thoughts

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?

Not Always Vintage: Finding Freedom in Your Style

I'm Not Always Vintage in Style, the artyologist

I honestly love each and every one of the clothes in my closet. I routinely evaluate what I have, and if there is anything that I don’t like anymore, out it goes. Life is really too short to wear clothes you don’t love! I’ve been wearing vintage style for several years now, (as I have mentioned before- sorry for being a broken record) and I would say that most of the clothes I have are vintage inspired, though I do have some “hold overs” from my pre-vintage days, which are still hanging in my closet because I like them.

Sometimes I just really love certain things, even if they are not “vintage” in style. I absolutely love fashion, and am inspired by so many different things. I love to watch the runway shows of designers like Valentino and Zac Posen (although both of those designers do tend to have more romantic styles anyways). I read the blogs of several non-vintage fashion and sewing bloggers, because I am interested in fashion as a whole, not just the vintage niche. I am always inspired by cultural and ethnic fashions around the globe. I read Vogue occasionally, and find their editorials to be so interesting and beautiful, even if I wouldn’t wear the clothes they choose. And in all of these fashion interests, I love to seek out the vintage details and inspirations in those things, whether they are a silhouette, a fabric choice or a special little detail.

You can often pick out the details inspired by past eras in the fashions we see on the runways and the stores today. Even the 1950’s styles, if you look closely, drew a lot of inspiration from the 1800’s with the corseted/waist cinched silhouettes, full skirts, and sometimes even floor length skirts that give more of a historical look. The 1930’s was another era that took inspiration from previous eras, with the rise of the “southern belle” style that gained popularity with the release of the movie “Gone with the Wind”.

However, when it comes right down to it- a lot of the fashions we see around us, just don’t fit into the 21st century idea of “vintage” which generally encompasses the years of the early 1900’s to the 1970’s (although technically the 1980’s and 1990’s are now vintage, though I wouldn’t class them as such in my mind, but I leave that up to you to debate over!) Fashion is constantly evolving though, so it just makes sense that we would be inspired by a wide variety of fashion styles, not only vintage styles.

Sometimes I think that, because I like vintage styles, I have to wear them all the time. I have to “vintageify” every outfit I wear, and always ensure that the period details are correct. But lately, I have come to realize the obvious: there is no need to feel that because you love vintage style you can’t branch out and wear other styles too. The fashion police aren’t holding you to a specific style 24/7!

In fact, I believe that if you love each and every garment you own, even if it doesn’t fit into a specific “style niche”, it will be an expression of your own unique style.

For me, the majority of my wardrobe takes cues from eras past, but sometimes, along comes something that just doesn’t fit in with the rest of my wardrobe. This African Dutch wax dress is one such garment.

Not Always Vintage In Style, the artyologist

This dress is not really vintage in style. Well, it does have a bit of a “prairie” style (hence the wheat field background for these photos!) but the African fabric print totally turns the “prairie” look on its head. It doesn’t look very vintage to me at all- and yet, it is still feminine in it’s shape and pattern. I like it because it is fun, bold, ethnic and colourful. I picked it up at the thrift store a few years ago, and when I got it, the entire bodice was smocked with elastic, including the sleeves. Some of the elastic had broken over time, and it got to a point where it was too unraveled to wear, so I unpicked the entire thing to redo it. I pressed the pieces, and discovered that it had not been cut from a pattern originally, but was actually draped and cut in place, which left some very wonky and crooked pieces! There was a lot of fabric, though, so I was able to recut a new peasant style bodice, smock the waist, and gather the top edge and sleeves with elastic.

Every time I wear this dress, I think to myself, “I could really use a whole bunch more of these” (though I haven’t sewn them yet!!), as this dress is now my go-to for days when I want to be comfortable, or just run around in fields getting my hem “6 inches deep in mud”. I love the long length of this dress, and it is so fun to wear a casual long dress, rather than saving long dresses only for fancy occasions. Because seriously most of us just don’t have enough occasions to wear a dressy chiffon and satin floor length dress, but we definitely do have enough occasions to wear a cotton floor length dress!

The colour choice of this dress is so vastly different from everything else I own. I don’t actually like orange. As in, it is actually the last colour I would ever choose for anything (unless it is a mustard hued orange). I don’t think I own anything else that is truly orange. (Ok, I just went and checked- and the only other thing is a vintage granny square scarf with a touch of 70’s hued orange in it!) So, it is really strange to me that I have this dress, and yet- I love it! It is one of my favourite dresses, and it is in constant rotation in my wardrobe. This kind of dress is one that speaks for itself. I just add some easy flats, and some jewellery and really that is all it needs. It doesn’t need a hat or a scarf, though of course I could add that if I wanted to. So, does this outfit look very vintage? No, not really. But is it still “me”? Yes, definitely.

Contrasts are OK in fashion. Fashion is always changing, and we ourselves are always changing. What we love one moment, might not be what is inspiring us in the next. That is the nature of fashion, as it always has been. Today, we have the choice and the ability to decide what our own personal style will be! My hope for you is that you won’t ever feel “boxed in” by fashion, but will feel the freedom to dress in a way that makes you feel most like “you”- whatever that may be, and even if it changes day to day.  🙂

So, what garments in your closet don’t really ‘fit” with the rest of your wardrobe? Do you struggle to dress in one style all the time, or do you branch out and try new things? Do you tend to lean towards more true vintage looks, or more modern. . . or neither?

Outfit Details:

Dutch Wax Dress: Thrifted

Necklace: A gift from a friend years ago

Not Always Vintage In Style, the artyologist

Not Always Vintage In Style, the artyologist

Not Always Vintage In Style, the artyologist

Not Always Vintage In Style, the artyologist

ps. I would like to assure everyone that no wheat fields were harmed in the making of this post 🙂 This is our neighbours field, and I did not tramp down an area to stand in- it was already squashed flat from the day before when he was out in the field in his sprayer. Also, I wore this long dress, and boots, to make sure that I wouldn’t get any potential chemicals on myself 🙁 And, in case you have ever wondered what it would be like to run through a field of wheat in a long prairie styled dress, let me assure you that it looks a lot more romantic than the reality actually is. In reality, it is nearly impossible as the wheat is planted so close together, that you actually just end up tripping and stumbling around. Oh, well. The pictures turned out nice! 😉