Last minute to the party, as per usual. Count me in for Me Made May ’13! Woohoo!
Now, as many of you know, last year I was a scatty student who could justifiably spend all day indoors “revising” in some of my more questionable makes. These days, I’m an actual grown-up who needs to look somewhat presentable.
Why oh why is past Len such a slapdash sewist? Last year, I found myself rummaging in my drawers for makes I had long since written off because they were a bit rubbish. I’m sure the same will happen again this year.
For the sake of maintaining a professional wardrobe in the office, I plan on including refashioned and second-hand items along with my me-mades – I was lucky enough to get a good haul of office-appropriate garments in Guildford, which means I shan’t be caught short in the mad morning rush for work.
Without further ado, here is the pledge:
I, Elena of seamlessblog.wordpress.com, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’13. I endeavour to wear at least one me-made, refashioned or second hand item each day for the duration of May 2013. To document my challenge, I shall tweet/instagram/flickr/facebook the bejeezus out of my daily outfits, even if it means taking mirror pics in work’s loos. I will also endeavour to make my way and finish all of the refashions I haven’t quite got around to and document how I did so, even if I mess it up.
It’s no blogging every day for May, but I’ll sure as hell be tweeting. You can follow me on Instagram or Flickr too for daily outfit posts and I’ll collate them each Sunday here on the blog.
And did you spot the little extra I popped in there? That’s right, I’ve got a whole bundle of refashions to get through. They’re mostly things I’ve bought or have been given with the best intentions of refashioning, yet haven’t quite got around to it just yet. Here’s a sneak peek at one, as modelled by my lovely new mannequin (who will have an introduction post soon, promise!)
Isn’t it just delightfully HIDEOUS?! It used to have shoulder pads. I was one perm away from being an ’80s throwback when I tried this bad boy on.
Alright, hands up – who’s doing Me Made May this year?
Sometimes, I forget how few people actually sew these days – at least, in comparison to those who regularly buy from the high street.
Unsurprisingly, it often leads to a request or two from friends and acquaintances to fix a pocket here, hem some trousers there or just sew on a button. I’m more than happy to help out with a loose notion or two, but there are some projects just too big for my sewing machine alone to handle.
Picture by Beamillion
Hands up who’s had the wedding dress conversation? You know the one, where a friend jokes they’d like you, you stitchery type, to whip up a beautiful gown for their special day. Don’t get me wrong, I’d happily undertake such a project for any of my close friends – so long as they don’t go Bridezilla on me when they realise sometimes I have a hard time sewing in a straight line.
But, every now and then, the “joke” comes from an acquaintance and you think… oh wait. They’re being serious, aren’t they?
I can see why it’s tempting. Wedding dresses are bloody expensive. With a talented pal and a sewing machine on your side, you can cut costs and spend that money on more wine at the reception. And I am always, ALWAYS, in favour of more wine.
But this is a task so phenomenally huge – what if you were to get it wrong? I’m not sure I could handle the weight of one bride’s expectations on my amateur sewing. I suck with slippery fabrics, I don’t *do* buttonholes and me and lace aren’t talking at the moment. I would be the WORST wedding-dress-maker candidate, really.
The only serious wedding-related request I’ve ever had came during a curious conversation with a friend from school who’ll be getting married soon enough. Up she popped on my Facebook chat, asking if I still made my own dresses, then how expensive it was… and then how expensive it would potentially be to make say two or three bridesmaid’s dresses.
Perhaps she was genuinely curious about if it would be cheaper to buy fabric and get them made, but she fell silent as soon as I asked her if she was trying to hint she wanted me to make them for her.
Long to the short, I won’t be taking any wedding commissions anytime soon. That is, unless some fella manages to keep me still for long enough to put a ring on it (not bloody likely) – then I’ll probably nab some lace curtains from a charity shop to make my wedding dress for the princely sum of £5. It does mean more money for cake and wine, after all.
Seamless’ second featured pledger is Vicki Kate, who’s midway through her pledge and has some serious stitching skills. Can you believe her dress is made from two bedsheets? Have a read about her pledge experiences:
It was a mixture of fortuitous timing in discovering the pledge and wanting to take more responsibility for our world just as I hit 30. Being a Mum has completely changed my perspective on pretty much everything. I need to lead by example to ensure my son grows up with a sense of responsibility, not just to his immediate community but the worldwide one too. It also gives me incentive (which is now habit) to shop second hand, search charity stores and eBay rather than buying new. My sewing of garments has gone up a gear too, which was part of the plan!
