March 25, 2019

"This rethinking of disposability has an anti-capitalist appeal, as does thinking of oneself as someone who is not only, always, a consumer in search of the next purchase."

"But in the same way that making sustainable clothing purchases is a privilege many cannot afford, [visible mending] is a privilege to have the resources needed not only to mend something but also to take the time to make it beautiful. It is also a privilege to feel comfortable wearing clothes that are visibly worn, however beautiful the repair. We need to be careful not to romanticize the history of mending, a craft that has grown out of necessity. Miho Takeuchi, a traditional sashiko instructor and designer born in Japan and based in the United States, tells me via email that sashiko, which developed in poor communities in Japan’s Edo period, 'was born from the necessity of mending and patching garments, beddings and household items. In ancient days, clothing and bedding were made from homespun fabrics woven from native fibrous plants such as wisteria and hemp and necessity demanded that this clothing be recycled for as long as possible.' It was only later, she tells me, that the technique evolved to include the elaborate surface-level designs and intricate patterns popular with visible menders today."

From "Instead of hiding rips and tears, the visible mending movement turns them into art/Born from the Japanese art of sashiko, visible mending enables crafters to eschew fast fashion and make mistakes beautiful" (Vox). Some photographs of the handiwork at the link.

56 comments:

Birkel said...

Patches on jeans are now a fashion statement?
And that's supposed to prove you're not trying to outpace the Joneses?
They don't even logic, bro.

Jim Daniels said...

I won't click on a site that lends succor to an intellectual zero like Matt Yglesias.

Ann Althouse said...

"Patches on jeans are now a fashion statement."

It's not about patches but the decorative stitching. It's more like embroidery, but the visible stitching is functional and decorative. Lots of little Xs and so forth.

rhhardin said...

It is also a privilege to feel comfortable wearing clothes that are visibly worn

The left front pocket of my Trail Shorts always eventually starts tearing out across the top opening. I've mended that dozens of times. Unfortunately the fabric is seriously weak by that time and the repairs don't last. It just tears next to the repair.

Aunty Trump said...

We used to just iron on the patches. If you didn’t want it to show too much, you ironed it on from the inside. I thought we were just ragamuffins, not the vanguard of anti-capitalism. It’s telling that they never note that capitalism is large enough to contain this trend if you somehow manage to change the culture. But it does bring to mind the old joke about “What did socialists use before candles... electricity."

Curious George said...

"This rethinking of disposability has an anti-capitalist appeal, as does thinking of oneself as someone who is not only, always, a consumer in search of the next purchase."

What a steaming pile. Anyone who thinks this behavior is anti-capitalist is dreaming. Guess what, the patches, needles, and threads are being sold.

Art in LA said...

Reduce, re-use, recycle ... the mantra every elementary school kid hears nowadays. But how many actually take this advice to heart as an adult? Maybe making repairs and patches fashionable (and anti-capitalist) is the right approach. Ha.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Sounds very much like the culture in the Hippie days.

Have a hole in your jeans? Don't just patch it up!!....create a work of art by hand stitching a heart or flower and embellish with embroidery, sequins, buttons etc. I "decorated" and mended many articles of clothing.

Decorative hand embellishments were the thing on clothing, even IF it didn't need mending.

Everything old is new again!!

Sally327 said...

Dolly Parton wrote a song about this sort of thing, or similar anyway, and then they made a movie out of the song. Coat of Many Colors...which was a tribute to her mother and growing up poor and not having much and her mother making do with what they had to sew a coat for Dolly to wear. But that's probably just romanticizing it.

Sarah from VA said...

I wish there were more photographs at the link; I love the few examples provided. The mumbo-jumbo in the article makes me laugh. You even have to acknowledge MENDING privilege these days.

It IS more expensive and more work to mend than to buy new. The old maxim of "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" does not really apply. You can buy new jeans for $15! A patch costs $5, PLUS your time and ownership of a sewing machine, iron, ironing board, good scissors, thread, etc. On the other hand, the $15 jeans were probably made in Bangladesh under terrible working conditions. Do you want to support that? On the gripping hand, if everybody mended their jeans and wore them completely to threads instead of buying new jeans from Bangladesh, how would the people in Bangladesh live at all?

Everything is a moral quandary, especially what you wear.

Phidippus said...

