Deciding What We Have and Who We Are is Enough

by - Friday, October 13, 2017

Use it Up
Wear it Out
Make it Do
Or Do Without

So, this month is all about fashion on the blog, and I am giving lots of info on eco-friendly and made in America brands, pushing that secondhand, and pointing out my own favorite eco-friendly pieces.

But you know what the most eco-friendly thing you can do is? Love what you already have. Keep what you already have.

The average American throws away 65 pounds of textile waste a year. That's a lot. So it feels good to purge and donate, but actually using what you have until it's a cleaning rag is way better. We love donating clothes and feel like it is helping others, but donating your clothing doesn't actually slow down the fast fashion cycle. It definitely beats throwing it away (never throw a textile away- Goodwill will take ALL of it), but you are still tossing things out of your closet so you can fill it with new stuff.

What's the only real solution to this problem? Don't buy those items in the first place.

Just Stop Buying So Much Clothes

We each have to slow our roll on shopping. Most of us have way more clothes than we actually need already, and we continue to shop. Overconsumption is one of the main causes of climate change, of plastic waste, and of microfibers in the water. The best thing you can do is make what you have work for as long as you possibly can and buy things that last.

In short, the less we buy, the better.

Guys seems to have a much easier time on this. Made in USA and slow clothing seem to be really taking off for men's fashion. Continuous Lean has written an excellent American List to collect every thing a man could need made in America. I have even seen documentaries on Made in America culture that was really just about men looking for "authenticity" (barf). But they can get away with having smaller and more lasting wardrobes. Their style seems to change in much less dramatic ways and their basic pieces (like a pair of straight leg jeans) aren't so trendy.

The expectation is that women's wardrobes generally goes through a lot of fast and dramatic changes. In fact, the fashion industry depends on it, and they will fight forcefully against certain trends if they stick around too long (they have been trying for YEARS to squash the skinny jean, but I am not buying a flared out crop mom jean ever. Just ever. No one is begging to see my pale ankles).  The situation is bad for everyone, but it is a profoundly sexist problem that we need to look in the face.

So why do women have to keep changing their fashion so much? 

-Because how we look and our attention to trends are part of our value (and not just to men, mostly to each other)

- Because we are constantly trying to correct for changing standards of female beauty (for a while big boobs were in, now it is super straightlined bodies)

- Because fast fashion depends on quick turnaround, so they want a piece's value to be its "nowness."

-Because beauty is defined as a thing that is only one workout, one outfit, one purchase away.

-Because beauty matters. Yeah, yeah, beauty on the inside, but study after study shows that being attractive (and feeling attractive) will help your social life, your self-worth, and even your career.

-Because men can stay the same, but women who aren't changing it up seem "boring." Things need to stay new, young, and fresh.

-Because women feel like they have to be everything to everyone.

-Because women are constantly told they are not enough. Their natural beauty is not enough. That their personal style is not enough. That if they just buy one more thing or make one more change, that will be enough. But even if we had that feeling, it often doesn't last for long.

We get the message everyday that we aren't enough, that we will not be enough. 

It makes many people lots of money to create this feeling, and they spend millions of dollars to keep inspiring self-doubt. 

Yes. we all know this on some level, but like so many mechanisms of consumerism, our knowledge that it is manipulating us doesn't keep these messages from doing so.

We know it's a lie. Has a new outfit, haircut, or weight loss ever actually made you happy? And if so, for how long? It's a lie that we just keep buying into.

I have avoided writing much about fashion for many of these very reasons, even though I have spent a lot of time shifting my wardrobe from cheap, easy, and fast to something more ethical and green. If I am replacing something, I will only do it with secondhand, fair trade, or Made in America stuff, so I know I have a lot to say on the topic.

But I don't.

I tell myself that there are other bloggers doing a great job talking about fashion re-use (Refashionista is AMAZING). eco-friendly outfits (ecocult), and especially minimalist wardrobes (they are everywhere, but I love Meander Blog). I don't need to write about fashion like I don't need to write about food- other people are doing a great job of it, so why not cover other bases?

But some of it is also covering up my own shortcomings and insecurities. My own feeling of not being enough.

Most women who write fashion blogs look aspirational. You want to look like them. Obviously, they set these pictures up and know how to look beautiful, but I don't look that put together on my BEST day. I don't think I am tragic, but I very much doubt anyone is pining to rock my keds and dark circles. On my best day, I look pretty basic- nothing to catch attention for better or worse. On my worst, I look like the swamp thing in sweatpants.

I absolutely love the idea of having a capsule wardrobe, but my post-partum body is still shifting (mostly in ways that suck) and I still have at least one moment a season where I decide I am finally going to get my shit together. At which point I buy bronzer, a pile of basics (from Thred Up, but I still don't need them), and a pair of shoes. The items might change from time to time, but basically, it's always the same.

Weirdly enough, I have never emerged as Jessica Rabbit, which is always the plan.

In the face of all of this "self-improvement" shopping, loving who we already are and what we already have really is radical. It's countercultural. It's powerful. 

It will help the environment. If the average American throws out 65 pounds of textiles a year, just keeping what you already have will save the world.

It will save you too. It will save you from this constant loop that never seems to subside. It gives you power back to define yourself how you want and in a way that is true to you.

But just hoping this will happen is crazy. You have to actively make a change. It doesn't have to be a huge thing. You don't have to have a capsule wardrobe. But if you are going to set the goal, I have lots of fun ideas.

- Commit to only buying one new thing and 3 used things a season. If you are only getting one thing this fall, you can invest in something of higher quality. You will also actually get what you want.

- Try a Capsule Wardrobe. Do you have to do it forever? No. Try it for one season as a fun experiment. See how much you actually miss the rest of your clothes.

- One Thing In, One Thing Out. Most of us don't leave the house naked, which means we already have the clothes we need. Go count the clothes in your closet. That's your number- don't go over it. Commit to only buying new (or new to you) things when something else is genuinely worn out.

- Find a Tailor. How many of us have things sitting in our closets waiting for us to lose that weight or put it on again. Stop buying new clothes for a season and put that money into getting 2 or 3 things you "would wear, but" fitted so that it's the magic dress you want to wear.

-Organize a Clothing Swap. Love switching it up? Why not organize a clothing swap party with your friends.

I love clothes. I love fashion. But I know I want to work on just buying less, and I am hoping you will join me.

What we do with things we are ready to get rid of matters.
What we buy when we do something matters.
But nothing, NOTHING, will give you as much environmental bang for your buck as just STOPPING. Slow it down. Buy way less. That will save the world. 

How do you keep yourself from just buying more clothes? What do you think the right size for a wardrobe is?

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