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!