Mending and alterations… making old new again

Logo by SamLong before I took the required Home Economics class in grade 8, my mother had already taught me the basics of sewing. Before I made the requisite Home Ec apron, I’d already sewn a skirt with a fitted waistband and a zipper. I’ve had my own sewing machine since I was 18 and there was a time when I made many of my own clothes. I even sewed my own wedding dress! It’s been years since I did that much sewing, but the skills that my mother taught me still come in handy from time to time.

Spring or fall, when I do my seasonal closet switch, is the perfect time to do any small repairs that have been overlooked or neglected during the previous season. Mending clothing is an ancient practice that needs to be revived if we want to work toward more sustainable wardrobes and lessen our impact on the environment. In a culture of disposability upheld by the fast fashion industry, mending is a slow fashion practice that focuses on care and re-wear. It rejects the idea that new is always better. While some mending jobs are quite simple, others are more complicated. Replacing a zipper, for example, might be something that you can do yourself, but if not, a tailor can do it for you and add life to a garment that you already own.

Alterations, whether you’re able to do them yourself or pay someone to do them for you, can often make an ill-fitting garment look like it was made for you. Tailoring is excellent for those times when you find great clothes on sale that just need a little tweaking. It can also help you build a sustainable wardrobe by purchasing quality second-hand items and having them altered to fit. It’s often hard to find the perfect size in a thrift store, but tailoring opens up many possibilities. A good rule of thumb when choosing a size is to go with what fits the widest part of your body. From there, a tailor can make all the necessary adjustments to make the piece look perfect on you. Just make sure that you take the price of tailoring into account whenever you purchase something that will need to be altered.

Alterations can be as simple as taking up a hem or adding a hidden snap to the front of a blouse that gapes or they can be as complicated as taking in a waistband or adding vents to a jacket. This week, I did a simple alteration that gave new life to an older top that I haven’t worn for quite awhile. Four years ago when I bought it, I knew that bell sleeves were a trend that wouldn’t last, but it was on sale for less than $20 and I thought even then that someday I’d probably alter the sleeves.


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A simple change from bell to three-quarter sleeves gave the top a much more current look and now I’ll start wearing it again!