Slow Fashion October, Week 2: long-worn

Here is the post for week 2 of Slow Fashion October:

How can we make the most of the clothes already on the planet — from taking care of and mending and wearing things longer, to thrifting, swapping, heirlooms, hand-me-downs, alterations and refashioning.

I'll admit I've been dragging my feet a bit on writing this post because, well, it's been a busy week, but also I'm kind of wracking my brain for something interesting to say here. Last year I posted about my gray fleece jacket. It's still in use. In fact, I wore it today to bike to my workplace for a meeting/seminar thing. I still haven't patched that one pocket lining that has a hole in it; I just never put loose change or my earbuds in it!

My life keeps me active and outside a lot, and the truth is, I do wear my clothes out.  We all do, actually.

Example: my favorite pair of work jeans finally bit the dust when they ripped beyond repair and got completely covered in mud and burrs at a woods cleanup/workday at the end of the summer. They weren't special jeans. I bought them at Old Navy at least 7-8 years ago for $20, and they were undoubtedly made under dubious conditions halfway across the world. I loved them anyway because they fit well, the rise was perfect (not too high! not too low!) and  they took a lot of wear and tear before finally falling apart. They don't make for a nice photo here, though.

Another example: My running shoes. The pair I bought when Anya was a baby (she'll be 9 in December) are practically in pieces, but I still use them for gardening and outdoor work at the school. The pair I used to run in are good every day shoes for getting around. And my current pair is starting to get holes in the stitching around the top, but I can still run in them, so I do.

My husband is a great example of someone whose clothing is well-worn. He hates shopping as much as I do, so he only goes when he absolutely has to. If it weren't for REI, I'm not sure where he would find clothes that fit him, that last a long time, and that he is comfortable wearing. He wears t-shirts until they are threadbare, coming apart at the hem, and wearing holes in the neck. He has worn his current pair of running shoes down so far that there are literally holes in the soles...and he has conceded that because he could see daylight through themit  really is time for a new pair. Probably.

As for my kids, well, I've made the point here several times already that slow fashion and kids are a hard sell. They grow fast, they don't necessarily want to wear handmade, and most families (us included) can't afford to stock an entire wardrobe with the sort of sustainably-sourced heirloom quality wardrobe pieces for their kids even if we wanted to. I don't think anyone necessarily expects us to, either. I know I am not alone in this.

Fortunately, we still get some hand-me-downs and my kids happily wear them. I've patched a few t-shirts to extend their wearing life. I am also very careful to save the clothes that are still in relatively good shape (aren't torn to shreds or stained or stretched out beyond recognition) by the time they've been grown out of to hand down to other kids in the neighborhood, rather than donating to thrift stores. That way I know they're more likely to be worn than to be tossed in the trash. 

I know this will only work to a certain point. Soon enough they'll reach an age when style matters and they'll only want new. We'll cross that proverbial bridge when we reach it, I think. 

Still, with all that said, I don't have great examples of refashioned garments (I tried this once and it was a big fat hilarious FAIL!) or heirloom clothes or exquisitely patched jeans. Honestly, it's not my style. I like making clothes for the challenge and the creative exercise, but when it really and truly comes down to it, I don't like to think for too long about what I'm going to wear. I'm a fairly utilitarian dresser (if that makes sense.) It's why my running clothes don't match, why I often wear shades of gray that aren't very flattering, and why I only own one single pair of heels and I only put them on when I have a gig that requires really dressing up.

So while I would love to show you some treasured thrifted dress that I remade to fit me, or an heirloom coat or pair of lovingly patched jeans, I can't. Because I don't have those things. What I do have is a closet full (not stuffed) of well-worn, well-used clothes that I wear while I live and move and work.


Julie Crawford said…
I have a lot of mixed feelings about Slow Fashion October, but it's definitely awesome for really considering how we are doing our part to be more conscientious about where our clothes are coming from and how it impacts the world. Your reflections show that you are definitely on target!
Aimee said…
Your clothes tell the stories you wear into them. I think it's just as important (probably more) to wear things well and make them last as it is for them to have a perfect pedigree-- but it doesn't sound like you need me to validate that for you :) I really like reading your thoughts on this topic, you bring up important and uneasy questions!
Margaret said…
I like the things you're saying about Slow Fashion October. It's good to be realistic.

I have a suggestion for you to tuck away for when your kids start to demand high fashion. When my oldest started begging for designer jeans we told her she was old enough to make her own clothing decisions and we gave her a clothes allowance. It was reasonable for a growing teen but not extravagant. It didn't take her long to do the math and see the choice between having just a few high-end outfits or a closet full of things that were really just as nice but much cheaper. She became a fan of thrift stores and would occasionally save up for something expensive and special. It doesn't really address the ethical questions (which she did start asking after a while) but it did stop the long arguments about money!

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