responsible fashion

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist

Today is the first day of Fashion Revolution Week 2018, so I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about ways to refashion and recycle old textiles- since textile waste is a huge problem in the fashion industry today. If you’re reading this and saying to yourself, “what on earth is Fashion Revolution?”, you can just click over here and read my post from last week which will get you up to speed, and then come back to this one once you know what’s what!

So, as I mentioned, textile waste is a huge problem facing us today as a result of the fast fashion industry. It is estimated that 10.5 million tons of clothing are sent to the landfill, in North America alone, and only 20% of textiles are recycled- with the other 80% being lost to the landfill or incineration. Of the textiles being thrown away, 70% of it is damaged, such as with stains, fading or shrinking- but even then, rather than being recycled, it is being thrown away. It is estimated that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter after only the oil industry. This is a rather abysmal track record, don’t you think?

A while ago I received a comment on my post about my Astra fur coat, where I was talking about how the vintage fabric is slowly wearing out. The lovely Mrs. Rat (of Mr. and Mrs. Rat Blog) said, “My favorite winter coat is going the same way—no matter how often I sew up the tears in the lining, they reappear somewhere else or next to the old ones. The exterior is also starting to look a little droopy and shabby up close. I don’t feel like I have any good way of knowing when a garment is ‘worn out,’ especially when it is one I am fond of. I also don’t feel like I really know what to do with a really worn piece of clothing except harvest the buttons for future sewing projects and feel guilty about throwing away the rest of it. Maybe that could be a good subject for a post for fashion revolution month? I always like to read what you write about ethical fashion and its practical dilemmas.

Thank-you Mrs. Rat for leaving such a great comment! That was a wonderful idea for a post, and it really got me thinking! And so, for today, I am sharing a post dedicated to 12 ideas for “what on earth do you do with previously used textiles?!?”  I’ve got links to some of my past refashioning projects, features on some small projects I’ve made in the past few years that wouldn’t be big enough to dedicate an entire post to, ways to mend old garments and several tips for what you can do with old clothing that isn’t in good enough condition to be donated as is, but also isn’t usable for much else either. Even though none of these projects are huge- every little bit, does truly help. If each person in North America chose to recycle or refashion just one garment each year, that would be 360 million garments diverted from the landfill! Here are 12 ways to do just that:

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist, covering buttons

  1.  If you have a garment that needs some mending; maybe a hole needs patching, or a button needs recovering, take a look at the hem or facings and see if you can steal some fabric to do your repair work. Last year, I found a 1960’s dress at the thrift store which desparately needed a washing, so I carefully soaked and washed it in the tub, and laid it flat to dry. Once it was dry, I realized that the buttons had reacted badly to being washed, and all of the buttons now had a yellowish/green tinge to them around the edges. You can see the colour difference in the above picture, left. I tried to dye them back to a nice shade of blue- but apparently this fabric is not actually wool, since the dye didn’t absorb! Fortunately the dress had a nice wide 4″ hem- common in vintage garments- and so I was able to cut a 2″ strip all the way around, re-hem the dress and then use the scrap of fabric to cover all of the buttons in new fabric.

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist, purse alteration

2. If only part of a garment has worn out, see if it can be replaced with new fabric or hardware. For example, perhaps a collar or cuffs have worn through or gotten stained, and could be replaced with contrasting fabric. Jackets with leather patches on the elbows were trendy a few years ago- which is just what professors used to do with the worn out sleeves on their jackets. I bought this bag from SmartSet years ago, because I loved the combination of cognac leather and stripes. It proved to be an invaluable bag-especially for commuting to work, or as an overnight bag. About a year or two after getting it, the faux leather handles and pulls all started cracking and flaking to pieces. The bag was cheap quality to begin with- but I didn’t want to just get rid of it, so I instead decided to replace the original handles with leather ones. I searched the thrift stores, until I found a cognac coloured leather coat. I made sure to get one that was either damaged or wouldn’t be useful for any other purposes, so I wasn’t cutting up a perfectly good coat. The one I found had a company logo on it- so obviously no one was going to be wearing it second-hand! I removed all of the faux leather pieces from the bag- traced them onto the wrong side of the new leather, and then sewed all the new leather pieces onto the bag. The new leather has lasted about 5 years, and I still have several large pieces of leather left to use on other projects.

