Minimalist Wardrobe: Slow Fashion

This past summer, I saw the documentary The True Cost. It’s a heartbreaking look at how our society’s addiction to cheap clothes impacts the people who make them. (I hope some of you will watch it and spread the word–everyone should know where their clothing comes from.) Needless to say, it made my commitment to having a tiny wardrobe that much stronger.

I’ve never been one to embrace fashion to begin with; as I’ve written in the past, I love the idea of a uniform. The fact that my entire wardrobe can fit in a suitcase gives me a great deal of joy (strange but true). I don’t enjoy shopping, and just to avoid it, try to buy clothes that will last as long as possible. I’m sporting the same top in a family photo from last Christmas as a tourist snap in front of the Parthenon five years ago.

But every so often, there comes a time when I have to replace a beloved item. In an ideal scenario, I would be able to sew, and whip up a replacement myself. Unfortunately, I am truly deficient in such skills (not for lack of trying) and equally unenthusiastic about owning a sewing machine. So I usually wind up in a store, or on the Internet, looking for something suitable.

And that’s where the stress begins…I look at “Made in” labels that say China or Bangladesh or Vietnam or Cambodia, and I worry about who sewed that particular garment. Are they working long hours, in dangerous conditions, separated from their families, so I can buy a pair of yoga pants? I’d read enough sweatshop exposés—before seeing this film—to make me uncomfortable with this. But now I can barely bring myself to purchase any clothing that’s mass-manufactured.

I’d love to say that buying secondhand solved my problem, as it’s such a wonderful way to meet our consumer needs. But I have to admit—with great frustration—that when it comes to clothing, it just hasn’t worked for me. The problem: I have my “uniform” curated to such a degree that I’d waste days combing through consignment shops looking for the right article of clothing. It’d be a miracle to find it, let alone in the right size and good enough condition that I wouldn’t have to repeat the process again anytime soon.

So I’ve decided to try custom instead. I recently had to replace a top, and instead of running out to the mall, thought long and hard about exactly what I wanted—something super-versatile, that travels well, could be dressed up or down, and worn for practically any occasion (a tall order, I know!). I ended up working with a seamstress, and selecting a tunic-length wrap top that can be worn with pants, or as a short dress with leggings. I’m thrilled with the result—I’d so much rather buy one thing that’s exactly what I need than a handful of items that don’t quite fit the bill.

In fact, I would love to see a Slow Fashion movement, in which we buy just one or two garments a year handmade to our specifications. Find an Etsy artisan (or a local tailor), provide your measurements, and buy just what you need when you need it—thereby bypassing the mass manufacturers altogether. The cost per article may be more expensive, but you’ll save money by avoiding all those fashion “mistakes”—you know, the stuff that looked great on the rack (or a model), but ultimately doesn’t fit you, flatter you, or suit your lifestyle. And if you find fashion a form of personal expression, what better way to enjoy it than have a hand in the design? It’s actually a more expressive way to use fashion than the indiscriminate consumption of cheap, trendy items.

So what do you think? Would Slow Fashion work for you? Please share your thoughts in the Comments!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

64 comments to Minimalist Wardrobe: Slow Fashion

  • HokieKate

    I love to sew, especially for my 2 year old and 4 year old daughters. Summer shorts in novelty prints and custom church dresses are so fun. I have learned so much since the super basic skirt my oldest wore home from the hospital. My skill level is not high enough for fitted clothing on an adult frame, so I don’t sew for myself, other than mending and slighter alterations.

    I wondered though, as I read this post, where are my fabrics made? I don’t know where they come from or what the conditions are like.

  • That is a brilliant idea!

    I receive emails from your blog but didn’t get this post! Glad I popped by and found it

  • DJ Compton

    Hi Francine, I came across True Cost based on a tweet that you sent out this summer. I bought a copy prior to its launch on Netflix. It changed the way that I think about fashion. I had already given away many of my clothes and now I don’t buy anything unless I know exactly how it was made. I haven’t had a great experience buying vintage on Etsy, so your custom suggestion is much appreciated. Thanks so much for continuing to inspire us for ways to make a difference in our lives!

