Excellent points all.

"My parents (and aunts and uncles) were Depression babies. All their lives, even now that they're retired and comfortable, they practice a kind of thrift that they learned as kids when even food was scarce. And then there were the War Years and rationing. Yup! They knew how to make things last and last and last..."

Yeah, but you know, that's the generation that created the consumer society. They swore that their kids were never going to know that kind of deprivation. They fostered their children to buy, and to throw away, and buy anew. They wasted resources because they _could_, and didn't _have to_ not do it.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. The pendulum swings back and forth. Those of us lucky enough to not have been swung out there will have to show the way to our kids and their friends.

Additionally, here in sunny NZ our biggest environmental problem is the carbon emissions of the farming industry. Because cows and sheep produce methane... lots and lots of methane. :-)

IN Central California our dairy cows are the major contributor to global warming and bad air quality, even over cars (although the farmers try to argue otherwise). Some of the farmers are wising up, and have taken to capturing some of the manure/methane to provide energy to power their farms.

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Not insane; good post!

I still have plenty of polar fleece in the house though -- we use it for the juggling rats mostly though. Also used some of the big pieces to good effect this year, insulating some of the walls. And, well, hate to throw something out that we already have. But slowly, we will be having more linen and wool clothes. We have a little, and also much cotton (which isn't quite as long-lasting as linen, but has its good points).

If I could afford to have them tailored, I would, but for now we'll have to make do with what I have the time and skills to do. Plus, I really hate putting in zippers. I definitely have to make a new pair of pants for fitzw this year, though. He's destroying all of his old cotton dockers, working at the farm and around the house. *sigh* I suppose I should pick up a pattern for men's pants...

As for the methane from the sheep and cows, I thought I read somewhere recently that grass-fed animals produce less methane... They have trouble digesting too much grain and such. Unbalanced diet.

Almost all our cattle and sheep are grass-fed. The climate here is mild enough that our animals are out all year. So while they may produce less than stabled animals, they still cr&p all over the country. :-)

I find it hard to find a bespoke tailor that I can afford to hire to make SCA garb to my specs, much less "normal" clothing. While I'd love to buy hand made (hand sewn isn't on my requirement lists... the hours alone for that are way out of anything I'll ever be able to afford) clothing, its not in my budget.

Another issue is with kids, though there would be quite a bit more saving clothing from one kid to the next than there is now. (We already do that... kinda requirement when ya have 5 kids)

Yeah... It's difficult to find bespoke tailors because they're a dying breed. But if there was a market for bespoke tailoring, more design students would pursue it.

But, you see, Brian, if there was no ready-to-wear clothing, bespoke clothing *would* be in your budget. What I mean to say is that you'd budget for clothing like you budget for... a new TV... or a microwave. And you'd have the clothing just as long.

Thank you for reminding me - three bags of fat clothes must go to Goodwill this weekend.

Great post. Mind if I pass it along on my LJ?

And I don't think you are insane. My father was similar, depression era, he hated to buy clothes that cost more than $20 ($10 if he could get away with it), and didn't like me throwing away money on trendy clothes. While I hated him then, I am like him today. I don't buy from Walmart (how cost effective is it to buy constant garbage every month because what you bought last month fell apart at the zipper or seam? It isn't.) I don't even like to buy at higher priced department stores because they don't fit me right, although if they do, or can be slightly adjusted, I will.

I don't buy hardly a thing for myself anymore, mostly buying clothes for the kids, which end up as hand-me-downs, or taken to the used clothing store as credit on more used clothing. And while I have to get rid of many of my old clothes that no longer fit, I've so worn them out that they aren't even suitable for the thrift stores. Thankfully, they are cottons, so they will eventually degrade. I am even going to recycle my husband's fat jeans into a denim jacket (Purrfection Patterns has a great one for this).

My Mom was great at darning socks to make them last just a little longer. While I dislike darning socks or undies, the old holy ones are being reused as painting mitts or other things, rags, whatever I can.

Needless to say, I am with you on this crusade, and so are a few of my friends. Here's to changing to world to a better place, one bespoke tailor at a time.

Great post. Mind if I pass it along on my LJ?

Please do!

You have a VERY good point!
I have TONS of clothes and I always wear the same things (I do wash them after I wear them mind you).
All my stuff the gets the most wear is mostly stuff I made and then a handfull of longsleeves I got at H&M.

