In this article we will talk about why caring for your clothes is important. Last week, I wrote a blog post about how to care for (handmade) garments. And today I want to continue with this topic and discuss the background of a minimalist and sustainable wardrobe.
A little Backstory
I have been thinking about the issue of this post a lot in the last couple of days. And I even contemplated whether or not to share my perspective at all. The reason for this is the fact that the things I am sharing about today are uncomfortable to think, read and write about.
If you are reading this, you have access to a computer, cell phone or tablet and the internet, of course. Which most likely means you are on the very top of the global wealth pyramid. We are very lucky to have been born into such a privileged life. It means we generally have options. One of them is the option to focus solely on our own life and ignore the consequences for other people. Especially when learning that the consequences of our actions have a negative impact on others. This should and will naturally create feelings of guilt which are uncomfortable to bear. But I hope that you choose the other option and stay with me nonetheless because I feel that it is of utmost importance to talk about these issues.
The True Cost
A couple of years ago, I watched a documentary called “The True Cost”. If you are interested, it is currently available to watch for free on YouTube. You can find it here. Here is the description of the documentary: “This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?”
In the intro, the narrator and director Andrew Morgan says: “What I’ve discovered, has forever changed the way I think about the things I wear, and my hope is that it might just do the same for you.” .
It certainly did for me. After being confronted with how the clothing and fashion industry works, I was struck dumb. Like many girls and women, I always liked shopping and have had way too many clothes to wear on a regular basis. Watching the documentary forced me to open my eyes to the reality of who was really paying for my thoughtless shopping habits. I decided right then and there, that I would change my relationship to clothing from now on.
Rana Plaza, 2013
Do you remember the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013? 1.134 people lost their lives due to a structural failure of the building. The management ignored the safety issue warnings after cracks in the building had formed and forced the garment workers to return to work .
Bangladesh’s garment industry is one of the largest in the world. Four out of five garment workers are women, who in many cases support several relatives and live from paycheck to paycheck — in a country with no unemployment benefits. Bangladeshi law requires employers to pay severance, but many don’t .
Fast Fashion vs. Slow Fashion 
Despite of what marketing is trying to tell us, buying more and more clothes is not going to make us happier or change our lives for the better. And our shopping habits comes at a very high cost. Even though – due to cheap prices and constant sales – we are not the ones paying for our over-consumption.
The average American throws away 82 pounds of textile waste each year. And I am sure, the numbers for other developed countries are similar. 82 pounds! Can you imagine how much space this waste takes up in a landfill? Most of it is non-biodegradable. Meaning it sits in landfills for 200 years or more while releasing harmful gases into the air .
There is so much to be said about the numerous, disastrous consequences of the fast fashion business model that is our current reality. And I hope you agree with me that it is of utmost importance that we all relearn to value and take good care of our clothes again. And to understand that they cannot and will not make us lastingly happy.
Taking a Different Approach
For me, this meant that I began to teach myself how to make my own clothes. To learn some basic mending skills. And to choose natural fibers whenever possible. I also started buying secondhand. And I drastically reduced the number of items in my wardrobe.
Today, about five years later, I can happily say that I stuck to my plan and I feel much better about the whole topic in many different ways. It didn’t happen overnight, it is not perfect and it took multiple steps to curate and set up my wardrobe in a way that it contains a minimal amount of clothes and works for every situation at the same time.
You don’t have to take the route of making your own clothing, of course. But you can always assess your shopping habits and wardrobe size and decide to reduce the amount of clothing purchases. And we can all use our power as consumers to support sustainable companies.
If you want to know more about my handmade wardrobe, you can find some more information in this blog post. What are your thoughts on the whole topic? Please share in the comments below!
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