Over the past few weeks I have been contemplating running an experiment on how long clothing lasts so when my friend called me last week in frustration stating, “I’ve only washed these expensive linen pants five times and they are completely shredded!! I don’t know what to do, I bought three pairs” I thought, “bingo!” In Canada we have labeling laws about the care content and country of origin labels in our clothing that specify they must last 10 “cleanings of the article” (Guide to the Textile Labelling and Advertising Regulations) but we have no laws for how long the clothing containing those labels has to last. The experiment I have been considering running is to purchase 10 pieces of clothing and wash them each 10 times documenting the wear after each wash to see how long our clothing does last. I shared this idea with my partner and he pointed out this doesn’t include normal wear and tear on clothing which is entirely true. But I believe if we are to require a level of quality we are likely going to have to require a consistent test variable. I would suggest 10 washes is appallingly low for a garments longevity and my friend did mention she was wearing them “regularly” which, for all intents and purposes means there was at least some lifestyle abrasion and pressure but we have to start somewhere!
Anyway, the test will come later. In the meantime I repaired the linen pants. It is doubtful the rest of the pants will wash the minimum 10 cleanings but at least it should get close.
The back and the crotch of the pants had completely worn through.
I stitch ripped through the front and back crotch seams as well as up and down the inside of the inseam. Then I traced 4 panels onto a new piece of linen fabric copying the shape of the linen pants. I then sewed these panels onto the linen pants and finally sewed the seams back together. The shape of the new patch is a familiar shape on pants where they wear the most but it’s definitely not an elegant look, more of a utilitarian motif. Regardless they are once again functional but for how long?
Clearly the linen chosen for these pants is unsuitable for the job. I also noticed the placket back pockets starting to pull away and attempted to give them a little reinforcement. I don’t anticipate these pants will last much longer and, at some point when they are more patch than original, I will wonder why we ever wasted time repairing them rather than making a decent pair that lasts from the pattern. Repairing worn clothing is an important endeavour to make clothing last longer, to keep loved clothing in your closet and to keep it out of the landfill but some items are made so poorly that I question the value in repairing them at all.
Not too long ago I replaced a fly front zipper that had broken on a pair of jeans I own and happen to be wearing right now. When I first attempted the repair I did it with the same intentions to keep my clothing longer. They were already feeling quite worn as the spandex in the material has started to loose it’s elasticity but I have so many extra deadstock zippers I figured I might as well just give it a go. Against my assumptions they have continued to be well functioning and now that the zipper is fixed I am once again wearing them quite often. It’s hard to tell when it is worth it to repair and when it is better to just say goodbye. Thus my moral remains: but the best quality you can and pieces you adore and will want to have for a long time then care for them, love them and repair them. With the right treatment you never know how long they might last.
- Guide to the Textile Labelling and Advertising Regulations https://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/01249.html#Form