  • Dear Francine,

    Thank you for sharing this story. Finding that beautiful item that speaks to your heart is the essence of slow fashion.

    I buy high end designer items second hand or thrift everything other than pants. After doing way too many trials and returns, I dont want to spend that sort of time and effort anymore.

  • Jess

    I love the idea of slow fashion and think it would work for me! One question, you mentioned leggings, would you purchase custom leggings as well? I’m currently participating in a buy-nothing-new for 200 days challenge and am (ridiculously) wearing my maternity leggings because I have not found any second hand – my baby is one and a half!

    I imagine if you had them custom made, you could use sturdier fabric, too.

    Also, I second the question concerning the origin of the fabric.

    • Amanda

      I got a pair of secondhand Icebreaker leggings on eBay. They’ve held up really well, even after frequent use and washing.

      • Jess

        Thanks, Amanda! I hadn’t heard of Icebreaker, but I will check it out. That’s excellent to hear yours have held up!

        • Honora

          Icebreaker are a New Zealand originated company who make their clothing from merino wool sourced in New Zealand. They did have a Baa Code so you could tell which New Zealand High Country station (farm) the merino wool came from. Not sure if they still do.

          The important issue with New Zealand sourced merino is that the merino sheep are not subjected to mulesing.

          This is a farming practice that occurs in Australia as the merino sheep are subject to flystrike (when flies lay their eggs around the sheep’s bottom which then hatch out as maggots and embed themselves further into the sheep’s flesh). Mulesing is skinning the wool and skin off around the sheep’s bottom so flies are not interested in laying their eggs around there. Australian farmers say it’s a choice between flystrike or mulesing and that mulesing would be less inhumane.

          By buying New Zealand sourced wool you can bypass the ethical dilemma of supporting mulesing.

    • miss minimalist

      LOL, I wore my maternity leggings until my daughter was a toddler, too (for the same reason)!

      When it comes to basics like leggings, t-shirts, and yoga pants, I’m torn between custom and finding a retailer who guarantees ethical practices. I also like Amanda’s idea of finding secondhand items online.

  • Kim

    Thank you for sharing this idea – it’s certainly thought-provoking!

    My mother was an excellent seamstress and made a good deal of clothing for me growing up. You would think that I would think of having things custom made now as an adult, but for some reason it never has. My mother passed on several years ago and my sewing skills are paltry by comparison to hers, and I just never considered hiring a third party. What a fantastic idea!

  • Yuki

    Yesterday I went to a cinema in Tokyo to watch The True Cost. This morning I found this article in Feedly (I’m your regular reader :))!!

    Even though I’m quite a minimalist and don’t possess so much clothes, for the last several years I’ve been buying some basic items from one of the fast fashion brands appeared in the film. Now, after watching the film, I’d like to be a lot more conscious about what I buy. I also know the secondhand doesn’t work very well for me. So thank you for your great tips about custom!

  • There are several things that make me have slow fashion:

    1. Money: I can’t afford a lot of things, or the fabric to make them
    2. Space: I live in a shared flat so I don’t have room for a lot of clothes and accessories
    3. I sew all my own clothes: I am a fashion student so I make my own things
    4. I take ages to decide what to make (I am the worst shopper in the world!)
    5. Time: I haven’t time to make things when I’m doing my fashion design degree and working weekends

    I am probably going to upset people by saying this, but ‘ethical fashion’ is not a clean-cut issue. Of course we don’t want people to live in those conditions, and we don’t want to exploit the desperate, but the people in those factories are living better than those who don’t work in them. It was like that here in England about 120 years ago. Now other countries are at that stage of socio-economic development. It’s not nice, and we are working to ameliorate it, but it’s happening, and maybe it has to for any country at one time or another. If we simply cut out their business, where will they be?

    I only buy what I can’t make. I’m not a very good knitter so I have shop-bought knitwear, socks, hosiery and underwear, though I haven’t bought a sweater or cardigan for about a year. I have had the same coat since 2007 and have just adapted it to give it a high-low hem because it got paint on it while I was decorating. Apparently it’s unusual to have only one winter coat. I suppose I can see the sense in having more than one if you have very different destinations (say, a farm and a dinner party with nobility), but I have never had that, so I needed only one warm coat.