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist, pillows out of scraps

3. Lots of old garments can make great pillows- especially since they don’t require much fabric and are easy to sew. Two of these pillows were originally garments; the navy one was a short sleeved blouse that didn’t fit very well. It was such stiff fabric- and I loved the embroidery across it, so I couldn’t bear to get rid of it. Thus, it became a little pillow. The cream patterned pillow was a dress that no longer fit (and had also shrunk out of shape), which I then turned into a skirt- but it also didn’t fit well. I liked the fabric though- so I pieced it together into a square pillow. To make it more interesting, I did a chain stitch embroidery outline of the pattern for an added detail. The blue striped pillow was made out of a fabric remnant. With some strategic cutting and piecing, there was exactly enough to make this pillow, with no fabric waste left over!

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist, bags out of scraps

4. Small projects such as tote bags or zippered pouches, can be made with small pieces of fabric. Here is an example where I am doing the opposite of tip #3- and am turning some pillows into a tote bag! I was hoping to finish it last week- but ran out of time, and so (on the right) you get a picture of the fabric pieces instead 😉 The khaki green fabric was originally a slipcover that got bleached by the sun, was turned into a pillow, and last week I decided I didn’t like it as a pillow anymore and so have turned it into the bottom of my bag. The gold and cream fabric is from some pillows I purchased a few years ago, but they no longer match my sofa and so I decided the fabric would be better as tote bag. I have not yet decided whether to make fabric handles, which will be good for laundering, or whether to make the bag a little bit more structural and add leather handles (made from the aforementioned coat). Another example of a bag that that is a bit more patchwork, is this 70’s inspired one, on the left, that I made quite a few years ago. I’m no good at quilting (as evidenced by the crooked patchwork pieces in this bag!), but even with rudimentary quilting skills, you can easily make a pieced bag.

grevillea beret, side, the artyologist

5. Now to address Mrs. Rat’s dilemma with her coat: worn out garments often have pieces of fabric that are still useable for small projects- such as making hats! I tried out Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret pattern earlier this year, and used some scraps I had leftover from making a cape. When I say scraps, I mean scraps: the fabric I used was only about 6″ wide, and I was still able to squeeze a hat out of it. In the Grevillea pattern, Tanith herself even recommends using an old coat, because even if some of the fabric is threadbare along the seams etc, there should be enough useable fabric to make a hat.

If a beret isn’t your style, how about getting a pattern like Vogue 7464?  You could make any of these hats out of scraps of wool or other fabrics. There are lots of other vintage hat patterns out there, if none of these are your style, or check out Tanith Rowan’s blog as she often shares hatmaking tips.

wardrobe-spice, canadian home journal, the artyologist

If hats aren’t really your thing, you could also try making some “wardrobe spice” accessories such as gloves or a jabot out of the fabric (as long as it isn’t too scratchy!)

The Big Reveal: The Refashioners 2016 and Gertie's Butterick, another portrait, the artyologist

6. A past refashioning project, is this top made out of old jeans. Any pattern that has princess seams, or lots of piecing is great for making out of old textiles- as you can fit the pattern into narrow pieces of fabric. This top was actually the bodice of a dress pattern- Butterick 5882– which makes a great playsuit top, and was perfect for making out of old jeans- as the pieces are narrow.

12 Ways to Recycle & Refashion Used Clothing & Textiles, the artyologist, creative hands

7. Old garments are also wonderful for cutting down into new garments for children. Here are some tips from the 1970’s Creative hands books:

  • Be sure that the fabric isn’t too worn to withstand the tougher wear a child will give it.
  • Take the garment apart at the seams, and launder it, if it looks dirty. Sometimes when a garment has been taken apart, and the lining removed, the wrong side of the fabric looks brighter and fresher than the right side. Don’t hesitate to use the wrong side of a fabric if it appeals to you- it may even have a more interesting weave.
  • Adult coats: Garments made of tweed, woven wool, jersey, man-made knits and weaves, velours, doeskin cloth and corduroy will make children’s coats, jackets, teenage girls’ skirts and vests, girls’ and boys’ trousers and snowsuits.
  • Adult dresses: Garments made of woolens, jerseys, woven fabrics, man-made fibre fabrics, velvet needlecord, cottons, linens, etc. will make little girls’ dresses, skirts, boleros and sleeveless blouses, pants suits, shorts, and vests for both boys and girls. Knitwear will make pullovers, jumpers and romper suits for babies.
  • A more satisfactory remake job will result if a pattern is chosen with the same number of pieces as the adult garment and in a fairly similar style. By following this simple rule, you will find that there is enough fabric of the right shape in the adult garment for a child’s garment.

