There’s a somewhat on-going discussion about sustainability in fashion on some blogs, and in light of Franca’s excellent first post on it, I thought I’d throw in my two cents. Given my tendency to go on at length (and I very much appreciate those of you who stick around and read to the end!), I think this is going to be a new series.
So, the framework. I try to make my wardrobe mesh with my ethics of consumption, and this boils down to a few main points:
- I generally avoid buying clothes made by companies I know (or by dint of their prices, can reasonably suspect) flout labour standards. I read labels.
- The majority of the clothes I buy are second hand.
- I also make my own clothes, though living in Canada (and being spectacularly unable to knit) this is considerably more practical for summer clothes rather than winter. I’m also having an increasingly limited time to devote to it, though I am trying to make it a priority.
- As personal preference, I look for clothes and fabric made with natural fibres, though this is certainly not without problems of its own.
- I try to keep the amount of clothes I buy small, partially because I don’t have a lot of money to work with in the first place, and partially because I just don’t need a huge wardrobe.
- Whatever clothes I have, I wear the clothes until they fall apart (and then often still keep them for rags or camera socks* or what have you). I alter and/or repair clothing if it’s at all feasible.
- When I have clothes that don’t fit and can’t reasonably be altered, I give them to my friends. If they don’t want them, or aren’t really worth lugging around when I visit them, they go to the Goodwill.
Let me make it clear that this is about my personal ethics, and I’ve no interest in shoving it down other people’s throats. I’m not the Great Moral Arbiter Who Knows Best For Everyone, and I’ve no intention of acting like it. Conversely, this is not an attempt to hand myself a cookie and say “good for you! you’ve gained some arbitrary moral high ground!” I sometimes get reactions like either of these when I say I’m a vegetarian, and it’s an interesting parallel. I am by no means perfect, and what’s a good decision for me is not necessarily what’s a good decision for someone else; I have much, much more productive ways to use my energy than to judge everyone around me by my moral tape measure. Plus, there’s that whole glass houses adage.
So here’s my plan: I think I’ll split this up into four further posts, to keep each of them to a reasonable length (ha!). Tentatively (and this is subject to change, depending on where the conversation goes — please weigh in!) the posts will discuss:
- Consumption of fashion
- Sustainability of thrifting, and other forms of recycling
- Home sewing and fabrics, and
- The social impact of (un)sustainable clothing.
I’ll talk about how I approach each aspect, but also how I see that fitting into a larger, societal context. Sustainability is at it’s heart a societal issue, so talking about isolated efforts misses the point and the big picture. There’s way, way more written about this than I can cover, and I’m sure I’ll miss stuff along the way, so, as always, please chime in in the comments. I’m really curious to see how other people approach this issue, and I’m curious to see what resonates with other people.
* I got this trick from my Aunt, who apparently used it to smuggle a camera in to golf tournaments in her purse. Orphan socks make excellent camera (and other small electronic device) holders — they’re squishy enough to give some protection, fold up very small when not in use, and if you have memory sticks or extra batteries or what have you they fit in too. And plus it’s comical.