Go Shopping In Your Wardrobe

It’s hard to research ways to reduce your environmental impact without coming across minimalism. There is a wealth of great ideas in the minimalist community, and one that has continually caused me mental pangs has been reducing one’s wardrobe down to the clothes that one actually wears. This is a practical step, and it makes perfect sense, but getting rid of my clothes when nobody is threatening me with bodily harm? Madness.

In the interest of growing as a person – or some crap like that – I decided to face my fear and at least look at my wardrobe with a critical eye. I know that there are probably only 20 items that I wear on a regular basis, and there are many, many more items than that gathering dust up the back. Perhaps the minimalists were onto something here, and it was time to let go.

With an increasingly heavy heart I started to pull out clothes that hadn’t seen the light of day in years. I came across dress after dress, each one loaded with sentiment and memory. They were fun, bright, and reminded me of a version of myself that was also fun and bright, a version of myself that was getting to see the light of day about as often as the dresses were.

I had stopped wearing fun clothes during a period of my life that had savaged my self esteem. There would be occasional days when I could overcome the mental blocks that I had created for myself and wear them, but those days were memorable because they were an act of defiance. Standing there in my wardrobe, surrounded by things that I didn’t have the confidence to claim for myself even though they were mine, I realised that I was faced with a choice: let go of things that I wasn’t using and send them on to somebody who could, or reclaim the part of myself that I had been suppressing for years.

Apparently, cleaning out my wardrobe was going to lead to personal growth after all.

Two dresses.It took a while, but I made the decision to wear each item for a whole day before parting with it. A quick try on would let me dodge how I really felt, but a full day out where others could see me and I could reacquaint myself with that positive side would probably be enough to decide. And the most amazing thing happened: not only did my ex-husband fail to appear and criticise how I dressed for half the day, but my daughter started to tell me how pretty I looked. She was able to see a side to her mother that she didn’t see often, and she loved the change.

The change stuck.

I’ve spent years being unhappy with the way I dress. My active wardrobe had become a thing of great practicality, where in the past I had always used my clothes to remind me that there was more to me than my ability to be practical and organised. By embracing what I already had but wouldn’t allow myself to wear, I’ve been able to reclaim part of my personality, and the almost desperate desire to go clothes shopping has become a thing of the past. Fast fashion no longer has any appeal, because anything new from this point on needs to last long enough to develop the sentimental pull of my existing clothes, and something that will fall apart after a few washes isn’t going to cut it. I can reduce my reliance on an industry that is a heavy polluter, both in terms of emissions and more mundane forms of pollution such as toxic waste and pesticides.

If you’re playing along at home…

… are you buying things that you don’t need to soothe an emotional pain? Do you already have what you need tucked away in a corner where you aren’t using it? Please share in the comments below your consumerism of choice.

Patch It

If you’re a woman above the age of puberty, one of the most soul destroying activities you can engage in is shopping for new jeans. You’re usually helped by another woman who has inexplicably managed to find a pair of jeans that fit her perfectly – probably because she works there and tries on every piece of new stock the second it arrives – who tells blatant lies such as “those look great on you” when you’ve got saggy bits at the back, bulging bits at the front, and camel toe that makes you question your future reproductive health.

Jeans with a ripIn light of the excitement that is jeans shopping, when my favourite pair of jeans developed an epic hole there was a bit of depressed whimpering. I tried to sew the rip closed, determined that they were still good, but it wasn’t going to work no matter how deeply steeped in denial I was. It was looking like the worst had come, and I was going to have to face the trauma that was jeans shopping.

Despair is a beautiful motivator, and as I was working on another sewing project I realised that I had a lot of small scraps that would normally go in the bin. I collected them all, set them aside and then, when I had a moment to concentrate, I looked at the scrap pieces and compared them to the hole in my jeans. One piece was a perfect fit.

Hole in jeans edged with zigzag stitch.I started the repair process by doing a zigzag stitch with my sewing machine around the edge of the hole. The zigzag stitch is great at locking in fraying threads and stopping that part from getting worse. It’s a simple way to make the fabric more stable without having the bulk of a hem. I don’t have a clue of this step is actually necessary when patching something, but I figured I could do all the sewing in less time than it would take me to turn on the modem to look it up online. I then did a zigzag stitch around the piece of fabric that I was planning to use for the patch, because it is necessary for that step.

Jeans with a patchOnce the jeans and the patch were ready, it was time to put them together. This was tricky because the patch is fairly narrow and the hole wasn’t in a straight line. I tried to pin all the way around in a single go, but the fabric was shifting and then I started stabbing myself. To get around both of those problems, I pinned and stitched along the bottom edge first because it was the easiest, straightest side. Once that was sewn on, I was then able to smooth the patch over the rest of the hole and make sure that everything lined up properly without odd ripples in the fabric.

When I triumphantly brandished my patched jeans at my family and asked for their opinion, my five year old immediately pointed out that I’ve sewn the patch on upside down. Sometimes I really hate it when my kids are right. The other observation was that the jeans are obviously patched and that this clearly isn’t in pursuit of a new fashion trend that I’m trying to set. To solve that problem I’m going to find a few other pieces of scrap fabric and sew them on in a random pattern, making sure I get parts where the denim is starting to look a bit delicate and also parts where the condition is fine.

Patching and mending clothes can seem a bit pointless, but from an environmental perspective it makes sense. Before trying to reduce our footprint I would have thrown these away and bought a new pair of jeans. I also would have thrown away the fabric that I used to patch them instead of finding another use for it. Clearly both of these will eventually end up in landfill when the jeans are past the point of patching, but if I can double the life of my jeans then I can significantly reduce my reliance on the fashion industry. That’s important, because the fashion industry currently uses an estimated 2% of our global carbon budget, and is projected to consume 26% by 2050 at the current rate of expansion, on top of all the other pollution it causes.

If you’re playing along at home…

… can you extend the life of your clothes with some creative patching? Please share in the comments below any other tips or tricks you have to extend the life of your clothing.