Why is mending not in style?

Commentary by Pearl Lorentzen

In the last few years, I’ve been trying to buy clothing made out of 100 per cent natural fibres. The woolen shirts especially seem to last well. However, they are starting to get tiny little holes, which are easily mended.

This made me wonder why people don’t mend their clothing anymore.

I believe the technical word is darning when it comes to knitwear. Although the few times I’ve tried darning my socks, the new thread rubbed against my toes and gave me a blister, so I’ve stopped that.

As a child, my mom patched my jeans. However, it’s not as common any more. Intentionally ripped jeans are in, or at least were within my living memory. Patchwork maybe, but not fixing damaged clothing.

My grandma tells a story about my dad when he was about five.

After the first day of school, he was sad.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘I don’t want to wear patched jeans,’ he said.

‘Why not?’

‘The other kids don’t have patched jeans.’

‘What do the other kids have?’ my grandmother asked, thinking that they had new jeans and wishing she could afford new ones.

‘Holes,’ he said.

Apparently, my dad was ahead of his time. Holey jeans wouldn’t come into fashion until much later.

But all kidding aside, this does illustrate how our perceptions about clothing are based on cultural norms. My grandma felt pressure to patch, dad didn’t want patched, and grandma wanted to be able to afford to buy new.

I don’t own a sewing machine, but I use my mom’s to fix broken zippers or patch my jeans.

I really enjoy having new things, but get very frustrated when clothing doesn’t last.

I’m slightly addicted to Downton Abbey. It is one of those shows which happens to be on the TV at random times, when I’m looking for something to watch. It is set in an English manor house from the sinking of the Titanic to the late 1920s.

In the show, even the lord of the manor’s clothing gets mended. He doesn’t do it, his valet does, but in the show clothing is much more valuable.
It is very unlikely that the lord of the manor would have told his friends that his hunting jacket had been mended, and as such is never really the fashion. However, it was common practice.

Some fashion is what’s called ‘fast’ fashion. Made cheaply, possibly with slave labour, shipped en masse, and expected to be worn a few times and then discarded.

There are other trends as well. ‘Slow’ fashion – making your own clothes. ‘Sustainable’ fashion – with only a few Canadian brands, most in Vancouver or Toronto.

The clothing available at local stores or online are in a range between these extremes. While very few budgets or schedules stretch to buying completely sustainable clothing or making everything, I think that buying decent quality and mending it is a good idea. It helps the environment by keeping clothing out of the landfill. It also means less stuff is produced. Also, it helps the pocket book. Not right away, but if you only have to buy clothing every few years, it is much cheaper than buying stuff several times in a year.

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