When they repair a prized rice bowl or teacup, Japanese call it kintsugi (kin = gold, "gold-working") because the pieces are put together with strips of gold foil, rather like a stained glass window.

Such vessels are valued even more highly than new, undamaged ones. This aesthetic, of appreciating the old or worn--things that remind us of the passing of time, and the brevity of life--is called "wabi-sabi".

I wish I'd known about that custom when my handcrafted bowl from an artist in Kyoto was broken. I would have taken the pieces with me on my next trip back to Japan, and would have paid almost anything to have it repaired in this way.

A good lesson there in non-attachment.

Seeing Red said...

If only my grandmother knew it was a privilege to wear worn clothing.RME

Who sews anymore?

These kids don’t cook.

I highly doubt they’re going to find the time and privilege to actually make their reworn clothes pretty if those stitches break.

These kids have too much money and time on their hands.

The goal was to not look like a bum, now the competition is to out-bum each other.



Aunty Trump said...

What they really hate about capitalism is that it does not provide the kind of power and control framework that socialism does to make others behave the way you wish they would in these matters.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

It's not about patches but the decorative stitching. It's more like embroidery...

I got a freaky old lady named Cocaine Katie
Who embroiders all my jeans...

Curious George said...

When I was a kid I would put holes in the knees of new jeans within hours. My knees were always green. My mom would "fix them" with those stupid iron on patches that would not last five minutes. I basically had holey jeans until I out grew them. I didn't care how they looked, it just felt weird having your knees poke through.

EDH said...

First they sell you jeans with tears already in them because it's fashionable, and then you're supposed to sew and patch them because it's fashionable?

"Just getting my dirt out of Boss Kean's ditch, Boss."

Ignorance is Bliss said...

This rethinking of disposability has an anti-capitalist appeal...

If anti-capitalism appeals to you, you are either economically ignorant or* evil.

*note the use of or, not xor

Henry said...

I have done visible mending on occasion because I am a lousy sewer.

There is something funny about ripped jeans and stitched jeans being fashionable at the same time.

Seeing Red said...

...privilege to have the resources needed....

Like food?

Socialism kills, free markets feed.

Their planet finally has under 1 billion people in extreme poverty. This planet has, because of capitalism, seen the greatest rise out of poverty in I think the shortest time into middle class ever, and these idiots want to go backwards. Because of feelz.

reader said...

But in the same way that making sustainable clothing purchases is a privilege many cannot afford, [visible mending] is a privilege to have the resources needed not only to mend something but also to take the time to make it beautiful.

Who are these people? If they are having an issue with resources they should check out Walmart, JoAnn Fabrics, or Michaels. At Michaels they can probably make use of a 40% coupon.
If they don't think they will burst into flame they could even try visiting Hobby Lobby.

The constant drum beat concerning privilege is annoying. Some individuals make the effort to do this and some don't. Thanks to capitalism I have the ability to cheaply buy what I need to do this (minus the gold thread but I wouldn't do that any way) or to buy the end product.

n.n said...

Conservation is not anti-capitalist.

Skippy Tisdale said...

"But in the same way that making sustainable clothing purchases is a privilege many cannot afford, [visible mending] is a privilege to have the resources needed not only to mend something but also to take the time to make it beautiful."

MENDING IS RACIST!!!!!

Rick said...

It is also a privilege to feel comfortable wearing clothes that are visibly worn, however beautiful the repair. We need to be careful not to romanticize the history of mending, a craft that has grown out of necessity.

Underlying premise: we can only have beliefs which conform to our rigid political framework.

But political correctness is a myth! While the left likes to work itself into hysteria over 1984 Brave New World was by far the more accurate prediction. The left doesn't worry about that much though since they expect their own beliefs will be those enforced.

From the left's perspective "privilege" is the perfect test because it (1) extends into everything and (2) places disparate demands largely exempting Team Blue.

reader said...

I do like the concept of the seen and unseen tag for this article. My mom always said the back of your embroidery fabric should be just as attractive as the front. Unfortunately, I never mastered that ability.

rehajm said...

The Salvation Army used to have a commercial where this animated lady had an old frock she was tarting up with decorative stitching and new buttons and maybe some fringe, takes a moment to contemplate her creation then hands it off to the Salavation Army man.

Jupiter said...

