Beyond repair: sports bra and blue leggings

I have already complained about the surprising downside of a truly small wardrobe: garments worn frequently do wear out! And don’t come to me with ‘but my grandma’s vintage’, nope, if an old garment has reached you, it hasn’t been worn that much. It is true that the fabrics going around nowadays are worse, but one also has to come to terms with the basic physics of friction and wear. And when enough of that happens, no swap will give your garments a new life, it’s just time to say bye-bye!

So to honor the fallen with one final recognition of all their service, this is my new ‘beyond repair’ section to fare proper goodbye. It is also meant to be educational, by the way, as recognizing ‘this just needs a new owner’ from ‘this can be fixed’ from ‘this is textile waste’ is a key task we all need training. You are welcome, my vasilisas separating poppy seeds from sand!

For a contrarian wishing to prove me wrong along the lines of ‘you could still make use of these by creating leg warmers, cutting it up in jersey yarn for chunky knitting, shred it for pillow filling…’ the answer is ‘yes, but only if I would want those recycled objects’. Around the corner there is the DIY falacy. Going back to Nagisa Tatsumi: “the Western custom of making patchwork from old clothes can be helpful [but] on the other hand, if you end up with ten oven mitts in the house, you’re just accumulating something else, so only try idea [of recycling] with clothes that you find very difficult to throw away. You might, for example, like to make a purse or a bag from a kimono or dress your mother used to wear. Changing form and reducing size – it’s another method of disposal”.

I really cannot think of anything I would want out of these discards. I have an upcoming project where I am using this logic of recycling, though, so stay tuned to the Fix it! section.

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The sports bra

Karrimor, bought new in 2015, unknown production place (all tags have washed off by now) but bad enough, unknown fabric mix bu very synthetic, of course, countless wears – this bra should have at least a yoga teacher certificate by now.

This sports bra has been my sports and lounge buddy for more than 3 years because of its fit. On a typical workday I’d take off the underwire bra and change into this one to proceed with errands and home life. Depending on necklines I’d also try to sneak it into work. And travel. Fun fact: I bought a Nike one the same day and gave it away soon after, as that one kept hurting my neck and containing the body parts it was supposed to contain.

So by now it was a trusted friend receiving weekly washes and countless stretches… and it shows. The elastic stops being elastic after a while. And some piling happens. Up till recently I was also going to say that smells accumulate (synthetics + underboob sweat = not cool, who knew?!), but my mother in law washed it while we were visiting her in September and did some magic (I suspect that higher temperatures combined with a fabric softener did the trick), so it actually doesn’t smell anymore.

The problem, of course, was to replace it properly. I knew that I needed such garment. And – after the Nike fail – I knew that it wasn’t necessarily that easy. The fear of failure was so big, I actually shared it as one of my sustainable living decision fatigues. And then some Internet magic happened: a stranger on FB suggested the thing that looked like exactly what I was looking for. I’ve had my People Tree Yoga Crop Top for a week now, so I can let go of the old one. Thank you so much, little sports bra!

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Blue leggings

ZIB, a 2015 gift from my mom, made in Latvia, 92% viscose 8% elastane, 100+ wears.

Ugh, this one is hard. That brilliant blue color! That soft-soft viscose! I love these leggings, and they are worn to bits. And I am so falling for the ‘but they are soooo comfy, I’ll just wear them at home and nobody will know’. They are worn out – check your jersey against light, by the way, if you see streaks of light it means that all that elastane has long said bye-bye! – discolored, and breaking at the waist. I know myself all too well: unless I throw them out, there will be days when I’ll wear them to work. And then feel inadequate. So I needed to make a post about them and to solemnly swear that I am up to no good will deposit them in the textile trash. And I will get a couple of new ones.

Although ZIB people have never expressed wishes to join the sustainability revolution by switching to organic cotton mixes or disclosing where the textiles come from… they actually produce a shitload of summer styles in questionable synthetic mixes, one of the great mysteries of fashion design! But the leggings are cool: high waist, long legs (I usually cut mine a notch shorter), original screen printed patterns, made in Latvia. I’ve had 10+ of them by now and I’m repeating.

The decision to be brave and honest (the amount of drama surrounding one pair of worn-out leggings, really!) about this one is especially sad because I was truly looking forward to getting away with wearing pajamas to work this winter, like so:

But then again, here is an inside look (also, one of the weirdest photos I’ve ever made):

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Are you secretly keeping something too ratty for anybody to see? Do you actually wear it at home? Or have you tossed something of this kind recently: so perfectly worn in that it has to go already?

Beyond repair: white zipper blouse and lyocell shorts

I have already complained about the surprising downside of a truly small wardrobe: garments worn frequently do wear out! And don’t come to me with ‘but my grandma’s vintage’, nope, if an old garment has reached you, it hasn’t been worn that much. It is true that the fabrics going around nowadays are worse, but one also has to come to terms with the basic physics of friction and wear. And when enough of that happens, no swap will give your garments a new life, it’s just time to say bye-bye!

So to honor the fallen with one final recognition of all their service, this is my new ‘beyond repair’ section to fare proper goodbye. And today it’s a double feature!

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The white zipper blouse

2015 hand-me-down from my mother, 100% viscose, 65+ wears.

The white zipper blouse has been my go-to staple for last two summers, before that it was just laying around waiting for its moment to shine. It comes from the epoch when my mother still ordered from catalogues, and I would dare to say that probably no other garment of this model has been through so many wears and washes. I never ironed it, so in many outfit pictures it looks rather crumpled, and my underwear choices under it were always visible, but I didn’t care…  And it dried quickly after a hand wash, combined with everything and was the perfect lightness for Barcelona summers when putting anything on is a struggle.

