Today's post is an excerpt from a post I made over at Wardrobe Refashion. Please excuse the re-use, But I have every intention of going further into this over the next week or two, and it seemed a good way to start here, too.
I've been looking into and reading up on the devaluation of the home arts in American Society (Yup - we're going deep again!) I don't know anything substantial about other societies, so please feel free to chime in and tell us if what I'm about to say is relevant, or not relevant, where you live! Please - I want to know!
The thought is that, in light of the crashing American Economy, folks seem to be finding their way back to the "home arts" in droves. They're sewing, thrifting, gardening, repairing rather than replacing, and driving their cars longer than they normally would (since when is a two-year-old car "old", anyway?) My point is that enough people are finding economy that we could nearly call it "trendy" around here.
Now, this shouldn't be such a big deal. During World War II, nearly every home and vacant lot had a victory garden growing food for the war effort, so more of the farmers' food could go overseas to support the troops. There was no call for victory gardens when we invaded the Iraq and Afganistan. Still isn't. we've been told to buy our food and support the farmers.
During WWII, there was mass rationing of commodities such as silk, aluminum, steel, eggs, and butter to support the troops and the war effort. There has been no call for that here now, and people get upset if prices go up by a tiny amount. We've been told to go shopping to support our manufacturers so they can make more.
Now we have banks collapsing, major corporations are going under, and credit is dried up completely unless you have significant cash on hand already, despite the bailouts by the federal government. Can you guess what's coming?? We've been told to go buy stuff to support the failing Economy.
Stay with me here, I'm coming back around to what we do here, promise!
The thing we're not seeing in the news is that there are really two Economies here in the US, and just about every other industrialized nation: the Formal Economy, and the Informal Economy. The Formal Economy is the one we keep hearing about in the news, the one that's ailing and we need to go buy from major corporations to "support". The formal Economy is Big Business and Corporations, and making money for the execs and investors is key.
By contrast, the Informal Economy is smaller, and exists in probably every society on the planet. It's the trade, barter, talent, home economy, or whatever you call it where you are. It's buying small, local, trading, doing favors, loaning things (and money) to friends and neighbors, and generally benefits all involved by the fair and just barter of goods and services. Have excess tomatoes in your garden this year? I'll help you paint your house for a bushel of them! That kind of thing. I once traded a doctor's treatment for painting her office for her. We both benefitted. I also traded sewing a Tudor-style court outfit for a man who plumbed my new bathroom, some years ago.
As people lose their jobs and can't find new ones, a problem especially prevalent in here in Michigan (the official unemployment number is 14%, but when you add in the people working part-time when they want full-time, and the folks who have just given up, the number went over 26% a month ago!) we find more and more people bartering. More people are shopping at the thrift stores. And more people are planting gardens.
So what, right?
Here's the so what part: it's entirely possible, that with a contraction of the Formal Economy, more people will go hungry than during the Great Depression of the 1930s, simply because of the lack of self-reliance and home arts. during the Great Depression, it was common, normal, and somewhat expected that if you had any yard at all, you grew some food. You knew how to sew, how to be frugal, and how to take care of your own. And in a worst case scenario, you most likely had family somewhere on a farm who could take you in.
That's not going to happen now. I've seen clothes thrown in the trash for want of a zipper. I've had people bring me shirts at the alteration shop because they couldn't sew a button on it for themselves! Most people don't have gardens now, and wouldn't know how to grow, can, or preserve the food if they could grow it. It's just not common knowledge anymore.
And then there's the public message: Go Shopping.
If I'm hungry, and don't have a job, why should I care about the Economy? Because Everyone will suffer if the Economy fails, we're told. In other words, we're being asked to sacrifice our credit ratings and families, and potentially our houses (to foreclosure) to save the Almighty Economy, so Others won't suffer.
I think everyone here at Wardrobe Refashion already "gets it." It's not about being trendy, jumping on the bandwagon, or even necessarily about getting unique fashion. It's about doing things for yourself and your own. It's about pride of accomplishment, making do, making up, and getting off the treadmill of buying "stuff" that supports large corporations and underpaid overseas workers. It's about keeping it local, keeping it real, and developing a skill set that has gone unrecognized since the Economy was invented (by men, to their standards and benefit, and using criteria they deemed important).
Home Arts disappeared even further with the women's movement and Power Women in the 1980s. The feminist women's rights movement got co-opted and turned into something it was never meant to be: it was supposed to be about freedom of choice in lifestyle, and it became anti-home. A woman had no value if she stayed home with her children, and that has remained in force until very recently with the trend of young housewives and mothers reclaiming the value of raising children and making a home.
In reclaiming the home arts as valuable, worthwhile, useful, and fun, we're reclaiming our informal economy, our home economy, and putting it back into circulation.
It all starts small. With one person. One pillowcase turned into a dress that a child is proud to wear. Made by hand is made with love.
And with Love, we can rule the world.