If I get tired of my clothes, I turn the ones that are worn to death into rags to clean pencils etc with until they _really_ fall apart. The goods ones go to good will so someone else that needs clothes gets them. But I realise that most people just throw them out and that is indeed, a total waste :(

I do vote for off-the rack underwear though, if only out of convinience. Imagine you travel somewhere and your luggage gets lost, then you want quick access to clean undies! :)

I don't like clothing which has a lot of elasthane, polyester and other "fake fabrics" (as my mum and I like to call them), we like our cottons and linens and wools and other natural fabrics :)

Also, people should learn to find use for fabric left overs. I make children's clothing out of the big pieces, doll clothing out of the smaller ones and cat toys out of the scraps. Or I give bits to Bert's nan who uses it to decorate stuff with.
It makes me sick when I see people throw out large pieces of fabric that they could do something else with.

I do vote for off-the rack underwear though, if only out of convinience. Imagine you travel somewhere and your luggage gets lost, then you want quick access to clean undies! :)

Oh yes! Undies. And socks. And quite possibly undershirts...

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I hate to disagree, but I think it wouldn't work.

First of all, to accomplish #1, the price of the clothing would be well beyond anyone's budget. Look at you and I as an example. Would you consider your wages to be a living wage? And what you pay your seamstresses? If so, realize that I don't buy your custom made clothing because it is beyond my budget...and I make WAAAAAAY more than a minimum wage or poverty-line family does. In fact, even most well-made off-the-rack clothing that I will wear for 10+ years is beyond my budget. I don't follow the argument that I "would make a budget" for clothing, (nor would the rest of society) as we are in a debt-laden society right now anyway.

For #3, we would have to grow more crops to support linen, cotton and wool manufacturing. Where would these go? There's a shortage of room to grow food right now, which is only slightly more important than clothing in the survival Must Haves. So to have good quality clothing, people's cost of food would go up as well...making the clothing even further out of the cost of affordable.

Unless our entire system breaks down in one fell swoop, and we have to start again from scratch, I just don't see how it could work. I suppose that's the point of an "if I could change the world" proposition, though, right? ;)

You're not getting the picture, Jen. We budget *too little* for clothing. Then we buy cheap clothing and throw it away when it falls apart in a year. My suggestion is to buy better clothing and wear (and repair) it for 20 years.

And... ahem... my "wage" pays for my mortgage, two cars, the lease on two industrial printers, insurance, taxes...

Look before you leap, froggie. My business isn't a hobby that makes me "pin money".

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I agree!
It's been hard, but I have been adding a couple of hand-made items, mostly by going to Rev-War sutlers with a pair of jeans that fits well. What a difference! Pockets that hold my wallet, points for my braces, and fabrics even I can't kill!

(if only I could get a bespoke *car*... )

Good for you! Brava!

RE: Bespoke cars -- Yeah. They're called "Rolls Royce" and "Bentley". *wistful longing sigh*

Although I hear that Bentleys are awfully cheap in the second-hand market (like $10,000 for one with low mileage). They remain good cars. It's just that the people who have them made "bespoke" change them a lot so there are many to be had used. Of course there's no convenient GMAC finance plan. But there also isn't any annoying salesman you have to broker down. The price is the price. Sign here please...

Gold Star. Ya did good.
I am also the child of a line of seamstresses. My mum grew up in WWII London, and she knows how to make things stretch. My Nana on the other side of the family was a product of the Depression. And my younger friends can't understand why T-shirts become rags for cleaning - (you buy those, right? The package says "cleaning cloths" right on it.) or why I 'bother' to restyle a coat. (Hey, I got mine at OldNavy for 30 bucks and it's the latest)
Oy! Yeup, you've definitely hit upon something.

Agree absolutely. I've been reading a couple of bespoke tailors blogs, and maybe I'm missing them but there are no bespoke tailors making womens clothing except fancy dress. I'd love a bespoke tailor who will make working clothes that last and fit. And yes, it will cost a lot but if it lasts then I don't mind paying a lot more. I have a couple of cotton knit polo shirts that are 20 years old. The fabric is now finally wearing out. They are incredibly well made. At the time I bought them they were something like $50 each, horribly expensive, but they sure have been good. And I don't need many clothes so wouldn't mind paying a lot more for really good ones. I'm trying to learn how to sew for something other than sheep but I'll never be at the bespoke tailor level in this life I don't think.

So how do you find somene capable and willing to become a bespoke tailor?

Could this be another business for you Kass?

