(Video link here.) We love this video from 1943 found on the exhibition page of Mending Traditions, Cooper Hewitt Museum’s article, Make Do and Mend: the Art of Repair. The Make Do and Mend message was advertised by governmental campaigns as a patriotic duty in the 1940’s when materials were in short supply due to World War II. At 1:07 we meet chicly dressed Mrs. Quilty on the way to the bathroom…and at 1:59, Mrs. Weston modeling a suit made out of her husbands dress clothes.

Virginia del Giudice

Long out of favor due to the glut of cheap clothing, products and materials, mending and repair is on the rise again.

Repairing our damaged garments and textiles is an opportunity to rethink our relationship to our everyday objects. It may sound a daunting task, but it can be as simple as replacing a missing button, removing a stain, fixing a lining, hemming a pair of pants, or patching a hole.

Sally Schneider

British sociologist Jonathan Chapman‘s book Emotionally Durable Design  puts forth idea of design that seeks to create a deeper bond between people and their material things, and foster a strong relationship between them. Increasing the durability of relationships between consumers and products will reduce the consumption and waste of resources. His compelling gist:


Waste is symptomatic of failed relationships.


We’ve been realizing that Chapman is right. We DO have a strong relationship with the things we actually mend (and consequently not much of a bond with stuff we’re willing to throw away). We thinking that an in-it-for-the-long-term bond should motivate what we acquire from now on.  

Waste is symptomatic of failed relationships” applies to our inner selves as well, not JUST in how we view stuff in the outer world, but in our view of ourselves. We can waste our personal resources and gifts by not taking care of them, or by having no relationship with them altogether. Repair, then, can mean, working to repair, or express, our hearts.

Maria Robledo

With thanks to eagle-eyed Susan Dworksi

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4 replies on “Make Do and Mend: Gentle Inner and Outer Activism

  1. Love that old footage. It reminds me of my childhood when my grandmother’s old lambswool coat turned into new collars and cuffs on my sisters’ and my winter jackets, courtesy of my talented seamstress mother. We weren’t thrilled.

    It also reminds me of a Jason Aldean song my son used to blast from his room, proclaiming the philosophy of a real country boy. The lyric goes like this:

    I sit back and think about them good ol’ days
    The way we were raised and our southern ways
    And we like cornbread and biscuits
    If it’s broke round here we fix it!

  2. Years ago, a mensch of a woman said to me, “There’s a big difference between making do and settling for something.” I heard it only as a platitude at the time, not appreciating it for the insight it was. Today’s post reminded me that nowadays, I seem to grasp it.

    For me, settling for something always involved feigning, denial and little to no delight. Making do, on the other hand, gives rise to a quickening that jump starts imagination, lots of trial and error and a good deal of pleasure and ownership when a brilliant little solution arrives. Agree. Those are definitely the possessions, moments and relationships that I don’t want to throw away.

  3. If we threw away things
    once broken,…
    we would all be,

  4. I too think that the way we take care of the subjects, which surround us, is indicative of our general attitude towards life. I strongly support re-purposing and reusing of old furniture, clothes, etc. as I believe this is a respectful way of bringing them back to life and not turning them into waste.

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