If we buy cheap clothes we should learn to mend…

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This phrase came to mind last week when I returned a £3 dress my youngest daughter had bought at Primark. Admittedly she had bought it in the sale but after only wearing it twice the fabric tore at the back. I had considered mending it myself but as the material was a type of netting I knew the sewing would look clumsy. At first I hadn’t even thought about returning it for a refund as it’s a hassle to go back to the store. However I realised it was her Christmas money and, in the end, the store assistant was very helpful.

I began to wonder how many times people return cheap clothing to High Street stores because it’s damaged. I’m not just singling out Primark as there are plenty other shops that sell cheap (and not so cheap) clothing that falls apart. (Last summer I posted here about my personal experiences with buying school uniform).

In the early ’90s I studied in the US and bought the dress below from Nordstrom, a well known department store:

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I can’t imagine the dress was very expensive as I was living on a small budget. However after wearing it a couple of times the hem came undone. I really liked the dress and was gutted to have to return it. But much to my surprise the store had its own in-house seamstress. She mended the dress and I picked it up as good as new. Twenty years later I still own it and the hem has is still good! (I just had a quick look online and it still seems that Nordstrom has its own onsite tailoring and alterations service).

Wouldn’t it make sense if UK stores offered the same service? Instead of having to return an item because of a fault wouldn’t it be better to have someone on-site mend it? I imagine shops would argue that it isn’t cost effective but I do wonder what happens to all those tonnes of imperfect clothing that customers return?

In the meantime if we want to keep on buying cheap and badly-made clothing perhaps we should reduce our environmental fashion footprint by learning to mend them when they (inevitably) fall apart.

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