Slow fashion october

PA160017_1.jpg

Mending is one of the things I am trying to embrace on my slow fashion journey. Sometimes mending is just boring and tedious, like darning holes in store-bought socks. But other times it can be creative, fun and empowering, like with this jumper.

A friend of a friend approached me with this jumper, once knit by his girlfriend’s grandmother. I have since re-knit the cuffs, repaired loose strands in the colour work pattern, mended tiny moth holes and, this last time round, darned and reinforced the worn areas under the arms.

And so the jumper lives on.

Stopping to think about it, that is quite wonderful. Something so small and seemingly insignificant as simple stitches, needle and thread, can nevertheless breathe new life into something old and worn. And with that, bring forth the history of the people, places and materials that formed the garment.

Sure, it is just a jumper. But on the other hand, it is also a physical token of a person’s handicraft, her skills, time and intentions.

Mending is a balancing act between old and new. It's about trying to make the mend as neat as possible, while also letting go of perfection and pushing through the fear of failure. A general life lesson, in short, to be found in the simplest of tools and in an act as ancient as our ability to clothe ourselves.

In the midst of the #slowfashionoctober conversation, I wonder what slow fashion really means to me. There are so many ways to approach a more thoughtful and long-lasting wardrobe, and in the extension of that, a more sustainable world. To me, mending is an important part of that story. Not only on the immediate physical level of being able to repair garments that would otherwise be thrown out as waste. But also in the more general sense of carrying with us a mending mindset; accepting what is good enough and finding ways to make whole again what was once broken.

Pregnancy capsule

More than seven months into my second pregnancy, the increasingly persistent question every morning is: what to wear?

A slow fashion approach to pregnancy clothes is a challenge. A pregnant body changes fairly dramatically, but also relatively temporarily. It is easier than ever to make desperate last-minute purchases because you suddenly realise you have no trousers or tops – or whatever it may be – that actually fit. Slow, considered decisions don’t feel much use because in another few months your body will change again.

For me, honing in on a pregnancy capsule, has been a continual process of trying to balance the desire of building a thoughtful, long-lasting wardrobe while also celebrating this period of change. Change that feels both beautiful and awkward, completely natural and utterly strange.

 

Flexible planning

I started loosely planning a Spring/Summer capsule with the aim of making it pregnancy friendly. I tidied away the pieces that would obviously not fit and made a list of things to make, like stretchy leggings and loose dresses.

Some basic planning has been useful. Yet, several things on my making list I never got round to making. And things I thought I would wear a lot have been left untouched. No worries, I have managed fine anyway.

Again, I am faced with the same lesson that I actually use less than I think I need.

 

5 questions for planning a pregnancy capsule:

  • What items in your wardrobe will obviously not fit a growing tummy and that little extra pregnancy weight? Set these aside.
  • What outfits can you now put together?
  • Is there one or two key pieces you could add that would make it easier to create outfits from the clothes you already have? For instance, a pair of trousers with an elastic waistband to replace those tight fitting jeans or a pair of stretchy leggings to pair with tops and dresses.
  • What clothes make you feel comfortable and nice?
  • If you need new items, do you want to make or buy them? How much time and money will you have for that?

 

Pregnancy clothes

During my first pregnancy I bought two “mama” jeans and a top from a fast fashion store. However, none of them I really like. The black jeans feel too office-like, the grey jeans keep slipping down and the white top is only really useful those last two or three months when that pregnant tummy is really bulging. Both jeans have ripped and needed mending, by the way.

Garments specifically designed for a pregnant body will only be used a few months. Yet, for those few months they may feel absolutely essential. In this light they align particularly well with the fast fashion mentality: low prices and cute designs trump considered investments in quality pieces that will last.

I am certainly guilty here. So this time round I really wanted to avoid buying any more poor quality, cheap items that would only be worn for a relatively short period of time. And I have! But to be fair, I have also used these three pieces quite a bit.

