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I've found reasons on this site for Lupin's battered 'Professor' briefcase even though he hadn't taught before, but are the descriptions of his clothes an inconsistency? Can wizards not fix clothing even though a child can fix a pair of spectacles and another has a good crack at fixing a nose? Perhaps Lupin isn't quite as embarrassed about his condition as we think and is crying out for help?

Slughorn's clothes are similarly described to show his fall from glory or decline into old age.

Apart from the characterisation, is there a reason that wizards can't fix clothes, or is there an alternative explanation?

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    To affect that shabby "cool professor" look... – VapedCrusader Apr 24 '16 at 7:52
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    I'm guessing a wizard (or witch) skilled in those housekeeping spells that Tonks’ mother is so adept at could probably magically darn or fix broken clothes, just like Hermione could fix Harry’s broken glasses. Whether making old, worn clothes look the way that did when they were new is sufficiently different to require a different spell (or is perhaps an area where no spells have yet been discovered) is a different matter. Things age and wear in the Potterverse like in the real world, and we never see any kind of Novum factutum or Renovo spell used anywhere. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 24 '16 at 8:15
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet - I should have added some quotes, will try to find them soon. But Lupin's are described as "patched" at points. Surely you should be able to repair rather than patch, even if not renew. – ThruGog Apr 24 '16 at 8:21
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    @ThruGog I would guess that depends. If the clothes get torn, Reparo should ostensibly be able to fix that. If they just get worn so thin that holes start to appear, that might be a different thing. ‘Patched’ to me is more likely to be the latter than the former, particularly in Lupin’s case. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 24 '16 at 8:23
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Simply put, because the reparo spell can't renovate faded materials or make poorer wizards wealthier.

@Janus Bahs Jacquet made this point well. You could 'fix' a rip in some robes using reparo but this wouldn't do anything to renovate, improve or increase the longevity of older items. However, I think the crux of the question is less to do with reparo and more to do with the role of wealth in the wizarding world.

In relation to Lupin, the condition of his robes has a clear role in the story: to underscore how poor he is. Let's recap what we know about Lupin's robes.

The stranger was wearing an extremely shabby set of wizard's robes which had been darned in several places. He looked ill and exhausted. (Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5, The Dementor)

Lupin has less money to spend on robes and the like because of his identity as a werewolf:

"Dumbledore's trust has meant everything to me. He let me into Hogwarts as a boy, and he gave me a job, when I have been shunned all my adult life, unable to find paid work because of what I am." (Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 18, Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs)

This point is underscored when Lupin's appearance is compared with that of the other teachers.

Professor Lupin looked particularly shabby next to all the other teachers in their best robes. (Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5, The Dementor)

I think we can safely say that Lupin's robes were shabbier because he has led a life of exclusion and forced poverty in comparison to the (presumably) well-paid life of a Hogwarts teacher. It isn't that Lupin simply isn't as good as the others at performing reparo.

Firstly, then, Lupin's robes tell us something about his wealth status.

Additionally, I think his relative poverty says something when compared to his predecessor as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.

Gilderoy Lockhart, however, was immaculate in sweeping robes of turquoise, his golden hair shining under a perfectly positioned turquoise hat with gold trimming. (Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 6, Gilderoy Lockhart)

Out-of-universe, this seems to be a point that Rowling likes to make about her characters. Lockhart was always immaculately presented and yet turned out to be something of an idiot. Likewise, the Dursleys care deeply about how other people perceive them as a family and yet are cruel and callous behind closed doors. Lupin's appearance reflects well upon him as a character. He may seem scruffy at first but turns out to be a very trustworthy, loyal and sacrificial person in the course of the series.

In-universe, it seems likely that Lupin would much rather spend whatever gold he has on random magical creatures like Grindylows rather than on robes, haircare products and the like.

Secondly, then, Lupin doesn't care much about his robes and that reflects well on him as a character.

Finally, to return to the point about reparo. It can't change the fundamental nature of something, only return a substance to its original state. We see this most clearly with Ron's dress robes. They're described like this:

He was holding up something that looked to Harry like a long, maroon velvet dress. It had a mouldy-looking lace frill at the collar and matching lace cuffs. (Goblet of Fire, Chapter 10, Mayhem at the Ministry)

The robes are just plain nasty. Later Ron successfully cuts the lace off with a Severing Charm. However, he can't help that his robes suck. The robes aren't broken, just manky, so reparo would get him nowhere.

Thirdly, then, reparo can fix broken things but can't undo tatty-ness.

Once again, this comes down to wealth.

"Well, they're OK!" said Ron angrily, looking at Harry's robes. "Why couldn't I have some like that?"

"Because...well, I had to get yours second-hand, and there wasn't a lot of choice!", said Mrs Weasley, flushing. (Goblet of Fire, Chapter 10, Mayhem at the Ministry)

The reason Ron and Lupin have scruffy, worn-out clothing is because they are poor.

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    Another good answer. So, I suppose it's actually less a minor plot issue and more an example of good plotting. She's created a world where you can fix things easily enough, but not refresh things, thus keeping poverty an issue. It's very well thought-out. – ThruGog Apr 24 '16 at 19:27
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    Exactly. There are different scales of cauldrons, brooms, pets, wands etc. depending on how much money you've got to spend. – The Dark Lord Apr 24 '16 at 19:54
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The Reparo spell seems to work by magically sticking matched pieces back together. That clearly wouldn't work on clothes that have been patched to cover over wear marks or frayed edges since you've not got the original pieces to hand.

‘Ron!’ said Hermione reproachfully, and she pulled out her wand, muttered ‘Reparo!’, and the glass shards flew back into a single pane, and back into the door. - Goblet of Fire

and

Ron’s grew four very thin spindly legs that hoisted the cup off the desk with great difficulty, trembled for a few seconds, then folded, causing the cup to crack into two.
‘Reparo,’ said Hermione quickly, mending Ron’s cup with a wave of her wand. Order of the Phoenix

I'm assuming a housewife would do a better job, so the clear implication we can gain from his initial description is that Lupin is a bachelor, not well off and someone who is not overly concerned with his appearance.

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    So, as agreed by @Janus Bahs Jacquet, the idea is you can repair but not renew. Would explain the Weasley's home quite well I feel. Even fits with the nose fixing. Not sure why you couldn't but nevermind that I suppose! – ThruGog Apr 24 '16 at 10:31
  • There's also the possibility that the charms (reparo, et al) can only be used so many times. – pleurocoelus Apr 24 '16 at 13:10
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    The Reparo Charm - fixes the Coliseum (see the link Richard provides) but can't darn your socks. – ThruGog Apr 24 '16 at 14:35
  • "someone who is not overly concerned with his appearance" true! Or perhaps that is exactly the appearance he wants! – user31178 Apr 24 '16 at 16:34

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