Refashioning a 1980's dress into a 1940's pinafore the artyologist

8. A lot of those tips for cutting children’s clothing could be utilized to cut down larger sized adult garments, into smaller sized ones; for example a large men’s coat could be remade into a women’s coat, (like women did in the 1940’s during rationing) and even a women’s coat could be made into a new vest. This gingham pinafore I made a few years ago, was made out of an old dress which was several sizes too big for me. I completely recut the fabric and made a new garment out of it. If you have a garment with quite a lot of fabric- a long dress or skirt, for example, it is often perfect for cutting out an entirely new garment.

the entirely repurposed and almost vintage skirt the artyologist

9. Old sheets make great fabric for projects! I made this skirt out of a vintage sheet- even though the project required some strategic cutting, since the sheet had been used as a dropcloth sometime in it’s past and had several paint stains on it. Vintage sheets are a great source of fabric for sewing projects, especially as most vintage sheets (at least fitted ones) don’t usually fit modern mattresses. This sheet wasn’t good for anything else- but I managed to get a new garment out of it. Vintage sheets are great for making test garments of new patterns, as they are relatively inexpensive and have a lot of fabric.

10. What do you do when you can’t refashion a garment/textiles? If a garment is ruined, such as with stains that won’t come out, or is threadbare along the seams, and it is 100% woven cotton, you could use it to make a quilt, or, if you don’t quilt, see if someone else would like it for quilting squares. Quilts originally were made with scraps, and as long as the fabric is not too worn out, it’s nice to get some free fabric. In the past, I made a lot of my dresses out of quilting cotton, and when I cut out my patterns, I saved all of the scraps, of a decent size, in order to use for future projects. I’ve got a suitcase full of fabric scraps, to make a quilt someday, and even though I’ll probably never actually make that quilt- it’s nice to have a stash of scraps to use for projects, such as the tote bags I mentioned earlier.

11. If a garment is completely worn out and it is 100% cotton, then remove the buttons and hardware and cut it up for rags. Instead of using paper towels or buying cloths, cut up old t-shirts and soft cottons to clean with. Soft t-shirt cottons work quite well for cleaning glass and mirrors as well as for dusting. As long as the majority of the fabric content is cotton or natural fibres, they work quite well. Synthetic fibres or blends don’t absorb liquids very well, although you can still use them for dusting, so avoid using them for cleaning rags.

12. After you have gone through all of these ideas, and still have a garment left- for example, old hoisery or a polyester blouse with snags on it- then the last thing you can do is remove the buttons or any other hardware, and send it to textile recycling. Although I don’t shop at H&M, they do have a textile recycling program, which our family has used several times. In many of their stores, they have a drop off bin for end of life textiles- you can find out more about that here.  Our family recently dropped off 5 bags of textiles at one of their stores. (The man who was standing in line was so confused to see us walk into the store, throw 5 bags into the textile recycling bin, and then turn around and leave the store without stopping to buy anything!) All of the textiles we sent were end-of-life textiles, which meant the fabric was ruined, unable to be recycled into a future project, or was of some kind of synthetic fibre and couldn’t be used for rags. Their program accepts all unwanted textiles where it is sorted into three categories:

  • Reworn- if it is in good condition
  • Reused- for cleaning cloths
  • Recycled- to be turned into textile fibres and used for insulation.

___

Well, those are the 12 ways I have used up old textiles. It is nice to be able to repurpose and refashion as much as you can, isn’t it? It always makes me think of the Depression era women, when I recycle old garments and textiles into new projects! I hope these ideas have helped you to figure out how you can reuse your garments, rather than simply sending them to the thrift shops or textile recycling programs.

