I saw online the other day the excellent advice that if you are buying clothes, ask yourself if you are going to wear it thirty times. The fashion industry contributes an obscene amount of carbon, waste, and stray plastic in the environment. Our clothes choices have massive impact, and many of us could do better. If you’re going to wear an item thirty times or more, you are going to wear it over several years, in all likelihood. These are the terms on which we should consider clothing.
Of course there are exceptions – you might need something for a specific activity or event and know that you won’t get much further use out of it. These items should be sold on, given to charity shops or otherwise kept in circulation. There’s nothing wrong with using something once and passing it along to someone else.
If something has to be worn thirty times or more, it has to be durable. This is where poverty becomes an issue. Cheaply made, poor quality, low cost clothing won’t necessarily survive that many rounds of being worn and washed. If poverty is a barrier, second hand is often a better way to go – you can sometimes pick up higher quality clothing with better life expectancy. Also, if you’re buying second hand, you don’t need to think so much about those thirty wears because some of the wearing has been done already.
It’s as well not to assume that price will equate to durability. It’s possible to have expensive things made out of shoddy materials. You may be paying for the label, the design, the outlet carrying it and not for the intrinsic worth of the garment. On the whole, natural fibres and fibres that are a high percentage natural are the best bet – better for the environment and often harder wearing than synthetic alternatives. Here it pays to do your research – Rayon sounds like a synthetic for example, but it is actually made out of cellulose. Viscose is only semi-synthetic despite sounding like it was made out of old car tyres. Only if you need waterproof gear does synthetic material make more sense.
With practice, you can tell a lot about a fabric by touching it. This is time well spent. So often we shop by looking – as with all online clothes shopping, rather than shopping by texture. When it comes to the experience of wearing a garment, how it feels matters a great deal. Natural fibres are less sweaty to wear, warmer in cold weather and cooler in hot weather than synthetics. So in turn, if you get this bit right, you may be able to reduce your environmental impact in other ways. If your clothes truly help you deal with temperatures then you won’t need the heating or the air con quite so much.
July 30th, 2019 at 9:33 am
Thirty times…! I’m still wearing stuff I wore pre millennienneinnemunummm with photos to prove it! 😉
July 30th, 2019 at 9:54 am
I’ve still got a few things from my teens, and a lot of stuff that is over ten years old… it seems like a low set bar to me, but when people are buying cheap crap, wearing it once and throwing it away….
July 30th, 2019 at 4:16 pm
I quite literally have my uniform of the day which only changes by weather as to how many layers of clothing that I wear. Just adapted the military idea to civilian life.
July 30th, 2019 at 4:21 pm
I shopped in the charity shops for many years as we had no extra money for clothes, but suddenly charity shops hiked their prices way up because of the “retro fashion”. I don’t want to buy from cheap shops whose clothes are made by children or women in faraway countries. I have tried to source ethical, fair trade clothing only to find that £62 for a top is not acceptable to my income. Something or someone needs to find a middle ground where normal people on low incomes can buy ethical goods.
August 2nd, 2019 at 9:16 am
Wow. I don’t think I have an item of clothing that has been worn less than a hundred times… seriously… I haven’t bought clothes for ages! That this advice needs to be given is insane.
August 2nd, 2019 at 9:21 am
yep, in the normal scheme of things I can’t imagine having that sort of throwaway relationship with anything.