Spent some time with needle and thread this morning, repairing my spouse's pants. But first I had to blow the dust off the tray that holds my sewing supplies.
It's rainy and gloomy today, what my mother used to call "a day for mending socks." A day for staying indoors, sitting by a window, working at some undemanding yet productive, soothing task. I can still see her, darning egg in hand, bent over an old sock while our Andalusian maid regaled us with stories of Holy Week in Malaga as she folded the laundry.
While struggling to thread my needle I thought of the two pairs of socks I had thrown away in as many weeks. Each pair had one hole in one sock, but they were different colors, so I couldn't combine the remaining good socks into a pair. I remember thinking, "I should mend this hole," and then quickly, "Life's too short to be mending socks." Before I could change my mind I dropped them in the trash, and now they're on their way to a landfill, along with 85% of clothing purchased in the U.S. on any given year.
I've been feeling some clothes guilt lately, having bought two dresses in the same month as the Bangladesh factory disaster. But one of those dresses came from Gudrun Sjoden, a Swedish designer who, on her website, advises us to wear our old clothes with pride and to wash them only when they are in fact dirty. Otherwise, she counsels, we should just air them out and spot clean them. Needless to say, her clothes are manufactured in observance of fair-trade and ecological standards. When you buy one of her outfits you feel that you're actually contributing to the well-being of Mother Earth.
Nevertheless, I know that the kindest thing I can do for Mother Earth is to keep wearing the clothes that are presently in my closet over and over and over, until I die. If I stop washing them so often and begin to mend them, I can probably even pass them on to my descendants. This is how it was for most of human history, after all, with textiles being saved and reconstructed to fit the next generation.
If current apocalyptic scenarios come true, those days may come around again. Good-bye then to clothes as entertainment, as expressions of a spring day's mood, as symbols of momentary enthusiasms. Hello to clothes as mere weather protection.
But maybe there will be some good times in exchange. European lyric poetry began with the chansons de toile, the songs that women sang while sitting at their weaving a thousand years ago. Maybe when the economy collapses for good and the climate changes beyond recognition, on rainy days women will again sit together by a window, mending socks, telling stories, making up songs.