Want a trip out here for a visit and a tailoring session ;-)


Yeah. There's no market (currently) in making bespoke clothing for women. None. I've talked to tailors. Women change their clothing too rapidly and want to spend 2c and look like a million bucks. Face it, ladies! We're cheap!

A tailor who makes men's clothing can, of course, make women's as well. They're just not as practiced with the female figure.

As I said in my plan, *if* we abolished ready-to-wear, tailoring would become a viable profession again and young people of skill and passion would enter the industry.

My friend who is a textile engineer interned with a tailor for four years while she was in school. She's forgotten more things than I ever knew about tailoring.

When it comes to tailoring, I'm not a bespoke tailor. I'm a historical clothier. I don't do things the way they are done modernly in couture, but there are an amazing amount of parallels and that's why I'm a fan of bespoke clothing.

And to answer your question, I have wanted to start a bespoke shop for years. But my fear is that in our disposable society, no one would pay enough to make it viable. And unfortunately, you can't sell bespoke clothing on the internet. It really requires personal fittings.

But it is my dream. And hopefully, as Maggie said, "the pendulum will swing back". Although unless someone bankrupts Walmart and like store and prohibits the importation of cheap clothing from overseas, I don't see it working.

Still, I am eternally sanguine... =)

Plus I would love a trip out there!

Excellent idea! I completely agree. My Great Grandmother Genniviva Minecci, an Italian immigrant and youngly widdowed mother of four, made mens suits for a living and was an expert seamstress. She died at 103 when I was 4 and I still remember her speaking Italian to me and understanding it. She had three daughters and a son, and she altered their dresses for each daughter. My Great Aunt Mary, the baby of the family, still complains to this day that she never had a new dress, and she's 93 years old. Lol! Sometimes I wonder if my natural affinity to sewing was somehow passed down. I would love to make all of my clothing from the best linens, wools and silks, perfectly and lovingly tailored to look fabulous. Unfortunately for the moment I only have time to sew our costumes and garb.

Keep aspiring to that! Every little bit we do is a check in the positive column. =)

I don't think you're insane, either. My mom made a lot of my clothes when I was a kid, although I think she bought most of hers. Dad is a banker and always had a closet full of suits. His weren't bespoke, but he went to the good clothing store in town and they did do tailoring to fit the suits to him. He generally got about one new suit per year, and they lasted a long time.

You've got a definite point that cheap stuff doesn't last. If I buy Mr. Otter pants at Target or S-Mart (that horrid fusion of K-mart and Sears), they only last a few months. The fabric shreds at the knees or at a seam for no apparent reason. Better pants, although still ready-made, that I get him from LL Bean last much longer - generally until he just plain wears them to rags.

Yup! And that's a start! Good going.

Okay, I am The Husband, so I'm supposed to agree.

But that's not why I'm agreeing to this.

It really is true that tailor-made garments wear better and longer than cheap, off-the-rack stuff. I have some tailored suits. They wear like iron and fit me like a glove. Yeah, they cost three times as much as a suit from Sears, but you know something?

The wool feels better than the polyester. It breathes.
The fit is utterly comfortable, because they were made FOR ME, not for a number on a rack.
The Sears-type suits I've owned have worn out rapidly, exacerbated by normal dry-cleaning.
Belts suck. Braces are much more comfortable, and a meaningful method by which a man can express dress sense without looking like an idiot in a Misfits t-shirt. It is especially elegant when one's braces subtly colour-match one's necktie. That no one can see the braces (doff the jacket!? Horror!) makes the elegance all the more subtle.

Now I'm after tailored shirts. =D

My grandmother used to make wedding dresses for Sachs 5th Avenue... Only problem was that while she could make extremely high-end coture gowns, she sucked at figuring out modern fashion. ;)

For gossakes, she still makes her own clothing out of cheap 70's polyester. *shudder* At 94, she's still going strong, but her tastes in clothing just *suck*. It's one of the reasons why I always hated wearing her clothing and I wanted to wear the store bought stuff... She would make things like these horrible green wide-wale straight-leg corduroy pants... I know a part of it was my grandmother's prudishness, but she never made *me* clothes that were fitted properly... My eighth grade graduation dress was a pretty dress, but she made it as if I had no boobs... At the time I at least had somewhere between an A and a B cup, but she made me a dress that was straight cut to not show off curves.

I think it's that reason why I don't like home-made clothing for every-day wear. I got so much clothing made by my prudish grandmother that I was laughed at for, I couldn't stand it.

