I cannot pinpoint the exact moment that I connected the dots between shopping for pleasure and the waste represented by piles of unwanted clothing culled from a closet. I recall a gradual awakening to it, and I recall that the awareness ran parallel to the ever-deepening inquiry we make into the provenance of food.
Like many people around that time, which for me was approximately 2005, I was beginning to recognize that food shouldn't have to travel from China to make it to my fork, nor should it be coated in pesticide or pumped full of antibiotics. Much attention was being paid to the matter of food, but at that time it was uncommon to hear questions about who was making our clothes. It then clicked in my mind that if it matters what we put in our bodies, then it must also matter what we put on our bodies. Fabric, in the form of pants or bed sheets, rubbing on our skin for hours at a time could, and in fact probably did, come coated in dyes, bleaches and various treatments. Our skin is an organ every bit as much as our digestive system, and I started to question all that touched my skin. Not because I wanted too, but because I couldn't stop thinking about it after the seed had been planted.
I began to look at t-shirts, jeans, sweaters, tights (not to mention lotions and shampoos, but that is another blog altogether) with different eyes. I also felt defeated and sad thinking about the ecological wasteland represented by the contents of my closet. Defeated because I had no idea how to begin to clean it up, and sad because a carefully curated closet was a source of pleasure for me. I was afraid that any movement toward a healthier, more ethical way of dressing would also mean a lack of color, variety, style and fun.
Nonetheless, feelings of guilt would not let me ignore those thoughts. I tried to find out where my clothes were coming from. At that time, it was hard to find information. Since then, more books have appeared and more companies offer transparency into their process and sourcing, making it easier to make informed choices.
In the coming months, check Pants Lab for reviews of these books and other resources. Our willingness to learn the background of our clothing, to ask questions of shop owners and designers, and to be discerning with our clothing dollars is our most powerful tool in creating clothing that is not harmful to us or to our environment.