Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Upcycling and Recycling Vintage


I have read many different opinions about using vintage pieces to create new pieces. One thing I want to stress is that I use the tag "vintage" to mean anything in the 20th century, particularly after 1910. Anything older than that I consider antique and have a whole other set of rules I apply.


Some people are adamantly opposed to modifying vintage items, even if they are damaged, because they feel the item has historical significance and should not be altered in any way. Then there are the people who believe that they are creating new art and view the vintage piece as a medium.

I am somewhere in the middle. While I agree that tearing into a vintage item purely to make a profit is not cool, I do believe that things are to be used and it does no one any good if they are locked up in a box collecting dust. If there is a perfectly good vintage item, like a dress, that can be worn, then it should be worn. If it has sentimental value to it, then find a way to display it or have a seamstress recreate the pattern (this can be done without taking it apart) and have a reproduction made. There are infinite possibilities available to utilize a vintage piece.

When it comes to a damaged item, I revel in the fact that it has been loved in its original form and I try to find a way to recycle or upcycle as much of the item as I can. This does not mean ripping it apart and using it for kindling! It could mean adding a few panels to the skirt where the seams have ripped, or making the dress sleeveless because the underarms have disintegrated. Both of these examples I took directly from a Make Do & Mend book I have from 1953. Yes, make-do continued long after World War II because women still wanted or needed to be thrifty and altering old garments was a great way to do it.

So I ask- how is recycling or upcycling any different than make-do and mend? In 50 years, how are we to know that someone won't look at my modifications of damaged goods as a vintage masterpiece? Of course, there are always exceptions, but on a whole I don't see anything wrong with saving a damaged vintage item so it can actually be used.

Thoughts or opinions? I'd love to hear them!

1 comment:

ulysses101 said...

I recycle vintage if it doesn't work in its current format - either because it's damaged or too small for me or just too hideous in the state it's in. I plan on taking a late 1950's dress with a high collar and long sleeves and resewing it so it has a boatneck and 3/4 length sleeves. In its original form I wouldn't touch but resewn into a reflection of the 1950's, I'll wear it as my wedding dress :)

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