the seduction of slow fashion

by Valerie

in fashion,inspiration,sewing

Have you been seduced by the idea of slow fashion?

I confess: I used to be a mindless consumer of fast fashion. I was unhappy with life in a lot of ways, and retail therapy was my self-medication of choice. I regularly bought a lot of cheap, boring clothing that (in hindsight) didn’t even give me much pleasure to wear or to own.

Not surprisingly, the shopping never made me feel better long-term.

 
icky clothes by iamos, via Flickr

Icky clothes, by iamos via Flickr

Learning to sew didn’t stop my nasty habits completely, but it was definitely the first step in my path to recovery! Sewing itself cheered me up in ways shopping never could, and learning about the construction of clothes helped me realize how awful fast fashion clothes really are.

Nowadays I am firmly in the slow fashion camp. The notion perfectly jives with everything I believe about personal style, building a wardrobe, fashion as art, and the practical and creative benefits of knowing how to sew.

 
Use it up, wear it out, make it do, by peppergrass via Flickr

Or do without, by peppergrasss via Flickr

There’s another discussion to be had about what the fashion industry itself should do about slow fashion, but right now I’m talking about decisions we make as consumers.

Believing in quality over quantity. Seeking out long-lasting and well-made clothes, that yes, might cost a bit more, but that you’ll be able to wear for decades.

All through high school, I wore a black wool peacoat that my mother bought herself when she first moved to New York City in the 1960s. It was her first winter coat (she moved from Kingston, Jamaica). When I went to college, my mother stole it back from me, and she still wears it, whenever it’s cold enough, anyway. Do you have anything in your closet that’s four decades old and still as stylish as ever?

 
vintage peacoat from Etsy seller fluffypinkbunnies

Vintage military-style peacoat, from Etsy seller fluffypinkbunnies

Understanding that clothing is not disposable. That it is not a good deal to buy that $9 shirt, and that it is definitely not okay that it won’t last five washes.

 
cheap clothes by erix!, via Flickr

Cheap clothes, by erix! via Flickr

Thinking about whether it’s okay with you that there are 100,000 (at least) shirts in the world exactly like that $9 one you just bought, and that somebody, somewhere in a faraway place, worked all day long to make them, and only got paid less than your daily Starbucks budget.

 
3rd world factory by Hyper Acidic Other Asian via Flickr

3rd world factory, by Hyper Acidic Other Asian via Flickr

Thinking less about what’s on the mannequins in store windows, and on the cover of fashion magazines, and more about who you are. Who you are doesn’t change with the seasons, after all.

 
cheap tank tops by abbyladybug, via Flickr

A pile of cheap tank tops does not a wardrobe make, by abbyladybug via Flickr

What about you? Does the idea of slow fashion make sense to you? Are you a practicing believer, or do you need more convincing?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Katy March 10, 2011 at 11:02 am

I think I get it. And I think I’m taking steps in the direction of slow fashion myself. While I doubt I’ll ever have the ability to sew my own clothes, no matter how much you believe in me Valerie, 😉 I do think I’ve become picky about the clothes I buy, taking into consideration how soon they’ll go out of style, how versatile they are, and the quality of the item. And now, after our ‘image consultation’, I have a clearer view of what I want my style to be, so I can further avoid buying items that I won’t actually wear.

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Valerie March 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Katy, it took me forever to get to that point – to think hard about what I was buying, and be honest with myself about whether I was going to wear it and whether it would last. You’re totally ahead of the game!

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Sandi March 10, 2011 at 11:16 am

Hi, Valerie – I’d never thought about the fastness or slowness of fashion. The $20 off coupons from Chico’s are always so tempting. Do I really need another white shirt or another black sweater? Most of the clothes I love are the ones I’ve had for years like the red dolman sleeve Michael Kors that I spent a bundle on but never goes out of style.
Thanks for making me think before I buy another mindless piece of non-fashion. s

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Valerie March 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Sandi – you’re welcome. Anything from Michael Kors will indeed last forever! I’m glad my post resonated with you!

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Abby March 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Haha. That’s my pile of cheap tank tops there. I buy them, wear them until they are falling apart, then depending on their quality, I either throw them away or bring them to my every-three-months local clothing swap. I actually do have too many clothes, and I hardly ever go shopping. Most are actually from the swap. I benefit from other people’s clothes-shopping problem! Looking at this photo from a few years ago, I can tell you that most of these have actually been retired, but wearing these under clothes mean that other clothes get laundered less frequently which saves on water. Win Win!

