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The Modern ‘Make-Do and Mend’

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In times of war women knew about efficiency, passing old worn clothes around family members and patching up holes with a needle and thread. Even before then, poorer people in Victorian times would dress in the discarded garments of the richer population, and wear them until they looked like shreds of fabric. Fast forward and we find ourselves in 2010, still in the recession of the credit crunch, and now seeing the more modern versions of this ‘anything goes’ trend being given new life.

Charity shops saw profits break through the £100 million barrier in 2007, due to hungry consumers hunting for bargains. The trend continues three years later, fashion fans beginning to see these previously ‘frowned upon’ habits in favour of a wardrobe that is not only fair on your bank balances, but on the environment too, with fashion recycling even being seen as a new style.

Once associated with perhaps grannies rummaging through a jumble sale, charity shops are now modernizing due to the younger, more fashionable audience they find themselves catering for. Oxfam has an online store, with thousands of items sorted in categories, price and size so it’s easy for buyers to search for exactly what they want. As if that wasn’t enough, delivery and returns are even free, making cheaper fashion easy to find even just sitting at your computer desk. Everyone from Kylie, to Dame Helen Mirren has admitted buying clothes from charity shops, and Gok Wan is raving about it. Plus, at the click of a mouse, it’s never been easier.

Though that’s not the end to this new attitude to clothes. Living by the motto ‘never throw any clothes out, unless they definitely, definitely cannot be used for anything else,’ is a further ideal, and it’s simpler than it sounds. An old pair of plain black tights could be cut to make a new pair of leggings and then an old pair of plain black leggings could be cut to make the new geometric shapes and slashes set to be seen on hosiery this spring and summer. The key is to be creative.

Imagine this. You’ve got a skirt that you just don’t really wear anymore and are thinking of throwing it out. But wait a second. Would it look better if it was shorter? If so, take up the hemline (or get a kind friend to do it for you if you fail at sewing). Maybe it just needs a belt round it to make it a little more exciting? And the same rules apply for pretty much anything. Jeans? Maybe they’d look better distressed, cut, folded up or shortened? A top? Can it be cut, customised or even turned inside out to make it wearable again?

That doesn’t mean to say every piece you buy has to be self-made or charitable. There will always be that place in a wardrobe for the good quality pair of jeans you wear all the time, and you will always have that bag or that pair of shoes you’re addicted to. Yet in strapped-for-cash times, where we find ourselves perhaps forced to cut back on the things we’d love to buy in favour of those we have to, it couldn’t hurt to surely take a lesson or two from the women of the past who had their fashion options far more limited than we do now.



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