The stories from my parent's childhoods are always worth listening too. But the ones that really strike a chord - and are most relevant to the discussion of slow fashion - are the ones of my grandmother and the garments she sewed. I can just envision her, hunched over her sewing machine late into the night, after children were asleep, in the row house that my mother grew up in and that I visited as a child. I've heard many of the stories of her making: the time my mother wanted nothing more than a pair of Levi's jeans, and how my grandmother duplicated them in all but the logo tag, only to have my mother be less than satisfied (and later save up every penny to buy herself those Levi's after all). The time my grandmother recycled an old curtain into a cocktail dress, and was late horrified when my grandfather proudly told someone at said cocktail party that my grandmother's dress was formerly a curtain. The beautiful things she made for her children (and herself) were supplemented by my great-grandmother's hand knits which she sent across the ocean from Germany to her family in Massachusetts, and which my own children are now wearing. In short, her endeavors could be considered the original small batch hand made timeless capsule wardrobe.
That time was a rough time in history, and I know that my grandmother did not have as many options as I have today. And I value the right to choose so many things, while admiring some of the simplicity of that time. What I have found as someone making her way in the hand made world through teaching and knitwear design is that people are far more willing to give you their money than their time. But I would argue that this is at a great disadvantage to themselves and our society as a whole. The hand-making of my grandmother's era was often out of necessity and budget. And while it is hard to make do with a little (I know this from experience), I think that out of need comes creativity, ingenuity, and gratitude. Investing time instead of money makes us choose and use more wisely, have and own less, and gives us the freedom of choice and self expression.
In a world where boat loads of barely worn clothing are deemed useless, shipped to India and then recycled into something else, I admire my grandmother and her sewing machine. Those few but favorite hand made garments she made each family member were worn to pieces, their conception in the first place a matter of pinching pennies, saving up and reusing every bit of material - and all while making fashion choices each individual could be comfortable with. It is a simplicity that I admire, a few well loved hand made things.
A capsule wardrobe is a worthy goal, my own work in process is mostly thrifted and some handmade. While I would like nothing more than to support small batch makers, often these items come with a steep price which we as a one income family with young children simply cannot afford. Instead, our fashion choices come in the form of second hand clothing (saving it from that boat headed to become paper or blankets or whatever, and hopefully giving it a long life), with lovingly made garments sprinkled in.
Wearing secondhand clothing is surely a whole pandora's box of discussion on it's own, but in this conversation of small fashion, it's one which I feel strongly about, the one we utilize most often, and one I think is worth thinking about. If the effort of slow fashion is to reduce, reuse and recycle, then surely the reuse piece is of just as much importance. And it's certainly relevant for the many sewing/knitting/fashion loving folk who are on a tight budget. Because while the argument can always be made to invest in a few quality pieces, sometimes the choice is between an expensive pair of shoes and feeding your family for two weeks. (And one I hope to see more chatter about during Week 4, WORN.)
On a more personal note...
The garments pictured above are those which I wear pretty much in constant rotation everyday. From left to right: a linen/cotton blend shirt that I bought from a sale rack after returning a Christmas gift and had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. A cabled wool cardi knit by me, pattern coming soon. And a simple tent dress in a linen blend slightly modified from the Wiksten Tank Pattern.
It seems like the perfect starting point for my own capsule wardrobe; I've gotten rid of nearly everything in my dresser, because after two pregnancies my body has changed. I can't and don't want to wear the same pre-baby items, and most of them don't fit or aren't comfortable anyways. It's given me a chance to see how little clothing I really need, and what I really want to wear everyday. Usually it's the dress above, or the dress with either the tops and a pair of leggings. Or either of the tops with a pencil skirt or jeans (the single pair that I've deemed post-pregnancy comfortable enough.) So another of these dresses and a similar shirt is in order soon. I have some linen lined up for a second dress, which should come together quickly, and I'm thinking the Aster Shirt would be an excellent addition to this line up, but I haven't settled on a shirt pattern - suggestions?