When shopping at the Goodwill Outlet bins, I never know what I’m going to find. For each found treasure, there are probably one thousand pieces of drek. I’ve gotten really good at filtering out the Forever 21 and the Kathy Lee junk, but sometimes a garment will surface that makes me stop and think. This is such a piece.
I posted this photo on Instagram, and got some really interesting comments. One person asked if it mattered when the ties were so ugly. Another pointed out that it could be the work of a student, as some schools’ textiles programs assign a tie reworking project.
My objection to this skirt has nothing to do with the ugliness of the ties, though there are some ugly ties there. I’m not concerned with the haphazard construction. And at this point in time, I can’t see that there would be much of a market for these late 1970s and early 80s ties. What really bothered me was that I’m very certain that 7/8 of each of the sixteen ties and 3/4 of the denim from the skirt ended up in the trash, all for a skirt that was probably never worn.
A lot has been written lately about how much textile waste each person living in developed countries generates in a year. I’ve read everything from sixty to seventy-five pounds of waste per person. At that rate we will soon be buried in fiber.
There is no way that the Goodwill in my area can sell in their retail stores all the stuff that is donated. Much of it never even reaches the store, as items thought to be unsalable go straight into the bins. Items that have been on the sales floor for over a period of time are culled and put into the bins. Even after spending hours in a bin that is sorted through by dozens of eager shoppers, there is a lot of textile items that are left unsold. At that point the leftovers are baled and sold to a rag house.
There is a great article in The New Republic about how these raggers work. Basically, cloth items are sorted into three groups: the really good stuff and vintage which is sorted and sold to vintage and other resale shops, the okay stuff which is sent to developing countries, and the stuff that is so bad that all they can to is sell it to be made into rags, felt, and other reprocessed cloth.
The article mentions that there are people in these rag houses who are trained to spot vintage clothing. I’ve read elsewhere that some of these companies actually let vintage shop owners come in and sort through. I do hope that all the great things that I see, but can’t justify buying, end up in a nice vintage store somewhere.
There is never a shortage of neckties in thrift stores, and my Goodwill is no exception. I imagine that ninety percent of the ones that go through that place end up at the rag house. But at least those ties will be recycled into rags or whatever for industrial use, and will not land in a landfill somewhere like the unused portion of the skirt ties most likely did.
But what about the project itself? Is there any hope for the dated and seemingly ugly tie? What can be made with all the millions of out of style neckties?
Actually, I think there is some hope for a similar project. In this case, not only was the choice of ties unfortunate, but the execution of the project was poor. Instead of overlapping and stitching the ties, they could be placed edge to edge and zig-zagged. They could even be left unstitched, to make a dancing skirt with a lot of movement. But most importantly, some actual pretty ties could be used, like those from Liberty of London. But then, how does one come up with sixteen Liberty neckties?
As I spotted this skirt, another shopper also spotted it. In one of the great cross-overs from digital to real life, this shopper was Jessamyn, who is a reader of this blog and who recognized me. We ended up in a conversation that included the question of what can be done with unwanted neckties. She mentioned that she had made crazy quilts using some of the wonderful silk ones she had found. And that is a good point, for though it seems like the thrifts are full of the tacky ones from 1982, there are also plenty of fabulous Italian silks.
I recently mentioned that I always buy the Liberty ties because they make great bias binding and can be used for small projects. Reader Nancy was so kind as to send to me two lovely Liberty ties she had found. It’s just too bad that not all the old neckties were made of such wonderful fabric.
One last thought: I can’t help wondering if the ties that I consider to be ugly and pretty much worthless will someday become desirable. It has happened before with neckties from the 1940s.
Interior look at how the ties were attached to the skirt.