Week 13 - Clothes
I'd been making lots of effort so far this year to reduce my waste and eat more sustainably after reading "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. I highly recommend these books if you want to understand how industralized our food has become and what some of the alternatives might be to putting chemicals and GMOs into our bodies. After all, eating in a way that was better for the earth was better for my health too. I felt lighter, and happier.
Now that I was adequately educated about the general impact of my food choices, it was time to turn my attention elsewhere. I read an article on my Facebook feed recently (sometimes you gotta thank the algorithms for showing you things that you were looking to find out more about). The article said that most yoga pants are made of fabrics with plastic in them. I was horrified. The irony of sitting and meditating and trying to be a better human in a pair of pants that will likely be worn for less than a year, thrown away when a trendy new style hits stores, but will last for generations to come, leeching out harmful microplastics and killing sea life was not lost on me.
I started reading more. Here are some facts that stopped me in my tracks and realized that changing my diet was not enough - I absolutely needed to do something about my clothing choices.
1. The fashion industry used to make new collections every season. These days, fast fashion has 52 cycles, a new collection for each week of the year. It is designed to make you feel out of date so you will buy more clothes.
2. Many clothes from fast fashion brands are designed to be of poorer quality so they will fall apart and you will buy new clothes.
3. A majority of recycled or thrown away clothes are not in wearable condition. 60% of these clothes are made from some kind of plastic.
4. Cotton clothes aren't much better either. Unless your clothes are made from certified organic cotton, they contain tons of toxins and pesticides. 1 million cotton workers end up in the hospital every single year due to pesticide poisoning. 40,000 people a year die to support this trade.
5. We produce enough cotton so that every single person on this planet can have 18 new tee shirts every year.
6. If your fast fashion item has sequins or beads that is almost a guarantee it was made with child labor.
(Facts and research are from "This is a Good Guide for a Sustainable Lifestyle" by Marieke Eyskoot.)
I don't know about you but those facts made me want to cry. Feeling in trend for a weeks or sometimes even a few days is not worth the true cost of these trendy clothes. I needed to do something.
I recently watched the Netflix documentary "Minimalism" (recommended if you want to understand what all the fuss about decluttering is, but can't stand Marie Kondo - this documentary features two guys in high flying careers who left it and downsized their lives and now travel the world sharing how they became happier as a result of living simpler lives). I learned about project 333, a challenge where you wear only 33 items of clothing for 3 months, as a way of keeping your wardrobe simple.
Today, I spent most of my afternoon separating clothes into three piles - those that would be part of my project 333 wardrobe for the next 3 months, those that would be kept in storage for another season, and those that it was time to recycle. I've decluttered my wardrobe many times before, so I thought this time would go like all the other times.
But, to my surprise, I learned a few new things about myself in the process:
1. For someone who hates shopping, be it online or in stores, I have a LOT of clothes. Narrowing my wardrobe down to 33 wearable pieces made me realize that 33 was less than a quarter of clothes that I had. A rough estimate is that 33 is 20% of the clothes I own, which means I probably have over 160 pieces of clothing (excluding inner wear, sports wear, and thermals). Why the heck do I need 160 pieces of clothing? Time to discard.
2. I don't consider myself a fashionista in any sense of the word, so I didn't think I had a personal style. However, when I had to limit things to the 33 pieces I enjoyed wearing the most and that made me feel happy in, I was blown away - I do have a signature style! Photo evidence:
3. I selected the 33 pieces based on versatility and comfort. Guess what? When it came to my most comfortable clothing, I took a look at the labels, and most of these were 100% cotton! Plastic clothing is not only bad for the environment but it's not very comfy to wear either.
4. I felt less stressed thinking about the "nice" clothes I had bought on a whim that I never ended up wearing because they were hard to match or didn't feel comfortable. I decided to get rid of all of them and will no longer feel guilty about not wearing them every time I look into my wardrobe. There were about 10 such clothes, and it was a reminder that impulse buys are a waste of money and space.
I'm looking forward to the next 3 months and seeing if I miss having more clothes, or if this will be something worth maintaining. Hopefully, I'll begin to enjoy the less clothes I have, more.
To mark my transition into this new season, I decided to support a sustainable fashion label by buying myself a new sweater made from 100% organic cotton, certified to be animal cruelty-free as well. It was 3x the price I usually pay for a sweater. I thought about it for a day, before I went back the next day and bought it. Does it require more thought buying more expensive clothing? Yes. But there will probably be less regret too, because I made sure it was something I really wanted, before parting with my money.
Chances are, this will probably be a a sweater I will be wearing for years to come. Most of my favorites in the 33-piece wardrobe I selected were also pieces I'd been wearing for years (some had even been bought pre-loved, which goes to show how long good clothes can last).
Did any of these facts surprise you, like they surprised me? Are there things you’re already doing to make better fashion choices? I’d love to hear from you and swap ideas!
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." - Matthew 6:28-29