 

6 steps for a slow fashion approach to pregnancy clothes:

  • Minimise the number of pregnancy-specific items that won’t be useful in your wardrobe after the pregnancy
  • Buy quality pregnancy clothes that you can later sell or give away, or re-use if you were to be pregnant again
  • Buy pregnancy clothes second-hand
  • Choose pregnancy clothes in fabric you like and can later re-purpose for other projects
  • Refashion clothes you already own to make them pregnancy friendly. Take a look at the DIY maternity posts on the cotton + curls blog.
  • Sew your own pregnancy clothes, for example with Megan Nielsen's maternity patterns

 

Versatility and longevity

How many pregnancy-specific items you need (or whether you need them at all) depends on how pregnancy friendly your ordinary clothes are. Stretchy, loose-fitting and comfortable pieces can carry you well through a pregnancy while also being useful later.

    In the top row above are some of the pieces I have sewn this year with the intention of making them useful both while pregnant and afterwards.

    1. A simple boxy dress, pattern from Stoff & Stil in a cotton jersey I had in my stash.
    2. Leggings in organic jersey from Stoff & Stil, based on the Hudson pant pattern by True Bias tapered in for a snug fit. With the elastic waistband these are comfortable and stretchy enough to be worn low rise while pregnant and can be pulled further up later.
    3. A pair of woven Hudson pants from True Bias sewn in organic cotton from The Organic Textile Company. Again, with the comfortable elastic waistband. I made these two sizes larger than my usual size to accommodate for the non-stretch woven fabric, but I could definitely have gone up one more size for a more comfortable fit.

    In the bottom row of images are my three most worn pregnancy friendly store-bought pieces.

    1. A tank dress which is an old fast fashion item from Cubus. The stretchy jersey fabric makes this a comfortable fit despite the growing bump.
    2. An organic cotton dress from Gudrun Sjødén. The loose fit over the tummy and hips makes this super comfortable and breezy to wear, while the semi fitted bust ensures I don't feel like a walking tent.
    3. An A-line jacket bought at a flee market for next to nothing. I can still zip this one up! And if I want a more tapered look later I can always pull in the draw strings at the waist.

     

    For versatile pregnancy friendly clothes, look for:

    • Skirts, trousers and shorts with an elastic waistband
    • Loose-fitting tops and dresses to wear over leggings and tights
    • Jersey tops and dresses that will stretch over a growing tummy
    • Tops and dresses with an empire waistline
    • Cardigans and shirts that can be worn open or half-buttoned

     

    Some great sewing patterns for a pregnancy friendly wardrobe:

    Caring for your winter boots

    Polishing your shoes regularly is perhaps one of the easiest and cheapest ways towards a more sustainable and long-lasting wardrobe. As a follow-up to the previous post on the wardrobe spring detox, today I want to share what I do with my winter boots once spring is in the air.

    I like to store winter coats and boots out of sight over the summer. I usually find it is worth the extra effort, just to be free from dusty boots and big down jackets cluttering the hall cupboard.

     

    Polish your boots

    I have read somewhere that you should polish your shoes every two weeks or so. I am not quite at that level yet, I’ll admit. But I have seen what a difference it makes polishing your boots once in a while. I particularly like to do this before putting my winter boots away over the summer. The leather holds much better over time and it makes it a lot nicer to get them out again in the autumn.

    Above and below are the ankle boots I have worn daily for three long winters. The left one is polished, the right is not. See any difference?

    How to do it

    For leather that is scratched or faded, I use a shoe cream that matches the colour of the boot. Traditional hard shoe polish works just as well. First, I wipe the boots clean with a damp cloth and let them dry. Then I use an old rag (or you could use a shoe brush) to work the shoe cream in. Finally, I brush them up with a soft shoe brush for shine (and here you could use an old sock or similar instead).

    For leather that is dry but not scratched, I use a clear leather balm instead. This gives the leather moisture and shine, and works as a protective layer against dirt and rain. Again, I wipe the boots clean first and use the sponge that came with the tub to work the balm in. After leaving them for a bit I wipe off any excess with a dry cloth.

    Easy-peasy. The whole job is done in about five minutes and immensely satisfying.

    I store the boots in shoe boxes or paper bags in our attic. Once I am ready to get them out again in the autumn it feels almost like opening a new box of shoes. That is, new old shoes: handsomely polished, but well-worn and guaranteed comfy. I am telling you, it is worth it.