    I’m glad that you have taken a dressmaker. Usually I would encourage people to make their own or simple buy fewer things, but I suppose not everyone wants to sew, so I like the idea of people having dressmakers and tailors again. It’s delightfully old-fashioned!

    I don’t know if you have heard of “Make-do and Mend”? During WWII Britain (as you probably know) was on rations. People did a lot of upcycling. They were encouraged to “Mend and Make-do to Save Buying New” by the Government. The British Government also set up the label CC41, which had strict limitations on things such as how many buttons you could have on a dress (five), or how deep your pleats could be. It’s very interesting, and makes me wonder what would happen if we tried it nowadays…

  • Alix

    This is the way clothing was purchased more mass-manufacturing, so why not? A great idea.

  • I’m definitely a fan of Slow Fashion. I can sew and have been altering second hand clothes for decades to suit myself. But if I couldn’t sew, I would be happy to spend extra money to get exactly the thing I want at a living wage to the person who creates it for me.

    Great post!

  • Linda

    Love this idea! In fact, I just ordered a handmade dress and tunic from an etsy shop (located in usa),where the artisan creates the article of clothing you have ordered (slow fashion), from dying the fabric in the color you have selected, to then sewing the piece.

  • Dyed-in-the-Wool Minimalist

    I am a strong advocate of this approach to clothing. I’ve been having my clothes made by tailors instead of buying them off the peg for years. The time and expense tailoring requires encourages thoughtful consumption and discourages overconsumption. Furthermore, one can specify the garment exactly and be sure that it will fit properly.

    To quote the notable dandy Oscar Wilde: “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

  • Val

    I really like the idea! I’ve moved closer to a uniform-type wardrobe this year, and it does make thrift shopping harder. At the same time, custom is a big leap, and intimidating. (I looked into tailored suiting once, and that seems to be a dry-clean-only realm.)

    • miss minimalist

      Hi Val! I tried a local tailor a few years ago, but this time found a seamstress on Etsy–it was less intimidating (and less expensive), and I’m actually happier with the results. It’s easiest if they’re already making a garment close to what you want–then you can just request a custom variation (different sleeve length, neckline, color, etc) and provide your measurements.

  • I have started doing all of my clothing shopping second hand, through a program at one of our local thrift shops that provides a personal shopper. It is perfect! I get the thrift store prices, but someone else does all the sifting for me to find stuff in my size that I have identified as my style. You fill out a style profile beforehand and the more you go, the more your stylist gets to know you and your taste. I live in Minnesota, but I wonder if any other thrift stores offer this service.

  • Kathie

    Throughout the years while my children were in school (they’re 25 and 22 now), I wore what I considered “my uniform” because it helped me to get the kids up in the morning and off to school, and then got me on to exercising and fulfilling my daily duties. So, I’m all for that idea! I did manage a bank for years before having children and wore heels as part of that working uniform from 6am past 6pm, daily. After retiring from that profession, I swore off heels and took up dancing shoes and that uniform. I dance and sew Kool Ties for my dance buddies and have found great enjoyment in sewing again. My Elna machine is 35 years old and recently started having a tiny bit of trouble, which has led me to borrow/use my daughter’s machine–the one I bought her for her 8th birthday, 17 years ago. When I first started sewing the ties with the water-absorbant crystals inside, the premium 100% cotton didn’t allow bleeding, but now it does so the material has become inferior in quality, which is upsetting on many levels.
    I love minimalism and especially love the idea that we can keep the things we use and love. Life changes as we age, and then we are suddenly faced with time we never had while raising a family. I’m grateful for past skills that can be enlarged once more, and I’m grateful for Francine who guides us all in realizing who and what we are in an ever changing world. I, too, worry about those working under heartbreaking conditions but also worry what their lives would be like without their jobs. I’d been looking for an off white top for years to replace one I’ve been wearing for 15 years and just found one yesterday—but, it was made in China. Helping or hindering??? Maybe Slow Fashion is the answer. I could have had it custom made years ago!

