For instance, take a look at the blouse and jumper pattern above. It looks like a run-of-the mill 40's pattern that you could easily find on eBay, right? Well, Unsung Sewing Patterns reveals a thrilling hidden side to this pattern: there are actually instructions included for making the blouse out of a men's dress shirt and making the jumper out of an old dress. See the cutting layouts below:
Isn't this fascinating?
Of course, this sort of clothing makeover was de rigeur during the Second World War, the era of rationing and "Make Do and Mend." I have a sewing book from the 40's that offers similar advice.
What's interesting is that there now seems to be a definite return to these thrifty ideals of the 1940's. Sewists and crafters are interested in refashioning old clothes for two reasons (which are pretty obvious, but I'll point out anyway): first, to be economically responsible, given our current financial crisis and second, to be ecologically responsible, given the damage we've done to the environment. And, oddly, men's dress shirts are usually the item being refashioned. Sewing Green is a recent craft book release that shows you, among other things, how to make an apron from an old men's dress shirt. Countless tutorials on the internet show you how to make tops, dresses, and even laptop cases from shirts.
I'll admit that I'm a bit reluctant to jump on this bandwagon. First of all, I don't have piles of old men's dress shirts lying around! Secondly, I'm always adding to my fabric stash, which, I know, is just needless consumption of its own. But I hope that by not always purchasing from mass retailers, I'm at least doing a little bit of good.
And, also . . . I hesitate to admit this, as I fear I'm gaining a reputation as a major snob. But some of the refashioning projects on various "hip" crafting websites seem so slapdash to me. Why bother turning an old shirt into something different but low quality? It just seems like the idea is "take this old thing and cut it up and throw some fabric paint on it and ta-da! Green sewing!"
I guess my point is this: the idea of salvaging usable fabric from worn items is an excellent and important one, and one that speaks volumes, historically and culturally (just look at any quilt from the early 20th century, usually cobbled together from worn-out dresses and shirts). But I don't understand the idea of refashioning for refashioning's sake, and that's what some of the green trend seems to be about to me.
What do you think? I am more than eager to be called out on my snobbery, so please: have at me!