Maybe if they took the Mueller Report, and patched all the little pieces together with lovely silken threads, they could make a thing of beauty out of it. Something they could keep with them and treasure, as a reminder of a precious time in all of our lives. Anyway, I guess they'll always have Manafort.

Big Mike said...

This planet has, because of capitalism, seen the greatest rise out of poverty in I think the shortest time into middle class ever, and these idiots want to go backwards.

But not because of feelz! It’s because all else being equal capitalism rewards hard work over laziness. I note in passing that in 1971 young Bernie Sanders was asked to leave the Myrtle Hill commune for shirking his chores. This is documented in We Are As Gods by Kate Daloz, available through the Althouse Amazon portal.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Next step: Ready to wear, pre-visibly mended clothing! Available at a Forever 21 near you!

Achilles said...

1st world problems for wealthy hipsters.

Big Mike said...

Back when I was an enlisted man the sergeant in charge of the office where I worked told me hat only the really rich can afford cheap clothes. It’s true, you know. I buy top quality shoes that fit well, and get new heels and new soles as needed. Snags in wool suits can often be rewoven. Of course, I grew up in a household where both parents came from large families and their childhoods included the Depression and wartime rationing, so there was that influence as well.

Yancey Ward said...

I suppose the the thread and the needles are home crafted items.

Yancey Ward said...

And if the craze really takes off, capitalists will sell them the "Pre-Mended" items new.

Levi Starks said...

Necessity becomes art becomes virtue signaling.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

If these people really want "sustainable" clothing or "sustainable" purchasing, I suggest they shop at Goodwill, Salvation Army, Cancer Society Thrift stores and garage sales.

Other than underwear, bras, socks which I buy NEW. I purchase much of my clothing and household goods the thrifty way. Good prices. Good brand names. Doesn't use new resources.

Actually I don't care about the resources issue. I just like bargains and vintage things that are interesting and of good quality.

So far this year at the Cancer Society Store, I have purchased

Lands End Sweater zip front cable patterned $8 ($45 value)
LL Bean pull over wool sweater pretty lime green $7 ($40 value)
Asymmetrical pullover, tan ribbed with tortoise shell neck decoration from Canada $6 (value?)
HAND KNIT beautiful wool! Aran style pullover from Ireland $10 ($110+ Value)
Madden Girl heels $12 ($50 value)
Glass Ice Tea vintage tumbler set of 6 $12
Le Cruet Dutch oven $10
Brand new with tags!!! LaCrosse Ice King insulated winter boots for hubby. $35 (Value 180.)
many many books .99 to 1.99 each
AND MORE!!!

Recycling my clothes and books back to the same stores.

See...Saving the planet AND my wallet.

n.n said...

Capitalism is founded on the enlightened concept of retained earnings, and the understanding that the optimal mechanism for price determination and resource allocation is distributed and dynamic.

Howard said...

Given that hipsters are the first generation not to have better economic status than their parents generation I think it's quite obvious why patching and repairing clothing is becoming popular along with their whole maker movement and repurposing of antiques to make steampunk modern industrial interior design. It has nothing to do with them being wealthy on the contrary has everything to do with them being economically depressed

Rana said...

I think for the sewers and menders I have come across on various craft boards and Pinterest, this is more for them an offshoot of the "slow-sewing" movement rather than any kind of anti-capitalist statement. I have visibly mended clothing, but used traditional embroidery stitches to do so. I have also worked sashiko pillow tops, and I am currently working on a kantha coverlet, which is India's version of visible mending, but using the stitches as embellishment.

RigelDog said...

"But in the same way that making sustainable clothing purchases is a privilege many cannot afford, [visible mending] is a privilege to have the resources needed not only to mend something but also to take the time to make it beautiful."

Factually completely incorrect. What BS! Another term for sustainable clothing purchases would be "clothing purchases." There's no line between clothing that you can choose to keep and mend, and clothing that you could choose to discard easily. In fact, if you are truly poor you can get clothes for a few dollars, or for free. We have so many discarded clothes in this country that it's difficult for donation services to find a way to pass them on--and so, if you are truly too poor to go to a thrift store to buy a shirt or pants, there are many many charitable associations that will gladly help you out. The resources needed to mend are as follows: a needle, some thread, and some material. Your mending may or may not look great but it costs next to nothing. How inane to insist on interjecting the idea of "privilege" into this discussion.