  • I love A few of their pieces are very versatile. They are made in Colorado. I love having something I can do multiple looks or uses for it. Since I dont buy that much clothes for myself I may allow one new piece in to my rather small wardrobe. I encourage folks to try them out and see what they think/like. They are recently coming out with a versatile jacket but, need some support on kickstarter. They also have in the works a bag that is a tote, purse, clutch and something else sorry I forgot what but, it basically converts into 4 different bags. So have fun with the conversions and try out the versalette.

  • I’m actually a seamstress and sewing blogger. I would sew for others more but people are spoiled by the low prices of mass produced fashion and don’t want to pay my rates. A simple garment can take ten hours to fit perfectly and give nice finishes too. Even if the person were paying me a very low rate, say 15 bucks an hour I’d have to charge a couple hundred dollars for a simple top to be worth my time.

  • Viktoria

    I am a minimalist as well and I pay attention where my food and clothes comes from. But, I would like to mention something.
    My mother went from Ukraine to Poland to find a job because we would starve otherwise. She found a job making clothes. Day after day she was making clothes. It was our only source of income for the whole family, we were so happy there was a job of making clothes. Yes, hours were long, but it enabled our survival, literally. However, here the only side that is shown, is that people that make clothes are suffering. I wanted to show everyone that sometimes its the opposite, making clothes is the only source of income and so many people are so happy to get these jobs of making clothes. And yes, they might be earning few dollars a day, but we can’t think of American prices and think they make few dollars a day. In most countries, few dollars a day is luxury, not suffering. Person can live in the Ukraine on $100 a month in 2015, but not in the US.

    • Karen T.

      Thanks for bringing a little balance to the discussion, Viktoria. Some people in other countries are thrilled to have the jobs we’ve exported.

      I don’t think I conform to what Francine calls “slow fashion,” but the idea of a small wardrobe, limited palette, and a “uniform” really speaks to me and is how I have been dressing for close to 20 years. I don’t buy much “fast fashion” because it doesn’t meet my requirements of quality and classic style, but some of the garments I buy and own are not made in North America by people who earn what we would consider a living wage.

      To me, the real sweatshop clothes are those $7 tee shirts sold at W**mart in ten different colors that won’t last two washings, and the real problem is consumers who routinely buy that stuff (it’s really little better than garbage, and soon enough ends up in our landfills). Limiting consumption of junk (in all ways) would be a good first step for anyone.

      • Diane

        I agree that this issue is way more complex than it appears. As some have mentioned, by boycotting clothing made in certain countries we are depriving people of an income that they rely on to support their families. In addition, we cannot buy based on country alone because, and many people are unaware of this, sweatshops exist in the developed countries as well, including Canada and the US. (I used to belong to an ecumenical organisation called “Kairos” and we studied this problem in depth). Anyway, many immigrants, (illegal or legal) who cannot speak the language or have no job skills find work in these sweatshops and are threatened or taken advantage of by unscrupulous bosses. If you really want to ensure that your purchases are as ethical as possible you have to look for “Union Made” on the label. That said, I think it would be far more productive to lobby for better working conditions for ALL labourers, whether by exposing these practices, putting pressure on companies and governments or whatever else you can think of.

    • Aline

      Thanks for your prespectives, Viktoria and Karen.

      This is a complex issue. It’s good for people to be mindful of where the things they buy are from, however, it’s impossible to control all the ethical issues. It’s not fair to assume that everything made in certain places is of poor quality or was produced in abusive conditions.

      “Fast fashion” doesn’t appeal to me, and I won’t buy fast fashion that is junk. I enjoy variety too much to adhere to a uniform — for me, clothes are a way of expressing myself much as a painter paints on the canvas. However, I buy most of my clothes from a couple of consignment stores that I know well, they have high standards and treat both the consignor and purchasers fairly. I’ve been dealing with one consignment shop for over twenty years and the people who work there have all been there for years. They really care about what they do.

      I also have a seamstress who does superb alterations for a very reasonable price, and I have had some things made to measure — with mixed results. Some have been fabulous and others have been too expensive for the amount I’ve ended up wearing them. Unfortunately, custom clothes that don’t work often get binned because consignment stores can’t re-sell them; there is no market. Something to keep in mind unless you know exactly what will work well.