What creative ways do you refashion and reuse old textiles? Have you tried any of these ideas before? Are you taking part in Fashion Revolution Week this year?

The Obvious Guide for How to Stay Warm in Winter Without Sacrificing Style

The Obvious Guide for How to Stay Warm in Winter Without Sacrificing Style, the artyologist

“But wait!”, you say, “It’s not Winter yet!” And, you are correct that it is not officially Winter yet. We won’t be officially in the Winter season for another 33 days to be exact.

Here though, it is Winter all right, and has been for 18 days now. It started snowing on October 31 (just in time for the little kids to go trick-or-treating out in the snowdrifts) and it hasn’t stopped yet. Well, it hasn’t gone away yet, and every morning when I look out the window, I see more snow to shovel off of my walkway. So, it’s safe to say that Winter is here, for now at least. Despite the fact that Winter comes every year, and that historically we get snow in October, every year I am caught off guard, and there are a few days there where I think to myself, “Wait- what? Snow? How do I dress for this?” And so I just end up throwing a winter coat, and boots and scarf over the top of everything without any real thought as to creating an outfit.

Now, the real question we must ask ourselves, when the temperatures have dropped below zero, is: how do you dress for the cold, when the aforementioned “hobo style” isn’t quite the look that you are going for? I present to you this outfit, which is a testament to the vintage lover’s desire to be dressed in some semblance of fashion, while also desiring to keep at least slightly warm. This is the first “real” outfit I put together since the climes dropped, and everything I wore here was chosen mainly because of it’s insulating properties. So, here are my cold weather tips for those who don’t want to sacrifice style for warmth. Yes, most of these are obvious, but I thought, why not share them anyways?

The Obvious Guide for How to Stay Warm in Winter Without Sacrificing Style, vintage coat and fur collar, the artyologist

  • Turbans are a good cold weather choice, because they can be tied over your ears, and are much prettier than your average toque. I actually wore two scarves here, one tied over my ears and the other over the top for decoration. You can tie a turban with a warmer fabric than a thin silk scarf, and you can also get pre-formed turbans which are knitted, or made of velvet, mohair, wool etc. and those would be very toasty warm! (I don’t have one myself . . . yet!) Other options for keeping your head warm are berets, worn pulled down over your ears like this, or thicker scarves worn over your head and tied under your chin. Sometimes, I wear my scarf and pull it up over my head like a hood, if it isn’t too cold out, but there is a bit of a breeze.
  • Wool coats are the best. Really they are. If you are at all thinking of going outside in the cold this season, get yourself a 100% wool coat, and you will not regret it. Lots of modern/reproduction winter coats are made of synthetic blends, and they do not even offer a fraction of warmth compared to pure wool. If you can, get yourself a vintage coat, especially a long one, and you won’t be cold. This one, from the 80’s, is made of cashmere and wool, and it is one of the best thrift store purchases I have ever made. On mild winter days, this coat is even almost too warm to wear.

The Obvious Guide for How to Stay Warm in Winter Without Sacrificing Style, vintage style, the artyologist

  • A fur collar. Does a fur collar keep you warm? No, not really, unless it’s a beaver hood or something known for it’s super insulating properties. But, it looks pretty! And it gives the illusion of warmth! And, if you aren’t going to wear fur in the Winter, just when are you going to wear it? I am not wearing it in these pictures, but I actually wore a scarf underneath the collar to keep warm, and threw the fur over top to add the “glamour”.
  • Nice winter boots. I love my pumps and thin leather shoes, but come winter, unless you want your feet to turn into blocks of ice, winter boots really are a must, and insulated ones are optimum. These boots I bought a few years ago, are lined with a layer of “Thinsulate” (which is essentially useless if you are actually out in a blizzard) but if you are just walking around town, they are great! They keep your feet warmer than shoes, and, they look a lot nicer than those clunky, rubber winter boots (that you will wish you were wearing if you get caught in an actual blizzard).

