cannot comment on the smell - my anosmia is intermittent at the minute!

  3. The tights turned into a top and the tied shirts are new to me! I currently have two light cardigans waiting to be mended - a little darning and embroidery should be sufficient to get a few more wears from each.

    1. I thought of you last night, Bless. I watched a woman from Sri Lanka on TV caking string hoppers!

  4. I think you could have written a better book Ang.

  5. It is sad that so much junky clothing has come to England as well as to North America. I remember the fabulous fabrics and lovely designs on them, years ago, and English household linens were also far superior to what was available here.
    I have patched DH's sweaters with leather on the arms, darned with mixed colours on patterned items and I did try some Japanese darning on some old jeans I have. My biggest success was turning a lovely pair of light blue wide leg jeans into a skirt, which I have worn a lot (the jeans hardly ever, before then). Nuts to the tight conversion and the weird shirt skirt!

  6. I've never made jeans into a skirt. But I have turned bootcut jeans into skinnies

  7. This sounds like a perfect illustration of the difference between theory and practice. Though I do want to learn to mend my clothes more.

    1. Perhaps you can check out mending books in your local library. Better still, look out for a local sewing group where you can find someone to teach you.

  8. I had a laugh at the shirts into skirts! Your husband is right about how they look. The tights turned into a top is bizarre! I was just looking at my work clothes and noting how the pant hems are frayed and top looking rather tired, all old and mended multiple times. I thought I really need to shop for new, but then remembered how much I hate shopping, so decided the clothes would just have to do. (26 words for that last sentence, I think, not quite up to the author's standard.) Best, Celie

    1. I was reading only last week that Tudor women whose long skirts frayed from sweeping along the ground would often attach a strip of fabric along the bottom to cover the damage, rather than replace the whole garment. I have great respect for the clothing-thrift of the Tudors! (there should be a proper word for that)


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