I’ve blogged about my lovely friend Anna-Marie before. Anna is one of the most authentic people I know, someone who truly tries to live her life with as small a footprint as possible. She has tried to live out her passion by doing things to bring awareness to our consumer culture and our disregard for the earth. She spent a year not bought anything. She gave up plastic for Lent, wore the same dress for the month of October, and shaved her head to raise money for women’s education and employment projects.
In keeping with this passion, Anna has started her own small sewing business, one that has a very unique focus: mending. Reclaim Mending is intended to help you get more life out of your favourite clothes. On her website she writes:
In university I studied peacebuilding and international development, diving deeper into the broad human and environmental effects of consumerism. I struggled more and more with my complicity with the garment industry (as my love of clothes has never diminished). On a personal level I have tried various ways of removing myself from the industry – by buying only thrifted or fairly traded clothing; by wearing only hand-me-downs; by not buying anything new for a year. These experiments have been good, and fulfilling. But I felt like I wanted to do more.
So Anna has combined her love for sewing with her desire to help others reduce their carbon foot print by doing the repairs that will keep you from throwing out, say, a favourite pair of jeans just because the zipper is broken or has a rip in the butt.
The first blog on her website talks about tailoring jeans and body image. One of her statements was an “aha” moment for me. She writes:
One of the (many) issues I have with mass produced clothing is that it has made us all believe that our bodies have to fit our clothing rather than our clothing has to fit our bodies. Not long ago almost all clothing was homemade or tailor made to fit our wonderfully diverse shapes and sizes. With the age of vanity sizing and fast fashion, we have switched our thinking to believe that our clothes are right and our bodies are wrong. But our bodies are not wrong!
I had never heard the term “vanity sizing” but OH MY GOSH. It was like a whole bunch of things clunked into place in my head when I read that. It’s so true, isn’t it? That there is no way that mass produced clothing can actually fit anyone. We do grow to be a specific size (and we all know that the size stated on clothing labels isn’t even standardized so why should we believe that anyone’s body will fit into a certain brand’s certain size? So many women (and men) struggle with body image because we don’t fit a certain style or a certain size when, as Anna says, there’s nothing wrong with our bodies – it’s the clothing industry we should be struggling with!
Well. My sewing and tailoring skills suck but thank goodness for people like Anna whose skills are pretty amazing. My son has already benefited from Anna’s skills. He bought a pair of jeans when he visited France and absolutely loves them. So when they tore in the crotch, he was bummed – no pun intended. Anna came to the rescue, patching the tear and making my son super happy.
I love this initiative. Anna is reviving a skill that most of us have lost. My mother and my grandmothers all needed to know how to sew – and I mean create clothing, not just put a button back on. I learned to sew in high school and even though I didn’t enjoy it, I did it because at that time (in the late 70s, early 80s) it was still cheaper to sew your own clothing. That is not true anymore – clothing is cheap, literally and figuratively. So rather than make (or even buy) something of quality and care for it in a way that it will last, we buy cheap and cheaply made clothing that doesn’t last no matter how you care for it – with the added issue of it being made by people who are not paid a living wage, who often work in horrendous conditions. Anna is helping us rethink how we look at our clothes and is encouraging us to make them last. She’s helping us rethink how we look at our bodies and celebrate what is unique.
If you live in the Winnipeg area, I encourage you to make use of her mad sewing skills. In the meantime, tell me about your sewing skills. Do you make or repair your own clothing? What motivates you to do this?