The Obvious Guide for How to Stay Warm in Winter Without Sacrificing Style, theartyologist, on-steps

  • Layers are good. Here I am wearing several layers: tights, a long wool skirt, (with a slip under that) and a long coat over top. There’s only about 2 inches of exposed leg (covered with tights, but not the skirt and coat, I mean). And on the top; a blouse, then a cardigan, and then the coat. Rather than getting a buffalo robe and swaddling yourself in that (which some days admittedly does seem like a good idea) build up warmth with layers so you don’t end up looking like a stuffed penguin.
  • Pockets are another wonderful thing. If your hands get cold, even while wearing gloves or mittens, you can just stick them in your pockets to warm them up. I once had a winter coat that didn’t have pockets- it was the worst coat because my hands were always freezing when I wore it! I also once had a coat that only had pockets over the chest. That was an awkward place to have pockets. I know they were supposed to be decorative, but what is the point of having only decorative pockets on a winter coat?!?!

Well, there are my tips for dressing for Winter, brought to you today from one cold Canadian! So, how did this outfit hold up during my walk to church that morning? Well, for the two blocks going south, it was great! The six blocks straight into the wind wasn’t so lovely, however 🙁 But, even though my face got a bit frosty from the wind, I was actually surprisingly warm and it was a relief to take my coat off!

So, what do you do to stay stylish in Winter but also warm? Is it “Winter” yet, where you live, or are you still enjoying Fall?

The Obvious Guide for How to Stay Warm in Winter Without Sacrificing Style, vintage turban

windows- The Obvious Guide for How to Stay Warm in Winter Without Sacrificing Style, the artyologist

The Obvious Guide for How to Stay Warm in Winter Without Sacrificing Style, vintage wool coat and fur collar, the artyologist

How to Wear Those “Problem Garments”

How to Wear Those "Problem Garments", the artyologist, vintage shirtwaist dress

(OK, I seriously just spent about an hour trying to come up with a better blog title than this, but this is the best I can come up with. And now that it’s 11:00 pm, I’m going to say that’s good enough. And goodnight!)

I had every intention of taking this turquoise shirtwaist dress out of my closet and selling it. But I thought I should do one photo shoot with it before it was gone forever. And then I saw these photos and . . . decided that I will be keeping this dress after all! I found it in a thrift shop two years ago and it fits like a dream. I think it is an original 1950’s dress, although it could have been made later perhaps too, and I believe it is a home-sew, as there is no tag.

How to Wear Those "Problem Garments", the artyologist, walking in a wheat field

So, why would I want to get rid of this dress?

Well, I have owned it for a few years, and I have worn it perhaps. . . five times. I never reach for it when I go to get dressed, and almost every time I wear it, I don’t like how I have styled it (which is why it hasn’t appeared on the blog before). It just never seems to work with anything. Since my wardrobe is full of warm neutral tones, a vibrant dress like this one stands out like a sore thumb. Especially since I’m trying to create a more “cohesive wardrobe”.

So how do you reconcile those “problem” garments you have, which don’t seem to go with anything or work with the rest of your closet? Here are some tips I literally just invented right now while looking at these photos (and trying to decipher why this outfit “worked” this time around), but the tips worked for me when I wore this problem dress, so maybe they’ll help you too! 😉

How to Wear Those "Problem Garments", the artyologist, vintage turquoise shirtwaist dress

Resist the temptation to over-accessorize.

I think one of the hallmarks of vintage style is the accessories. While modern girls would call a t-shirt, jeans and a scarf an ensemble, vintage girls won’t consider it complete until you’ve got a hat, purse, gloves, stockings, shoes, necklace, earrings, scarf, ring, and parasol. OK, maybe not all of those things at once, but you see what I mean! The problem comes in when you are trying to accessorize a problem garment, and none of your regular accessories match very well. This is when paring down the number of accessories might be a good idea. I always tried to pair this shirtwaist with a matching purse, belt, shoes, hat, jewellery and . . . I discovered that it is just too much. Nothing seemed to “go” and the style of this dress actually works well with a relatively small number of accessories. And I don’t have to worry about looking overdone. My accessories choices for this outfit consisted only of brown laceup shoes, a cognac belt, and (though you can’t even see them in the photos) my pearl earrings. Simple, and definitely not overdone.

How to Wear Those "Problem Garments", the artyologist, vintage shirtwaist dress, details

Try sticking with one accent colour, or shades of the same colour.

