We wear stories
Past year has been about dresses and skirts. With this intention, we bought the tie & dye, panelled pinafore maxi dress from Love The World Today for Noor’s 5th birthday. This soon became her favourite dress. I guess it made her feel fancy yet comfortable. This dress has been extensively used to dance and prance around in throughout the day.
Earlier this year, a friend loaned us The Clever Tailor by Srividhya Venkat to read over the summers. It is the story of a thrifty tailor who uses his creativity and imagination to make something for each member of his family. He repurposes the same piece of fabric to make something for his entire family thereby creating a beautiful kahaani (story) that would never wear out.
For me, this was a beautiful story of upcycling, of creatively reusing an item, to keep it in use indefinitely.
A few days back, I noticed that the bib part of the pinafore dress was getting tighter. My daughter pulled the straps tightly and one of the buttons came off. My immediate thought was to retire this dress, maybe put it in the donation pile. In today's day and age, it seems easier to just go out and pick up new things.
My mother, masi and granny would often talk about how they wore each other’s clothes, borrowed baby clothes for the next child in the family. However, somewhere during our parent’s aspirational generation, the practice of repurposing (upcycling), exchanging and passing on items to others (swap or preloved) faded. Our generation grew up always wanting more, shopping for therapy and throwing away regardless of the environmental costs and concerns.
I was no different. I decided to donate the dress. I washed it and put it out to dry and started browsing for new dresses. However, little miss sunshine wasn't ready to part ways with her dress. She picked it up from the clothesline and tied the loose straps into a knot at the back, and happily got busy playing in her halter dress. I noticed that she wore her shirt on top of the dress to keep warm. The earthy mama angel took over my thought process and I started browsing Pinterest on ideas to upcycle the pinafore maxi dress into a skirt.
Originally, I thought that I could DIY myself around this upcycling project. But, I don't know how to mend, never bothered to learn it. In fact, mending as a skill isn't taught anymore in homes and schools. Repurposing, Repairing and Refashioning are becoming a lost art.
The greater challenge that I faced was that this dress came with invisible pockets, and like me, my daughter likes her dresses with pockets. Usable pockets to sneak in her pretend house keys, her handkerchief or few coins, crayons and chalks. I wasn't about to lose these pretty pockets while trying to refashion the dress myself. So, crippled by my own lack of sewing and mending skills, I went to my local tailor. I explained to him my intentions with urgent passion. He smiled and said, "Madamji, yeh toh hamare roz ka kaam hai. Aap tension mat lo!" (Madam, we do this repair work on a daily basis. You don’t stress, we will take care of it)… And voila, in 10 minutes a totally rad skirt was refashioned with pockets and all. I call it the Super Speedy Skirt!
My daughter was over the moon with this dress to skirt refashion. She twirled around in her skirt for a long time, pairing it with different colors. This basic transformation came with a personal parental realization that being happy with what we have is an important lesson that we as parents need to imbibe and transfer onto our children.
Half year later, the dress that became a skirt and the skirt that had been worn way too many times, got a rip. My daughter still wanted to keep wearing her skirt. You know how well-worn clothes are softer and comfortable. They feel nice and warm against the skin. The same was the case with this skirt. We retired the skirt from outdoor box and made a space for it in the home wear box. However, months later she had completely worn this skirt out. So, taking clues from the book ‘The Clever Tailor’, I decided to get the skirt repurposed into a doll dress and some handkerchiefs.
The best part about upcycling is that you are always giving a new use or value adding to an old item. It is essentially giving something old a new meaning! That’s exciting for sure.
Also, there is an indescribable feeling of reverence towards the workmanship of the tailor who helps one in making something broken, whole again. This time too, our local tailor stitched the doll dress with same patience, as he would do for any human garment. This time, Noor sat at his shop observing while he sewed Velcro patches onto her doll dress.
I have seen the LTWT dress go through these transformations, thereby extending the lifecycle of the clothing. I would like to think that we too were weaving a beautiful kahaani (story) with each upcycling idea with this dress. I have seen firsthand the joy that it brought to my daughter. I am documenting this so that when she grows up she can read this and relive the story and also in the hopes that it inspires readers to start and share their upcycling ideas and initiatives with their favorite LTWT clothes.
[believes that people around the world have an innate desire to dream, share and express. She is an earthy mama storyteller and lifestyle blogger at Jugniology and a Birth Photographer & Filmmaker at Storiously. She is a prenatal and babywearing dance teacher at GroovaRoo with Jugni , it is her passion to spread the joyful energy of rhythm and movement to babies and their families in India.]