I was recently listening to PRI's The World, a radio program about current events and movements around the world, and my ears perked up when I heard them mention something called "slow fashion." Ever heard of it? No? Well, have you heard of slow food? Slow food is a push back at fast food. Slow food is about investing time and energy into food preparation and taking the time to enjoy it. And so slow fashion is...well, it's nothing like slow food really.
According to the story from The World, slow fashion emphasizes organic fibers, high quality construction, and fair wages. It's fashion that defies trends--the intent is for you to use and wear these garments for twenty years or more. Does that sound like an outrageous length of time to you? According to the story, most women wear an article of clothing only seven times before discarding it. Yeah, you read that right. Seven times! Who are these women?!?! I wear my clothes over and over and over again. I keep my clothes until they're so messed up I can't wear them anymore or until I can't wear them anymore because my belt line has shifted locations. :-/ I have been known to wear shoes until there are holes in the bottom, making the soles flop up and down, and I still only part with them reluctantly.
Okay, so maybe I'm not a fashion maven. In fact, the word "maybe" is a bit too generous: I am definitely NOT a fashion maven. But I do like to look nice...even if the attire I wear is not quite in fashion at the time.
Because slow fashion is of the highest quality (it's gotta be, right? How else would it last for 20+ years?!?!), it's also pricey. A plain t-shirt goes for $55, and a pair of socks is $20. *elephant-sized gasp* A pair of socks for $20! Good Lord! Who can afford those prices? Not a skinflint like me, that's for sure!
So here's an alternative--let's say you are interested in looking good and helping the environment by keeping perfectly good clothes from ending up in the city dump. And let's further say that you don't want to pay $55 for a t-shirt or $20 for a pair of socks. In fact, let's say you would actually like to get an entire wardrobe on the cheap. How can you do all that?
Pay a visit to your local thrift store!
You can actually go into a thrift store and for $30 or so, buy an entirely new wardrobe.
But, ew, you may recoil and say. Am I really telling you to buy and wear clothes that other people have worn and discarded? Well, yes, I am. I mean, it's not like I'm telling you to go digging through someone's trashcan and wear their old discarded newspapers with coffee grinds dripping off. And it's not like this stuff is dirty. Most (if not all) thrift shops actually do wash their donated clothes before they ever put them on the shelf. Once you get past the "ew" factor, I think you will actually be pleasantly surprised. Below, I've posted some pictures of several outfits I've purchased at thrift stores over the years. As you look at them, remember that I'm not a professional photographer, and I'm actually a pretty terrible picture-taker.
You can actually go into a thrift store and for $30 or so, buy an entirely new wardrobe. And since it's so cheap, you can change and add to your wardrobe constantly without breaking the bank. You may have to dig a little, of course, because while all thrift stores have great bargains, they also have mountains of clothing that you will find horrible. But don't give up, and remember that with each article of clothing you buy from a thrift store, you're helping Mother Earth!
So please, before you buy some polyester something online or at a store, consider thrift-shopping. Just give it a shot and see what you think.
"'Slow Fashion' Designers Tout Their Wares as Better for the Planet"
Read the original story that inspired me at PRI's The World.
"8 Awesome Thrift Store Items People Often Miss"
This article describes several treasures you can find at your local thrift store.
"10 Reasons Why Thrift Stores are Awesome"
This article lists several benefits of shopping at a thrift store.
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For my composition students' first paper, they wrote an essay based on a quote. It was a diagnostic essay, which implies that I am a "doctor" and they have writing "ailments" that I have to cure. :-) Below is one of the quotes they were allowed to choose to write their paper on as well as my own meditation on the quote's meaning and its relevance to my life.
"I think there's a time in your life where you don't feel like you fit in. I think everyone has that when you're a teenager, especially, and especially in the society we live in."--Matthew Vaughn
We were reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self Reliance"--his proclamations that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," and that "Whoso would be a man, must be a noncomformist." Eleventh grade English class, Calera High School, 1993. After we reveled in Emerson's trenchant philosophy of life--which went completely over our teenage heads--the teacher, Mrs. G.--who in my opinion looked like a witch with her sharp eyes, crooked nose, and cackly voice--asked the class if they knew anyone who was a noncomformist. Tara, a girl with a big voice who never sufferd her presence to be unknown, piped up and said that I, yes, me, Cheryl Clark, the brown-haired pipsqueak who sat at her desk and never said anything ever, never spoke up in class, never gave her opinion, always let gossip and mayhem flow around her, never to graze the flesh of her skin, I was a nonconformist.
I was shocked in two ways. First, I was shocked that someone had called attention to me in class. The thing about me as a high school student is that I abhorred attention. I was a tiny mouse who crept around the corners of social life, peeking in from the outside, never one to be looked upon, except to perhaps comment on the background wildlife in the room. My heart sped up, just like that of the tiny creature I identified most strongly with--the field mouse--one who's spotted a predator in its periphery. Maybe my mouth dropped open; I know for certain all thoughts fled my little mouse brain. I had no way to respond because all I wanted was for the attention to pass around me, like a stick flowing around a rock in the middle of a stream.
_______________________________________ The identities we carry as teenagers remain with us throughout life.
Mrs. G. protested. What? No, Cheryl is not a nonconformist. Don't be ridiculous, Tara. I'm talking about a real nonconformist, she said. And that's where the second shock came from.
Was I a nonconformist? I was very shy, didn't speak up in class. I tried to avoid crowds, not to stand out in them. And I read. A lot. I loved to read. I rushed through my assignments in class so that I could grab the novel I kept at the ready next to my desk and devour every last morsel of prose. I got good grades, really good grades. Most of my peers were satisfied with C's or even D's. But for me, it was A's, preferably A+'s, or nothing. So in many ways, I did not blend in; I did not conform to the behavior of my peers.
But Mrs. G said I wasn't a nonconformist. Was she right? I didn't live in a cave or eat worms. I wasn't a hermit. I didn't dress like I bought my clothes from a retired theater troupe. I didn't do anything zany or ever stand out. People's eyes trailed over me, never lingered. I was the forgotten girl. I was not special.
So perhaps my nonconformity--that which Mrs. G. scoffed at--was a quiet sort of thing. Mine was a silent rebellion. Against the negative expectations, the self-destructive behavior, the brashness, the idiocy, the irresponsibility, the promiscuity, the boldness that marked my peers. I stood out by not standing out. And no, I didn't fit in. I had friends, but they were the weird kids--the kids no one else wanted, the fringe folks who just didn't connect with the mainstream.
The identities we carry as teenagers remain with us throughout life. I still feel like I am the odd girl out of the group. I still feel like a noncomformist, but whereas it bothered me when I was younger, these days I embrace the status of the outsider. I don't want to be like everyone else. I don't want to be a typical middle class white lady. I don't want to keep up with the Joneses. I don't want to strive for mediocrity.
I remember a few years back when I was working as a school librarian, a teacher told me that her aspiration was to be the epitome of middle class-ness. She wanted to have the best house on the block, the kids with the highest grades, the nicest clothes a middle class income could afford. She want to be the best example of the middle class that small town Oklahoma could offer. I had never heard such an aspiration verbalized before, and I found it shocking. It seemed like she was striving for everything I had railed against all my life--why would anyone want to be the best at being like everyone else? It seemed a strange idea, and it still seems strange to me.
So how important is fitting in? For a young person, I suppose it is the thing, and for many adults it is as well. But like Emerson and like Robert Frost, the great American poet, I like to think that I have taken the road "less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference."
If you enjoyed this post, please click the share button below. Thanks!--Cheryl
Word and Book Lover.