This time I chose my brown lace up flats and a cognac belt. Keeping the accessories to one neutral colour, and shades within a hue, allows the dress to stand out. The dress is bright and it doesn’t need more colour to go with it. Of course, I could have chosen a bright colour such as fuchsia, which would look amazing with this turquoise colour, but that would not have been very “me”. Choosing brown accessories made this bright outfit not feel like too much of a deviation from my regular style. Conversely, if you are wearing a neutral outfit and are having trouble choosing what to pair with it, try one brighter colour such as mint green or royal blue. The effect is just as striking, and never overdone. And it is very “vintage” in style as well, as in past eras women were very fond of coordinating outfits!

How to Wear Those "Problem Garments", the artyologist, jumping for joy

Wear what you love, even if it doesn’t “fit” the rest of your wardrobe. 

Part of the reason of why I wanted to get rid of this dress, I fully admit, is because it doesn’t go with the rest of my wardrobe. I would seriously love to have a picture perfect wardrobe, where everything blends seamlessly on a garment rack and you don’t have clashing pieces getting in the way when you want to take an instagram photo. 😉 However, I do have a few pieces that “clash” and kind of highjack that plan, because I don’t want to get rid of them. When I think about it logically though, why do all of my clothes need to match? If I love something, why can’t I keep it? Of course I should keep it! Wear what you love, regardless of whether it goes with the rest of your wardrobe. Having a cohesive wardrobe is a great goal, and is one that I am still working towards with my new purchases, but for the garments I already own, there is no reason to get rid of everything. And if I want to take an instagram photo, I can just take the clashing dress out of the closet, can’t I? 😉

Before you give up, take a photo first.

It might seem silly, but when you look at a photo of your outfit, you’ll be able to see what is going wrong with your outfit. Perhaps in real life those pinks look like they go well together, but when you look at a photo, you’ll realize that you should really pair the dress with blue, for a knockout look. Or, maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you see a photo of your outfit, and you see everything that is going right with it! Perhaps you thought that your outfit was really unflattering, but when you saw a photograph, you realized that it actually fit you quite well, and you just needed to step away from the critical three-way mirror! And maybe, like me, you’ll take a photo and realize that it’s not the dress that is the problem, it’s that all of the pairings you tried before were not working because you simply needed to get rid of half of the accessories!

I think that by following these tips, this dress will see more use; I’ve already worn it once since these photos were taken! And I hope they can help you too with your “problem garments”.

Do you have any “problem garments”? How do you decide what to pair with them? Also, I don’t tend to wear very many brights, so what do you wear with bright colours?

How to Wear Those "Problem Garments", the artyologist, wheat

How to Wear Those "Problem Garments", the artyologist, wheat field and thistles

How to Wear Those "Problem Garments", the artyologist, harvest time in alberta

How to Wear Those "Problem Garments", the artyologist, vintage shirtwaist

How to Wear Those "Problem Garments", the artyologist, collar detail vintage shirtwaist dress

Shopping Ethically for Vintage Repro

shopping ethically for vintage repro

Fashion Revolution Week finished up almost exactly a month ago now, and though I had originally planned to share some of the 2017 stats etc. as well as some of the highlights of the global event, that information hasn’t been released yet by Fashion Revolution. So instead, today I would like to share some of what I learned and researched during Fashion Revolution about several vintage repro (reproduction) brands, and how to successfully shop vintage and repro with an ethical mindset.

I know I’ve mentioned it so many times before, but shopping true vintage and second hand is an inherently ethical way to shop. The clothing already exists, so by shopping second hand, you are giving it a second life. Where it gets tricky is in new clothing. Clothing made up into the 1980’s was for the most part produced in an ethical way. So much of the mass produced clothing of earlier eras was made domestically, not outsourced to factories in other countries. You see many of the vintage clothing ads selling garments based on quality, proclaiming things like dresses “made of good quality fabric”, shoes that feature “unusual durability”, and one of Sears children’s brand was even called “Ucanttear”, which was made to withstand the rigours of children at play.

