Escaping Fast Fashion’s Lair – My Story

DISCLAIMER!

I’ve been struggling to force myself to write and edit this post. Fast Fashion is a huge topic, and I am by no means an expert. If you want to know more, I’ll share some resources for further learning at the end. This is mostly my story. It may seem long. But this is actually the abridged version….

I Used to Just be Cheap and I would Buy Cheap Clothes Anywhere I Found Them

I grew up shopping at thrift stores. But to be honest, it was mostly because my family chose to spend our money on horses and not on much else. So it was a choice to save money, not to protect the environment or human rights. If I found cheap clothes at the back of Aeropostal, I bought them there.

We were brought up to be environmentally conscious in my family; we had regular family walks just to pick up trash on the side of our dusty dirt road, we weren’t allowed to eat snacks with non-recyclable containers, and we didn’t get air conditioning until the early 2000s when non-CFC models became affordable.

But when it came to clothes, I am a bit embarrassed to say I was much more of a bargain hunter than an eco-warrior. I was alllllll about Kohl’s super sales. Then later, I became a Maurice’s girl. Whooo doggie, I fell hard for Maurices. Into my adult years, my husband and I would tell ourselves we were shopping ironically, like hipsters, but Black Friday found us at the outlet mall at 3:00 AM waiting for Eddie Bauer to open.

I tell you this so you know that even I, who was nominated the Earth Momma of my high school debate team (true story), was tricked into fast fashion’s lair. And I had made myself at home. I shopped out of boredom. I shopped to fit in. And I shopped to feel fulfilled.

Escaping from Fast Fashion

Shortly after my second daughter was born, a friend told me about the documentary, The True Cost, while we ate nachos and passed my newborn daughter around the table. Later, I heard it brought up again on Truly Myrtle’s podcast (way back in episode 15). I was finally inspired enough and watched most of this amazing documentary while my daughter napped one afternoon. It was a game changer for me. It made me want to step out of the fashion industry and come back with a new intentionality.

I told my mom later that week that I thought I could make or thrift all my own clothes and buy nothing new. She mentioned underwear and I said I thought I could just get it down to new elastic. At the time it sounded crazy, even to me. And it took about 3 years for me to really start seeing that as a realistic possibility (p.s. turns out you can recycle elastic).

I Really Couldn’t Make Clothes Yet

I was inspired by The True Cost and some of the beautiful sewing things I saw on Pinterest. But in reality, I had yet to really make many successful clothes. Y’all, I didn’t own an iron. So I melted the hem of a polyester circle skirt I was making while I tried to iron it with a pot of boiling water. I also ruined a rather lovely rug in the process. And the 2 or 3 sweaters I had attempted to knit were lumpy monstrosities. It took lots of practice, and reading lots of books and blogs, and lots of failures, frogs, and seam rips before I got better. But I did.

I still have a long way to go. Now about 50% of my closet is second-hand, 10% is me-made, and the remainder is from purchases I made more than 3 years ago.

Rescuing Others from Fast Fashion

I’m not writing this to tell you how great I am at being eco-conscious. (I ride horses and I fail at being a vegan, your carbon footprint is probably much smaller than mine.) The real reason I’m writing this is in hopes that it might inspire someone else to step away from buying cheap new clothes regularly.  That’s right, I hope that I can sneak into the lair and pull out some of Fast Fashion’s hostages.

I’m also writing this to show you the power of a person. And the power of a documentary. If you take the time to tell someone about something that matters to you, it can change their life. Just as my friend changed my life when she told me about what she learned watching The True Cost as I devoured a plate of nachos. Even though I didn’t run out and watch it right away, hearing about the documentary from more than one place mattered.

Changing the World: Annoying People are Less Effective

Sharing your passion is one of the most fulfilling things you can do. The hiccup here is that environmentalists and social justice advocates are almost always seen as preachy to anyone outside of this group. It turns out, being preached at is a real turnoff to a cause (unless you’re in church?). That’s part of the reason why documentaries are so important. You can bring them up to people who don’t know much about the topic, and let the film act as a expert ambassador to a cause in your place. That way you can stay friends with your friends, and they can learn about why you make you own underduds.

If we come off as holier-than-thou or unrealistic in our expectations of people, we’re not going to look like a better choice than fast fashion. So try not to be a jerk. Also, remember, people need to hear something more than once to change a habit. Even as someone extremely interested in the cause, it took me 2 or 3 reminders before I even watched a documentary, and then several nudges after that to make a real difference. So be patient with others. And be kind. None of us is perfect.

I’d love to know other people’s stand on Fast Fashion. I’ve personified her as a siren with a genie-esque abode. Are you still in her clutches? Do you miss her? If not, what keeps you from her lair?

Also. What documentaries have you seen that changed your life choices?
Here’s a few resources explaining why you might like to start making more intentional choices with your wardrobe. This is a very limited sample. If you have suggestions for me to add, please send them my way.

YouTube: If you can’t get into a whole documentary, watch this 8 minutes video!!!

The Power of Getting Dressed – TEDtalk — 8 minutes long great info and inspiration

Documentaries:

The True Cost: available on Netflix

Blogs:

Building an Ethical Closet

The Minimalist Wardrobe

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