Slow Fashion Style

30 Jan

Here is a guest post from Terry, a wonderful family friend.  Terry and my mom were the ones who would go into JoAnn Fabrics and come out hours later while Tonia (her daughter and my good friend) and I would stare at the car ceiling and giggle about how lame it was that they were in this dumb store.  We have since had to eat our own words because Tonia and I love to sew and also shop for fabric.

I was hanging out with Tonia after Christmas break and she showed me a patch that Terry had sewn onto a wool shirt we had given her a few years ago (Tonia is a tiny person, so if I run across cute and tiny articles of clothing that I wish I fit in- then I give them to her).  Somehow the shirt with the patch looked better than the original.  I had no idea how this was possible.  All the patches I have ever done or seen have been trying to hide what was broken, but with this method the tear or rip is being embraced and made almost into art. Thank you Terry for this post and showing us that there are better ways to do many things.

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I’m part of the “Back to the Land” generation that way back in the 70s was exploring all kinds of lifestyle alternatives and horrifying our parents by wearing bell-bottoms and halter-tops and patched jeans – the bigger and more psychedelic the better! They say that all things old become new again. Today there is a return to an interest in local, handmade, and sustainably produced goods of kinds. For most of my life I’ve participated in that lifestyle as much as possible – gardening, buying organic foods, shopping local, etc., but somehow that ethic has been harder to put into practice when it comes to clothing. That changed for me this past fall when I enrolled in an online course called Slow Fashion Style with the artist Katrina Rodabaugh. During the three-week course about 400 people from all around the world learned together about the textile industry, its impact on the people who work in it and on the environment, and what we can do as individuals to make different choices.

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We also learned about the skills that have been practiced for generations that give us the ability to make and repair our own clothes. I loved the lesson in “visible mending,” which took me back to those hippie years but added the beauty of traditional Japanese sashiko stitching. We experimented with dyeing fabric with local plant materials, like coffee grounds and onion skins.

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Practicing these skills makes me feel connected to the generations of people who have passed them down to us, and transforms the article into clothing that is made not just of cotton or wool, but also of all the time and attention and love that I’ve stitched into them.

Since then my visits to thrift shops are even more rewarding. I hunt for cotton, linen or silk items that I can revive with a dip in a dye bath; wool articles that can be transformed into bags, pouches, mittens and scarves; and especially those pieces that were made back when clothes were meant to last longer than one fashion season and need nothing but an alteration and a good cleaning to continue to serve.

There are many resources available if you’re interested in exploring the world of Slow Clothing, starting with Katrina’s blog, and specifically this post of hers on visible mending, and the list of resources she created for her “Make Thrift Mend” project. On FaceBook like the Slow Cloth group page, and on Pinterest look for boards like “slow fashion,” “slow clothes,” or “visible mending.”

The winter months are a great opportunity to snuggle into your favorite chair with needle and thread and something to mend. Have fun making old things new again, wear your patches with pride, and SLOW DOWN!

One Response to “Slow Fashion Style”

  1. Tonia January 30, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    Great post! I laughed at the part about us waiting helplessly in the car for HOURS AND HOURS while our moms fabric shopped. That was absolute torture! And now I’m sure you torture your kids the same way! Ha! We are becoming our mothers…don’t try to fight it, it’s inevitable. 😉 Anyway, I LOVE my patched shirt for two main reasons- every time I wear it I think of the Bangses, and now that it has a beautiful, artistic patch on it, I also think of my mom! Also, it is 100% wool and it keeps me really warm. 🙂

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