Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Clothing Pledge

I started this year off with a pledge to only buy used clothing items. Before you get your panties in a bunch you should know that panties were not included in the pledge. In fact anything that is sweated in, slept in or covers the parts that make a PG13 movie an R rated movie were not included. As well as socks, but I really don’t wear socks so they are moot. The idea bloomed from last year’s goal of starting a budget for the first time. After tracking my expenses for a year I realized I was spending an embarrassing amount of money on clothes and still felt like I had nothing to wear. I then tried on EVERYTHING in my closet and chucked anything that was too small. While I can alter clothes, making them bigger is well beyond the skill set of pretty much anyone. So off the goodwill they went.

In the nearly six months that have gone by since I started this goal I have learned a few things about myself, and a lot of things about the clothing industry. I have learned that I like pretty boring clothes. While I like to look at fashion magazine and drool over all the pretty people, when I wear trendy clothes I feel like a total goon. Not only is the cut of my clothing pretty boring so is the color. I like neutrals. Blacks, grays, whites, creams, and blues with occasional green or teal thrown in. I also like poka-dots, stripes and plaids. That’s about it.  

I also learned the used clothing stores in wealthy areas of town are chalk-a-block full of really amazing stuff. Like hundred dollar sweaters and dresses for just a couple bucks. Mrs.Snobs might chuck her Diane Von Furstenberg sweater for being pilly but I am not too good to get out the old razor blade and take those pesky little woolen balls off a garment.  Why am I after used clothing from high end name brand stores? I don’t truly care about labels on clothes, but I do care about good quality products that are going to last. And really, expensive labels are generally cut from a better cloth.

Not only did I learn how to use a razor blade to clean up a sweater I also learned how to mend holes, reset hems, short sleeves, adjust collars and take in the sides of dresses and shirts. Pants are still a little beyond me. And beyond most clothing companies as well. Which bring me to my first major slip up. New jeans. Shopping for jeans is the worst. Truly. I would rather take a tour of the seventh circle of hell than spend my afternoon contorting myself into and out of hundreds of pairs of jeans. Completely by accident I found a fit at an expensive department store, bought two pairs, had them hemmed and called it good. Unless the bottom literally falls out of them I do not intent on buying more jeans. But until that time I have been re-dying my older pairs of jeans to extend their life.

This all sounds like an awful lot of work does it? It can be, certainly. But after a good friend took me to the Goodwill outlet store (lovingly called the bins) I have changed my outlook on consumerism a bit. Items that go to a Goodwill, if not bought, only spend a certain number of days on the rack before they get packed up and sent to the outlet store. Which I will generously describe as a post apocalyptic waste land. But I do love a challenge and am not very squeamish so I really don’t mind going there to brose bin after bin of landfill destined items. Yes, after the outlet store your un-bought donations go to a landfill. Millions of pounds of clothing, home goods, glass wear, sports equipment and toys get dumped each year, in this our disposable consumerist society.  I personally would very much like to contribute as little as possible to this growing number of items tossed out each year. So instead I mend, and hem and alter and repurpose. And I am actually much happier for it. I certainly spend less hours of my life whimpering in my closet convinced I have nothing to wear.

And why should you care about all this? You don’t have to. But before you dismiss the idea of buying less and saving more check out Elizabeth Cline’s new book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheep Fashion”. Her arguments are much more convincing and enlightening than my own little journey. But then again we can’t all write books and save the world. Never the less my decisions make me feel better, so I journey onward.  

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