ethical fashion

Thrifting Treasures

grey-dress-feature, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

Old things are just prettier. Don’t you agree? OK, I guess not all old things, as I have seen my fair share of terrible old things too, but as a general rule, old things are just prettier. The packaging is more thoughtful, the details are a bit more unique and the fact that they have lasted this long already, and have a story of their own, makes them just a bit more special.

I used to hate thrifting, because you could never find what you were looking for. But then, about 5 years ago I realized- that’s exactly the fun of thrifting. You never know what you are going to find and it’s like a treasure hunt. Now, I love to go to the local store about once a week, if I can. My local thrift store is a community store staffed by all volunteers (most of whom are older ladies) and all of the money they make goes directly back into the community (by giving the proceeds to the Boy Scouts, Cadets and Santa’s Anonymous etc.) I love to shop there because they get a ton of stuff donated, there are always new things out on the floor, and their main concern is really in getting it out the door, so they keep the prices very low, and every once in a while, when they have too much stock, they have a half price sale. The funny thing about thrift shopping is that I get into a bit of unrealistic bubble about prices, and then I catch myself saying “$3.00 for this vintage wool skirt? I don’t know, I wish I could have gotten it for $1.50 when it was the half price sale.” Oh right. . . $3.00 is a pretty amazing deal.

The past few weeks have been pretty good, and I have found quite a few thrifting treasures, so I thought that I would share them with you.

vintage grey dress, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

This piece has a bit of damage, where it looks like the dye has faded or discoloured, and some seams that need to be resewn. Since it is a larger size, it won’t be a problem to bring in the kimono sleeves a bit, though. It feels like a acetate fabric or something of the kind, and is rather lightweight, and has the prettiest metal rhinestone buttons and buckle on the front. It is about 2 inches too short for me, but it has a really wide hem, so I am going to let the hem down to amend that problem.

black-stars- vintage dress, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

black-stars-dress, thrifting, the artyologist

This dress has a lot of damage, and is going to require quite a bit of help, but the fabric was just so pretty, and it has flipped up sleeve cuffs . . . it was calling to me! It is some kind of artificial rayon/taffeta fabric (it is drapey like a rayon, but heavy like a taffeta). There are areas of the fabric that are shredded, like it got pulled apart, so I am going to see if I can fix them by patching from the underside. So, needs a bit of work before I can wear it.

tag-closeup, wool dress, the artyologist

wool dress vintage, thrifting, the artyologist

This one is too small for me in the hips 🙁 It fits perfectly in the top though, and since there is a hole in the skirt, I am going to transform this into a shirt. I know some people feel that vintage shouldn’t be altered, but since this piece is damaged as it is, I am OK with changing it; especially as I know enough about sewing to not destroy it! By refashioning this piece into a shirt, it will have a second life, and I will finally have a winter appropriate top to wear with my favourite pleated wool skirt! I like the fact that is brown, black and grey too, so it will coordinate with a lot of things I have in my wardrobe.

thread-spools, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

pile-of-spools, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

Next are the bags of sewing notions! I found two ziploc bags full of wooden spools of thread and other assorted vintage sewing notions. I love wooden spools- it’s so sad that spools are plastic now, don’t you think? There were thirty eight spools, and I love the variety of colours, and the labels too.

thread-spools-grid, the artyologist

These are some of my favourites. Top L-R: 1. I love the carved end of this spool. 2. This colour of green is so perfect. 3. I just liked this label. Middle L-R: 1.Another pretty blue. 2. This is the label for the blue spool. I’ve never heard of “The Canadian Spool Cotton Co.” 3. This deep royal/navy blue thread is so shiny and smooth. Bottom L-R: 1.Another carved spool and this time for silk thread. 2.This is the silk thread, a grey/mauve colour, and it is so pretty and . . . well. . . silky 😉 3. And the last one: there are two unopened spools of lilac. I guess I’m not the only one who buys thread for a project, and then never gets around to using it 🙂

notions, ricrac and hem tape, the artyologist

vintage needle-book, thrifting finds, the artyologist

needlebook-zippers, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

vintage sewing pamphlet, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

The elastic thread that accompanied this paper was long past useable, but this little instruction booklet has some great illustrations, don’t you think? They all look rather 1950’s in style to me, but the logo says “known over 50 years for Quality, Style, Value” and as the company started in the 1920’s, I guess it would date this paper as the 1970’s. Maybe the illustrations weren’t current, but rather a throwback to earlier times, or maybe they just never updated their illustration style?

