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‘Make do and mend’ is my mantra – just like the royals

PUBLISHED: 22:05 18 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:16 19 November 2018

The Prince of Wales on his 70th birthday - the prince is a great recycler of clothing, wearing outfits that date back decades, a bit like Sharon Griffiths

The Prince of Wales on his 70th birthday - the prince is a great recycler of clothing, wearing outfits that date back decades, a bit like Sharon Griffiths

Sharon Griffiths says seeing some of the Royal Family recycling clothes by wearing outfits from years ago is refreshing and something they have in common with her

Who’d have thought that I would have so much in common with the Royal Family?

Not, alas, the many homes, servants, posh cars and helicopters. No, what we seem to share is a certain parsimony over clothes.

In an interview to celebrate his 70th birthday last week, Prince Charles revealed he still has scraps of material from each of his suits, so they can be repaired if needs be. Excellent! He has suits and shoes going back to the 1970s, a jacket from 1969, and has been seen proudly wearing an ancient waterproof – much ripped and mended.

The Princess Royal, his sister, earlier this year appeared in an outfit she first wore in 1980, and is famous for recycling, altering or just still wearing outfits she has had for years.

The Duchess of Cambridge is shaping up well, too, as she “recycles” many of her outfits – ie wears them more than once.

Now I love clothes as much as anybody and can rarely resist the call of a new silk shirt – but I’m also ridiculously reluctant to throw old favourites away. Maybe it’s an age thing. My generation was brought up by parents who’d been through the war. “Waste not, want not” was bred in the bone.

So large sheets became small sheets became pillow cases became tea towels became floor cloths.

And clothes were never thrown away. The wardrobe bulges. I can only sling T-shirts because I use them as dusters.

Prince Charles joked that he was in fashion “once every 25 years” because what goes round, comes round. I put a bright jade green linen jacket away for over 10 years and when I wore it again strangers came up and asked where they could get one just the same. (“Penny Plain 2001” was the answer.)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has been wearing the same bright silk jacket to the Bayreuth Festival every year for 18 years. If it looks good – wear it again… and again…

But she’s a rarity.

Now, after single-use bags and plastic, we’re getting very close to single-use clothes. They’re so cheap, it’s hardly surprising. Once fashion hit the supermarkets, it was easy to fling a shirt or dress in your trolley along with the baked beans. Cheap and cheerful and disposable. Even children hardly wear hand-me-downs any more.

New styles pour into shops and websites every week. The temptation is hard to avoid – which is why throwaway fashion is clogging up landfill sites and causing serious problems.

My favourite raincoat, German, is over 30 years old. True, I had to make minor adjustments after I’d removed the massive shoulder pads, but that was easily done.

Then this week the zip fell off a waterproof jacket that’s just three years old. I emailed the makers, Seasalt, and asked if they provided a repair service.

“No,” they said. “After three years, your jacket’s coming to the end of its natural life.”

What? Three years! That’s nothing. In my book that’s still new. It’s barely been worn.

So I paid £20 to get a new zip. That jacket has at least another 10 years in it. Possibly more.

Prince Charles and I, we know how to make clothes last.


A piano is for life, not just for Christmas...

So how many new superstars will be born as a result of the John Lewis ad, do you think?

It tracks back through Elton John’s life to his early days, 
first recordings, school concert until the Christmas morning when he was a little boy and his gran bought him a piano. Though actually, apparently, 
she didn’t buy him one at all – she just happened to have one and lived next door.

Still, the ad is a lot more appealing and a lot less sick-making than many of its predecessors. And a piano could be a much more life-expanding gift than the latest techie toy.

On the other hand… A piano takes a lot of commitment. All those lessons. All that practice. All that nagging. You might end up without a superstar but with a big piece of expensive furniture used just to give a home to pot plants and photographs.

Nice idea. But before you rush to John Lewis with your money, remember – a piano is for life, not just Christmas.

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