I recently made a trip to the thrift store to purchase new long sleeved men’s shirts for the winter. I happily found three shirts in like new condition. Two were missing buttons, yet the replacement buttons were still attached at the bottom of the placket. I suspect the missing button may have been the reason they were discarded. Very often I purchase clothing that is in excellent condition yet needs a simple hem repair, a button replaced, or fraying seam flat felled into place.
People use to mend clothing before fast fashion and the days of easy to obtain clothing. Many of my farm clothes (and even dress clothes) have been mended at some point. My average article of clothing lasts fifteen years. I have several articles that were my mother’s years before my birth. They are mended, worn regularly, and are still serviceable for chores and cleaning. One of my favorite shirts is nearing fifty five years old. My new shirts should last me well into my fifties and possibly sixties. Eventually, they will either become rags, quilts, or rugs.
My clothing budget is a whopping thirty to forty dollars a year. That includes foundation garments. Most people my age spend between fifty and two hundred dollars per month on clothes depending on where they live and shop. I know plenty of young people who discard clothes they actually like and paid good money to obtain. One third of young women see clothes as old after less than five wearings.
Other than money and extending the life of clothes why is mending a skill to learn?
Most of the clothes we buy today are made by individuals being paid poverty wages. Around 80% of those workers are women. When I was in Bolivia I saw several garment factories. I saw mostly women and young girls working twelve hour days for barely enough money to buy some potatoes for their daily meal. It was stifling hot and painful to my ears. The workers got a single bathroom break all day. They were thin and looked older than their years. One girl was six. Instead of starting school, she was already condemned to defacto slavery. They live without electricity, clean water, or enough education to read. When we discard clothes that only need a small repair we discard those individuals yet again. That is engagement in systematic oppression. To see if the brands you buy engage in fair wage practices please visit https://fashionchecker.org/ .
POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE
I was surprised when I learned that the textile industry was a major player in environmental impact. Many clothing manufacturers engage in practices that lead to direct contamination of water. The fashion industry also creates about 20% of the world’s waste water and that water is carrying pesticides. https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/un-alliance-sustainable-fashion-addresses-damage-fast-fashion .
In addition to polluting water sources we toss out an average of eighty one pounds of clothing per person per year. There are approximately 328.2 million people in the US. That’s over 26 BILLION pounds of clothing a year. The best items go to thrift stores. The rest are shipped back to third world nations and sold to the same impoverished people who are used to make them. If they aren’t bought there the clothes are then dumped in THEIR landfills. That’s right, we in the US and other advanced nations gain the benefits and dump the problem on the poorest citizens of the world.
“The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”Ezekiel 22:29-30
Mending is a revolutionary act at this point. Learning how to use a simple needle and thread not only saves your money, it creates a standard for clothing that is higher quality. Higher quality clothing leads to higher wages, and that leads to less waste, pollution, and oppression.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH HOMESTEADING?
On the surface it may seem like fast fashion and mending has little to do with homesteading. I personally think it has a lot to do with homesteading.
As Homesteaders we are people of the land. We are people intimately connected with the Earth. North America use to have guardians who loved her, but through wars of oppression they are few now and unfortunately disappearing. Our first task is learning to become guardians, not conquerors. When you become a guardian, a custodian, you lay aside your ego and self interest to look after the interest of others you don’t even know. That eventually carries over into every aspect of life, including clothing. As Homesteaders we are people who wish for freedom. We cannot engage in freedom while engaging in systematic oppression.
Being oppressed is the absence of choices.Bell Hooks
Maybe it’s the influence of both Jewish and Quaker teaching in my life or maybe the desire to be a person of deep integrity. It could be my habit of reading scriptures from cover to cover yearly. Perhaps it is my heritage of the land that moves me to examine my clothing in light of consequence for others and our home. I don’t really know. But I do know that mending clothes is a skill that has global implications and that makes it a forgotten skill worth learning.
If you would like to learn the basics of mending, please see the following links. They’re just ones I personally like and find valuable.
Until next time,
In ALL you do,
Craft no harm,
Moriah and the flock