books, thrifted treasures, the artyologist

Two lovely vintage books. They didn’t have a price on them, so the lady gave them to me for $0.25 each! #thriftscore

vintage xmas ornaments, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

When you doubt whether your outfit is really festive enough, just add this corsage. Instant Christmas kitsch! How could I resist it? Also, these ornaments were just in a ziploc bag, and tossed into a bin. I don’t think they realized that they are glass! One was broken (fortunately it was a modern and ugly one) but all these vintage ones were intact, albeit a little scratched, but that’s OK. 🙂

bonus-ornament, the artyologist

And, one “extra special” bonus treasure that was also included in the same ziploc bag, was this Limited Edition beauty from 1986. This is literally a glass ornament, with plastic wrapped around it. Yes, that nativity picture is a piece of shrink wrap. Why was this a Limited Edition (with capital letters)? And the better question to ask ourselves is, why did someone buy it in the first place?

Have you found any great treasures lately? (I’d love to hear about them!) Do you like thrifting items if they need to be fixed or altered, or do you stick with only things that are good “as is”? And, what are your feelings on refashioning damaged vintage items?

Fashion Isn’t About You

Fashion Isn't About You, the artyologist

We live in an era and a society that is obsessed with things like health. We use organic beauty products, because we know they are better for us. We clean with earth friendly products, so we don’t pollute our homes. We eat healthy and organic foods to minimize our risk of cancer. We know that eventually we will all die, and yet, we do what we can to improve our quality of life in the here and now. And yes, all of these things are great. We should avoid the practices that we know are bad for us, and do the things that are good for us (as far as we know that they are good for us!)

There is one element that is centre to all of these practices though, and that is that they are all good for you. As in, you personally.

Ethical Fashion is not something you do for you. It is something you do for someone else.

Ethical fashion, to be really honest, doesn’t benefit you personally in any way whatsoever. In fact, one could argue, it’s really a pain and a bother when it comes right down to it.

Fair trade fashion is often more expensive than the fast fashion garments you can find at your local mall. Fair trade and ethically made garments can be hard to find: most of your local chain stores don’t carry responsible brands in stock (especially here in Canada). And, sometimes the fair trade fashions you do find, will not be your fashion style. Building a fair trade wardrobe involves research. Which brands are ethical? Where did this come from? And really, #whomademyclothes? Being a conscious consumer involves constant questioning; not just, “Do I want this?” but, “Do I need this”? And, then there is always the question of, “What is the longevity of this garment?” Sometimes ethical fashion means going without something, until you can find it in an ethical and fair trade version.

Other options to buying fair trade fashion would be practices like thrifting, or buying vintage. This takes time though. To build a second-hand wardrobe, you put in countless hours searching for pieces that you not only like, but that fit, and are in good condition as well. Vintage is rare, depending on where you live, and it can be hard to find. You can’t just stop in at your local store to pick out exactly what you want and need. And once you find the thrifted or vintage garment you are looking for, it will require upkeep that new garments don’t. Mending and fixing go hand-in-hand with pre-loved garments.

Another option is making your own clothes. This again, is a large time investment (especially if you are like me, and are an extremely slow seamstress.) It also means acquiring the skills to be able to make the garments yourself, as you want to end up with something wearable; not a “Becky-Home-Ecky” that should be turned into a rag. And again, with new fabrics and textile, you must question, “Where did this fabric come from?” With reused textiles, you run into other problems and the quirks that come along with refashioning.

Ethical fashion is hard. Creating a wardrobe full of garments that are fair trade, where the workers who sewed your clothes (because each and every piece of clothing has been made by human hands, somewhere) are earning a wage they can truly live on, is really frustrating sometimes.

But, nobody should have to die for fashion.

That shouldn’t even be a thought that enters the equation. Because really, there should be no such term as “Ethical Fashion”. That is so redundant it’s like saying “Edible Food”.

Nobody should have to drop out of school at nine years old to go to work, just to be able to put food on the table.

Nobody should have to work with toxic fabric dyes, and no safety equipment, in order to afford their monthly rent.

And nobody should have to go to work in an unsafe factory, which may collapse at any moment, in order to survive . . . but end up dying instead.

Because nobody’s life is worth less than a t-shirt.

Fashion is something that shouldn’t be only about you. Your clothes might seem like a highly personal choice, but instead I would challenge you to view your wardrobe with an outward focus too and take a moment to think about how what you buy ultimately impacts the lives of those who you may not be able to see, but are affected nevertheless. And then not only think about it, but see what steps you can take to make a difference.

