The reappropriation of pre-worn clothes and accessories, historically reviewed, includes a range of practices, from straightforward methods of unhemming garments and reusing the raw material, perhaps turning it to the less worn side, as would have been practiced in medieval times, to the complex scaffold of trades in the nineteenth century. These industries recycled all manner of clothing, with machine-like economy, through specialist and discreet skills. Perhaps the most technologically advanced was the production of "shoddy" cloth in the North of England from rags of wool, cotton, and indeed all fibers (except silk) which became the staple fabric for the ready-to-wear garment production in 1834.
An exploration of the formal and informal ways by which secondhand clothes reached the resale market should highlight that some apparently informal ways may indeed be considered formal, especially in the case of servants receiving their masters' "gifts" of clothing, which were actually considered a part of their remuneration.
In fact, the secondhand clothing trade could be said to have actually diminished in complexity over the last two centuries. It used to consist of many separate businesses employing various skills necessary for the economical recycling and remarketing of different categories of actual garments, as well as the raw material of cloth.
But the origins of the advanced complexity of the secondhand clothing industries of the nineteenth century can be discerned much earlier in records of the extensive exchanges of secondhand garments amongst the Western world's urban populations during the latter half of the seventeenth century.
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