New York Times

by Steven Kurutz


"Only a few generations ago, socks were routinely darned, sweaters mended and pants patched. You could buy a sewing kit at any drugstore. Knowing how to use it was a mark of good housekeeping.

Kate Sekules, 58, remembers that world, in which the act of repairing clothes was integral to wearing them. “My mother was a dressmaker to the end of her life,” said Ms. Sekules, who grew up in England. “My mother just mended as a matter of course.”

Ms. Sekules has kept up that thrifty tradition. She started one of the earliest secondhand online clothing exchanges, Refashioner. She buys all of her clothes vintage and mends them all, including her husband’s moth-eaten sweaters.

But although sewing and knitting have made a modest comeback among hobbyists in recent years, those skills have in the main dropped away. Home economics is no longer taught in many schools; the sewing machine is no longer a whirring fixture in the home. Especially since the rise of fast-fashion chains, a tear in a shirt or dress often spells its end.

As a cri de coeur on behalf of needle and thread, Ms. Sekules practices and preaches “visible mending,” as it is known in the sewing and fashion communities. On she offers inspiration and instruction to the unversed and posts photos of creatively salvaged clothes.

Take, for example, the Dolce & Gabbana V-neck sweater she bought at a sample sale in the 1990s, misplaced for years and found again, only riddled with holes (caused not by moths, she said, but from “sheer age and sadness”). Ms. Sekules made a neat eyelet stitch using embroidery floss in a rainbow of colors to frame the half-dozen holes — in essence, to call attention to them. The designer sweater had a folk-art look when she finished.

“I like the mends to look a little rough,” she said. “If it looks like it came from a factory, it negates the point.”

Showing off your patches, visible menders say, draws attention to the way a garment’s life span has been extended. It also subverts the notion, long held, that mended clothes are worn by the poor, while the height of luxury is buying a new wardrobe every season.

“We’re saying the opposite with our mended clothes,” Ms. Sekules said. “The pride in the look of a mended thing, that’s pretty recent. That’s now.”..."

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