Monday, March 14, 2011

Who wears the trousers round here ? (by Gabrielle)

Denim skirt by Gabrielle
Surely I'm not the only woman that finds buying clothes difficult?  Even as a young woman the fickleness of fashion frustrated me and some trends have tried my patience beyond belief: low rise jeans, pointed shoes and thong style knickers to name the shameful. I tend towards a traditional shape, not suited by most modern designs.

I’m always on the look out for good solid work-wear when I’m out in the garden, working in the woodland or generally getting messy and dirty in the studio and workshop.  I want good quality, reasonably priced and stylish stuff and it can be a devil to find.  My daughter Christina has upped the anti by embarking on a year-long quest to only buy ethical clothes.

Christina is a self-confessed fast fashion junkie but after watching a documentary on UK TV recently she has had a Damascene conversion. She was so shocked by the conditions of work in sweatshops, not only in the Third World but also just a few miles away from her home in East London that she decided there and then to stop buying into to this insidious system. Co-incidentally, around the same time, I watched a powerful documentary on French TV “Je l’achète, je le jette (I buy it I throw it away) that exposed some very uncomfortable truths relating to global cotton mass production.  Due to high demand and crop failures last year, prices are now rising and shortages are being predicted and un-organic cotton is the dirtiest crop in regard to its use of pesticides, so there are several reasons to make do and mend. 

The modern term, apparently, is ‘to up-cycle’: to turn some old cast-off into a great new thing. My source material came from my lovely husband.  Stuart has a limited palate of clothing that basically consists of jeans, work trousers and old shirts, usually with bits of hay attached … and that’s on a good day.  He gets though a pair of 501’s a year on average and the latest rejects had landed on the laundry floor, from whence I reclaimed them and turned them into a new work skirt for me. 

It’s an old technique and there are dozens of good tutorials on the net.  I like this one, especially with its humbly apologetic list entitled “Here is some stuff I found out the hard way”.  Whilst it’s not as glamorous as this wonderful dress by Gary Harvey it feels great to wear it and looks a lot better than the tatty old trousers I had before. 

Denim Dress by Gary Harvey