Mending Our Garments


Research Department
April 24, 2018

With Fashion Revolution week underway, we would like to share these stories of the favourite mended garments of V&A staff. From an upcycled wedding dress to everyday garments that have been worn for decades, these fantastic examples show how long garments can last if you love and look after them. They also show the importance of garments in preserving memories of people and places.

Louis Tanner, Volunteer
I love this jacket which I bought at UNIQLO over 20 years ago for £15 on sale. I am always stuffing too much in the pockets and have to sew them up when the seam splits.

Gillian John, Volunteer
My favourite mended garment is a fawn cashmere jumper that had holes in the elbows. I used my son’s very old rejected sweater to make oval patches in red.

Judith Russenberger, Volunteer
This jumper is about 30 years old and has been darned in various places. Being so bright I have not always bothered to match the colours.

Sandra Wolf, Visitor Assistant
I bought these pants in Florence for my 21-year-old son Zac. He wears them constantly and as a result they were ripped in the back (seat). They were mended by a highly skilled tailor who works out of Liberty, Hanne (lovely Swedish lady). What I find amazing is that not only has she prolonged the life of these pants, but she’s added her own touch; it’s a bit as if these pants have two creators. I like that her work is delicate, but not invisible.

I was eager to keep these pants and get them mended because they are very valuable for the following reasons: they cost a lot (about 150 euros), my son loves them and looks amazing in them, and they always remind us of a great family holiday and one of our favourite places in the world (Florence).

Anita Capewell, Volunteer
Purple poppies: This is a lovely Little Black Dress that I bought in Next about 20 years ago. With a flattering cut and timeless ‘60s style, it was a no-brainer dress for smart office wear. When I got bored of it, I jazzed it up with some hand-made appliqué poppies. Not having any red fabric to hand, I used the sleeves from a purple, silk, charity shop dress to create the flower motifs. With the rest of the dress, which was a bit too purple for its own good, I bought some dark blue fabric dye and created a tie-dye, sleeveless holiday dress which I loved and wore many times.

Blue dress: I bought the original knee-length skater dress from a Gap sale a few years ago because I loved the textile and the flattering shape. Fit-wise, it wasn’t ideal and I took the time to adjust the neck-line and tailor the waist so that it fitted really well. But with fashions changing and hemlines dropping, the dress started to feel unfashionable. As I had already spent time tailoring it to fit, I decided to give it a 2018 restyling by hybridising it with a denim skirt that I had bought at a car-boot sale for £1. By adding little denim cuffs, a denim skirt extension and the belt, I’ve given the dress a new lease of life…. I’m not yet entirely convinced I like the longer length; it feels somewhat Victorian and buttoned-up, not quite the ‘full Amish’ but not far off.

Kawaii Alice in Wonderland: The little white apron began life as one of my husband’s white office shirts. When too worn out for work, I purloined it for conversion into an apron for a ‘Zombie Halloween Maid’ costume. Then, when my daughter needed an outfit for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, I was able to pair it with a cheap prom dress from eBay to create a super-cute Alice in Wonderland outfit, with the matching headband fashioned from the sash of the dress.

Lisa Kerridge, Group Accountant
I wanted to share a few pics of probably the most special garment I own for the blog – My wedding dress was lovingly upcycled for me by my best friend. She found a well-loved, slightly tattered wedding dress in a charity shop and created this Pinterest dream for me, based on a sketch I sent her.

We mended lots of the tulle on the underskirt, added extra layers, reattached much of the beading on the bodice, and painted the hem in numerous colours to match my bohemian, South-American inspired theme. The process was so enjoyable we are actually now attempting to turn this into a business, (Shameless plug sorry, but we’re called Feral Bride) with a focus on “customised vintage and colour couture”.

Photographs by Rob Dodsworth

The next post will look at an all-staff clothes swap set up by the V&A’s Green Champions.

Fashioned from Nature

About the author

Research Department
April 24, 2018

I am currently working as the Exhibitions Research Assistant on the fashion exhibition Fashioned from Nature, which opened on 21 April 2018. Before that I worked as a curatorial assistant...

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