Musings on #SlowFashionOctober 2016

Last year, I came upon Slow Fashion October on Instagram and I was curious. At the time, though, I had just started knitting small things (mostly cowls and hats) that actually looked decent and, while I was proud of those things, I definitely wasn’t in a place to think about crafting much of a wardrobe. For Emily, sure. Her stuff is tiny and doesn’t take very long to knit, but for me? No way.

On top of that, I still wasn’t very close to the size I was before Emily was born, and I definitely wasn’t close to the size I wanted to be, so I wasn’t sure why I would make myself clothes if I was just going to try to lose more weight. On top of that, I felt that my body didn’t necessarily deserve clothes that took a lot of time to make because it wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be. My solution at the time was to buy cheap clothes to cover the transitional period. I figured if I bought a few pieces, I could get by.

What happened in reality over the past two years was that I essentially ended up with three wardrobes: my pre-Emily wardrobe I always thought I’d get back into, my immediately post-Emily wardrobe full of cheap pieces that never fit right and never made me feel good, and my post-transition wardrobe full of pieces I love and make me feel good and I wear all the time. Several pieces in that third wardrobe are handmade, because I realized at some point that clothes should be made to fit me, not the other way around, and when my clothes are well-made and fit me well, I feel a lot better.

When I started to make and wear my own clothes, I also started to do a little more research into fast fashion, and it is kind of terrifying, though not at all surprising. As with many things in our speed-oriented society, there is a dramatic surplus, and the waste from the industry is ruining the environment. And the cheaper the clothes, the worse the problem gets.

There’s no perfect solution to this problem, of course. We need to clothe our bodies, and some of us don’t have infinite funds or time to do so, but, as with every problem our world faces, I believe that if everyone did a little bit, we could collectively make a huge difference.

For me, this past year has been about minimizing and feeling good. When we do more with less – use leftover food, for example, or create interesting wardrobes with a few well-crafted pieces – there are quite a few benefits. Personally, you look better, feel better, and save money. Globally, you make a positive impact on the environment and the economy.

After all of this thinking and researching all month long, I decided there was nothing left to do, but to do it.

To celebrate the end of Slow Fashion October, I decided today was the day to go through my closet once and for all. I started by telling myself that, yes, I did have a lot of well-made pieces from years and years ago (some of this stuff was from college, I’m not even kidding). In some cases – like with dresses that I truly loved that I had bought for bridal showers and weddings – they didn’t fit me anymore, and then I had to tell myself that it was time for someone else to enjoy these pieces. In other cases – like with some of the teacher clothes I bought when I got my first job – they fit just fine, but the cut was outdated and they didn’t make me feel good because they weren’t stylish. In other cases – like with the suit I bought for job interviews – they just didn’t have any use for me anymore.

So, I purged. I packed away some of my nicer transitional clothes (if we do this again, not having to buy new clothes for the immediate postpartum period would be really great), and I got rid of three huge garbage bags of clothes, shoes, and accessories. On top of that, I put away some other pieces that had fabric that I really liked in order to upcycle them into pants for my super tall daughter. All in all, I got myself down to just one wardrobe that is filled with pieces that I enjoy wearing all the time and that are stylish now.

I know no one wants my old clothes (as I stated above) so donating isn’t a great solution, but what was happening to me was that so many of my great clothing items were buried under years of accumulated crap that I didn’t like or wasn’t useful, and I was spending my mornings either crying that I had nothing attractive to wear, or disappointed that I was wearing the same old thing yet again and needed something new. And then I’d spend my afternoons on Amazon buying new, cheap clothes that I thought would make me feel better, thus compounding the problem. Now, I know that anything I pull out of my closet will fit well, look great, and pairs with most of the other things I own since I stuck to a definite color palette as I was purging.

I counted, and if you count only items of clothing that could actually clothe by body – so not counting underwear, outerwear, accessories, shoes, gym clothes, spirit wear, and loungewear – I have approximately 140 clothing items left in my closet and drawers. This seems pretty great to me, considering Project 333, a guide to minimizing your wardrobe, suggests that you start with 33 pieces every 3 months, which would be about 132 pieces per year. I decided not to cycle out clothing items each season and, instead, keep all of my items in circulation because I live in Chicagoland and you never know what the weather might bring. Plus, putting a cardigan over a summer dress or top works really well for me, so I figured I’d keep everything out. It’s also very likely that I’ll donate pieces here or there throughout the next year as I try on clothes I discovered during this purge and decided to keep because I didn’t have time today to try everything on, or as I go through the year and realize that I’m not really wearing a piece as much as I thought I would.

My goal for the next calendar year – until Slow Fashion October 2107 – is to be very mindful about my clothing. I’m only going to buy or make clothes if I truly need or want something new for an event, or if something I own wears out (or if I do finally lose that weight, but I doubt it at this point). And, if I’m buying something instead of making it, I’m going to either purchase it secondhand or spend the money on quality pieces that fit well from companies who ethically source their clothing. Furthermore, I am going to donate one piece of clothing for every item I buy or make. Oh, and I’m going to take the time to care for my clothes to make them last longer, not just launder everything in the quickest possible way.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. And, while I’m a long way away from a 100% handmade wardrobe, it feels good to know that I’m trying to do what I can, and that tomorrow, when I go to get dressed, I know that whatever I put on my body will look and feel great.

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