      Re-dyeing can also work when things fade, or changing the colour appeals. There are places that do professional quality dyeing and they can advise what will work and what won’t in terms of colour changes and so on. For example, re-dyeing black often works well for items that have greyed over time. Dyeing in similar or darker colours also tends to work. Some of these places will deal by mail — so don’t dismiss this if you’re not in a big city.

      Sourcing a seamstress on Etsy sounds like a great idea. I’ll have to try that one out for a particular type of top I’ve been looking for.

    • miss minimalist

      Yes, thank you for bringing this up; it’s definitely a complex issue. I hope that supply chains become more transparent in the future, so that we can make wise decisions as consumers. Retailers: if you are providing good working conditions, opportunities, and education to the people who make your clothes, let us know!

  • MBS

    Yes, totally agree, I’d much rather have a few garments tailored to fit me and my personal style than a whole store full of options. It’s incredibly frustrating to face so much faux-variety in stores. A hundred styles, yet all synthetic fabrics. Dozens of t-shirt designs, yet all with the same low neckline and slim fit. I put off shopping as long as possible.

  • Chris

    What perfect timing for this post. I used to have my clothes so everything went with everything so no matter what I grabbed to put together it was going to work. Guess it was my uniform.

    Then I gained about 80 pounds and I had to buy what I could fit into. What a sad time in my life. FINALLY I have now lost 63 pounds and still working to lose another 27. Back to my happy high school weight, almost 50 years later, HA when I thought I was fat.

    So now many layers of clothes have gone away that no longer fit. I am not wearing baggy after working so hard to lose this weight.

    I have made up my mind to keep my wardrobe to minimal. I am back to replacing only what I need until I get to goal and I AM doing the thrift store rout. I can not afford not to. I am thrilled to see my closet pared down. Now there is room in my closet to use it as my little dressing room. Love this. Everything I wear at my finger tips.

    I think the uniform is the way to go. Keep it simple. I would love to be able to make my clothes. All I can manage is to take in my jeans enough to get another couple months wear out of them I made the seams to come out easy so when they go back to the thrift store they will not be ruined for some one else.

    Looking forward to reading the rest of your wardrobe links.


  • Sophie

    I am happy to see you write again more frequently.
    Thanks to you and your family.

  • Gaby

    I would like to second Sophie’s sentiment. It is great to see Francine writing more frequently lately and on such interesting topics.

  • Susan

    I, too, sew most of what I wear. I tried sewing for other people, but it was a disaster, especially the little girl who HATED her confirmation dress because she’s chosen a pattern style that was “in” rather than something that actually worked for her body type.

    I do buy staples of my uniform: drawstring yoga pants and plain tank tops / t-shirts. I “upscale” the tops, then wear them with yoga pants for day (I work for the county so I have a REAL uniform for work which helps immensely!) or a skirt (a yard of 60″ wide fabric and an elastic waistband) for evening. I also make some of my jewelry: the elastic thread that holds my new flip-flops on the display hanger + cheap bag of random beads from Salvation Army = bracelet. In the South, I can then throw a scarf over my shoulders if it might be chilly, and I’m good to go. I’ve never had anyone comment that I always wear the same thing, but I’d rather ignore them if they did anyway. I’m no fashionista, and I like the simplicity of being able to wear bright colors along with basic black, without having to stand in front of my closet for hours, trying to decide what to wear.

  • Kath;een

    I think this is a wonderful idea! I dream of having a perfect mini wardrobe (I don’t have that much, but more than I want). I have to make sure my clothes will layer on top of each other, as I get cold/hot easily (maybe my age?) and it also gives a lot of flexibility. I love the shirt you had made, what a beautiful color. So happy to see you writing more!

