In recent years we have been coming to a deeper understanding of our world and the damage that we inflict upon it. There is no doubt that it is depressing; it can really get to a person. In the same vein, if you follow sustainability topics related to apparel, textiles and fashion, you quickly become overwhelmed, reaching the conclusion that it is both difficult and expensive to make 'good' choices.
That's the only piece of clothing that I have bought so far in 2017. There have been a few other close calls...some pajamas had to be returned, some trendy printed weirdly flattering leggings caught my attention briefly, and a beautiful Mexican embroidered blouse also had to go back...that was the hardest one. It was so pretty, but ultimately I had to admit that I already had a shirt very similar to it in my closet.
The average American buys sixty-four items of clothing per year, and most years I'm sure I am somewhere in that neighborhood. I didn't start 2017 with a big plan to buy no clothes, but budget and life constraints conspired, and suddenly five months had gone by without me noticing what had happened. Now it's a thing, and I'm tempted to see if I can go the whole year. Leave it to the curve balls of life to force me back onto a healthier, more mindful path.
According to a 2014 Forbes article cited in a Fashion Revolution white paper, we purchase 400% more clothing than we did just twenty years ago. And that was just twenty years ago, My house was built almost sixty years ago, and my tiny closets remind me every day how different our shopping habits are today.
I have been digging around a little bit to find out more about this idea...did people just buy fewer clothing items in 1960? Why or why not? I asked my mom about the closets and clothing of her youth. What she remembers is that her mom was willing to buy her as much fabric as she wanted in order to make her own clothes, but that if she wanted store-bought clothing, her choices were more limited. I asked her if making her own clothes saved her family money, and her memory was that her mother was encouraging self-sufficiency, rather than trying to save money, which was not what I expected her to say.
So the question is, how many items of clothing do we really need? Do I need bigger closets or more discipline? (Probably both.) If there is an item which is an unusual shape, or made of a special fabric, or is something suitable for a special occasion, generally the result is that it's not worn as often. So we have a closet imbalance, with large volumes of special items that get worn once and a while, and then a much smaller volume of items that are worn in regular rotation. Is that normal? Is that inappropriate? I still ask...why do we need, or think we need, so much clothing? It feels like I still have more questions than answers on this topic, and I am wondering what others are doing...are you changing your closets? Buying less? Moving to a newer and bigger house with glorious, well-lit walk-in closets?
Are you wondering what was so special about that one skirt? It is brick-red suede, and simply beautiful. I spotted it while still pregnant and unable to buy or even wear it. But it became a birthday present when, no longer pregnant, I saw it again at a super sale price. I could think of nothing else for days. How is it that clothing holds such power over us?
I have been spending some time setting up my creative space due to our recent move, which has put me in an organizing mood in general. We are experiencing a loss of closets and storage in our new house, which is always challenging. Add maternity supplies, and a pile of breastfeeding-friendly clothing, a second young child and a tight budget to the household mix, and the result is me digging deep and getting back to basics when it comes to managing our stuff.
Since I never pictured myself as a mother until I was actually pregnant the first time, I also never took notice prior to that moment of some of the daily tricks of motherhood. Getting dressed is one of those tricks, which might sound a little silly. But think of it this way: you're you, and then you're you feeling like crap every day for several months (at least), and then you're you with an extra forty extra pounds (give or take), but all the while still taking care of things at home and going to work and maybe exercising and probably experiencing change of seasons. During this part, you are probably still at least occasionally (or for some, often) physically uncomfortable. Also your breasts have changed size, maybe more than once, and even your feet have maybe changed size, either permanently, or just temporarily. Every day you're trying to get dressed for all of that, probably without an unlimited budget and probably without a lot of extra free time to figure it out.
I try not to buy clothes that I don't need, and I try not to buy clothes that are made in unhealthy working conditions and/or of environmentally-suspect materials. But I love clothing...messing around with it...using it to feel great...attempting to make garments I love. These two diametrically opposed positions create in me a strange feast-famine shopping cycle, and have also in the past also led not only to budget disaster, but also to spending money on clothes that disappoint or frustrate me. In the last few years, however, I have been fighting that powerful feast force, using a few simple pre-shopping habits.