 “Demand quality, not just in the products you buy, but in the life of the person who made it.”- Orsola De Castro

As I mentioned last week, October is Slow Fashion Month, and Fair Trade Month. I know it’s the last week, but I didn’t want the month to pass by without sharing some of my ethical fashion journey, and the reasons behind why I am building my wardrobe the way that I am. This weeks prompt is “Known Origins”. There is a story behind each and every garment tag, and usually it is a story we’ll never know. But it is those stories, and the realities that garment workers are facing around the world every day, that are shaping my wardrobe choices. It’s not always an easy journey, and sometimes I really just wish that I could throw in the towel and go and buy all the things. I do fail sometimes, making purchases that I end up regretting, because I know that they aren’t ethical purchases. Overall I have come to a point in my wardrobe, though, where I just don’t feel good about wearing cheap fashion, with unknown origins. And so, I choose to wear slow fashion whenever possible, because of the lives of the people behind the garment tags. Because, as I said before, nobody’s life is worth less than a t-shirt.

Hints to Help You Make Do and Mend

Hints To Help You Make Do and Mend, the artyologist

October is Slow Fashion and Fair Trade month, and although I haven’t taken part until now, I didn’t want to let the month pass without contributing my voice to the discussion going on around the internet. When I originally planned to write this post, I thought that this week’s prompt was “long worn”. Apparently I got my weeks mixed up though, as this week’s prompt is actually “handmade”. Oops. Well, I guess this post will not only be long worn, but long overdue as well. 😉 The term “long worn” refers to the clothes that are already in existence, here on our planet, and how we can make the most of them. I thought that this would be a great time to share some of the garment care tips that I have picked up over the years, that will help to increase the longevity of your clothing, as well as including a few tips from the reprinted copy of Make Do and Mend that I purchased last year while in England. (I’d been wanting to get my hands on one for ages!)

Taking care of the clothes that you already own is a great first step to creating a conscious wardrobe, and there are so many simple things you can do to increase the life of your clothing. It is really only in the last 10-20 years that our society has drifted into a more “throwaway” attitude towards what we wear. Mending, altering, maintaining and preserving your clothing is actually a rather “vintage” way of looking at your closet, which is evidenced by the ingenuity of people during the Great Depression, and the rationing years of the Second World War (which is when the pamphlet Make Do and Mend was published). So, without further ado, here are some helpful hints for caring for your clothes, and some excerpts from the book Make Do and Mend. (excerpts are indicated by “italics“)

Wearing:

  • Wearing scarves when you wear a coat keeps the collar off of your neck, to keep it clean longer. Instead of having to continually wash your coat, you can simply wash the scarf instead.
  • Wearing slips, undershirts and underarm shields can help to keep your clothes cleaner for longer. We tend to wash our clothes more than is actually necessary, and constant washing shortens the life of your clothing. By extending the period of time between washes, you can significantly increase the life of your garment. By keeping your skin away from direct contact with garments, especially delicate ones, they don’t soil so quickly. Just make sure to remove the shields before putting away your garments
  • It is best to wear clothes in turn, as a rest does them good. Shoes too are better for not being worn day after day.” This gives them a rest, and a chance to completely dry out. It is also better for your feet, as it prevents them from rubbing too much in one spot etc.
  • “Always change into old things, if you can, in the house, and give the clothes you have just taken off an airing before putting them away.” 

Hints to Help You Make Do and Mend, the artyologist, essential tools

Storing:

  • If you are going to be storing a garment for any length of time, such as off season coats, it is nice to cover them with a garment bag, so they don’t collect dust and dirt while in storage. That way, when it comes time to wear them again, you won’t need to clean them first.
  • Hang delicate garments on padded hangers to protect the shoulders from stretching out of shape. “A hanger that is too narrow will ruin the shape of the shoulder and may even make a hole.” It is also a good practice to store clothing off of hangers, as hanging garments long-term can distort them.
  • “Do up all fastenings before hanging clothes. This helps them to keep their shape. And see that the shoulders are even on the hangers and not falling off one side.”
  • “Put away clothes in the condition in which you will want to wear them when you take them out again. Make quite sure they are absolutely clean; dirt attracts clothes’ moths.” (And who wants to wash clothes first thing when you take them out again?)