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Valerie March 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Abby thank you for your awesome picture (and even better caption!)! You bring up an excellent point though that I didn’t mention in the post…taking care of your clothes (1) so you don’t have to wash them as much and (2) so they last longer! A cheap tank top underneath certainly does the job.

Also, clothing swaps are totally slow fashion. I love seeing clothes being happily worn by my friends that just sat in my closet neglected, AND getting “new stuff” without actually going shopping!

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StudioCherie March 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Excellent post and effectively illustrated!

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Valerie March 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Thank you! I appreciate you reading *and* commenting!

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Jessica March 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm

A few years ago the BBC did a series with young adults about disposable fashion. They sent them to India to work in factories. First they started at a nice factory, and then week by week working conditions got worse and in the end they actually went out to fields and picked cotton with the other workers. It was a great series and really opens your eyes to where your clothes come from, who makes them, and how little they get paid for making that $9 shirt. The kids were paid for their work and had to live off of their wages. At times they had to barter things like mascara or choose food over a stick of deodorant (something we think a necessity). You can see some of the videos on the website:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/thread/blood-sweat-tshirts/

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Valerie March 10, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Jessica – Thank you so much for sharing that link! That sounds like an amazing experiment, and I’m sure it was incredibly eye-opening for the participants AND the viewers. I will definitely be checking that out!

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Laura Lee March 16, 2011 at 11:34 am

Valerie
Thanks for so eloquently articulating that “gnawing” feeling I have each time I step into a retail chain store – esp. the Forever 21s and the Boltons……

I find myself more and more draw to “refabbing” vintage and consignment finds when I buy a garment instead of construct one. This concept is also worth applying to one’s fabric and yarn stash….

And to take this line one step further check out the “slow cloth” movement: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=269539431110&v=info#!/group.php?gid=269539431110&v=wall

All this said – I seem to spend disproportionately more time in the “fast lane” than the “slow lane”! Hope springs eternal!!!

Best
Laura

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Valerie March 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Laura, I know *exactly* what you mean – I feel the same way about Forever 21 and H&M and the like. But I still have socks and t-shirts from Target, too, so…it’s a process.

Thank you for that link to Slow Cloth! I signed up.

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Jane March 4, 2012 at 9:09 am

Hi Valerie!

Your post definitely sums up the biggest pitfalls of today’s fashion industry and what, unfortunately, many people do not think of AT ALL. It’s always just buying, buying & spending more money but nobody ever thinks through what happens to those piles of unnecessary clothes.

I’m quite happy to see that there have been some changes lately – like the rising vintage trends that are bringing a new life to clothing that has been lying around in your grandma’s closet, even the most promising designers are turning around their approach! I am keeping an eye on some of my favourite Slow Fashion designers that are giving you the guarantee that their products are of highest quality and there are no issues with the labour used to produce them. There are also some great ideas how you can contribute by changing your ways in everyday life, if you find time to read it through.

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Valerie March 8, 2012 at 11:58 am

Jane, thank you SO much for your comment, and for that link! I will definitely be reading more about the movement, and what designers and consumers both can do to change the way we approach clothes.

Thanks!

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Jane March 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm

You’re welcome Valerie! I found that such a great read too.

People should stop making excuses why not contribute to this. Where there is a will there is a way, as they say 🙂

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Sheila Zammit October 28, 2015 at 3:15 am

good morning
I was clearing out and finally deciding that my 20odd year old items of clothing just HAD to go but its always a wrench to throw stuff out.
This summer I very happily refashioned an old pair of barely worn trousers int a dress, a loooong skirt into a summer dress and a thigh length skirt into a shorter version thats now fits 🙂
I like what you were tlking above in the post here…..the bt above retail therapy not quite working out and I have always been a firm believer in respecting what I purchase becasue someone somewhere sweated to make it! So I guess we think along the same lines 🙂
Anyhow…..I’m writing to thank you!
I have very little storage space left at home but I have decided to keep the clothes I was going to throw out (albeit reluctantly:) and continue what I started doint this summer….repurpose ! just as soon as I have a few spare hours (rare:)
Thnks for your write up. I found it encouraging 🙂 and I love your idea of cutting an old sweater and adding a shawl type front ANd also your asymetrical zippered cowl……its all I had time to check through, so there are probaby other ideas I will love and use (fingers crossed).

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