  • It’s so exciting to see so many women caring about this issue! Is my mission to help women lighten their closets and their consumption. I accidentally made a design that turned out to be a garment that can be worn in 15 Waze. I took it to the M I T global entrepreneurship boot camp this summer and am now working on launching a kick starter to broaden the reach. Sabrina, I don’t think will ever be able to make such a change that we will put Asian factories out of business but we can possibly decrease the amount of waste. Most donated clothes end up being sent to a developing country where it undercuts their own garment industry. I love Seamly’s versatile garment too. The more of these the better. My Karma Trik is cheaper though. Hoping that will help me scale.

  • sacha

    It is a lovely idea, but the clothes are made of fabric… so… it is not only the workers who make the garments but also the people who make and more importantly dye the fabric… do they have to work with dangerous dyes, lyes etc in order to provide us with (cheap) fabric in bright colours? Do they work in safe environments provided with protective gear? Is the (toxic) dye then dumped in sewers or dumped in rivers instead of being filtered properly?
    So, our responsibility goed further than finding a local seamstress or making clothes ourselves…….

  • […] enjoyed Francine’s thoughts on fast fashion and how she would like to see a slow fashion […]

  • Chesney

    Love reading your posts!! As a mom of three (7, 5 & almost 3) I really appreciate the time you take to write! I love this slow fashion idea for adults, but I’d love your take on children’s clothing. They don’t fit into their clothes long enough to do slow and although I’ve gotten to use my first daughter’s clothes with my second and even pass some of my older daughter’s school uniform pieces down to her younger brother, I find this is where we spend most of our family’s clothing dollars. With one income, there’s not a lot to buy all that clothing with, let alone be ethical about it. I do buy most of their clothing from consignment sales, but I wondered what you do for Plumblossom? Also, I’d love some pointers on what to look for when shopping for durable clothing that will last for years for adults. I am not a big fan of dry cleaning and the thought of paying $200 for a piece of clothing that I’m sure to stain terrifies me! Keep writing!! I recommend your book to LOTS of people – changed my life!

    • miss minimalist

      Ah, Plumblossom’s clothing…yes, much more of a challenge. I was lucky enough to have my mom make her clothes for her first two years, but it’s too hard now that we’re long-distance. She’s a dress-and-leggings girl; I buy a lot of her dresses on eBay, but leggings are harder to find secondhand. I’ve been buying them from Lands End because they are classic, solid colors, thick fabric, and pretty durable–so we can get by with a handful of pairs. But I do feel I need to learn about their supply chain before purchasing more in the future.

  • Sara

    Great post and an important topic in its larger social context.

    Personally I don’t enjoy shopping and I’ve also found that second-hand clothes, in general, don’t solve my clothing needs. Currently I’m trying to make do with the clothes that I have – I don’t need a lot – but am at a loss when it comes to finding pleasing and responsibly-made replacements…Partly it seems difficult, because my body shape has changed ever so slightly in the past few years and also I find that some of my clothing choices of the past don’t appeal to me anymore.

    Glad to hear from you, Francine!

  • I’m not a big shopper, but this documentary has made me even more aware of being mindful when I do purchase something.

  • I definitely struggle with this issue and keeping the clothing purchases to a minimum. I love the idea of tailor made pieces but do think I would do a combination of custom + secondhand + new. Definitely something to think about. It is also worth mentioning that a good seamstress can also do a wonderful job with altering an existing piece for much less than custom, whether it be secondhand or purchased new from a source we feel comfortable purchasing from. The issue is so complicated and I don’t know what the global answer is but I do know I can do my part by focusing on purchasing less overall. If I still continued to consume too much, my head would spin trying to ensure all vendors were ethical although I definitely make that effort. It is even more difficult to ensure secondhand items were also ethically sourced. For example, there are certain Lauren Petite stretch jersey dresses that work perfectly for my shape (fit is perfect, machine wash & wrinkle free) but the dresses manufactured in China. However, I have been able to start sourcing those secondhand on a resale app so I feel ok with those purchases as I’m reusing something that might get tossed by the original owner otherwise. I know deep down, my part is to first get the consuming under control (wardrobe is my area of weakness, pretty minimal elsewhere). I think since you have already managed your consumption, you are thinking on the “next level”. A few companies that come to mind that one can check out is Everlane (offers full disclosures on their site of the manufacturers) and Eileen Fisher (working toward bringing back USA production, a certain portion is currently made in the US). In Hawaii, we have a few local designers who produce in the State also (Allison Izu & Fighting Eel). Reformation is an LA brand that is also domestically produced (& has petites) but is trendy/younger but I could still make some of their pieces work.

