I have loved clothes for as long as I can remember.
Obviously – I have built an entire career around it.
I can remember getting my first job as a hostess at Pizza Hut just so I could have my own spending money to buy more clothes (I think I may have even be 3 months shy of the legal age to work. but I REALLY wanted my own money to buy more clothes).
At the time, clothes were still an investment. Even the “cheaper” ones.
But not anymore.
Sure, there are still some luxe brands and higher priced retail stores, but for the most part, clothing is cheaper now than it has even been.
How can that be when the price of everything else – education, housing, food – has gone up?
The short answer is overseas production.
At one time, the majority of clothing was manufactured in North America.
Today, 98% of our clothing is made overseas.
So, why should we care?
We’re saving money on our clothing, right? Isn’t that a good thing?
You can literally walk into a fast fashion retailer like Zara, H&M, or Target and buy a pair of pants for less than you’re likely to spend on your lunch.
But ironically, those cheap pants come at a hefty price.
And it’s actually costing you and the rest of the world.
Cheaply made clothing falls apart, fades in colour, and loses it’s shape quicker than well made clothing. Period.
Which means a viscious cycle of buying over and over again to replace those cheap pieces.
As a result, more than 21 BILLION (!!!) pounds of clothing is being thrown away every year and ending up in landfills – making clothing the second largest cause of pollution on the planet (behind oil).
Picture Credit: www.trustedclothes.com
That should be enough reason to want to become a more consious consumer, but there is also the issue of human rights and fair wages for the mostly female workers making our clothing overseas.
Women who are seperated from their children for long periods of time in order to work in these factories.
Women who are forced to work overtime (and not compensated accordingly) in order to meet the insane production demands of these fast fashion retailers (who are trying to meet the demands of our consumer hungry society).
Women who are subject to abuse (physical and sexual) by their supervisors and regularly injured on the job because of unsafe environments – some even losing their lives because of it (remember the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013?).
A rescuer carrying an injured boy from the rubble of Rana Plaza. Picture Credit: Toronto Star
If you want to find out more about where your clothing is from, I recommend watching the documentary The True Cost which explores the links between consumer pressure for low-cost high fashion and the meager existences of the sweatshop workers who produce those goods.
In the meantime though, I want to talk about some simple ways YOU can make a difference and become a more conscious consumer when it comes to your clothing purchases.
And no, I am not going to tell you that you need to spend $1500 on an “ethically produced” coat – I am not about to do that myself so I’m not going to try and tell you to do it either.
I am however, going to share with you some of my favourite ways to build a sustainable wardrobe and become a more conscious consumer when it comes to clothing and fashion.
1. Make friends with your local tailor and shoe repair guy.
Instead of throwing out those pants that ripped at the waistband when you were struggling to pull them up by the belt loops (oh, was that just me?! HA HA) or tossing those ankle booties that the heel started to loosen on, take them in and get them repaired.
Tend to your clothing instead of tossing it.
Turn the items that you may be bored of (and tempted to toss) into fun new pieces!
Check out this article on 100 ideas for upcyling your clothing then ask a friend who is handy with a sewing machine (if you’re not) to help, or go to your local tailor again to see what they can do for you.
3. Become a “slow fashion” consumer.
Buying better quality clothing that is locally produced will be more expensive for sure, but it doesn’t have to break the bank.
For example, buying a pair of Yoga Jeans manufactured in Canada by Second Clothing can cost you anywhere from $99 to $179, which yes, is more expensive than a $40 pair of jeans from Old Navy.
But I can guarantee you that the Yoga Jeans will last longer, won’t lose their shape after one wear, and are even more flattering on & comfortable to wear.
Paying a bit more for better made clothing is a smarter ROI (return on investment) and will save you money in the long run because you’re not having to pay to replace the same piece over and over again.
4. Wear other people’s clothes.
Check out your local thrift store or consignment shop for some great pieces at seriously discounted prices.
Or shop for free by hosting a clothing swap with your girlfriends! SO. MUCH. FUN.
5. Rent your clothes.
When it comes to special occassion items, I understand you may not want to wear the same dress to every wedding or Christmas party you’re invited to.
But you don’t need to buy a new dress for every special event either.
There is now an entire industry dedicated to rental attire for those special events – you can rent your dress, your jewellery, even your handbag!
6. Have a plan when it comes to shopping.
The fact is, most of us wear only 20% of our clothing, 80% of the time.
What a waste!
We have these overstuffed closets full of clothes we don’t wear because we buy on impulse or because something is “on sale”, and then it sits in our closet never to be worn because we don’t have anything else to go with it.
I don’t expect you to stop shopping at your fave fast fashion retailer right away, but the next time you are considering buying an item, give some thought as to HOW you are going to use it and what will you wear it with.
If you can’t think of at least 3 different outfits you can make out of that one piece, leave it be.
A great way to plan your wardrobe effectively and make sure you are wearing everything is creating Capsule Wardrobes – having a set number of pieces that all can be mixed and matched with one another.
Overwhelmed at the idea of creating a Capsule Wardrobe?