What is sustainable clothing?

Shwopping at Marks and Spencer, posted by Tahki Yarns on Facebook, July 10, 2012.
This image is of a store covered with 10,000 items of clothing, representing the amount of clothing discarded every five minutes in the UK. The Shwopping campaign involved placing over 1,200  drop boxes for clothing donations. The collected clothing items were donated to Oxfam. It was coordinated to make consumers aware of the effects of their shopping habits and the habits of tossing disposable garments aside for fresher trends.

Does this photo make you think of your laundry room, closets and dressers..... all overflowing with the stacks of clothes that all of your family owns? No?  Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who can have a small assortment of clothes and feel satisfied. I have heard, numerous time lately, people bragging about their new duds and how inexpensively they were obtained. Now I think to myself, should I go on those rants that I go on and educate the reader about the impact of this clotheshorse habit on our environment and economy? I will spare you the tedium, you can venture forth if you want more info.

Allow me to persuade you to continue to read on, and later I hope you will listen to the On Point interview for further edification. Here goes.....

Some statistics from the interview....
  • The average American buys 64 items of clothing annually.
  • As individuals, we throw away 68 pounds of clothes away each year.
  • If you were born before 1980, you were probably never exposed to quality clothing.
  • In 1960, 100% of the clothes we bought were made domestically.
  • In the 1980's, 85% was made domestically.
  • Now, only 3-5% of clothing is made domestically.

There is a finite quantity of resources on this planet. Why aren't we thinking more critically about our consumption of goods, foods and resources? Why aren't we insisting that stores stock more goods that are American made? Why have we moved away from creating, constructing and collecting things that are hand made?
Elizabeth Cline's new book.

In an interview on National Public Radio,  author Elizabeth Cline tells us of staggering statistics related to our clothing consumption. In her book, Overdressed, Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, we are confronted with numbers like the following.

I was given a link to this interview recently and it gives one many things to think about. As a knitter, and in the past a seamstress for me and my kids, I was drawn to hear about the effects of our culture's propensity to buy lots of inexpensive clothing and then brag about it. I was also proud to be a member of the group of people who are thoughtfully choosing which garments they wish to own and then making them by hand. These items will hold up over years of wear and support the yarn and notions industry.

Can you rise to the challenge? Can you decrease the frequency of gorging on cheap fashion and try your best to buy American made? Will you reflect on the footprint made during the production of the clothing you own? Will you consider shopping in vintage and second hand clothing stores? And aren't you eager to learn about the construction of quality clothing that was the norm 60 years ago?

To listen to the show, click here.


Patricia said…
Very thought-provoking, Erin! I can resonate with this post. I also sewed as a young mother...imagine making little sports coats with set-in sleeves, LINED, for my toddler sons. Now that I am retired I dress quite simply (jeans and T shirts) but to be honest, when I enter the stores, I wouldn't even know HOW to shop the new fashions. If you sew and look at the construction of the items it makes you shudder. Let's hear it for "fatto a mano"...handmade. :-)
Erin_in_Boston said…
Thanks Patricia. I have been sitting on this post for a few days and wasn't sure how much I wanted to rant. I decided to state the facts and hope those interested will go and listen to the radio interview and then move forward with better information.
The sad thing is that it is virtually impossible to find American made clothing these days. Imagine if we were to regenerate the clothing industry? But perhaps the skilled labor needed is no longer available.

One statistic mentioned in the interview is that those born after 1980 have no idea what quality clothing is. Another statistic is that we throw away 65 pounds of clothing annually, and that's not a family, that's just one individual.
Inky077 said…
I think the French women get it right - they have a few high quality basics that can be worn in many, many ways. And they don't care if they wear something twice in one week to the office. Simple chic!

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