Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nothing New in the New Year

This is a continuation of the conversation we were having on cheap clothing, focusing more on the environmental and social impact.

The 30 for 30 challenge had me thinking about disposable fashion and quick consumerism. As mentioned in my previous post, even before the challenge, I was getting fed up buying cheap clothing, washing it once, and having it be practically unwearable. I promise myself again and again that I will choose quality over quantity. I end up either falling back to my old ways or buying quality in quantity, which is no good for the bank account.

Even though cheap clothing can seem economical in the short term, long term they can have a much more serious impact. It is just not sustainable, ecologically or economically, to replace a majority of your wardrobe every season or every year even. That's what clothing manufacturers and retailers want. To convince you that something is "in style" or "out of style" so that you are always having to buy something new. I'm not immune to this. My own closet has a very high turnover rate. I take a load of clothes to the consignment store every season, and post 30 for 30, I was still able to donate over 100 items and set another 100 items aside for resale. This type of excessive consumerism is ridiculous. I want to focus on buying really well made items, that I really love, things that will stand the test of time.

There is also a social justice issue to clothing. I read an article in Reader's Digest (yes, I'm kind of a dork) about fashion and how so many manufacturing jobs were moving overseas to the cheapest labor. People in India, China, and other developing countries are working in clothing factories for pennies an hour. Literally $0.17 per hour, just so that I could buy a $10 t-shirt at some mass retailer. The article used Anna Sui as an example of one of the few designers who's clothing was still made in the U.S., but how many people can pay $500 for a dress. Not me. So it got me to thinking. What could I do to break out of the cheap fashion cycle?

  1. Not buy at all. Limit consumerism.
  2. Buy vintage (a lot was made in America).
  3. Buy second hand (might be made out of country, but I'm not directly supporting the company).
  4. Make my own clothing (fabric could still be made out of country, vintage fabric more sustainable).
I've been thinking of doing my own challenge. I would call it "Nothing New in the New Year". It would be my attempt to break free of the disposable fashion cycle. I would not buy any literally new clothing. Anything new to me would be purchased second hand or vintage or be made by me. I would make allowances for any clothing that is still made in the U.S., but considering most of this is out of my price range, I think that I will mostly stick to the earlier choices. Because too much of a good thing is still too much, I would give myself a monetary limit. $20 a month perhaps?

Simultaneously, I will be participating in Rachel and Elsie's Project Restyle. This challenge encourages bloggers to make use of unwanted items, by recreating them into something useful. Right up my alley.

Now I'm not entirely sure I can last a whole year on my "Nothing New for the New Year" challenge. I might just take it month by month. I know plenty of bloggers have gone a whole year without shopping or without buying anything new, so what I'm doing is no great feat. It's more about achieving my own personal goal. I'm just one person, so I'm not going to revolutionize the fashion industry, but in my own way I'll be taking a stand against unsustainable practices, unfair labor practices, and quickly dwindling bank accounts.

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