Photo from Quilts of Provence by Kathryn Berenson
Although recycling fashion is currently in vogue, this practice is hardly new. In the eighteenth century (and going back in time), the most valuable part of a garment was often the textile itself. Fabric was so expensive that it was reused many times over until it was worn and faded. And even then, it might still serve as the lining for other garments.
In the photo, a jupon (skirt) and caraco (short jacket) from about 1780 are displayed on the mannequin inside out allowing us to see the patching of worn spots or rips.
Another example of how a dress was refashioned is the dress attributed to Marie Antoinette owned by the Royal Ontario Museum. This lovely gown (believed to be from the atelier of Rose Bertin in 1780s) was recut and refashioned in the 1880s to suit the style of the time.
Although the practice of recycling garments is probably what saved this dress, what a shame that we cannot see this dress in its original glory!