Thoughts On Two Splendid Chance Encounters, At A Less Splendid Place

The following post is a bit different from the usual ones. It is not about historical sewing exactly, but about a fashion-related topic that has made my inner seamstress slightly thoughtful of late. Perhaps some of you have made similar observations and can relate to it a little:

Generally, I am no big fan of discount outlet stores. This is not because of the prices. As a student, I am as glad as anyone to find affordable clothes at a decent quality level. And it is not the clinically commercial atmosphere, which you would not find at a charity-run, thrift store. What really makes me wince, is the way many costumers treat and handle the discounted clothes and other fashion items. When I see them being tossed lovelessly into carts to be wheeled off in piles to the fitting room, only to be tossed back out again when they do not fit.

After all, these clothes were once cut and sewn by someone, somewhere. And, since some of them are actual designer items, they were put together with care, in more than just a few minutes of assembly work. And, even it is just a t-shirt or pair of jeans that is tossed around by a customer, it feels to me like someone’s work is not being valued enough. Unknown as this person may be, he or she would not want their product to be handled this carelessly. If it were one of my hand-sewn items being wrangled into a shopping cart like this, I would most likely cuff the culprit around the ears…

The modern empire dress I saved at a discount outlet, after mending.

The other week, I posted a modern empire-line silk dress on the blog’s Facebook page. I bought it at just such a store, because I pitied it. It is of very fine Thai silk, and almost entirely hand-finished. When I walked past, I saw how someone had wedged it onto the hanger quite sloppily, so that the lining was being stretched out. With a slight pang of compasson, I picked up the dress and saw that the fine fabric was snagged and worn through around the seams, from obvious mishandling. So I decided to adopt it, to save the fabric from even more damage. When I walked out of the store with my purchase, I felt as relieved as though I had just rescued a sad-eyed kitten from a kill shelter, extreme as this may sound.

The other day, I went shopping with my family, and we visited another discount store. Luckily, we only had a look around the household floor. Here we passed a smallish bargain book section. And, among the small pile of sewing books, I found this:

A book I had not expected to encounter in the bargain book section…

The find made me wonder whether the store wanted to appease last time’s ill feelings, since this is one of the contemporary sewing books I have always wanted to own. It contains a concise primer on all dressmaking techniques and a series of classic, adjustable skirt, dress, top and trouser patterns. But, so far, I had not found the English edition at a reasonable, affordable price. Now, here it is and I am fairly chuffed.

Yet I am still not very happy about the impact of discount stores. Of course, they serve a purpose and are a reliable source of income for the companies running them. But then again, they do not encourage respect and conscience for fashion, and its creators, in the customers. Personally, I now prefer second-hand or charity thrift stores to find affordable clothing items, which have already been loved and cared for by their previous owners. :)

I hope you did not mind this, somewhat ranty, post. It is something I usually do not do; but I think this had to be said. Next time, we will go back to the business of historical sewing and its joyful prettiness. =)

All the best, Nessa