Last month I put up a brief post about slow clothing and asked readers about the oldest favourite (or at least most frequently worn) item(s) of clothing in your closets. How long we hang onto and wear our clothes is interesting to me, particularly as “length of service” has to be an indicator of quality (amongst other things, including changing tastes).
A fair amount has been written about clothes and fashion and what constitutes responsible consumerism around clothing and textiles. Some of the ideas (about being more responsible) that I’ve read about on other blogs are kind of fun, some kind of extreme and others silly, but there is no shortage of food for thought in this arena. Ottawa’s HeartFelt blog has some links to some of the latest ideas on responsible fashion here.
Personally, I’ve long been comfortable with the whole second hand clothing scene, both as a buyer and a contributor. Re-using and repurposing clothing that still has life in it just makes sense. Plus, for me, I love vintage clothes that LOOK older and are not currently “in fashion”, which broadens and amplifies the whole “gently used” experience (though I have scored some nice “nearly new” finds over the years and appreciate those too).
Where I can get stuck is when considering what to do with items that just shouldn’t be passed on to someone else because they are unwearable (read: mishapen, stained, torn beyond repair). I worry that a lot of those items end up in landfill, and they really shouldn’t. And that’s where surfing the web can yield some good ideas (and good reminders):
How to Recycle Your Socks (28 ideas here, some of which I’ll actually use)
If you’re not feeling so clever or crafty, the 3 tips found here on sock reuse and recycling are really very sensible.
I think the fact of the matter is, though, that we all hit a certain critical mass of old clothes (and socks) that we can keep around for reuse as rags, packing material, craft supplies, etc., and most of us end up with items that we’d just like to see out the door. That problem is reasonably well addressed in this Ask Umbra posting. The tricky part, I have found, is in the suggestion that you check with your town or city to see if they have a textile recycling program. I’m still looking in Ottawa – information welcome, please!
Which brings me to here: okay, so I and lots of other people like me are sufficiently motivated to find out about these things (and sometimes follow through on them!), but how sensible is it to have individuals trekking across the country (usually in their cars, let’s be honest) here, there and everywhere to donate their old torn and stained textiles, their old dead batteries, their hazardous waste and computer hardware, their print cartridges, and so on…you get the idea, right? I was downright cheesed off when the LCBO and The Beer Store decided that they would reuse wine bottles, but they had to be dropped off at The Beer Store, a place I pretty much never go (as, yes, I tend to buy “interesting” beer at the LCBO)! How sensible is that??
Our curbside recyling programs should be expanded to accommodate many more forms of recycling, shouldn’t they? This would (a) save on driving pollution and (b) ensure that more people actually do this kind of recycling (because, let’s face it, if you don’t have the time/energy/resources/whatever, you won’t do it, and I’ve been guilty of the same, lots!). It would cost the taxpayers (read: you, me) more, but wouldn’t it be worth it? (Especially if they made sense of how they use our tax dollars.)
My final word (for now): buy quality whenever you possibly can, wear “used” when you can, buy less and keep track of what you are using. I’ve become a much smarter shopper as I’ve aged, but I was curious to discover that quite a few of my most-worn, favourite items of clothing are a good decade old (ie these date back to when I was a new mother). So, without further ado:
– brown suede slip-on shoes (17 years – they very sadly finally had to be retired last year)
– pink slip nightgown (9 years – no comments on how sexy that must be all these years later!)
– white/pink cotton Marks & Spencer pj bottoms (10 years)
– red shawl neck sweater (8 years – this is a maternity item from when I was pregnant with our youngest, but I am sadly convinced swear it doesn’t look like it and I still love it!)
– vintage silk patchwork skirt (30+ years – bought second hand this year)
– red leather shoes from Clarks (2+ years – my mum’s sister taught me to buy quality shoes, and I know I’ll still be wearing these ten years from now)
– dark blue cotton trousers from Clothes by Muriel Dombret in Ottawa (6+ years – here is a great example of quality clothing that I think we should buy more of; they fit like a glove and they will last and last both in terms of style and years of service)
– pink wool fringed scarf by Echo (7 years – a good scarf should last for ever)
– tailored floral sleeveless dress by Anne Klein (1 year – “nearly new” second hand score from ValuVillage – wish I could score these finds more often when I need something “new”)
– black Bogs (6 months+ this is probably my hands-down best recent buy, but I need to give them more time till I can really make a statement like that. In the past six months I have worn these wonderful waterproof boots – which don’t look waterproof, by the way – through heaps of muck and knee-high water in the streams on our land, and my feet are always, always dry and comfortable)
And finally, it wouldn’t be honest to wind this up without mentioning my newest clothing mistake. Well, not exactly a mistake, but something to make me think twice. This past winter I treated myself to a gorgeous deep purple organic linen/cotton blouse with a ruffle from Green Tree in Westboro. It is beautiful, it won’t date quickly, and it was made responsibly. However, I can’t wear it again until I iron it, and I haven’t picked up an iron in about 10 years. Not sure that was such a smart buy after all? Next time I’m lucky enough to purchase at Green Tree, I must stick to the knitwear!