Fashion. We all want to look good and feel good and what we wear is so integral to how we present ourselves to the world. In these times of plenty it is easy - too easy - to get caught up in the pace of fast fashion. What is in this week? What is on special? What pieces excite us and tick all the boxes? Oh for that guilty pleasure at the payment counter.
But perhaps it is time to stand back and take stock in these times of plenty. Since fashion manufacturing migrated in the 1980's and 1990's to China the price of clothing has plummeted yet our purchasing of fashion has increased a hundred fold. Four-hundred fold, actually. This means our wardrobes are busting at the seams. This means our wallets are depleted. This means we are burdening our natural resources, filling up landfill and abusing cheap labor. We personally are negatively contributing to all of this if we are unconsciously consuming.
Perhaps it is time to re-think what we buy and how we buy. We do not have to compromise our looks to be more sustainable in our purchases. There are so many ways to take on this issue. First and foremost is to take a hard look at our wardrobes. What do we own? Of what we own how much do we actually wear? Take the time to physically take out every item you own and consider its place in your wardrobe. Every item needs to be filed into piles of :
- Love it, wear it
- Love it, don't wear
- Don't love, do wear
- Don't love, don't wear
- Love but needs mending/alteration.
Time to sort out each pile:
Love it, Wear it
From here your 'Love it, wear it' goes straight back in the wardrobe. These are your staple pieces and probably represent your style.
Love but don't wear
Consider what best to do with each of these pieces - Return to the wardrobe to give them another chance? Perhaps it needs to go into the alterations pile? Gift it to a friend? Sell it on Ebay? Donate to charity?
Don't love Do wear
Lets get real - we all have stuff we don't love but wear anyway. If you wear it keep it - we all need layering items, gym year, pyjamas etc that don't exactly make a fashion statement but do get the job done. It would be wasteful to throw these items away - use them until they wear out then replace them with items that do please you.
Don't love, Don't wear.
This is your no brainer pile. It has to go. But getting rid of these items has to be done conscientiously. See if friends want any of it. Donate the quality pieces to charity. Some pieces may be good only as rags - so literally cut them up and use them around the house for cleaning. (Great for old stained, misshapen t-shirts)
Love but needs Mending/Alteration
Yes - Im talking about those pieces you have been meaning to mend for six months now. Gather these items, get your needle and thread and get to work. Replacing buttons, re-sewing hems can be done at home during your favourite TV show. After, iron the item and return it to the wardrobe, feeling all noble and homely. If a little more is required then take your pieces to a clothing alteration booth and pay to get the job done. If you really do love the item it is money well spent.
How exciting is this? Welcome to your revamped wardrobe! You can take things even further now and remove the off season pieces and store them. In summer, taking out your winter coats, heavy jumpers and long sleeve t'shirts frees space for the stuff you are actually wearing. Again in winter box up those skimpy dresses and tank tops for the season.
I hope this leaves you feeling light and decluttered - but of course you may find yourself rushing to fill the void. Enjoy the increased wardrobe space and pre-plan outfits to make the most of your new wardrobe. Perhaps you will notice gaps in your wardrobe. Don't rush off to buy new items. Consider how any new item will fit in with the rest of your wardrobe and your lifestyle. Consider the brands of the items you love. Perhaps re-visiting these stores should be your first move as the items we wear time and time again are in many ways our most ethical options.
'The ideal result of all this is that you are left with a wardrobe that meets your daily needs and in which you will always find something to wear. You should get to a situation where you are replacing your favourite items as they wear out. This way you wont fall back into the over consumption cycle. Be wary of shopping as a pass time. This becomes dangerous and is not a good habit to get in to. I had to have this conversation with my daughter the other day. "Lets go shopping!" she said. How easy it would have been to say 'let's go!' Instead I paused and said - 'we cant just go shopping - we only go shopping if there is actually something you need.' I'm not trying to suck all the joy from your day - honest! I get it - sometimes it's fun to just hit the shops - but create a list of things to do in town that don't involve mindless consumption. Have a coffee (or a glass of bubbles) and do 'people watching'. Hit the galleries. Find places like LUSH where you can treat yourself to a vegan, packaging free treat like a bath bomb or bar of soap - fun but consumable! Pause and listen to the buskers. There are so many ways to enjoy the buzz of the city (or even the mall) without heading home with bags of stuff you don't need.
Buying less - a lot less - than most of us do is by far the most ethical fashion decision you will ever make. But perhaps you have actioned this and have become a minimalist fashion consumer. How then how do you take it further and support the most ethical brands? Try this resource to help you decide where your want to put your fashion dollar when buying from the bigger Australian brands. You can also get offline and start local. Go to markets to discover new local designers, browse through vintage markets and why not even arrange a mini clothing swap event with some close friends? Have fun, think outside the box (or fast fashion retail store) and relish your new slower, more conscientious fashion choices.
What about handbags?
This advice also applies to your handbags! Think about your lifestyle and ensure your bags meet these needs. For you the one and only factor might be practicality. Perhaps a cute backpack is all you need.
Perhaps your first priority is a sturdy and roomy work bag.
You would probably want to supplement this with a lighter evening and weekend bag.
Perhaps you love colour and fun in your wardrobe and like handbags to accent this style. You might like to splurge on a just-for-fun item - and this is ok if it is in keeping with your lifestyle and it will actually be worn!
Get the bag or bags that suits your needs and lifestyle then, just like all your wardrobe items - replace them as they need replacing or add a bag only after deciding you need it and will use it often.
Most importantly - have fun!
By Rebecca Hughes
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