While I agree with you in principle, I can't do it. Maybe it's the mental stigma of going to an upper-class high school and being the only kid wearing clothing her grandmother made her, and badly fitted at that, but I just can't do it.

I'll buy clothing someone else has made for me... But the mental stigma of doing it myself just isn't something my brain gets past.

Yes, but you're getting my point, Cyd -- reduce, reuse and recycle. BUY better-made clothes to begin with and keep them much longer. Have a professional make them for you.

My Mum can't fit to save her life. She always assumed I was her size -- which I am, mostly. But she has boobs and normal shoulders and I have none of either. All the clothing she made me fit like a bag because I'm slight in the upper body.

Wow, I've so been thinking that myself! I hope you don't mind if I link to this in my journal.

I try to buy everything old - it lasts better than anything new. My 30-year-old turntable is still going strong, but we've lost two DVD players in the past few years. Most stores don't sell anything but garbage these days. I went to Target last night to look for a shoe rack, and all they had were plastic-covered particle board cubbies that cost up to $80! Pah, I'll go find a used bookshelf or something at the thrift store.

I trawl throught the thrift stores at least once a week, looking for interesting clothes to wear, alter or cannibalize for fabric and buttons. Don't even get me started on the sorry state of modern fabric stores - I don't think they even carry linen at Hancock's.

I saw a headline that said that the girl scouts were doing an overhaul on their image and getting rid of things like cooking and embroidery because they aren't relevant to today's girls. I think that's kind of sad. Basic skills are handy for anyone, male or female. These kinds of things just make us more dependent on disposable items.

Please! Be my guest!

If cooking isn't relevant today (to anyone, boys or girls), then there is something desperately wrong...

Wonderfull points, all
Every time I take out a load of trash I cringe. Which is why I use cloth diapers, recycle everything that I can, and don't own a car.

Actually, Wal-mart's clothes are pretty well made for what they cost. Since there are only two stores in my rural area that carry plus sizes, and the other one is K-mart I buy most of my basics there. I've bought jeans, T-shirts and other casual tops, underwear, flouncy skirts, etc. The clothes I buy there last the same 2-3 years I expect from pieces I buy at more expensive venues. Granted, I don't buy dressy business clothes there, since I work at home, and I'm not buying trendy pieces that will only be in style for a few months anyway.

I buy there because it's convenient and economical. I have absolutely top notch sewing skills and equipment, but using them to make my own jeans and T-shirts, or paying someone else to custom make them when I can buy decent ones for the price of an hour of my time, would be a foolish waste.

I'm rereading this and nodding emphatically and pretending it has nothing to do with having to throw out yet another piece of crap clothing from WalMart that fell apart less than a month after I bought it. Okay, I don't pretend so good.

You know, I sat down at one point and figured out what I spent each year buying clothes from Walmart. Then I priced out classic patterns, fabrics, notions, etc. If I were not so absolutely bone lazy about making my own clothes, I could have a decent wardrobe of clothing that I knew fit well (a major issue when you're a 5'9", 200# woman with a 35" inseam) and would last. Hell, I still have clothing my mother made me when I was a baby, and my aunt still has clothing she made for herself in the 1950s.

I think people believe that bespoke tailoring is financially untenable because right now, with the superabundance of off-the-rack crap clothing, it is untenable. However, if we could live in a world where bespoke tailoring was the norm, I doubt it would be nearly as expensive as it currently is. (I also think you'd see another rise in people making things for themselves-- after all, it's what my grandmother did when she couldn't afford to have her clothes made, but that may be neither here nor there). And yes, we would budget for clothing in a way we just don't do now, while it's super easy to just go buy a new whatever when the whatever we have wears out. Stop me before I rant about the disposable culture, please.

So yeah. How 'bout them Mets, eh?

See what I mean? See?!?!

Yeah. I know. Preaching to the choir... =)

My "dream" is really that we never moved away from bespoke tailoring in the first place. And guess what? If that were the world now, we wouldn't have the problems we have with landfills because our whole culture would be focused on buying more durable things. Quality over quantity.

And yes, I did take Economics in college. Quite a lot of it actually. And I know very well that getting people to keep their stuff longer isn't the way to stimulate economic growth. But planned obsolescence sickens me.

