The art of visible mending: Transforming your clothes into statement pieces

It can feel sometimes that we're living in a world filled with disposable objects. Everything from our clothes to our electronics seems designed to serve a purpose for very short periods of time. Fortunately, more women are starting to rediscover the lost art of repairing older items. They're taking damaged items and giving them new life, which is more cost-effective and can give a real sense of achievement.

This isn't to say you have to take a strictly utilitarian route to repair, though. Particularly when it comes to clothing, there are opportunities to make old pieces not just functional again, but also give them a fresh sense of style. By getting a better understanding of the art of visible mending, you can restore damaged garments creatively.

What Is Visible Mending?

Let's start with what visible mending means. Usually, when people mend clothes, the aim is to conceal that the damage has occurred. Visible mending takes the opposite approach. It's about highlighting your repair handiwork. In essence, you'll seek to not conceal the imperfections but rather to use them to accentuate the style of the garment.

Mending boosts sustainability by extending the lifespan of your clothes. The truth about fast fashion is that problematic practices support its convenience and affordability. These cheaply-made products are bad for the environment both due to excessive production processes and the waste disposability generates. Also, there are often abuses of workers' rights throughout the supply chain. Visible mending enables you to reduce reliance on harmful practices by restoring and enhancing your existing items.

Another reason to start visibly mending is it turns simple repairs into an empowering act of creative expression. This isn't a new idea. Visible mending stems back to the 17th century with the Japanese art of Sashiko. People's need to patch garments to last longer was augmented by creative forms of stitching. This made clothing both more durable and culturally meaningful.

Nowadays, visible menders use a wide range of repair styles and materials to enhance their wardrobes. Indeed, if you have an entrepreneurial streak, you could utilize your skills and ideas to repair and resell garments.

Choosing the Right Foundation

When you're getting started with visible mending, it's wise to be selective about the garments you use as your foundation for creativity. While most fabrics can take some form of mending, it's worth focusing your time, energy, and resources on clothes that are high enough quality and are likely to get a significant amount of extra time out of your repairs. You don't want to spend hours patching pleather items that are likely to continue flaking over time.

A great place to start mending is with types of clothing that endure. Jeans are a good example. When you take care of good quality denim it can last for years. It also stands up to patching when your jeans get holes or worn spots. Leather and cotton duck jackets are similarly durable materials that withstand the elements even after repairs. Their timeless style can make them suitable as statement pieces for your wardrobe or reselling.

It's not just main clothing items that make good foundations for visible mending, though. Accessories from durable materials are also excellent candidates. For instance, you can creatively darn holes in woollen scarves. Canvas bags are great for graphic patches, too.

Options that Enhance

Once you have quality items to visibly mend, it's time to choose the approach you want to take with the repairs. Different techniques are effective for certain fabrics, styles, or creative expressions. It can also help to think about what kind of a statement you want your mending to make on the garment.

Do you want to offset dull greys or blacks with a pop of colour or perhaps create an image that utilizes meaningful symbolism? Getting to know the techniques alongside having clear intentions can drive your visual mending to have the right impact.


Embroidery can be an expressive way to mend holes in fabrics such as denim, cotton duck, and linen. You can choose threads in a range of colours to create a detailed image that you feel accentuates the garment. You can also experiment with different types of embroidery stitches to get the effect you want on the clothing. Straight stitches can be great for forming stars and other shapes, while satin stitches seamlessly produce blocks of colour.

Natural dyes

Dyeing is an often overlooked technique in visible mending. You can use it for customizing patch fabric. It's also good for performing spot and complete recolouring due to fading. Creating your own natural dyes for this process can be environmentally friendly, creatively fulfilling, and give you more control over your shades. Some visible mending influencers, such as Katrina Rodabaugh, have been sources of inspiration for using foraged plant dyes and pigments from garden-grown plants.


Patches have long been a mainstay of stylish visible mending. There are different approaches to this that you can adapt to your style or the effect you're trying to achieve. You can use fabrics with patterns to contrast with an otherwise plain garment. Perhaps consider experimenting with expressive shapes rather than just covering a hole with a rectangle.

Greater accessibility to print-on-demand services also means you can produce personalized images on swatches of fabric or embroidered patches. The latter can be a great option if you want to represent a cause or promote your brand with visible mending projects.

Visible mending can be a great way to extend the lifespan of your clothes and give them an extra personal style. There are various approaches you can take to it, limited only by your imagination and the fabrics you choose.

In addition, once you start visibly mending, you can pass these ideas and skills on to friends, family, and even social media followers. You'll not just be sharing information, but also boosting the positive environmental and social effect visible mending can have.

Guest blog written by Ainsley Lawrence

Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer who lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.

Header image from pexel.

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