There were abuses within the textile and fashion industry of course, dating back to the 1800’s, which is why we see union labels in many vintage garments. For the most part, though, clothing was not suspect. You didn’t automatically assume back then, like today’s clothing landscape, that clothing was unethically made. Today, every $5 t-shirt and $30 dress that sports the tag “Made in Bangladesh” is questionable. It might not actually be the case, because there are plenty of factories that are safe and paying a living wage (one factory in India even took part in Fashion Revolution Week) but, because of the abuses we have seen over and over again in the industry, with cheaply produced clothing made at the expense of the garment workers, we now tend to presume guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around.

One of the problems I find with so many sustainable fashion brands today, is that they are so modern, and hardly any of their clothing fits into my personal style. I love vintage silhouettes and styles, not unstructured, loose, trendy clothes. So, I decided this Fashion Revolution Week to ask the question “Who Made My Clothes” to a few vintage repro companies, to hear what they had to say. I also researched a few other companies to come up with this small list (I am sure there are plenty more) of companies who are making their clothing in an ethical manner.

As a disclaimer, while I would not consider these companies to be “sustainable” since that they don’t share their supply chain, where the cloth and materials come from, or what the environmental impact of their dyeing processes and farming processes are. However I would still consider them to be ethical from a human rights point of view.

heart of haute

The brand Heart of Haute is made in the USA. They have several locations in LA and many of their employees are actually fashion graduates. The garments are “cut to order in San Dimas and assembled by three contract sewing shops in the Los Angeles area”. This way, not only are they supplying local jobs, but they can proudly say ‘Made in the USA”. They do not share their supply chain, but they claim to make high quality garments, designed to last. I would agree with that statement, since last year I purchased a blouse from Heart of Haute. Sadly, I ended up returning it, as I realized that it was too tight and the buttons pulled on the front. The blouse was made of a smooth and sturdy cotton, and all of the seams were finished nicely. The blouse included details like a tie front, and covered buttons, as well as dart shaping so it wouldn’t ride up. I truly do think that it would have been a long lasting purchase. All in all, if I were to come across another item I liked from Heart of Haute, I would not hesitate to buy it.

retrospec'd

Another brand which I have tried on in person at a store, is the brand Retrospec’d, which is made in Australia. On their website, they say “All Retrospec’d garments are made in Australia to the very highest standard. The majority of the fabrics themselves are the product of many months spent finding colours and design elements that are “just right”. The result is fresh, vintage-inspired fashion that simply can’t be found anywhere else in the world.” The dresses I saw were made of a lighter cotton sateen, which had a very nice finish and drape, and many of them had border prints, which are always fun. I can’t recall how the insides were finished, but I think that the dresses were lined- I know that the bodice on the 1950’s full skirted dress I tried on was lined in the same fabric as the outside of the dress was (minus the border print). I didn’t end up purchasing the dress, as it didn’t fit well, (sadly!) but had it fit, I believe I would have purchased it. These dresses are definitely more of an investment, but I think that for a well made garment, ethically made in Australia, and with so many yards of fabric in the skirt, and fun touches like border prints, it is well worth it.

emilyandfin

A company I have not purchased from (or tried on any of their garments) is Emily and Fin. I know that Nora from Nora Finds owns a few dresses from Emily and Fin, and that she likes them. I was pleasantly surprised to discover on Emily and Fin’s website, a page which states that to ensure their products “are made to the best standard possible and in a safe working environment, we aim to work alongside like-minded businesses; visiting them regularly in order to build strong working relationships and guarantee best practice of manufacture and care” and that all of their pieces are “designed and developed in-house in our London studio” taking the time and care to “ensure a high level of attention is paid to the fit and quality of each garment.” It sounds like they are committed to producing well made, quality items. This seems to be confirmed with a browse through their website, (in which I wanted to add so many items to my cart). They have garments made of fabrics like Tencel (which is a natural and usually eco friendly fabric), viscose (another natural fibre) and 100% cotton (though no mention of organic cotton). Again, the prices are an investment, but this is for a high quality, natural fibre garment, made in ethical conditions. The styles are elegant and timeless, so a dress or blouse from Emily and Fin would definitely withstand the trends.