However, the fabric is now showing visible wear (I’ll repeat: I don’t think that people who designed this little number and picked the material for it ever thought anybody would wear for more than a couple times) and broken threads all over. In my efforts to sharpen my criteria and look more put together, I had already decided that this was going to be its last season. And then it got a hole you can see in the photo above! And I got a dilemma… Because, of course, I could make an effort to patch the hole: put an applique on it, convert the whole back in a lace garden or do a rebellious embroidery. Yet that will do nothing for the wear and tear of the fabric. So I’ve decided to work on acceptance that garments, especially the light and fragile ones, are not forever. And send this one off to textile trash. Thank you, little blouse, you did a great job!

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The HnM ‘conscious denim’ shorts

2015 hand-me-down from my mother, 100% lyocell, 69+ wears.

The ‘denim’ shorts come from the last time my mom got excited about HnM, and then pretty quickly realized that she wouldn’t really wear all that. And the story of the shorts is pretty much the same as that of the little white blouse above: it’s a lightweight fast fashion garment meant to be bought for one night at Primavera Sound and then discarded. Ha! But I insisted, although they were never too comfortable or ‘serious enough’ for work (I tried wearing them to office once and quickly realized that nobody else cared but I truly didn’t feel appropriate).

And then they just fell apart. I really have a feeling that just suddenly they were all frayed, especially at waistband. And my response to the ‘fix or ditch’ question was, as above, material related. This is not true denim that I’ve just ‘worn in’. Nope, this is very light (a bit more sustainable) viscose that is not known for aging well. And fixing the waistband wouldn’t improve much the life expectancy of this garment. Oh, well. Thank you so much, and out to textile trash they go.

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Have you had to send things to textile trash recently? Was it due to heavy wear or to inherent weaknesses of the material or cut? Or do you have more creative discarding strategies, like converting the garments in patchwork or embroidery?

Swap VI and the problem with the threadbare

This Saturday is the sixth (!) swap (what’s a swap?) and I’m doing my wardrobe pruning in preparation for it. However, as my wardrobe goes shrinking, there’s another dynamic I’m less comfortable than letting mint condition garments that are not working for me find new owners… the pieces I’ve worn out completely are driving me nuts!

The initial wardrobe editing is about taste, future self and frequency of wear/fit in your life. All very personal and subjective. And if it ever comes down to ‘this is pretty worn out’, most people have replacements already waiting for them right there in the same wardrobe. Yes, there might be pieces that one might want to work hard enough to find or make a copy but those don’t tend to be urgent as there’s an abundance of other garments. However, when I’m down to two bras, one pair of yoga shorts and eight pairs of footwear in total, seeing them wear out is a heart-breaking emergency. It’s as if, once selected as optimal, I’d expected them to last lifetime and they have tricked me by wearing out. Finding exact replacement for secondhand or hand-me-down stuff I’ve worn for years is not easy. And in many cases I would prefer not to buy anything directly from those people anyways.

I already shared my yoga shorts replacement fail and it hasn’t got better since then. The Decathlon shorts I bought second-hand in 2015 are in rag condition, and I have a strong aversion to going to that shop and browsing for new similar ones (as there are no identical ones available). According to their home page, I could get similar ones in organic cotton and elastane mix for f*ing incredible 4.99€ without a word about where the fiber or labour comes from. You tell me how that price is possible!

Looks that the solution of the shorts saga will be to – for a set of other reasons – switch back to home practice, so that showing my privates to people won’t be a concern at all. I still should admit myself the truth and send the old shorts to the orange container (oh, yes, those are well beyond a swap-worthy mint condition).

My parallel struggle with shredded-by-wearing items has been my sneakers. After discovering Veja Taua in early 2015, I though I was set for life. Oh, how naive! After three pairs worn to the point that my left little toe was sneaking out (always the left one!), I am now facing the hard truth that they are not planning to restock them ever again. I did try another of the more modern-looking sneaker models and I’m now breaking in their next best canvas sneaker, but it’s not the same. I want my Taua back! I’m even seriously considering buying the last available Taua in my size, although the color combination – white, very white – is clearly suboptimal for my lifestyle. Or writing them a very heartfelt love letter pleading for a new release of the black ones…

(On a side note, this is one of the big advantages of  heritage brands and styles. If you happen to like a model that the company has been doing for decades already, it’s pretty safe they’ll keep doing it instead of succumbing to demons of innovation and oh-no-that-was-limited-edition-and-we-will-never-do-it-again. I was just assured of this by the lovely Toni Pons salesperson in Born. They’ve been making Montgri since forever, so it’s not going anywhere.)

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According to my archives, that’s what November 2012 looked like in Salamanca, Spain.

It’s the time for the black flower shirt too. It has been patched up in armpits three times and keeps unraveling around them. This little viscose hand-my-down from my mom has seen so much more than #100wears. For years it has been my go-to throw-on for travel, errands and everything in-between. I draped perfectly, covered butt to be worn with leggings, felt amazing and looked lovely. Bye, bye, my love, I hope to find something similar enough one day.

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On a more typical note about garments that will go to the swap looking for new friends (for my outgoing for the previous editions see here, here and here), the only substantive swapped-aways will be garments I thought of as heirlooms until trying to wear them again after years of having them stashed away in my mom’s wardrobe. Both the military field jacket and the pink corduroy skirt date back to 2003 and 2006 respectively, my past self wore them a lot and they are in great condition. But not for my current self! And that’s enough. I hope they have a lot of wears with somebody else ahead of them.

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How do you deal with the conflict of knowing that something is worn out beyond repair and that you cannot replace it? Have you ever made bespoke copies of industrial garments you had loved? Have you crossed oceans, deserts and all the internets combing for a replacement?