The Beauty of Falling Apart: A Fashion Love Story
Posted on April 16 2020
I keep a collection of special projects tucked way back in the recesses of my closet - the bridesmaid dress I sewed for my sister's wedding. A selection of the one-of-a-kind repurposed garments I once created for my Etsy shop years ago before I became a mother. School projects from my semesters attending UW-Madison's Textile & Apparel Design program. I dug through the collection recently to find a project I had made just for me but hadn't used in years. This is my 'Fashion Love Story'. Let's start back at the beginning.
I don't know that I have ever considered myself trendy or fashionable. My style is a bit more quirky with a heavy emphasis on comfort. I learned to sew and knit sometime around middle school and spent my high school years cutting apart anything and everything I could - from my shoes to my hair to a box of fabric my mom had stashed in the basement. I remember figuring out how to take a pair of jeans in my closet to make a rudimentary pants pattern and making a pair of board shorts and pajama pants (board shorts were a cool thing back then, ok?). I made skirts with unfinished seam allowances and using random shoelaces as a drawstring (photographic proof below). I used a striped seersucker fabric on the diagonal because I liked the way the stripes looked well before I knew what "on the bias" meant.
Sometime between the end of high school and the beginning of college, I found myself owning a yellow cotton hooded sweater. The sweater itself was pretty unremarkable and I can't remember if I borrowed-but-never-gave-it-back to a friend or if I bought it from the college-town staple Ragstock that sells vintage tees alongside cheaply made trendy clothes in a bursting-at-the-seams and slightly dirty environment. The fact that I don't know where it comes from just adds to the unremarkableness of it all. One day not too long after I'd acquired it, the sweater - like most cheaply made clothes - began to fall apart. Most people at this point would deem it unwearable and toss it in the garbage or in their next goodwill donation bag. I am not most people. I am the type of people who will save damaged clothing until I can figure out what it wants to become next.
I had just picked up my knitting needles for the first time in years for my Off Loom Construction class. That's when the idea hit me. To cut apart the Unremarkable Yellow Sweater at the seams, unravel the yarns that came apart easily and in a wonderfully wavy kind of texture, tie the yarns back together again frayed end to frayed end, and knit the sweater back together into a scarf. I intentionally used large knitting needles so the scarf would have any airy quality to it and I knit the scarf wide and long so it's perfect for bundling up in the cold Wisconsin winters. A year or two later, I sat in for one of my favorite professor's classes while she was traveling and, as a way of saying thank you, she gifted me a beautiful woven cashmere scarf that matched my hair color perfectly. So for the last several years, my yellow knitted scarf has sat untouched in the back of my closet. Waiting to be rediscovered.
I don't know if it's because the weather can't decide if it's winter or spring here in Wisconsin (it keeps randomly snowing!) or if it's the uncertainty of a worldwide health crisis, but I thought of my yellow scarf the other day and decided I needed to go dig it out of the closet. I just want to be wrapped up in coziness these days. I also often wonder how much of what I wear is self expression and how much is a way of protecting myself tightly in a cocoon. Either way, this scarf is perfect. To me, this scarf represents not only a different phase of my life but also creativity and resourcefulness and transformation. How beautiful the act of falling apart and coming back together again can truly be.
Fashion Revolution Week is next week (April 20-26) - it's the week where we take a deep dive into our closets, ask brands "Who made my clothes?" and overall dedicate a week to garment workers worldwide. It's also a week to commemorate the thousands of lives lost in the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013. Have a favorite piece of clothing? Write your very own "Fashion Love Story" and share it with the world.
Follow along on our social pages to learn more about the makers behind Fair Indigo clothing and join us this Saturday for Shaping Fashion, a free and virtual event showcasing ethical brands in the Midwest. Hope to "see" you there!
Designer + Social Media Marketing Manager, Fair Indigo