Grant said...

Do I smell a whiff of cultural appropriation? Call out the dogs!

Robert Cook said...

"Patches on jeans are now a fashion statement?"

Well...they were in the 60s. Fashion trends always come back around.

reader said...

And if the craze really takes off, capitalists will sell them the "Pre-Mended" items new.

They already do, just use the AA portal and search Grace in LA Women's Boho Embroidered Skinny Jeans and choose the style patchwork.

Roy Jacobsen said...

When everything is problematic, nothing is.

Mac McConnell said...

Dust Bunny Queen said...
"Sounds very much like the culture in the Hippie days."

Neil Young had this down to an art form in the 60s.

Joseph Orzechowski said...

Where are the quotes from Brave New World?

Ending is better than mending
The more stitches the less riches

To put it mildly, I'm disappointed.

Christy said...

Entire channels on YouTube are devoted to re-cutting and re-sewing thrifted garments. They take dated clothing and update. I love watching the very creative reworks. I admit it also kills me to see a dress very much like what I may still be wearing and hear a snarky "The 80s called and want their dress back."

In the words of the dated and undoubtedly sexist Hello Dolly "Money is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread about, encouraging young things to grow." Let's hear it for capitalism!

Robin said...

As someone who has had jeans I love wear, I am happy to mend and patch. I recently rebuilt my elderly dad's beloved tan cords which my mom wanted to throw away. Sometimes we have things that fit perfectly.

This mending movement has created a tidy sum of money for some in the movement - capitalism at its best.

Fernandistein said...

I'd leave my visibly worn, damaged and soiled clothing in the park for poor people to use if I weren't mean to poor people.

Kevin said...

But in the same way that making sustainable clothing purchases is a privilege many cannot afford, [visible mending] is a privilege to have the resources needed not only to mend something but also to take the time to make it beautiful.

For the left, it's privilege all the way down.

SDaly said...

Given that throughout history, most people were very poor and had to make resources last and stretch as far as possible, most cultures have a tradition like this. The one that comes readily to my mind from America is the patchwork quilt (which probably came from Europe, but I don't know).

Nobody said...

I didn’t know that “privilege” is what I went to work forty hours a week for. I kind felt like my paycheck was owed to me, unlike privilege, which is unearned. It’s kind of like the joke about Dukakis, how does he define “take home pay,” lost revenue opportunity.

daskol said...

When plastic surgeons start sewing up patients this way, let me know--that's a fashion statement with commitment behind it. You can always just buy a new pair of jeans.

Robert Cook said...

Actually, nothing can be anti-capitalist, as capitalism always finds a way to absorb, co-opt, commercialize, and resell anything and everything back to us as commodities.

Bob R said...

1. Everything old is new again, and just like you could (can still?) buy tweed jackets with pre-patched elbows, you'll be able to buy these designs in no time.

2. I always wear out clothing in places that would be damned uncomfortable to patch.

3. Vox is the poster child of capitalist money being thrown at undeserving privilege. They must have had to pass a test for shamelessness before the venture capitalists showered them with filthy lucre. Kline and Yglesias would have passed with flying colors.

Michael said...

Haven't we reached the point where everything is absurdly over-thought? Can nothing just "be" anymore, without having semiotical significance? And if not, why not?

Nobody said...

Actually, nothing can be anti-capitalist, as capitalism always finds a way to absorb, co-opt, commercialize, and resell anything and everything back to us as commodities.

Right. Change the culture and let capitalism support it, it will. But no, it doesn’t provide good ways to force your neighbors or people living in other states to live exactly as you would have them live, it takes socialism to do that.

Unknown said...

My parents were hip well before their time. Having survived WWII in Europe, they had habits of thrift I thought of as stifling in my youth but now appreciate. (My dad really should have sought a patent for the can-crusher he made at work...back when my mom still sold our used aluminum cans.) After abruptly losing a fair amount of weight, I turned to eBay to replace my wardrobe. If you can darn a small moth hole in a wool sweater, you can dress well for $10 and $20 per item. My Millennial daughter loves the sashiko stitches on her well-worn jeans almost as much as she loved the paper-bag book covers I taught her to make. Those book covers embarrassed me. She was clever enough to create art on the grocery bags or use bags from stylish stores.