Today, April 24, 2018, marks ONE YEAR of my pledge to not buy any new clothes. I’m so proud that I accomplished my goal! I’ve sewn clothes, discovered second-hand clothing store gems and learned to appreciate the things I have. And above all, today is a reminder of why I made this commitment in the first place. It’s bittersweet, but today also marks the 5th anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse. Here are 5 things I learned this year.
– 1 –
FREEDOM FROM TRENDS
This is a huge one. This process has really opened my eyes to how much I already have and has taught me to value my clothes. Honestly, not feeling like I have to wear the newest “IT” trend is so liberating. I no longer feel compelled to try on what I see when I walk past a store. It has helped me hone my personal style and work towards THAT. It’s an ongoing process, but the essence of what I’m actually drawn to has not been overshadowed by what the mannequin at the mall is wearing. Yes, I may realize I love a ruffle. I may also realize a shirt I bought 7 years ago doesn’t really reflect how I’d like to present myself now, but I look at my closet with new eyes – how can I possibly style it differently or can I refashion it? Instead of worrying about whether I’m aligned with what everyone else is wearing, I’m focused on what compliments my body and what makes me feel confident.
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USED CLOTHING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE GROSS
A year ago, I cringed at the thought of wearing someone’s old clothes. But to be fair, my second hand shopping experience only consisted of Goodwill or Salvation Army thrift shops that I only frequented during Halloween season in hopes to find a cheap costume.
This past year has been a game changer. I’m so grateful to live in a city that has a few AH-MAAAZING second hand stores. Totally worth a separate blog post. Not only can you find quality pieces, but you can find some really unique items that are inexpensive. The 3 used articles I bought look brand new, yet had a very desirable price tag. The jean jacket – retails over $200; paid $25. The hat – retails over $150; paid $20. The sequined blouse – retails over $150; paid $15. So yes, don’t give up on second hand clothes. You can find a lot of quality garments, give them a second life and be easy on the wallet – how awesome is that?! Once you find a store that has the caliber of clothing that suits you, check it out once in awhile. Hey, I’ve even seen a Kate Spade dress and a Channel suit (sadly still well out of my price range)!
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PEOPLE ARE CURIOUS
We live in a time when transparency and conscious living is on the rise, so I feel people naturally tend to be more interested in what I’m doing. Regardless, whoever I’ve shared my journey with has been so supportive and often asks to learn more. Sometimes my passion and attention to detail can lead me to go on forever, sorry if you’ve been a victim, but I’m so impressed with how curious people are. Knowledge is power and even if I inspire someone to look at a garment tag the next time they shop or if they ask themselves if they really need it, then it’s been worth it. Inspiring people to shop more consciously wasn’t my original goal, but it’s a byproduct of my journey and I’m happy to share it with anyone!
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SIZE DOES NOT DEFINE ME
Not being subjected to ongoing frustration in a fitting room or forcing myself into a size because “I’ve never been a size 30 jeans, I’ve always been a 26” is awesome for your self esteem. Real story – I remember a time when I was shopping for jean shorts and I was so embarrassed to even reach for a size 30 shorts, thinking that some store clerk would be judging me. How ridiculous!
I could care less what the size says anymore. Sewing clothes has helped me abolish the idea that I must remain a particular size. Every pattern company has a different grading system and more often than not, even the pattern sizes don’t necessarily match my measurements (chest is one size, waist another, hips yet another), nor should they, so adjustments are needed. Everyone’s body has different proportions and fitting flawlessly in a standardized size is unrealistic. Please please please trust me on this, the size on the tag MEANS NOTHING and should not define how you feel about your body.
I’ve come to accept, and even love, that my 30 year old body is not the same as at 21. My hips are bigger, my chest is bigger, it’s all a part of going through life and I’m no less valuable by having extra curves. It’s not always roses, sometimes I wish my chest was smaller so I could fit into the cute bralettes I’m seeing, but then I remind myself, that’s not the point. Learning to love my body for where it’s at in my life is a healthy practice that encourages me to continue living a healthy lifestyle.
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THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN
I’m by no means perfect. Although I try to make educated decisions based on my inner ethical and sustainable scale, there’s room to improve and learn.
The definitions of “ethical” and “sustainable” are so vastly different among people/companies. I like to think of the two words more like a spectrum. It is confusing as a consumer when shopping and seeing companies using these terms. It’s often up to the consumer to dig and determine what they mean. However, there are so many fantastic options now. Once you find a company that fits with your jam, you can add it to your inventory of trusted sources! Over time, it gets easier.
In order to learn how to be a more conscious consumer, we can’t forget about the past. This time of the year is when I ponder the most, yet whenever I share my journey with friends or family, speaking about the tragedy that made me question the workings of the fashion industry reminds me why it’s so important not to forget.
5 years ago today, on April 24, 2013, over 1,100 garment workers died and over 2,500 were seriously injured from the Rana Plaza building collapse in the Savar area of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The frustrating part is that all these lives and disabilities could have been spared. Prior to the collapse, local police and others who accessed the building deemed it unsafe. Large cracks the day before clearly showed the structural integrity of the building was severely compromised. In addition, there were heavy generators on illegally built upper floors that would turn on during a power outage and shake the building. Despite these serious concerns, Mr. Rana and factory bosses ordered employees to come to work. Lo and behold, the building collapsed the next morning, bringing to light the dark secrets of the fast-fashion industry. You can read more about it in an article by The Guardian here.
A $10 t-shirt cannot be on a store shelf without some major sacrifices. For one, low garment worker wages further perpetuate a cycle of poverty in areas of the world that are already struggling. Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of clothing, following China. In fact, Bangladesh’s garment worker minimum wage is $68 a month (a rise from $38 to $68 in 2013, but still remains one of the lowest minimum wages in the world). And let’s not forget the people who grow cotton or produce fabric. Many times the harsh chemicals and pesticides cause serious health implications to communities who produce fibres or fabric. With fast-fashion chains bringing in such high volumes of cheap clothing, it’s inevitable that there are repercussions.
The more respect you place on your clothes, the smarter you’ll shop and the more care you’ll take looking after your clothes. Every item in your closet was sewn with human hands. Isn’t that incredible?! In the short time that I’ve sewn clothes, I have come to really respect the time and energy that goes into cutting and piecing a garment together.
There are so many fantastic resources out there, here are some I love:
- a not-for-profit organization promoting transparency in the fashion supply chain
- an eye-opening film about the issues of fast-fashion
- 3 Norwegian fashion bloggers are sent to Cambodia for a month to experience life as a garment worker
- a short clip of fast-fashion issues
- steps on how to curate a wardrobe that reflects your personal style
- a discussion on sustainability in the home-sewing world
This year I proved to myself that not buying new clothes is totally achievable. Not only did it help me distinguish between a “need” and a “want”, I feel more confident in discovering my style. Going forward, I will continue my journey of sewing clothes and buying second-hand. I understand that some items are past my current sewing capabilities or just don’t feel comfortable buying second hand (like undergarments and shoes). In those cases, I will try my best to buy quality items from a company that is transparent about their sustainable and ethical practices. Better for people and the earth! By slowing down and thinking before buying, you can stop to smell the roses (like these gorgeous ones in my backyard!).