I thought I’d bought no clothing in 2.5 years but when I thought hard about it and went through my wardrobe to work out the percentage of secondhand clothing (about 80%), I realised that I have bought clothing during that time – I bought replacements for items that were beyond repair. Here are the details:
In 2015 I bought footwear:
- black heels to replace heels that didn’t actually fit me (they’ve gone to the opshop)
- sports shoes to replace a pair that were 6 years old and dangerously worn out
- 2 pairs of sports socks to replace the ones with gigantic holes in them
- flip flops to replace my one pair that broke (I tried to convince the shoe repair guy he could fix it, but alas, not so)
In 2014 I bought:
- 2 bras to replace my worn out maternity bras (long overdue)
- boots to replace irreparably worn out winter shoes (again I tried to convince the shoe repair guy he could fix them, but not so)
- 3 pairs of black socks because I had completely worn out my others
- one set of Winter pyjamas to replace ones that were so worn the material kept ripping (they’re now in the rag bag)
In 2013 I bought nothing after Winter so that brings me to the point 2.5 years ago when I splurged and bought some things to update my wardrobe. During that Winter I bought a jacket, scarf, 2 jumpers, jeans, and a top. I believe it was also early in 2013 that I bought two semi formal dresses for weddings and engagement parties. Prior to 2013, the details of my purchases are similar to that I have described already.
Evidently, I wear out my clothes and I don’t shop for much more than I need. This is because I don’t like materialism and consumerism and my self-worth is linked to much more than my appearance.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people express an authentic identity through their clothing – just as I am through my clothing choices – but I don’t think expressing yourself should mean a new outfit for each occasion, or the latest fashion in sportswear each year, or getting around in branded clothing. In fact, an obsession with brands says to me that your self-worth is so fragile that it must be purchased and approved by others. I find these people to be the ones who comment negatively on what others wear, subconsciously to reinforce the correctness of their own clothing choices. I feel sorry for these people.
The constant consumption of clothing, especially cheap clothing, is ‘fast fashion’ and it’s the result of capitalism; the idea that happiness comes from ‘stuff’ and that stuff represents success. The aim of capitalism is to make you feel self-conscious and inadequate so you buy whatever new thing is being sold.
“In a society that profits from self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”
When I came across this quote by Caroline Caldwell (aka @dirt_worship) earlier this year, I fell in love with it. On one level it describes, for me, the realisation that I must embrace who I am and stand up for what I believe in to be happy, even though this means being outside the norms of society. On another, it’s about appearances and liking oneself enough to reject fast fashion because you understand the true costs behind the profit.
Do you know the costs at which your clothes come?
The production of cotton and other materials are resource intensive and it might surprise you to learn that fashion is the second biggest polluter of our planet, after oil! These high levels of pollution affect people too.
Factory worker rights can be violated and child labour still exists. Minimum wages keep families in poverty forcing them into excessive overtime. With women making up 85% of garment workers, children are often separated from parents and sent to live with other relatives.
In Australia we consume so much clothing that only one third of the clothing we donate can be sold in charity stores. One third is exported to developing countries which destroys local trades, and the remaining third is sold as cleaning cloths or goes to landfill!
There is so much waste and so much destruction from fast fashion which is ultimately the result of capitalism. You need to know the problem to find the solution. I recently watched the May 2015 documentary The True Cost which hits home how deranged the system is. I won’t lie, I have a strong emotional reaction when watching the trailer for this film. The juxtaposition of two worlds is heartbreaking and I am disgusted.
“We must move away from clothing being made and marketed as a disposable good. We must account for the earth’s resources and we must dignify the life and work of human beings around the world” Andrew Morgan, Director of The True Cost.
At this point I must confess. I still have more clothes than I need. The excess comes from relatives who give me their unwanted clothing. I take what I like and give the rest to other people or to opportunity shops.
So in 2016 I will continue to like myself and rebel against fast fashion by:
- acquiring as little as possible – maybe nothing (refuse)
- personally finding new owners for the clothing in good condition that I will never wear (reuse). Maybe I’ll participate in a clothes swap or something similar
- making new clothing from the items I can’t find homes for so that I or another family member will wear them (upcycle)
- making into other usable things around the house (repurpose) e.g. cloth bags, dish cloths, rags, and creative projects.
I’ll document it all to see how I go and report back this time next year.
UPDATE 20/02/2017: I’m pleased to say I did all of these things without even noticing. I did not buy a single piece of clothing which makes it 3.5 years since I bought something other than footwear and underwear. I did, however, acquire 4 items of clothing from someone else cleaning out their wardrobe. BUT I reduced the items in my wardrobe by half by personnally finding people that wanted to wear it – I didn’t just take it to the op shop. It still amazes me that my wardrobe can be so full from living off other peoples excess clothing. I’d have to say, the biggest learning for me in 2016 was that I don’t have to take on other people’s waste. I was accumulating those clothes because I didnt want to see them wasted, but in the end, they were being wasted in my wardrobe because I wasn’t wearing them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still happy to have the opporutnity receive unwanted items from other people but I no longer feel the need to ‘save’ it all.
Be a rebel too:
- Build resilience skills and like yourself enough to reject messaging that you are inadequate and must fill a need by shopping for more.
- “Buy less, choose well, make it last” Vivienne Westwood, Fashion Designer.
- If you must buy, buy secondhand.
Together our decisions will make a difference.
Here is another documentary on the clothes the West throws away.
I’m really interested to hear your comments about this post. Do you have way more clothes than me, way less? Could you shop as little as I do? What happens to your clothing?