Darn It: Repair and Rewear

By Natalie Bencivenga


June 23, 2021

I have to admit. Whenever something I wore would tear, I would toss it. I would think to myself, “I can’t fix it and now I can buy something new.” Wasteful, I know. But, over the years, I have learned to find value in the things that I am lucky enough to have and not to quickly throw things away that are a little more loved than others. 

However, I have (yet!) another confession to make. Other than sewing buttons back on, I have no sewing skills whatsoever. I have, instead, asked my mother and husband to hem for me, fix straps on my dresses, repair little tears along the bottom of my skirts, and fix holes in sweaters. While I could feel smug for doing my part, it’s not really me that’s doing the work. 

I remember when I was little. My grandmother, Pasqualina, would sew me dresses when she would visit from out of town. In particular, I remember she made me a beautiful Easter dress when I was 11 years old that I wore with so much pride. The idea that someone could look at a pattern, find fabric, and create something out of nothing was truly remarkable to me. My mom made all of my Halloween costumes, I had bathing suits made by her friends, and I wore her old dresses around the house to play in. The women in my family were ahead of their time when it came to sustainable fashion.

And not a moment too soon. Globally, 80% of discarded textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated. Only 20% of our clothes end up reused or recycled. What’s worse, clothing that ends up in landfills can sit there for 200-plus years, and as the garments decompose, they emit methane — a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon.


And while I recognize that individual actions are not enough to change this trajectory — we need a global response from corporations and governments — I still feel as though I need to pick up the torch and learn how to sew on my own. 

I should know how to do this. I’m in my 30s. This is embarrassing. If anyone else is feeling this way — and believe me I won’t judge — then take a look at the list below for some resources so that we can contribute to saving our clothes, buying less and enjoying more of what we have. If that isn’t eco-chic, I don’t know what is! 

Learn how to sew online HERE or locally HERE.

Want to learn to knit? Check out this upcoming festival!  

Overwhelmed and not really ready to DIY? Visit Urbana Boutique in Oakmont. The shop has a tailor coming in every week to repair and customize your pieces! 


Natalie Bencivenga is a regular columnist with The Green Voice Weekly Newsletter and hosts Pittsburgh Earth Day's VEGED; Earth Inspired Eats