  • I appreciate the balanced view of this discussion–people often need the jobs mass sewing provides but it is important to be mindful to support fair trade clothing manufacturers.
    One issue I’ve found with purchasing fabric or yarn is that they are also mass manufactured.
    I once looked in to buying American made shoes. In my research, I found only one company which was manufacturing shoes in the US.
    What to do? Slow Fashion sounds like a good idea!

  • Karen Cox

    I’ve just recently discovered, haven’t ordered anything yet. They say their clothing is sustainably made and fair trade.

  • I tend to only buy vintage clothing. Thrift shops rarely have what I want, but vintage is affordable and tends to suit my style and be well-made and unique.

  • Sally

    For Poor Countries, Well-Worn Path to Development Turns Rocky
    Economists worry that the factory-led model of advancement—which, for more than a century, has offered the quickest route out of poverty—is simply no longer available to today’s poorest nations in South Asia, Africa and Latin America.
    The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 25, 2015

  • This is a fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing the documentary, I will definitely be watching it. I always research every piece of clothing I buy. It’s more work, but the money and time is worth it.

  • I love your passion for pursuing more ethical clothing. I have read a book on the topic and am also interested in dressing more ethically. However these are the problems I find: 1. I have no way of knowing whether fabrics I purchase are produced ethically (and fabrics in stores have so much dressing on them, wonder what chemical they are pouring on them to keep them flat on the roll?) 2. I am concerned about cheap clothes being produced in sweatshops in third world countries, but when I and my teenagers go shopping we find that all the clothes we actually want to wear (or can actually fit) are sold in the shops with the cheap clothes. Eg I wear an uncommon size bra and can only buy bras to fit at $3.00 at Kmart or $50.00 at a department store. How do I know which is more ethically made? I know which one suits our budget better. Thanks for the reminder for me to think this through again.

  • Kurkela

    Slow Fashion is not for everybody, as Slow Food is not for everybody.
    Lots of people prefer to buy 30 lousy T-shirts for a dollar each instead of one good T-shirt for 30 dollars. Lots of people prefer to buy 10 lousy synthetic material bags instead of one good real leather bag which could last for 10 years. Lots of people prefer to eat in McDonald’s or grab some frozen food to microwave instead of making a healthy meal from scratch. It’s easier this way. And economics in any country is based on never-ending buying cycle. Buy, don’t think. Debt is good. Buy more. And then even more. YOLO etc.
    We all have our choices, and unfortunately they are as they are. A stage of human species development, I guess.

  • Tina

    I very seldom buy clothes. Lots are given to me and I keep clothes for years and years.I am troubled by the fake designer items as I have read so much bad about them.

  • Linda

    I enjoyed reading the post and the comments.

    However, there are those of us who can’t afford to buy anything but “fast fashion”, don’t throw those cheap t shirts away after a couple of wears but continue to wash and wear, and wash and wear them until long after their useful life. Having discussions about whether or not we should have garments made for us is largely irrelevant to those who are subsisting on less than a living wage in the USA, or any other country.

    Coming from my background minimalism was just life because a) I’m old and conspicuous consumerism wasn’t around back then b) my country was suffering the after effects of the 2nd World War and struggling to get back on its feet c) working class families rarely have enough extra cash to waste.

  • Dylan

    I support buying Chinese made products, whether that be clothes, shoes, furniture, or pretty much anything. (Obviously within the guidelines of your own personal minimalism and not conspicuously consumptive.) :)

    The Chinese Communist Party has 90 million members. It’s the largest political party in the world. 90 million is about 1 out of every 16 Chinese people belonging to the CPC. Since 60% of the work force in China is urban proletariat, you would expect there to be huge numbers of workers in the CPC. Their influence in the Party is not only large but probably growing. China has overtaken the U.S. as the largest economy in the world. I’m in awe of their infrastructure projects – housing, roads, schools, bridges, high-speed transit projects, medical clinics in the rural areas. They’re building a mega-city that will be the size of Connecticut (!) connected to other metro areas in the region via high-speed rail and transit projects. Meanwhile roads, schools, and bridges in the U.S. continue to fall apart.

