There are a few items of clothing that I have owned for a long time. In the attempt to make a change in my buying practices towards a more sustainable model I'm contemplating what it is about each of these pieces that has made them stand the test of time and what accommodations I can make to achieve a more lasting wardrobe.
I honestly can't remember when this Gap cardigan came into my possession but I know it came from a Salvation Army. For me, I think this piece has stood the test of time because it is a classic essential to any wardrobe as well as a very flattering fit to my particular shape. When you find a garment that truly compliments your body it's easy to hang on to it.
This cardigan has been so good to me that when it started pulling holes in the edging I got creative with some embroidery thread and mended it with these subtle details which have made me cherish this garment all the more. Showing care for a thing brings value to it.
These heels are something that again I can't remember when they came to me but it's been at least ten years. I bought them used and have had them re-soled and re-heeled since. I believe they must have been an expensive pair of heels when they were new in the 1980's so their quality is partly what has made them stay. I wore them to my husband's homecoming for each deployment and even though now I only find a reason to wear them once or twice a year I can't find a reason to part with them. They are also a very classic staple item that is true to my individual personality.
Another item that is not high quality but has stuck with me forever is this abalone disk necklace that I bought at a market in Marseilles, France when I was seventeen. True, again there is some sentimental attachment but the natural materials used in this piece make it a very timeless accessory. As well as timeless it is very versatile as it can be worn long, or doubled over or as a bracelet wrapped many times around my wrist. This piece has not lasted because of it's quality but because of it's neutral tones and versatile nature.
Now, these boots have stuck with me for at least ten years and have been worn every day during the winters of several of those years and once travelled around Europe. These boots have stuck because they are high-quality workhorses that are very very comfortable. These are what proved to me that some things save you money if you spend more on them.
So what can I learn from these articles that have been so steadfast in my wardrobe? Quality over quantity is the key and quality doesn't always mean expensive. Truly the root themes can be re-created in new purchases with care and thought. I can make a checklist even.
Is it good quality?
Can I give it the care it needs in order to last?
Does is flatter my figure?
Will it last through to the next fashion trends?
Is it versatile?
And my new favourite.. Was it made with fair trade practices or would it's purchase ease the burden of waste I.E. second hand?
Part of the movement to change the lives of so many garment makers across the world as well as the ecological health of our world is slowing down.
Yes.. we need to slow down a bit. We have been taught over years and years of fast fashion marketing that we need to buy, buy, buy what's in fashion that very second. And as soon as you see one little fuzz ball pill up on your shirt or see that a seam has opened up two centimetres wide, throw it out! let's think about the cost of those practices for a moment.
The fashion industry is the third largest contributor to pollution in the world today. 90% of the garments we donate to charity end up in a landfill and not in someone's closet like we thought they would.
In order to make us want to buy more, companies have driven their pricing and their clothing costs down very low. So low that they cannot realistically be manufactured without the implementation of oppression to the garment factory worker. These workers, whom 80% of are women, are not paid a living wage and are not given healthy working conditions just so our clothing prices can drop. It's a secret that no one wants to tell or hear about because it means change, and not really the fun kind.
But if we slow down and buy less we can afford to buy better. And therefore pour our dollars into businesses who are treating humans like.... well humans. Buying less frequently also enables us to buy higher quality which then creates a very healthy cycle of buying less often at a higher quality when we do and supporting ethical practices as well.
And when we can afford to buy better we can choose to use our well-saved dollars on clothing that was made not in a situation of oppression but in a situation of flourishment, where workers are being paid a living wage, above the poverty level, able to provide for themselves and their family. It's so important. And really what's sad as well is that all of this comes down to how we view and value ourselves.
Do you need that new top to feel valuable, to feel full? Does a blouse with a few unnoticeable wear marks on it make you feel less important? Are you too busy to stitch up a hole in a seam? Rest assured, you were taught to think this way, it's what makes fast fashion business billions of dollars a year. By finding our value in our appearance and undervaluing the cost of our clothing we are unknowingly undervaluing the lives of others.
So maybe a few fuzz balls on my shirt is something I can live with for a few more weeks than I normally would. Those fuzz balls don't make me a lesser person, in fact, they may be a sign that I'm growing deeper as a person. And maybe I will take the time to stitch up that hole and take a little more care in how I launder my garments because as I care for my garments that I own, I'm showing respect to the person who made them.
And at the last, I need to say this: None of this happens overnight. We adopt practices as we allow change to happen firstly in our own minds. So mull it over, let the parts that move you sink in and create change. And above all, have grace for yourself and others in this. This predicament we find ourselves in, this fast fashion monster, it's taken us decades, if not centuries to get here. We must have patience as we climb out and rise into a place of conscious consumerism.