Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The True Cost and the Clothing Epidemic

Have you guys seen The True Cost? It focuses on the clothing industry and its impacts on the worldboth on humans and the environment. I watched it on Netflix in December and it has haunted me ever since. Pair it with all of Jenelle Montilone's work and Shirley Kurata's "Being a Socially Responsible Shopper" article in yesterday's Lenny Letter and I'm convinced: we as a society need to change our shopping habits. (If you aren't receiving the twice-weekly Lenny Letter, get over there and subscribe right now!) Trust me, all of the above are informative and moving without being overly depressing.

One of the awesome things about knowing how to sew means that I have the capability to change my spending habits when it comes to clothes. We vote with our dollars and my dollars are no longer going to support clothing manufacturers who exploit their workers and pollute our environment.

In recent years I've been a little more focused when it comes to clothing purchases. A couple of years ago I started purging my closet and getting rid of anything that I didn't wear for one year. You probably won't be surprised by how much you have in your closet that you simply don't wear. I've also been more mindful about the clothing that I purchase, although I haven't been super strict and a few items have slipped into my closet that I haven't worn nearly as much as I thought I would.

It's easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to movies like The True Cost and declare "no more mindless shopping!," then come to realize that it's a little harder to execute in real life. Sure, I can make the grand plan of only making my clothes going forward, but that takes time and sometimes you need to fill gaps in your wardrobe a little faster than your free time allows.

Enter The True Cost's "Five Tips for Shopping Smarter." The first tip is so easy to remember and would hands-down put a dent in the damage clothing manufacturers are doing if everyone who is able commits to it: ask yourself if you are going to wear that item at least 30 times. Thirty is a far cry from the average 7 wears that an item usually gets. 7! Contrary to what advertisers want you to believe, you do not need to change out your wardrobe with the four seasons (or even more often). You also don't need to worry about wearing the same outfits week after week. If you love it and it's still in good condition, who cares if you wear it every week?

Looking back, my maternity wardrobe was my most environmentally conscious, not because I made everything, but because I limited it to the bare essentials: 6-7 dresses for work, 2 pairs of leggings, 1 pair of jeans, 2 tshirts, a casual sweater, a bathing suit, and probably one or two other items. That was pretty much all I wore for my entire pregnancy (save for the first month or so when I could still fit into my regular clothesI got a belly quickly!). I wore those items over and over and over again, mostly because I couldn't justify spending more money on clothes that had a limited cycle of use (also why I couldn't justify making any of my maternity clothesmy limited free time is too precious).

I haven't bought any clothes since I saw The True Cost in December (I know, such a sacrifice to not buy clothes for almost three whole months). I have been devising a plan for when my current items get worn out or I need to add an item to spice up the life of my wardrobe. Then, serendipitously, Sewaholic ran a sale on their patterns and my plan was solidified. I snatched up all of the patterns that I've been coveting and drafted a wardrobe plan that I'll slowly build over time.

A photo posted by Lindsay (@lindsaypindsay33) on

I'll steadily chip away at my list so when the time comes for an item to get donated or thrown out, I won't have any gaps to prompt a quick online shopping fix (because let's be honest, I can't remember the last time I went shopping in a store). I've already made a couple of these patterns, but I know that those I haven't made yet will work based on previous sewing missteps. Which is another great benefit to sewing your own clothes: you know what does and doesn't work with your body shape so you can focus your time on clothes that you love and don't mind wearing over and over again!

In case you're wondering, here is my list. The blazers that I have should last me a couple of years until I finally find a blazer pattern that I love. Once my cardigans wear out, I plan to create rub offs of them because they fit me perfectly. Yes, the list is very heavy on Sewaholic patterns. What can I say, this pear-shaped girl loves them!

Work Wardrobe

Casual/Workout Wardrobe
Even if you're not ready to do an overhaul like me, small changes like shopping secondhand and trading clothes with friends can make a difference. Have you thought about your clothing spending habits and their impact on the world? 


  1. Sometimes I feel really embarrassed when I'm getting ready for work because I feel like my boss is probably so sick of seeing me in the same clothes day in and day out! But really, I think I need to adjust my thinking away from this weird idea we've developed over the last few decades that we always need to be in something new! It's such an unhealthy, destructive trend. And I'm trying to be more thoughtful about making things that I'll wear over and over and making sure that I'm sewing them well enough that they'll stand up to that kind of wear. It's a challenge to be sure!

    1. Yes, definitely rewire your brain to reject the constant need for new clothes! You betcha I'll be visiting your fab fabric store when I'm ready to make the real deal in these patterns.

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  3. When I think about this problem (not only in regard to clothes but also food, packaging, etc) I feel like I'm falling into a black hole. Even if you have the skill/time to make your own clothes, is the fabric you've purchased woven and printed in a socially conscious way? What about the packaging it came in? Sometimes it feels really impossible to be able to afford all the things you need that are made in this way because they are so much more expensive than the cheaply made alternative. It's also really hard to imagine how one person can make a change. But trying is the best thing anyone can do. Holding on to clothes as long as possible, and wearing them past the "perfect" point is really key. Purchasing key wardrobe items that are handmade is also really awesome and feels so much more special when you wear it.

    1. I agree Mo! My friend Sonja (Ginger Makes who commented above) runs a fabric store that only sells people/environmentally friendly fabrics. I'm so thankful that there are these options available, but I agree it can be overwhelming and expensive to do the right thing all of the time. I've found a few items at Goodwill recently that look like they have never been worn! I'm going to try to shop there first as well, a lot of garments just need a quick fix and they are wearable.

  4. This is a very thoughtful post, and really helpful.


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