To some, Slow Fashion might look like just another trendy gimmick to market to consumers; indeed, there are companies who, quite predictably, use the “green” label to persuade people to buy items that may not, in reality, be all that green. And yes, ethical, sustainable, and artisan brands of clothing typically do cost the consumer more than their fast fashion counterparts. HOWEVER— exclusively buying from sustainable brands is just one method to a sustainable closet. With the right knowledge, you can still build a slow wardrobe and even save money by doing so. In fact, as mentioned previously, thrifting or swapping, which is probably the cheapest way of getting clothes, is also the best way to keep things truly green.
Everyone can create a more sustainable wardrobe without spending a fortune. Just remember that big changes start out small. These are some key practices to keep in mind:
- Choose wisely, and stick with the classics. Classic items won’t look dated in a couple seasons, but trendy items probably will. Ask yourself…will I be tired of wearing this in a year? If the answer is yes, just say no! Also, look for pieces that are versatile and will mix well with several other items in your wardrobe. If you find yourself in a situation where you really just can’t buy ethical, or find the otherwise perfect item that happens to be less than eco-friendly, yet absolutely love it, it’s still not a total loss if you can see yourself wearing it for the next five or ten years! (This is an interesting read on building a capsule wardrobe: The Sustainable Wardrobe Part 1.)
- Learn to sew (or knit, crochet, weave…) No, you don’t have to be able to make your own tailored suits (though that’s an admirable goal!) But do learn to make minor repairs: sewing on buttons, repairing holes, hemming pants and skirts. This will save your money and your clothing. Learning to create garments will also give you a greater appreciation for the process, and help you know what to look for when choosing clothes off the rack. While you can find lots of books, videos, and online sources that will teach you these skills, having a real life, in-person teacher will give you an advantage because you can ask questions, and they can see how you progress. Check out local recreation centers for classes, or ask around at fabric or sewing machine stores; these places can usually point you in the right direction.
- Choose quality fabrics. As a general rule, pick natural fibers over synthetics.
- Great natural fabrics include cotton (organic if possible), wool, silk, linen, and hemp. Rayon and acetate are “semi-synthetic” fibers; they’re actually derived from wood pulp, but require a chemical process to synthesize the strands. I’ve recently started a Slow Fashion Resources directory, which you can view here; in addition to educational resources, there is a small list of shops where you can find sustainable fabrics.
- Synthetic fabrics to avoid are polyester and acrylic. When these materials, which are basically plastic, are washed, microfibers make their way into our water supply, as illustrated here:
- However, that being said, there are times when you may find exceptions to these rules, as illustrated by My Green Closet in this video:
- Ask, Who Made My Clothes? —This one is tricky. There is very little transparency in the fashion industry and much has been written about the long journey that a garment makes before it reaches you, passing through so many factories and so many hands. Fashion Revolution is a non-profit dedicated to promoting transparency in fashion industry, and thereby overcoming the appalling conditions that most garment workers currently endure. You can learn about Fashion Revolution and how to get involved here.
- Be thrifty! Scouring second-hand shops is not only easy on the wallet, but it can be a fun challenge and especially rewarding when you stumble upon that perfect find. You can also attend or host a clothing swap with your friends or within your community. Here are several links to guides on organizing swaps:
On May 5th, I will be at Tissu Sewing Studio in Wichita, KS, from 11am to 3pm to celebrate Slow Fashion! If you’re in the area, I’d like to invite you to this free, fun, educational event. There will be sewing demos, hands-on projects, a clothing swap, handcrafted snacks, shopping, and more! Tissu is located in Clifton Square, at 3700 E Douglas, Suite 59, Wichita, KS 67208.
You can view more event details and stay updated here.