Revolutionary actions take on many forms. The colonists started by tossing casks of tea into Boston Harbor; in turn, this action spiraled outward to spinning bees on town greens and the production of “homespun.”
On January 1, 2014, a ‘revolutionary act’ took place in another Massachusetts’ town—The Tailor Project. Can you imagine not buying an item of clothing, a pair of shoes or any jewelry for a year? Amy DuFault, fed up with the ‘fast fashion’ industry, decided to take on the challenge. Armed with clothing already in her closet, she teamed up with her local tailor, Kathryn Hilderbrand, of Stitched. Over the past months, Kathryn has been giving new life to garments–nipping, tucking, revamping, redesigning and tailoring them to fit Amy.
Does your town have a tailor and if so, have you ever taken a garment there? In previous decades, tailors or mantua makers were an essential part of the community.
“The early dress-makers were known as mantua-makers. Their work was supplemented by the seamstress and the tailoress. In “Recollections of Old Boston” a woman born in 1848 states, “All dresses were made in the household; the stuffs were bought in the shops…” “Sewing-women came to the house, and worked as seamstresses do today, but these women not only made the dresses for the women and girls of the household, but a tailoress came also who made the coats and trousers for the boys.” “One good dress of silk or satin or damask for best (which usually lasted for many years) and a very meagre wardrobe of gowns for daily use.”
Marla Miller describes the ‘interconnectedness’ of communities in her book, The Needle’s Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution:
“In the give and take of rural exchange, New England needleworkers, as much as cabinetmakers, housewrights, and headstone carvers, created and sustained communities of commerce imperative to the continued health of that equilibrium, to systems as important to continuity and change in the social, economic, and cultural order as that which existed in the larger commercial world.”
The Tailor Project is both a small town and global project. DuFault seeks to bring attention to the way our clothing is made (“…garment workers rights, fast fashion, toxic effluents in the waterways, textile waste, pesticides…”) and by whom. She invokes “…a call to arms for old friends, new friends and colleagues to join in supporting their local tailor, a profession being pushed out for cheaply made and priced clothing that are much easier to throw away than to mend.”
Aren’t our closets filled to the brim? Take on Amy’s challenge, ‘shop’ in your closet, visit your tailor and sport a garment, perhaps “used” and then fitted for you. Moreover, when purchasing any new item, take note of where and who made it, and only buy from designers that support fair trade and wages. Changes in the industry and our habits start with us, one garment at time.
NOTE: Recently, I participated in two Tailor Projects. First, Kathryn shortened a dress purchased in a thrift store years ago, but I had only worn once or twice due to its length. Now, it is one of my summer go-to dresses. Secondly, I eco-dyed a silk shirt for Amy, dyeing it with natural dyes. This shirt falls into a project that I have been working on for the past two years–b(RE)ce: the revamping of thrift store garments through the act of eco-dyeing (using homemade natural dyes with hand gathered leaves and flowers).
Elsa Shannon Bowles, Homespun Handicrafts, (Benjamin Bloom, Inc, 1972), pgs. 108-9.
Marla Miller, The Needles Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution, (University of Massachusetts Press, 2006), pgs. 228-9. Miller thoroughly examines the global trade world in the last chapter, The Romance of Old Clothes.
Amy DuFault, http://www.amydufault.com/?p=137529, Read on 8/8/2104.