The Togs Blog

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cheap skill

I am so ignorant. I had never set foot in Primark until the Bitch Lit publishers sent me there for a top for the photoshoot. Two summers ago, when I was producing my play O'Leary's Daughters for the 24:7 Theatre Festival, as we walked across town to our rehearsal venue, Hayley Considine (who played one of the daughters) waxed lyrical about Primark, how cheap yet how stylish! Well, Hayley was newly graduated then and still in effect a poverty-stricken student, so I smiled indulgently and said nothing, thinking, You won't get me through those doors to buy badly-made tat churned out in sweat shops.

Well, I can't say I'm ever flush myself, and I get my clothes in charity shops, and pride myself in paying little for beautifully-made garments, one of which I photograph here.

Now, I know about these things. My mother is a whizz needleworker, like the mother in my recently-finished novel, but, unlike the daughter in my novel, I don't despise her for it - I can appreciate a blinding skill when I see one. And unlike the daughter in my novel I let her teach me to sew. (Though I did have my moments: the time for instance, I tried to make a tailored tweed suit and ended up throwing it on the floor and jumping up and down on it.)

Well, this fine linen blouse is beautifully done. Tiny buttons, neatly sewn, beautiful buttonholes, the neatest gathers and every edge properly finished, not a loose thread in sight. It was only when I went into Primark the other day that I realised that its brand name was Primark's own, and that the four pounds I paid for it was probably not much less that what the blouse cost new.

Well, I know that Primark's 'ethical score' is not as bad as it was, but I wonder about the woman who sat at the machine in Thailand or wherever, spending the kind of care and skill over that garment which my mother would do. For what wages? And only to have it treated as a disposable item, dropped off at the charity shop when the following week's fashion replaced it...


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