Cleaning:

  • Deal with stains and spills right away. Taking a few moments to wash out a stain as soon after it happens as possible, is much better than waiting until you do laundry only to find that the stain won’t wash out.
  • If a garment is not dirty enough to need a washing, you can deodorize by using vodka. This is a practice that is still used today in theatre costumes (according to my friend who is an actress). For a garment such as a blazer or a delicate item, which is not easily washed, simply turn the garment inside out, spritz the inside (especially the underarms) with vodka, and then leave until dry. This neutralizes any odours, and keeps your garments smelling fresh without having to constantly wash them. (I suppose you could use rum instead of vodka, but then you might smell like a pirate! 🙂 Don’t worry, the vodka leaves no scent, so you won’t smell like alcohol.)
  • Washing your clothes in a delicate, cold wash, is easier on them than hot water. Also, air drying your clothes, rather than putting them through the dryer, extends their life. This is especially true for knits (such as t-shirts, sweaters, or jeans with Lycra in them.) Dryers are extremely hard on stretch fabrics.
  • It is better to hand wash your sweaters, so they don’t stretch out of shape. Use a gentle soap, rinse, and then lay them flat to dry. By hand washing your knits, you will help to avoid the dreaded pilled sweater! Putting your sweaters through the washing machine, even on a delicate cycle, leads to pilling. Although you can fix (some) pilling, it is easier to just avoid it in the first place.

Hints to Help You Make Do and Mend, the artyologist, tools for mending

Mending:

  • Fix places where seams or hems have come undone, or buttons are loose. It is so much easier to fix right away, than waiting until it turns into a much bigger problem. “Watch for thin places, especially in the elbows of dresses, seams of trousers, heels of socks and stockings. Reinforce a thin spot with a light patch on the inside. Choose material that is strong but rather lighter in weight than the original material. Scraps of net darned lightly inside thin heels of stockings make an excellent repair. If you have to patch or darn and have no matching material or thread, sacrifice a collar, belt or pocket if it is merely ornamental, or unravel a thread from the seam. You could unravel the pocket of a knitted garment to provide thread for a darn, and a patch made from a matching belt may save a frock from the bits and pieces bag. You can replace the belt with one of contrasting colour.”
  • “Always carry a needle and cotton and mending silk with you- this will save many a ladder in stockings or prevent the loss of buttons; your friends will thank you too. How many times have you heard someone say, “Has anyone got a needle and cotton?”
  • Take care of the pills on your knits with a sweater shaver. Nothing looks nastier, and cheaper, than a pilled sweater! It is amazing what a shaver can do for making things look fresh. One of the winter coats I got from a coworker came to me in terrible condition (it looked as though she had thrown it through the wash) and I wasn’t sure if it could be saved, but I used a sweater comb, and now the wool looks brand new!
  • Keeping your leather shoes and purses polished, and hydrated with a conditioner of some sort, will keep them from cracking and drying out. Also, they just look nicer. And, of course, if your shoes are past the point where you can do anything with them, take them to the cobbler. Those people work magic! I have had many a pair that I thought were gonners, and they have brought them back to life.

So, there are my tips and tricks for keeping your wardrobe spic-and-span! Would you like to hear more tips from the Make Do and Mend pamphlet? And do you have any garment care tips of your own? Do share!

Let’s Talk About Refashioning

let's talk about refashioning, the artyologist

Refashioning. Recycling. Upcyling . . .

What exciting words full of promise and possibility! Here is the chance to turn something old, ugly and unusable into something new, special, creative, and, well . . . useable.

I wholeheartedly agree with all of these sentiments, as refashioning is such a great idea. It’s eco friendly by using something that would otherwise be thrown out, and instead of letting it become end-of-life, rescuing it and transforming it into something better. Refashioning saves existing textiles by recycling them, so that the garments are kept out of the landfill. Someday it is my goal to be zero-waste, so it totally makes sense that I would be completely into refashioning. And yet. . .  I have a confession to make. . . I don’t really love refashioning garments. I hate altering things, and I love cutting into brand new fabric. To be completely honest, I just don’t enjoy the process of upcycling, as much as I love the idea of it.

On the surface it sounds so great- take something that is old and useless and transform it into something good again. Our thrift shops today are overrun with used, ugly, or cheap clothes. They are full of garments from the 80’s and 90’s, that were never cool and definitely won’t ever be again. There are clothes that are ruined because they are either stained or ripped, and are only good for rags, but if something can’t even be used for a rag, what happens to it then? All that is left is for it to be thrown away as an end-of-life textile.

I don’t know why people don’t talk about it more often, (maybe it hits just a little too close to home) but the fashion industry is the second largest contributor of pollution on earth. That’s right: the second largest in the world, behind only the oil industry. I don’t know about you, but when I think of things that are damaging to the environment, I think of, yes the oil industry, but also things like, clear cut logging, or chemicals in farming practices. I don’t think about the innocent t-shirt hanging in my closet.