pretty retro

A company I just found out about from Porcelina’s recent post, is Pretty Retro. This is a UK brand, which offers “affordable, wearable clothing without compromising on style or quality.” And that it is “one of a family of brands run by 20th Century Clothiers Ltd. based in the North of England. All garments are ethically manufactured in Europe and to a high standard.” There are a lot of companies in the UK, which sport the tag “Made in England” etc. I don’t live in the UK, so that doesn’t help me much, but for my UK based readers, this might help you! I can’t testify to the quality of their items, but Porcelina mentioned that she already considers her purchase of their tie top to be a “great staple”, and after a few washes, it seems to be holding up well. They have some fun and pretty styles, and don’t seem to be too badly priced either.

collectif

The last vintage repro company I got an answer back from, is Collectif. This is a very popular UK brand, and though I have never purchased anything from them yet, I was interested in one of their garments. I sent them an email about it, and received a reply back right away from their helpful customer service staff. In regards to a specific item I was looking at, they said “it is made in our own facility in China (as with most of our garments.) We work closely with all of our factories to ensure that the garments are ethically made. We have our own facility in China with a team who manage our production. Some of our production and design team have visited our factories there and seen first hand that the working conditions are ethical and the company owner and Chinese Facility Manager visit the factories every week.” They also have a page here in their FAQ’s that outlines their policy. I wouldn’t say that Collectif is a sustainable fashion brand quite yet, as they don’t make any mention of environmental credentials etc, but it is great to see them taking a step in the right direction, by using ethical fashion processes, and also making that information available on their website for the customer to see, without even having to ask. I decided against purchasing the garment I had been looking at, for now, but if I came across something I liked, I might decide to purchase from them. I know plenty of other bloggers have been very happy with their Collectif purchases.

Edited to add: Since originally writing this, I would say that Collectif isn’t doing anything that sets them apart as sustainable or fair trade. Brands that say they pay the garment workers minimum wage etc. isn’t something to be congratulated about- that’s just following the law. So, while they are saying that they have visited the factories etc.- they are still outsourcing their production. That may not necessarily be bad- but it’s not really great either. 

Those are the companies I heard back from. Two companies whom I never received a reply from are Trashy Diva and Retrolicious. Trashy Diva’s garments are designed in the US, but they make no mention of where they are made- and since I never got a reply back from them, I unfortunately can’t tell you! Do any of you know?

I also asked Joe Fresh, a Canadian brand, where their clothes were made, but did not receive any reply back from them either. I wasn’t really expecting to, but it is too bad, as they have so many cute styles- but have a terrible track record of human rights abuses. I used to purchase a lot of clothes from them years ago, before I knew about “cheap, fast fashion”, but I don’t buy from them anymore.

shopping ethically for vintage repro, who made my clothes, the artyologist

So what was the one thing I learned during Fashion Revolution Week? You can ask “Who made my clothes” all year round, and if you don’t see the information on a company’s website, you can ask them directly. It’s so obvious, but somehow I had just never really thought about it before. We can do our homework, and research brands, but if we don’t find a satisfactory answer we can also ask companies directly. And sometimes, if you ask the question, you might be pleasantly surprised by the answer.

Fashion Revolution Week may be over for this year, but Fashion Revolution is not! I know that this is not an exhaustive list of ethical vintage repro companies, so if you know of other companies that are producing ethically made clothing, let us all know in the comments! I’d love to find new repro brands to buy from.

And, if you want to ask a brand yourself, about their clothing production methods, here is an outline of the letter that I emailed to the brands:

“I have been wearing vintage styles for a few years now, and I love that there are vintage reproduction companies making beautiful vintage inspired garments today.

I have in the past purchased _____ from you,” orI have never purchased from you before, even though I Iove so many of your styles, and I have seen a fair number of vintage bloggers feature outfits by you.” However the one thing I couldn’t find any information about, is where the clothing is made.

The most important concern I have when deciding to purchase new clothing, is in making sure that is produced in an ethical and sustainable way. I want to make sure that when I wear something I feel great about it, not just because it is a lovely style, but because I know that the people who made it are being treated in a fair manner. Where are your garments being made? Are they being made in an ethical manner? I would love to know that those who make the clothes are being treated fairly, have the freedom to speak out, work in safe conditions and are being paid a living wage in order to live with dignity, opportunity and hope.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

Sincerely, ____ (your name)”

What are your top ethically made vintage repro brands? Have you ever purchased from any of these vintage repro brands? Have you ever asked a brand where their clothes are made?