DIY: the new fashion statement du jour

Reconstructing, modifying, and accessorizing attires with the ‘indie’ flair

Now, you can create this ‘hip’ look in the comfort of your own home.
Now, you can create this ‘hip’ look in the comfort of your own home.
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When I was a child, my mother banned the word “bored” from my vocabulary. Perhaps it was this, or the influence of my grandmother’s love for handcrafts, that led to my sisters and I becoming serious crafters.

We each have different niches—Kate’s collages leave conspicuous piles of paper clippings around the house, while Emmy’s lopsided halter tops and zigzag seams have given way to a funky skirt made of neck ties and tank tops made of duct tape. In the summer before grade seven, I started my first (and so far, only) ’zine. It had a circulation of about three copies, but that didn’t stop me from continuing to create whatever idea popped into my head.

You can imagine my joy, then, when I looked up from my pile of frayed denim and old Seventeen magazines to find that crafting and “do-it-yourself” (DIY) projects had suddenly become cool. Apparently it’s not just for young children and grandmas anymore!

Suddenly everywhere I looked there were modified t-shirts, recycled jewelry and cute indie boys knitting on the bus. Speaking of indie, somehow the DIY trend has developed alongside an explosion in the popularity of indie music. Perhaps it is a further development of the idea of “independent,” not solely from record labels but also from consumerism and relying on the mainstream market.

A great aspect of this trend is its ability to recycle old materials in an environmentally-friendly way. Altering old t-shirts into funky halters, skirts or underwear is very popular. Old hoodies can become this season’s over-the-shoulder bag, a silk shirt can easily become a head scarf and old costume necklaces can be retooled to create pretty earrings. The DIY e-zine thriftdeluxe.com even features bowls made from old vinyl records and picture frames made from tin cans.

Crafting is not only about the end result, though—it’s about the process. Thinking of a new idea and taking the time to follow through on it, just for fun, is a mental and physical break that we could all use. It is about getting outside the mindset of midterms and essays, and sitting down to play cut-and-paste for a few hours.

Ulla–Maaria Mutanen, a PhD student at the University of Helsinki has created what she calls “The Crafter Manifesto” as an investigation of the drive to create. My favourite statement from the document says that “The things people have made themselves have magic powers.” Mutanen goes on to explain that crafts take on a certain significance or meaning as they are being created.

As with anything cool, large retail corporations are greedily eyeing this trend, hoping to cash in on it. While it should be obvious that these companies are not sitting in their basements, hand-stitching sequins onto homemade-looking shirts, many people find it tempting to pick up their “métiers faux” because it is quick and cheap to do so. Having lived in our fast food society though, we should know that nothing quick and cheap is of any value.

The biggest problem I have with corporatizing crafts is that the crafts become uncool in the process. Once Wal-Mart starts selling guitar-pick earrings that have never touched a guitar, or a “modified” t-shirt that was never any other shape, these items lose all the uniqueness that made them special in the first place.

I think my sisters have found the solution to the infringement of large companies into DIY territory. When they see something they love on the Urban Outfitters website, you’ll hear them say, “I could make that!” And the thing is, they do.

There are a lot of crafting websites available if you want to get in on the fun but aren’t sure where to start. The best beginner’s site is ohmystars.net, which offers tutorials, a glossary and additional links.

Crafting is not something I want to see become a passing fad, rendered out-of-date by a mass reproduction of someone else’s creativity. By saying this, I’m not trying cordon off crafting for only those “indie enough.” This return to ourselves makes something beautiful out of a thrift store cast-off and the opportunity to think more creatively is a wonderful thing. I do not want to see it sold to a big corporation so they can do it for us.

—With files from ullamaaria.typepad.com, ohmystars.net/craft, thriftdeluxe.com

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