This post has taken me on a little bit of a journey -- a journey I didn't plan -- and I'm very glad for it. I now see that my ideas aren't as insane as I first thought. No, I can't change the world. But I *can* do something about how I live my life. I *can* buy only from companies that espouse quality. I *can* support small farmers and craftsmen. I *can* eschew big corporations like Apple and Walmart and not buy their products that are designed to fall apart. I *can* buy from small, independently-owned American firms and foreign firms that support local cottage industries.

I leave you with this:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead (1901 - 1978)"

Thanks for the mention!

I collect vintage clothing, and save the beautiful pieces from my own wardrobe that I no longer wear but still love. My oldest piece of current clothing is almost twenty years old, and still being worn.

I think part of the trouble is that "fashion" changes so fast. Fashion changes fast because of the demands of consumer culture. Consumer culture means that we must spend constantly to keep the economy going. To keep the economy going, designers constantly change fashion, and advertisers scream at us that we're lame losers if we're not up-to-the-minute in fashion.

I rebel by being completely unfashionable. I'd rather be elegant than trendy.

You got me thinking. I thank you!

And I'm with you on the "elegant rather than trendy" tack. Honestly, what I've seen of trends in the past 5-10 years has been stuff I'd never wear anyway. Those ugly low-slung jeans that make even anorexics look chubby are a crime against society and should have been banned!

Give me the 30s and 40s. Screw the 50s where our culture became completely consumeristic and we acually thought plastic and polyester and formica were good ideas.

Yay! You're right! I am not a child of any sort of tailor/seamstress, but I am quite thrifty. My grandmother) raised me (for the most part) and I don't think she ever understood that the Depression ever ended.

In any case, I have trouble finding things to fit me properly, so I've come up with a Cunning Plan to make my own clothes. They must be as perfect as they can be before I go out in public in them, they must be made to last and they must be comfortable. And you know what? I get compliments on every piece I make!

Huzzah to your post! Bespoke tailors everywhere, unite!

Yay for Cunning Plans!

Aspire to it. Then do it. Plan, then execute the plan.

You can do this!

Just butting in :)

I just wanted to say that I agree with you entirely. I am fighting for this in my own little corner of the world. I make a few nice, unusual basics and can tailor them to fit plus sizes, thanks to the work of my mother and great-aunt when I was a child. I have a growing base of customers who have discovered the utter joy of getting a garment which fits with a couple of mouse clicks, or a single phone call or conversation. And yes, I do mend my own garments if the customer damages them - you would not believe what people pay me to sew buttons on to shop-bought shirts as they are entirely without the skill to do it themselves!

Yay! We do what we can, all in our own little corners of the world.

And you're not butting in. Come on in. Let me dust off a chair for you. Relax! Enjoy! Don't step on the greyhounds... ;)

from the daughter of a garment maker (and trying to be one myself)to another , well said!!

Several of your readers have already commented on how WalMart clothes fall apart more quickly than better clothing. I'll second that; it fades, the seams come apart, the fabric looks tatty entirely to quickly. I found that I had to replace my shirts / jeans / etc. much more freqently than if I'd bought more expensive items. WalMart jeans last about a year at most, and look like crap after half a year -- I can get about three or four years out of a pair of Levis.

I'll admit to being frugal (er, downright cheap), so I've been trying to buy better items on Ebay (my local thrift store only has WalMart quality discards, alas). For example I recently bought a (new) linen jacket from Orvis for about $38, including shipping; a lovely (new) lined linen skirt from Talbots for about $28, and a bunch of other items that would have been much more expensive if I'd paid full retail price for them.

Even if I'd bought these items at full retail, I know that I'll be wearing them for years. I stay away from trendy items and buy stuff that's more classic. (And you can spice up a classic outfit with a pair of fashionable shoes, anyway.)

So, while I can't see myself paying for bespoke tailoring when I can easily do that myself, I definitely subscribe to the "buying better quality clothing is cheaper in the long run" school.

My hubby has been after me to buy better shoes for years. He's right -- better shoes generally are much kinder to your feet. I recently got a pair of Born sandals on Ebay and wore them on a day where I did a lot of walking without my feet killing me. I was amazed.

I love this idea. However, Saville Row tailors only make suits, and that only for men. If you know anyone who makes clothes for women, other than made-to-measure wedding dresses, I would love to have their contact details. I don't have the skills to make my own clothes, and my mother hates sewing and couldn't teach me, but I'd love to find a tailor who could make me everyday clothes that actually fitted me and would last. I live in the UK and would be prepared to travel a bit to find someone good.


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