    The Revolution in China is ongoing, the struggle there hasn’t ended. The fundamental circumstance in China that makes it a success is its planned economy. It’s not a neoliberal capitalist economy like the U.S. The majority of industry is state owned, as are the banks.

    For me personally, I try to avoid buying anything U.S. made. That’s not really difficult due to U.S. imperialism and abandoning our manufacturing base, but food is an obvious exception. :)

    I’ve used tailors for having custom silk blouses made. It’s not cheap, many working people probably couldn’t afford to get their clothes this way, even if they were minimalists. Where I live a blouse costs about 150 USD for a tailor to make, and that doesn’t include the fabric, that’s just the labor. I last had it done about 3 years ago, it probably costs more these days. If you know exactly what you want and can afford quality clothes, and not too many of them, it’s an option. And cost probably varies depending on where you live.

    To me, the biggest takeaway in addressing exploited wage labor is to fight against U.S. imperialism. “Slow clothes” is a feel-good concept that only works if it’s a reminder to us that U.S./western imperialism is the cause of the violence and exploitation and that we should oppose it consistently.

  • I agree wholeheartedly with Justine (19th November). I too am a dressmaker and blogger, and potential customers have been completely taken in by the cheap imported fashions that are around, to the extent that they will challenge my (very reasonable) rates in a hostile manner. No value is placed on great fit, personal service and durability of a garment. It’s extremely sad and frustrating.

  • Jill

    I have recently found out about slow fashion and find it works with how I live my life. I currently only buy clothes I know I can wear for 2 years or more from both the high street plus small businesses. I can’t knit very well so I spend most of my budget on buying jumpers, socks and merino wool garments. I am also attempting to make my own clothes so I can appreciate the time and effort (and skill) that goes into making garments. There are a few ethical and organic companies that sell fabric online, plus non-chemical dyes out in the marketplace for upcycling thrift store finds, though I have not tried this myself. I feel excited that the fashion industry is understanding women’s need for simplicity and are in the beginning stages of responding to this in healthy and ecological ways.

  • […] army. I don’t want to have saucepans in every size or purses to match every outfit. I worry that fast fashion and rampant consumerism are harming the environment and peoples’ lives for the sake of […]

  • Beth

    I’ve been wanting to start sewing my own clothes (I do sew), and I think this was just the inspiration I needed to look for clothing patterns that I could love forever and start making them for myself and splurge on high-quality fabrics to do it.

  • Tina

    I get most of my clothes handed down. I buy underwear. I am not making much of a difference in world conditions by buying a piece of clothing once every ten years or so. The last socks I bought were made in the US. I am troubled by reading that one woman owns 400 pairs of shoes or that a wedding cost $5 million. Surely, there are better choices to be made.

  • Tina

    My daughter gets a lot of clothes from friends. Anything she doesn’t like she passes to me. If I don’t want it, I pass it on. My older son buys clothes at thrift shops and passes things on to his brother or me. My husband also gives me things. In the winter, I wear any old T shirt under a sweat shirt or sweater. I have 4 pairs of slacks: 2 jeans, 2 black slacks. In warmer weather, I wear better T shirts. I have a winter jacket, a windbreaker, and 2 hooded sweatshirts. I am trying to get by with 3 pairs of shoes but I need a new pair of walking shoes. I love jewelry, I have lots of earrings, necklaces and bracelets, most of it second hand. I love the colors.

  • Tina

    I just replaced a pair of shoes I had been wearing for 15 years. I sleep in an old T shirt and ratty sweat pants because we haven’t turned on the furnace in the 16 years we have been living in this condo. I get dressed up about twice a month. I have a lot of costume jewelry and I have been giving away the items I don’t wear. I am appalled when I see how much the average person has in his or her closet. I do have a lot of live plants all over my home. I got most as cuttings when I saw something unusual.

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