I know they’re there – lurking in your wardrobe, or that guilty carrier bag under the bed. The could-wear-don’t-wears. The gapers, the saggers and the rider-uppers. The tops that don’t work with any bra known to man and the skirts that are a few inches too long to be flattering. Clothes you put on every few months, thinking, “This! Why don’t I wear this more often?” and then take off again minutes later, because you’ve remembered exactly why.
But you don’t get rid of them right away, do you? No, because that would be admitting defeat. They stay in your wardrobe for a while because they cost too much, they’re almost right and, one day, you’ll probably become the kind of woman who gets things professionally tailored. You know her – she’s also the kind of woman who hand-washes her bras, uses suede protector on her boots before it pisses it down and sends a handwritten thank-you note if you have her round for takeaway pizza.
I am not that woman. Instead, I am the woman who decides 20 minutes before leaving the house that she wants to turn her full-length jumpsuit into culottes, without anything as sensible as a sewing machine to hand. I regularly cut both hems and corners. My outfits are held together with determination, basic GCSE sewing skills and, occasionally, in a really desperate moment, superglue.
Relax, though – I’m not about to urge you to turn your old jeans into a funky tote bag or craft a stylish evening dress entirely out of ties. You’re busy, you’re not 15 and you’re not Andie from Pretty In Pink, going to prom in a bedspread – I get it. But, with an estimated 235 million items of clothing ending up in landfill this spring alone, the time might be ripe to rescue your not-quite-wearables, rather than doing another guilty Zara haul.
My scrappy kitchen-table craft sessions might not be Coco Chanel’s idea of chic, but they get things worn. They make charity shop and vintage buys so much more feasible. They allow me to wear friends’ cast-offs and adapt old favourites along with the changing winds of fashion and my own changing body. All too often, we feel as though, if the clothes don’t fit perfectly, then we somehow don’t deserve them – and when it can so often feel like the high street is actively conspiring to mock us, we all need a few tricks in our arsenal to make clothes work with us, rather than against us. You’d be surprised how much difference a tiny, lazy fix can make.
For example, combatting boob-gape on anything with buttons, by simply sewing it up. I’m going to write that again, so you can process the revelation. Just. Sew. It. Up. All those shirts, blouses and button-down dresses that strain across your chest, no matter how voluminous they are everywhere else? One small stitch on the middle seam; one giant leap for bosomy womankind.
I have very few rules when it comes to getting dressed, but one is: clothes that require extra clothes beneath them ‘for modesty’ are bollocks
You still need to be able to get in and out, of course, so check wriggle-room as you go, and only sew between the necessary buttons – but, frankly, a few seconds of amateur escapology in the evening are worth it for a day spent safe in the knowledge you’re not flashing your bra to man in the Post Office. (I hoard those hotel sewing kits with pre-threaded needles, to save on squinting and swearing time.)
And, if you really can’t sew it up, there are press studs. Hooks and eyes. Iron-on velcro. These are all, I promise you, better solutions for gaping buttons than giving up and resorting to that eternal symbol of big-titted defeat: the camisole. I have very few rules when it comes to getting dressed, but one is: clothes that require extra clothes beneath them “for modesty” are bollocks.
Then there’s Wundaweb. I feel so strongly about the empowering potential of Wundaweb (also called Bondaweb) that I’m often tempted to stand outside the Tube station with a sandwich board and a megaphone.
If you’ve never used it before, it’s a roll of mesh tape adhesive that you iron between two layers of fabric to fuse them together. It works almost instantly, costs approximately 50 times less than a sewing machine and, if you’re really a woman after my own heart, you can do it with your hair straighteners. The day I cut my jumpsuit into culottes (if you thought that was a hypothetical example, it absolutely wasn’t), it was Wundaweb that saved the day, sealed the hems and got me out the door in time for my friend’s wedding. A wedding where I immediately blew my cover by yelling, “THANKS – I CUT THEM OFF AND WUNDAWEBBED THEM AN HOUR AGO!” at anyone who complimented my outfit. Or didn’t.
Use it to stick down collars that won’t stay put and cuffs that you want rolled back just so. Use it to fix hems that have come unravelled and wrap dresses that threaten to fly open in the middle of a christening. Use it the day you pull an old dress from the back of your wardrobe and feel inspired to turn it into a matching top and skirt – then use it again the day after, when you realise you made a mistake. Congratulate yourself on your creativity, and on saving a few unwearables from the recycling bag.
And, while you do all that, sing the lazy gal’s anthem:
“Because maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me…
I’m a sewing pleb – you’re my Wundaweb.”