While we hear a lot about the impact the oil industry has, we hear hardly anything about what the fashion industry is doing to destroy our planet. The fashion industry is full of synthetic dyes and chemicals, abundant water usage and waste, and airborne pollution to name just a few. Not only are the chemicals, water usage and pollution bad enough, but many of the cheap garments being manufactured today are made from fabrics like polyester blends, that cannot be recycled, do not biodegrade, and are so poor in quality that they wear out and are almost immediately thrown out, contributing to landfill waste.

I get depressed just thinking about it all.

This is where I start thinking- what can I do to put a dent in this endless cycle of waste? There are a few ways we can help to turn the fashion industry around, and one of those things is refashioning existing textiles. Because refashioning uses textiles that have already been produced and cast aside, they are no longer a harmful part of the fashion industry cycle. By refashioning them you are giving them new life.

These are the inspiring things that I hear and tell myself, and so I decide that I am going to refashion! Instead of buying new fabric all the time, and continuously adding to my stash, I start buying fabrics and garments from the thrift stores that I can restyle and upcycle instead. I decide to join in challenges like the recent Refashioners challenge. I see a dress at the thrift store, and say to myself “This has potential. I’ll take this old thing and make something new out of it. If I just alter this, it will be perfect. If I just remove the sleeves, recut the hem, etc. then I can make this unusable thing useable again.” And I forget to take into account that a preloved garment, comes with predetermined issues.

Often the fabric is skewed or stretched over time. Sometimes I find snags or stains I didn’t notice before, or the fabric is unevenly faded and I have to make some strategic, emergency adjustments along the way. Often there isn’t enough fabric to make what I originally wanted to, so there is a lot of pattern hacking involved and changing plans midway. There are seams in odd places, and sometimes the seams have weakened the fabric, or left holes in it. Hours of frustration ensue in which I question everything, “Who made this ugly thing in the first place? Who sewed that seam crookedly, so now I can’t measure or cut where I want to? Why did they do this or that or the other? Why did I ever get the idea in my head to embark on this project????”

In short- what sometimes seems like such an easy and quick fix, is not. There are a whole host of problems with refashioning. But, nothing in life is easy, and sometimes the best things in life are a challenge to overcome, right? There are sometimes a whole host of problems that come along with sewing something brand new too.

So, after the hours, days, (weeks? months?) of my refashioning project, I put the final touches on the garment. It’s done, and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I persevered through it all, sometimes with mixed results. But then I look at what it was before, and what it is now, and I feel that sense of accomplishment! I promise myself I’ll never do it again… but boy did that turn out great!

And then much to the consternation everyone around me, who is forced to listed to my agonizing over the project, I’ll invariably end up starting another refashioning project. Is it possible to hate something so much, and yet love it too? It really is so satisfying to be able to look at something that was once wasteful and is now a productive member of society again 🙂 Some of my favourite garments are ones that were refashioned. I love them, just like I love my vintage pieces, because they have history. They have a story behind them. And I put a lot of work into them even if, like my latest refashioning project, it wasn’t a beast to sew, I still invested the time and effort into it. But isn’t it true that we tend to love those things that we had to work for?

So, I hope that, even if you aren’t into refashioning, you will take some tiny steps too. Maybe it’s fixing that blouse where the seam came undone, or the button fell off, instead of tossing it out. (Or getting someone to mend it for you, if you can’t do it.) Maybe it’s seeking out garments that are made of recycled materials instead of new materials. Maybe it’s choosing to buy your clothes at the thrift store, even if you aren’t refashioning them. (There are, obviously, a lot of nice clothes in the thrift stores that require no refashioning- and I think my fellow vintage lovers will have this one down-pat. Wearing vintage is like the ultimate planet saving practice!) Maybe it is buying quality, timeless garments in the first place, so they don’t end up in the thrift stores, stretched out of shape, pilled and out of style within a year, destined for the landfill. Or, maybe it is a more ambitious project of refashioning an existing garment into something completely new. (And if that is the case, good luck, and you can look at this year’s Refashioners challenge for tons of inspiration!)

The bottom line is, if we each take some tiny steps, even if they seem rather insignificant on their own, then together we can make bigger difference. Sometimes it really can start with something as simple as refashioning an old pair of jeans into a retro top, rather than buying a new one. You’ve got to start somewhere, so it may as well be there, right?

What do you think of refashioning? Have you ever refashioned anything before? Do you have any other ideas for ways to help decrease the impact of the fashion industry on our world?