In the sustainable fashion movement, it is incredibly difficult to be 100% efficient at sustainability practices. There is so much that goes into creating a garment and it involves so many individuals on the production line that there is a low number of companies that are holistically coordinated from the harvesting of materials to tossing out an old piece.
So, from the plant to the pitch, here are some sustainable actions you can take to fight the fast fashion and clothing industry that makes up a large percentage of our garbage waste and carbon emissions.
Buying Sustainable Materials
Examples include natural fibers, organic cotton, and innovative manmade technologies that are intentionally made to reduce waste and foster a long life.
The controversy: There is criticism about organic textiles about how it is not actually beneficial to the environment or health and that they use more resources and are way more costly than your nonorganic crop. Others argue it does reduce harmful effects to the environment.
I myself am still working out the details of this, but I tend to lean more towards organic purchases. The reduction of pesticides, I think may help those with sensitivity to synthetic chemicals function better in the world and also reduce the slaughtering of local flora and wildlife near the original farming site. I identify with those who are sharply sensitive to many substances and push for pesticides that are non-disease causing in workers and the wearers (so I do not discount the idea of any type of pesticide). This involves more in depth investigation of a farmer’s methods and tactics, what mass produced farming company is harvesting and wholesaling these materials, etc.
With both organic natural fibers and manmade technologies, they can be expensive. Shop secondhand to buy more or save up and do your research to make a purchase that you will actually love, for love creates sustainability.
Boycotting Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is argued as the cheapest and convenient form of fashion for the masses for the age group most interested in vanity. People also often defend H&M and Zara actually help the environment by creating eco conscious lines and cutting out the middle man. If you do shop here, shop the sustainable lines. But before you do, consider that many of the sustainable items found in the eco conscious lines, like basic tees, are staple items and can be found cheaper, more durable, and more prestigious in designer resale shops. In addition, these companies often hide details of their true environmental and worker impact by their friendly marketing strategies.
Fast fashion clothing companies steal local young artists’ work without appropriate credit. They are known for exploiting staff, artists, and seamstresses as a whole for basically a knockoff product. Get the same authentic items at your designer resale shop.
Ironically, these stores appeal to hipper, trendy millenials who are into art. Buying from fast fashion actually hurts their customers’ entire raison d’être and basically slaves them into a cycle of overpriced unoriginal clothing that hurts their entire career choice by encouraging disposable purchasing, low quality garment creation and design, and expecting monetary investments each week or month due to the new supply of clothes that come in weekly.
Learning About Your Clothes
Educating yourself on the different types of fabrics, cuts, designs, prices, tiers can help you tremendously. I have been studying the clothing industry on my own for some years now and I am at the point where I can walk out of a thrift store with a Versace coat within 15-20 minutes. I continuously educate myself because over time, it builds up, and all of a sudden you are so aware of a garment you do not waste hours in a store wondering if you would like this or if this would look good on you.
Some concepts I briefly studied included:
Colors and patterns. My skin tone and hair color have a beautiful highlight when matched with the right clothing and garment colors. I read books on this, and even went to the mall to try on all the shades of pink in one store. Sounds tedious, but it was actually awesome and fun. I now know my 3 shades of pink wherever I go.
Fit. This has changed over time. When I was curvier, about twenty pounds heavier, I had more of a middle section and larger bottom. I found a peplum style worked well for me in tops and dresses, which accented my waste without giving attention to my fat. If you have ever watched What Not To Wear, you will see them talk about this a lot, because this works well for most women. Attractiveness of the female is determined by a woman’s hip-to-waist ratio, anyway. Not bust, actually. This is based on scientific study. For men, learn about your pant length, lifestyle, shirt style (collared vs. not? short necks tend to not look well in those), or the extent to which you even care about style.
Fabric. I am allergic to silk and find many synthetics gross. You can experiment enough with clothing to where you can start to recognize when a fabric has been washed, sprayed, what brand it comes from, what tier it belongs to, if it will be comfortable for work, sweating, exercise, hiking, leisure, etc. by exploring more fabric choices and observing them in the store. In doing this, you can know which fabrics are comforting for the lazy days when you are crying from your relationship breakups, or which ones are good for outdoor activities or a casual day. Learning about this prior to shopping helps reduce the time and energy spent shopping and increases self esteem in your purchases.
Caring For Your Clothes
Basic knowledge like proper laundry and sewing techniques are now totally lost on this generation. Knowing things like basic sewing could help save that entire shirt or dress from going into the dumpster into the landfill. And it could make you more creative in your thrift practices. Proper washing also sustains a garment for longer. Have you ever noticed if you wash certain kinds of wool it shrinks? Well, it was because you weren’t supposed to do that (it’s okay though, I have) because of the way the material interacts with water.
I read Homemaking books for a while, like Home Comforts, The Art & Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson. She knows so much about fabric care and everything else home related… I mean, the book is 900 pages. See if you can find it at your local Half Priced Books (thrifting books is also a lifestyle secondhand way to reduce waste).
I think it feels good to look good. One of the first things my therapist and support family tells me to overcome depression and illness is that to just get out of bed and put on clothes. Well, I feel worse if I put on clothes I don’t like. I just need everything to make sense and creative, like my artistic-science self says. Through embodying self care in the daily basic habits, combined with healthy eating and healthy everything else, you create a higher self esteem and higher standard of care for yourself and can be more prepared to lift up others and find more innovative ways to be sustainable and give back while treating yourself.
Fashion and clothing are actually very scientific and sophisticated industries. They get shit on by intellectuals, but the observation of materialistic combination, learning how wool is affected by soap and water, how certain lines flatter different figures, and more, is very meditative and opens your eyes to the complexity of the world and the human form.