Over the Christmas break I put on my brave face and went shopping at Bluewater in Kent for clothes. Shock horror. This doesn’t happen very often. It’s never a process I enjoy. I study labels, look at stitch quality. It’s like a quality control check at every turn. And I just can’t help it.
Generally I have remained faithful to my make do and mend project for two years now. It removes my high street anguish and saves me disappointment and money. But as I began my third year it had reached the point where I’ve just had to invest in certain garments.
Knit is one thing I cannot make and sometimes am unable to repair. Most of my knitwear is for work, so more ‘making things in the studio’ than ‘dinner out’. So I have invested in three new jumpers which I can wear out casual or dress up which I hope are going to last me into next winter. They are, however, H&M so it’s debatable.
By December I had fallen completely out of love with leggings. The few pairs I still owned were threadbare and even I couldn’t wave a magic wand and keep these in circulation. So they’ve gone and instead I have gravitated towards jeggings because I really dislike regular jeans (that cardboard feeling out of the wash leaves me reeling) and I cannot stand tailored trousers. I am an unapolegetic slave to stretch fabrics and not really a skirt or dress wearer except in summer. I like to be warm and I am a very practical dresser who doesn’t have to impress at the office so smart wear is generally reserved for events and high end restaurants.
The end of year sales were not helpful. Most of the high street brands were full of tired old left overs from the year’s fashion haul and most of the sizes were vastly inappropriate for normal shoppers. Whatever else was left were seconds and damaged items. This was especially true in New Look but if you can fix things you can pick up a bargain or two. I did find two evening/party dresses which were the only ones on the rail in my size. However, and as with most party dresses, they were too short. As is standard practice for me, I stood there in the dressing room, modelling my potential new buys and thinking, now what do I have to do to make this wearable. I cannot remember the last time I bought a garment where this wasn’t the major selling point of the purchase.
For these two dresses I opted for a wide lace trim in matching colours and simply extended the hems. It’s a trick I’ve used on many occasions and now I have two dresses that are less generic than the other billion or so that came off the same factory line. Adding those touches is sometimes all you need to individualise something.
In terms of jeggings I found exactly what I wanted in Sainsburys of all places. They came in a range of colours but once again I had to do a few alterations so I could wear them. Simply, this means putting four inches worth of darts into the waistbands because no off the peg brand understands the hourglass figure.
I also took some time to repair one of my favourite existing pairs of jeggings, the zip of which had broken. Replacing zips is incredibly easy because the lines and measurements are already there. You simply need to remove the old one, and put the new one in.
It takes half an hour and costs the small price of a zip. And it’s worth the effort to keep a hold of clothing that I like to wear because it fits me perfectly already. I like the feeling of a well worn pair of shoes or trousers. Breaking in new garments can be an uncomfortable chore and I do get very attached to my favourites.
I’ll be moving house soon (if things go to plan) which means sorting through the wardrobes and under bed storage bags and being ruthless about it. I have a feeling I’m going to find more forgotten gems that deserve a new lease of life. And I am wondering if I can manage another year without buying anything from the high street.