What impact has the pledge had on your day-to-day life?
I’m a much more thoughtful shopper and not just when it comes to clothing. It’s spread to my grocery shopping (with regards to origin rather than it being pre-loved!) and also made me go to my fabric stash rather than shops for my material. I am so envious of the estate sale and thrift store hauls our US friends score! There’s nothing like that in my experience in Norfolk, UK. A positive is my limited funds go further.
Any tips for someone wanting to give up mass-made clothing?
Examine what you wear! I bet it’s 10% of your total. Look for items that work with that 10% but limit where you look. If you freak out about charity shops (my sister does), go for eBay as, while you’ll pay more, there is better choice. Also, develop some patience as sometimes you have to look for a while to find what you want. I’m still looking for the perfect red Mary Jane shoes! Failing that, learn to sew! But that in itself leads to other consumer issues.
If I’ve learnt anything while doing the Seamless pledge, it’s that second-hand clothing is just as good as new, if not better.
Most people who’ve been around the sewing blogosphere long enough for the likes of Wardrobe Refashion, New Dress a Day and Sew I Thought will know charity and second-hand shops are a godsend for anyone keeping an eye on their clothing consumption. It’s starting to become more and more mainstream as belts continue to tighten, with the likes of Marks and Spencer’s “shwopping campaign”, as Zoe wrote about on her blog recently, becoming de rigueur.
I do most of my second-hand shopping at charity shops, being lucky enough to live around the corner from Albany Road in Cardiff, where some real treasures can be found on the numerous charity shops along the street. But charity shops are obviously a two-way thing and they rely on our old and unwanted clothing to keep going and keep raising money.
Last year, 64 per cent of you told me you donate your old clothes to charity, but I also found charity shops are struggling somewhat when it comes to donations. Hard times mean less shopping and fewer wardrobe clearouts.
This month, cancer charity Tenovus is running a campaign in my area to try and get people donating. Liz Rawlins, the charity’s PR and Communications Manager (and fellow blogger!) explained the difference one bag of clothing could make to a charity shop:
“Every single item donated to any one of our shops raises vital funds that enable us to support cancer patients and their families across Wales.
“One bag of clothing makes on average £20, and that £20 means we can continue to provide services such as treating people closer to home on our Mobile
Cancer Support Unit, bereavement counseling and keeping our freephone cancer support line open 7 days a week”.
I don’t know about you, but I’d much, much rather be helping to make this extra £20 for a charity than contributing some extra pennies to a multi-national company.
For the “Worn by You, Loved by Us” campaign, Tenovus set up a great little fashion shoot in Cardiff using clothing from their shops, modelled by staff from Tenovus. All the photos were taken by Amy Davies of Cardiff Arcades fame, so they’re pretty schnazzy to say the least, showing off second-hand clothing AND one of Cardiff’s amazing arcades.
As it happens, Me Made May Day 24 happened to be all about the charity shops, as I donned my refashioned vintage skirt and skinny men’s belt for a day of exam mocks and revision. In fact, aside from the cardigan, my whole outfit had passed through other hands before they arrived in my wardrobe.
The scarf is yet another vintage one from Lush, the necklace and my cream lace top were both birthday presents and my Mum bought me the shoes this time last year when she noticed how full of holes my favourite pair of pumps were.
But here’s the fun bit – I was heading back from the Students’ Union when someone working for More! magazine stopped me to ask if they could take a photo of my outfit. For those of you who aren’t familiar with More!, it’s a fashion/celeb women’s magazine which is pretty popular over here.
I won’t lie, it felt like a small victory to attract the attention of someone employed by a magazine with a direct interest in promoting fashion and the high street. Score one for second-hand fashion!
So I’ve divulged my favourite charity shop haunt, what about yours? Where do you, without fail, manage to find something fab to refashion. I promise I won’t tell…
In the end, Portas hasn’t recommended this cap, but it was clear she saw an abundance of charity shops as one sign of a high street in decline. She said:
“When a high street has too much of one thing it tips the balance of the location and inevitably puts off potential retailers and investors. Too many charity shops on one high street are an obvious example of this. Funnily enough, too many fried chicken shops have the same effect.”
Despite having her own line of charity shops, Portas pretty much puts them in the same category as the kind of eateries on Chippy Lane. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Caroline Street in Cardiff – it ain’t classy.
Does she have a point?
You obviously know how much I love charity shops, but what did my Twitter followers think?
Overall, their attitudes are pretty positive, yet there is still this overriding perception of charity shops being full of other people’s unwanted items.
