I like slow processes. For someone who even occasionally reads my posts on this blog, this certainly isn't new information. However, I did want to reflect on a big slow something—Slow Fashion October. As a brief overview, the project is meant to encourage mindfulness about what we wear. Personally, I have a wardrobe that is almost entirely fast fashion. I'm discouraged by my shopping habits over the last few years, and yet, I'm still prone to indulge them.
Fast fashion is the clothing industry's version of planned obsolescence. I have to ask myself: will another $10 shirt increase my happiness? What is the real cost to the people who rapidly make our cheap clothes to keep up with our demand? I'm not intending to guilt trip anyone. I can't change my habits of the past, I merely want to be more intentional in the future. This intentionality is also the motivation behind my spending hiatus.
As for the fast-fashion items in my closet right now, I'll apply the "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" mantra. I mend smalls tears in my clothes. I swap anything I don't love with a friend or take it to a reputable thrift store. When I make future purchases, I want to think about origins and wearability potential, rather than push these uncomfortable thoughts to the perimeter of my mind (for the sake of a bargain).
All this being said, anything beyond fast fashion is more expensive. I think this article has a reasonable approach to this conundrum of coordinating the price, availability, and sustainability of our clothing:
So should we spend our dollars only at small businesses and avoid the cheap, often-exploitative brands altogether? It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s still idealistic and financially inaccessible for most. Elizabeth L. Cline, in her 2012 book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, proposes some solutions to worker exploitation and overconsumption, such as teaching proper mending and laundering techniques, sewing one’s own clothing, buying vintage, and shopping at local stores. Cline also suggests “shopping less and with more intention.” In 2013, the average American bought 70 pieces of clothing a year—more than one piece a week. But instead of buying four cheap tops each month, we could spend that cash on one well-made shirt by an indie designer. It’d require a shift in the way we think about our wardrobes, but it’s not an impossible goal.
Lest you think this shift is an impossible one, think again. Just ask my mom about my shopaholic history, or take a look in my high school and college closets. It's taken several months to settle into a healthier relationship with clothing—months where I practice avoiding impulsivity, months where I leave stores empty-handed and a little proud (for outwitting myself or the system, I'm not sure which). It's a work in progress, and it is work. It would be easier to snap up a shirt I thought was cute, rather than saving up for higher quality items. But when I choose to put back the shirt, I never regret not buying it. Slow Fashion October offers this reminder: When I think more, I regret less.
As for the handmade aspect of Slow Fashion October, I have a few particularly favorite items worth mentioning. The handmade items in my wardrobe that receive the most love have a few qualities in common: they're easy to wear/style, one-of-a-kind, and I feel like myself when I wear them. I handle handmade pieces more carefully, wash them tenderly, and honestly, reach for them more often.
My most-worn favorites, pictured in the photos above from top to bottom:
- Elastic-waist skirts: over the last few years, my mom made me three skirts (we made the pink one together, I think). I throw them on with a tee or a tank, and a belt to cinch in the waist. A cardigan goes on top, if the temperature's right. And I think of her whenever I wear one.
- A cowl: the Nick cowl, which is adjustable and fairly season-neutral, even in Texas.
- Two shawls: My Imposter's Shawl and my Mara Shawl (I wear them as big, cozy wraps, both inside and outside). Also, they're the perfect travel accessory and serve as a makeshift blanket on a plane.
- A sweater: my Lila pullover. It's simple, neutral, cozy, and it is the knitted item that I'm the most proud of. I wore it today for the first time this fall (just inside, mind you, we're still waiting on cooler weather).
What's the point of all of this? Much like learning to cook enhanced my appreciation for good food, learning to knit and sew has enhanced my appreciation for handmade clothing. Slow Fashion October is a good thing for making me think more about what I wear. And anything that makes me think more is a good thing.
P.S.—If you have the slightest interest in learning to make any part of your own wardrobe, I wholeheartedly encourage you to find someone who knows how to sew/knit and have them teach you! I could wax poetic about how much I love making with my hands.
P.P.S.—Slow Fashion October is much bigger than this post. If you're curious, take a look at the #slowfashionoctober hashtag on Instagram, to see photos of so many beautifully handmade items.