There are many things about my work I love, but one part I especially enjoy is restoration. I spend a fair amount of energy mending things, and I find an enormous amount of satisfaction in giving new life to a garment that otherwise might find it’s way to the bottom of a trashcan. Not many people exercise that option anymore. Realistically, our culture is glutted with clothing options, so why develop the skill set to re-attach a sleeve, or patch a hole?
There are a long line of my ancestors, however, who didn’t have access to a mall or the money to replace a slightly worn item, and I run across the evidence of their handiwork on a fairly regular basis. It’s always a little bit of a thrill when I find those stitches, both crude and fine, as it’s a direct link between me, here in Austin, Tx, twenty first century America, and the human , probably female, who took up her needle and thread sometime in the last hundred and fifty years to do the same as me.
Sometime, the mending tells a story. Lots of mending could mean it was a beloved garment that was worn over and over with joy, or it could have been the only one of it’s kind in the closet and Had to be kept in wearable condition. Patching and how it was accomplished reveals both creativity, sewing skills and style changes. In all cases, it’s a commitment of time, and a reflection of a piece of history.
And this is where my conflict comes in.
Because I have a personal relationship with my own mending experience, and an emotional connection to the stories that these vintage garments carry in their original mending, I am both offended by the (copied) fraying, feathering, fading and patching modern garments feature, and perversly grateful that these things are now acceptable to the average consumer. I am offended that legitimate skills and time are being cheapened with mass reproduction. And I know this conflict goes back to the industrial revolution, and has had multiple people and movements attempting to solve this exact disconnect; some with more success than others.
For me, I don’t think there is a resolution. I continue to feel the same nose wrinkling sniff of “fake” every time a pair of factory feathered jeans walks in my door, and gratitude every time I sell a perfectly worn pair of Big E 501’s for hundreds of dollars.
Is there a resolution to the conflicting feelings? Probably not…”Authentic” is one of the things I value most in this world.