A Question for the Responsible UPcycler
"Restoration is something I am exceptionally passionate about because I believe that it should extend from clothing, to housewares to homes themselves. If there are people willing to use a thing as it is, it should be left." --Julie Bergmans Fab Gabs Vintage Co
The availability of good, wearable vintage clothing is rapidly depleting. Artistic souls compulsively create. The discerning question is when should our vintage treasures be restored and when should they be let go into the workshop of the creative UPcycler?
I tend toward the compulsive creative type and love a challenge to rethink and reinvent. Julie Bergmans of Fab Gabs loves vintage clothing too. Her perspective takes into account the depletion of vintage clothing and the responsibility to preserve it. Read her thoughtful analysis of when you should restore and why. Thank you for sharing this Julie! This is a repost of an article that ran in Revival Fabrics.
We live in a world where being green is becoming a necessity. In fact, many environmentally friendly choices have shifted from seeming inconvenient to simply being a habit. The campaigns of the 80’s and 90’s to “reduce, reuse, recycle” have largely done their job. I’m on the bandwagon – green is good!
Lovers of vintage everything know that reusing old things is one of the best ways to recycle in style – whether you’re decorating your home, or yourself! When green becomes bad, however, is when “green” buzz words are used to describe the destruction of pieces of history. The two words most commonly heard in the world of altered vintage are “upcycled” and “repurposed.” These words put a positive spin on something that isn’t admirable at all.
Definitions of UPcycled and Repurposed
Upcycled = vintage altered in such a way that the intrinsic historical value is irreparably destroyed. It is sad, but true - this term is often used to describe perfectly good vintage items that have been damaged to make them more appealing to modern sensibilities and current trends.
Repurposed = (vintage) that was once used for one purpose, and has been adapted for another, either by redesign of simply use. Generally, a term that is acceptable for small bits & pieces of vintage items, but potentially dangerous on a larger scale.
Now, there’s a lot of worn out vintage clothing and textiles out there. You’ll never catch me getting on someone’s case because they decided to alter a dress that was shattering, or because they made one good necklace out of two or three broken ones. That’s responsible reuse – refashioning, if you will. It is one of my preferred methods of dealing with imperfect vintage.
GOOD, positive words for use of vintage things include: restored, renewed, rebuilt, revived, refashioned.
Think Renewed, Rebuilt, Revived, Refashioned
Denise Morden of Unforgettable Vintage is the best person I know to represent responsible repurposing and refashioning. She restores every piece she can to a fine, wearable state. Broken pieces, lonely components, and irretrievably damaged hats/garments are turned into beautiful creations that often look entirely authentic to the era, and ALWAYS evoke the feel and mood of the eras they are pieced from. Her Egyptian revival jewelry is a particularly excellent example.
At her business, no wearable or restorable piece is ever sacrificed for the sake of art - vintage is already art & history in one. But per her motto - nothing goes to waste. I recommend that anyone interested in "repurposed" pieces take a look at her inspiring creations.
Preserve Fashion History
Vintage is already wonderful. The pieces are a part of our history - both fashion history and social history. Moreover, there is a finite amount of it. Destroying something beautiful, historical and hard to find in order to satisfy the fickle tastes of now is irresponsible and short-sighted. Deconstructing it isn’t art – it is destruction. Upcycling isn’t improvement. And repurposing is frequently misused and misguided. Before you pick up your scissors, grab your glue and that bag full of random lace, think; is this item useable/wearable as it is? Can it be restored to wear/usability? If the answer is yes, then there’s no need for upcycling or other destructive measures. And there’s plenty of damaged vintage seconds you can work with instead.
If you love to create, look for components. Bits of jewelry. Broken clothing. Damaged décor. You can’t “repurpose” them – raw materials are intended to be used! But please, no more “upcycled” vintage gowns with the skirts chopped short, feathers glued on and cheap bedazzling. Believe me, in this green-minded buying culture, the pieces will still find a place with someone who will reuse them exactly as they are. Enjoy your eco-friendly collecting and crafting! Many thanks to Revival Fabrics for allowing me to share my thoughts.
Fab Gabs Vintage Co.
Thank you for allowing us to repost this article for the preservation of vintage clothing.