How are charity shops doing compared to the rest of the high street?
Research suggests British charity shops are having as tough a time as everyone else on the high street. When I asked you what happens to your old clothes, 64 per cent of you said you donated them to charity, yet some shops are struggling to keep up with demand.
The Charity Retail Association conducts their own research into donation trends and have seen how the recession has affected both sales and donations. After all, if people are buying less clothes in general, then they may not be donating as much.
According to the Charity Retail Assocation’s Projects and Policy Officer, Isabelle Adam, some of the larger charities have had a few problems in this department due to the recession. She said:
“Over the last quarter (July-Sept) the larger charities we surveyed have reported problems with getting sufficient stock. Donations are affected by peoples’ spending habits; if they are not buying in new they are often not prompted to donate, and if they cannot afford to move this also means there is no prompt for a clear-out.”
Charity shops with a difference
It seems then charity shops have double the problem to deal with! But here in Cardiff, there are two clear examples of charity shops who are using innovation and a touch of the crafting spirit to shake off this negative perception.
Best of all? The kind of projects they’re engaging in are the kind Portas wants to see for the entire high street.
Case study number one comes in the form of Oxfam Boutique, situated in the heart of Cardiff city centre. One of a new breed of charity shops, Oxfam Boutique concentrates on high-end charitable donations.
I spoke to Deputy Manager Alec Boyne about the shop, its partnership with Marks and Spencers and their weekly Stitch ‘n Bitch group.
Then we have PreFab Clothing, a retro style charity shop a little outside of Cardiff on Albany Road. When I chatted to David Morris, who works in the store, he emphasised how the shop didn’t fit the traditional mould of a charity shop.
All of PreFab Clothing’s proceeds go directly to the local YMCA project. In fact, David told me he’d gone from having no job and no house seven months ago to a steady job and a home today, all through PreFab Clothing.
There’s one other key aspect to these shops, one which Portas entirely ignores in her report. The fact is, they are playing a vital role in ensuring old clothing doesn’t just end up in South Wales’s swelling landfills.
Recycling at PreFab Clothing
Oxfam Boutique’s partnership with M&S ensures a lot of clothing from a busy department store do not go to waste. PreFab Clothing aim to use everything they receive – whether it’s turning old superhero t-shirts into bags or making pumpkin decorations from unwanted materials.
It’s pretty clear charity shops don’t have to be the kind of places which arrive on a high street when no other retailer can take up some empty space. Oxfam Boutique and PreFab Clothing are more than just placeholders – they’re vibrant parts of the community which do more than just take care of our old tat.
What about the rest of you? Is there a really unique charity shop in your area? If you’d like to write a profile of a stand-out charity shop in your area, email me or comment below.
On average £470 per British woman was spent on items that were never worn and – as an extra sartorial slap in the face – one in 10 just chucked them in the bin, contributing to the estimated 900,000 tonnes of clothing currently thrown into landfill each year.
Whether or not this is the same today in 2011, I couldn’t tell you right now, but it’s pretty shocking, especially to me, as Cardiff women are named and shamed in the article as the worst offenders.
The fact is, whether we like it or not, as consumers of fast fashion we are flighty by nature. I’ll hold my hands up and admit I’ve complained I have nothing to wear when actually my wardrobe is bursting with clothes I’m actually just bored with.
This again boils down to this feeling of dissatisfaction Zoe spoke about when I interviewed her. How often have you seen a feature in a magazine criticising a high profile female celebrity for wearing the same outfit?
Advertising makes us feel as though we should wear something completely different every day because if (insert celebrity name here) can’t get away with it, then why should we be able to?
Rather than make a real commitment to a well constructed garment, we’ll happily fork out a fiver for something which will provide the quick fix satisfaction we crave. After wearing it once, it’ll probably end up in pieces in the bin a few months down the line.
Over the years I’ve filled charity bag after charity bag with clothing I no longer wear for whatever reason. While I won’t just throw something out after wearing it only the once, I can’t say hand on heart I haven’t thrown away clothes when they’ve worn out. Considering the amount of clothing I have owned over the years, this is worrying. This is without even taking any scrap fabric from sewing into account.
What I’d really like to learn more about is textile recycling. Textiles are one of those things which tend to be absent from the list of household recyclables. On top of this, I have to wonder what happens to the clothing high street retailers can’t shift.
Over to you. What do you do with your old clothes? By old, I don’t just mean those which are falling apart; I’m also talking about those impulse buys you were never able to take back, the clothes which don’t quite fit or even ones you just got bored with. I’d love to hear your thoughts!