We are constantly bombarded with fast fashion marketing encouraging us to buy the newest, latest trends. The constant stream of sales marketing in the media, and in our inboxes, convinces us that what we have in our closet is out of fashion and passé. We often find ourselves in a cycle of over-consumption that is hard to break.
However, documentaries like The True Cost and books like Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion are causing us to open our eyes to our throw away mindsets, the environmental impact of the fashion industry, and the unfair labor practices subjected on the factory workers that make our clothes.
“Slow fashion supports our psychological needs (to form identity, communicate and be creative through our clothes) as well as our physical needs (to cover and protect us from extremes of climate)” ~ Filosofia – an LA Based slow apparel company
As consumers, we are becoming more conscious shoppers and increasingly concerned with the environmental impact of our purchases before buying.
At the same time, the number of small in-house designers and sustainable fashion brands is growing. Companies are returning to the idea of locally sourcing their production, which I also discuss in this article, and seeking out textiles and finishes that are more organic, natural, and kinder on the environment.
Ways to get on board
As the slow clothing movement continues to grow, we are encouraged to shop more mindfully and be more informed as consumers. Regardless if you’re just learning about slow fashion, or you’re ready to get serious about transitioning to a slow closet, keep reading for inspiration and ways we can all be involved.
Learn to Sew
Sewing is not that difficult to learn and it has some surprising benefits such as improving your hand eye coordination and improving your emotional well-being. You also get the satisfaction and pride of having made a garment yourself.
Knowing how to sew used to be a pretty common thing. I was lucky enough to learn to sew while growing up as well as have a mom who made a lot of my clothes. I remember how exciting it was to try on a newly-made dress.
Another benefit of sewing your own clothes is you become intimately aware of how much time it takes to make a quality garment. It also becomes really clear how much quality materials cost.
You also get to be really creative by picking out your own colors, fabrics, and trims.
However, most importantly, you get to create a garment that’s uniquely fitted to you, your style, and your body.
Most modern retailers create a single pattern in a woman’s size 6 or 8 and then use a computer to size the patten up and down to fit many sizes. If you’ve often wondered why most items in the store are so boxy and don’t match the curves of your body, this is why.
Sewing your own clothes can be a wonderful boost to your self-esteem. Not only do you get a garment that fits you beautifully, you get to reply when friends ask, “Yep, I made this myself.”, and that feels really good.
Buy Vintage & Used
Another unfortunate side effect of fast fashion is the quality of production and materials has really declined over the past several years. It used to be that the cost of something determined the quality of the materials and how well is was made. However, with fast fashion that is no longer the case and just because something is more expensive doesn’t mean it is made well or of quality.
In years past though, cost did indicate quality which is one of my favorite reasons for buying vintage when you can.
My theory for shopping used and vintage is if something still looks great after it has been worn and washed several times by someone else – that is the true measure of a quality made garment.
Also, when you shop used and vintage you’re usually less concerned with the latest styles and trends. You’re usually more focused on picking items that are uniquely personal to you that reflect your individual style.
Sites like Etsy, eBay, and Poshmark can be great tools for searching out unique vintage and used finds. And if luxury brands are more your thing, sites like The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective have got you covered.
Learn to Knit or Crochet
Similar to sewing, learning to knit and or crochet can be a great way of making your own clothing. It’s a little more time consuming than sewing, and in my opinion a little more difficult to learn. However, you still get the same great satisfaction of creating something from scratch.
My advice is to start simple with something like learning to knit a scarf or a hat. From there, you can move on to more advanced patterns like sweaters and socks.
There are also many health and well-being related benefits to learning to knit and crochet. They are said to lower your blood pressure, keep your fingers more nimble, improve your math skills, reduce stress, and boost your self-esteem to name a few.
In recent years, Karen Templer of The Fringe Association has started something she calls Slow Fashion October. I do hope she keeps it up. Each week for the entire month she has a different slow fashion theme encouraging us to pick up some needles and yarn and love our clothes more.
Learn to Care for What You Have
While you may not have the time to learn how to sew and make your own clothing, a simple sewing skill that you should learn is mending and caring for the clothes you do own.
Longevity is a continued conversation in the slow fashion community and it’s not just about choosing well-made quality clothes. It’s also about learning how to care for, an extend the life of the clothes we already own.
Knowing how to sew on a button, mend a hole or loose seam, or even simple alterations like letting out or shortening a hem are valuable skills to have in your skillset.
Additionally, taking the time to properly launder and store your clothing are also equally important.
One of the more fun ideas that I love for increasing the longevity of our clothes is the Japanese art of boro mending. Boro literally translates into rags or scraps of cloth and is used to describe clothes and other items that have been patched up and repaired many times.
Support Small Local Designers & Sustainable Brands
As mentioned earlier, companies are returning to locally sourcing their production and using textiles and finishes that are more organic, natural, and kinder on the environment.
Not too long ago, the choice of sustainable brands was limited, if you required a size beyond that of a twig or wanted something not boxy. However, that has recently changed and now there are many great stylish options for all shapes and sizes.
To get you started, check out 100 Affordable Ethical Fashion Brands from Wonder Wardrobe created by Daria. This is just one of her sustainable brand guides but she has one of the most extensive collections of sustainable fashion brand guides I’ve seen anywhere. Be sure to check it out.
Some larger sustainable brands include Everlane, Nadam and People Tree. The Good Trade also has a nice listing to get your started.
Know Where What You Buy Comes From
This last last one may be the most difficult of all the suggestions, but it’s important to try and know where what we buy comes from.
This is getting easier because a lot of companies are starting to be more transparent with their sourcing based on consumer demand to know.
However, with smaller local brands and designers is often more difficult for them to track where the fabric they use comes from. They may know the country where it was purchased, but there is so much more to fabrics such as where it was dyed, woven, finished and the list goes on – textiles can go through many hands before making it to the designer.
I think the biggest thing that we as consumers can do is just to continue asking and keep demanding that companies share more and be open and as transparent as possible.
And we ourselves have to be willing to walk away and not purchase an item when we don’t have enough information.
Yarn is considered the easiest to track its origins. So if you are looking to take up a knitting and crocheting you’ll have a much easier time sourcing sustainable yarn and knitting materials.
I really love the following quote from Kyle over at Sloww. It totally sums up not just the slow clothing movement, but the entire slow movement in just a few simple words.
“Your spending is voting for the world you want!” ~ Kyle from Sloww
Are you interested in knowing a bit more about fast fashion vs. slow fashion and helpful tips for transitioning to a slow closet?
Check out some of my other posts: