My grandparents lived through the Great Depression (1929-1933). They always kept in mind:
Use it up,
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without
One grandmother sang in the Metropolitan Opera chorus in New York before marrying. She had sumptuous dressy and evening clothes from that time. Here’s a typical dress from about 1915.
Notice how much fabric there is in this dress! With skillful re-tailoring, this clothing saw numerous incarnations during her life, and some even became dress up clothes for us grandkids.
Contrast that approach to today’s fast fashion. Incredibly cheap items of clothing, often made abroad by poorly-paid workers, sometimes in unsafe conditions, are used for a few months or a year, then discarded.
A recent BBC article reported that “...the average American throws away 37kg (more than 80 pounds) of clothes every year. And only “13.6% of clothes and shoes thrown away in the US end up being recycled.” They also say that “...globally the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions.”
Clearly, fast fashion (which Google dictionary defines as: inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends) is unsustainable. And most of us prefer a sustainable life-style.
I’ve been part of the problem, falling for the cheap and ultra-fashionable. It’s often hard to resist the siren call of a new outfit as armor, redemption, mood booster, a signaler of fashion savvy. I’m now challenging myself to be part of the solution.
Here are my self-challenges:
1. Don’t buy unnecessary duplicates. If I already have 3 pairs of black yoga pants, don’t buy another until one of these pairs is un-repairably worn out.2. If they are worn out, look for other things to do with that pair of yoga pants: If the cuffs are worn, can I make shorts? If there are holes, what about mending (invisible or exuberantly visible). Can the legs become cleaning cloths? Cute stuffed animals?
4. Focus on basic clothing pieces rather than good-for-one-occasiononly items. That black sleeveless knit maxi-dress? It looks great on the beach, maybe with a colorful scarf? It looks just as great mid-winter, with a deep red velvet jacket! And that same velvet jacket looks fabulous with jeans and a white V-neck T-shirt. Interchangeable parts are key!
3. Thrift Stores: Experience the thrill of the hunt! While some of what’s in these stores is clearly fast-fashion worn out and not resurrectible, there are some marvelous treasures! Just today, my older daughter was wearing gorgeous nearly-new navy blue Lily Pulitzer skorts - purchase price $12 at a great local thrift store!!
5. We’re expecting our first grandchild (granddaughter) in a few weeks. Little girls’ fashions are so adorable that I could easily go nuts buying them. But I remember how fast kids grow. When ours were tiny, they often outgrew clothes after only a few wearings, or even no wearings! I’m going to be going after these clothing items, the gently used items from other babies with tons of good use left in them!
If you want to borrow some of these challenge items for yourself, I’d be thrilled! And I’d love to hear how it goes!