During the middle of New York Fashion Week, I happened to get a book I had pre-ordered downloaded to my Kindle. Ironically, it was a book about fast fashion. More than just a presentation of statistics which quite frankly after a while you stop paying attention to, it told the history of how fashion came to be one of the worst polluters. This fact is so upsetting to me because like finding out someone you love did something terribly wrong, I am finding it challenging to reconcile my love of clothing with such evildoing.
The name of the book is Fashionopolis and the author is Dana Thomas, a fashion journalist based in Paris. It’s the kind of book I wish I could write. I have read some of her other books which are also well-written: Deluxe: How Luxury Lost It’s Luster and Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano.
The big epiphany for me in having this issue situated in time was the realization that I began my love affair with clothing well before fast fashion began. Our relationship with clothes was more like a personal one. We gave them the same level of care; mending, repairing, cleaning, cherishing, that we might give to other relationships and people in our lives. When we looked at them they were full of memories that lingered like a favorite perfume and we loved the feel of them because they were made from wool and cotton. We bought way less but higher quality (my view on friendship as well). It hit me so profoundly that the accelerated pace and scale of change has caused us to become careless, not only with clothes but also with how free we feel to treat each other badly. Reading this book and having this realization made me not want to look at the clothes during fashion week, especially when so many of them are not meant for wearing or living a real-life in. Perhaps they were meant only for Instagram pictures. That means they are designed to be disposable.
It’s been percolating for a while now as longtime followers know, but all of this has made me want to not buy anything new. But for someone who craves innovation and change, who’s identity is frequently shifting and who has come to make a living as a “fashion blogger”, this presents a creative challenge. Yes, I can shop vintage or consignment but it is still adding new “stuff”. It made me realize despite many people wanting me to, I will never start a brand. I can’t bear to add to the pile.
So how do I solve this creative challenge? Next week I am meeting with two MFA students from Parsons School of Design and we’re going to take some of my clothes apart. Then we’re going to collaborate on how they may be put back together in a new and modern way. We will be asking and addressing wonderful questions about identity, texture, drape, society and the addition of color to a wardrobe that for many years was like the results of photos taken only with a monochrome camera. Somehow I know that a garment created through collaboration and relationship will make me love it more than anything that I could buy in a store. I have found during my long career doing social justice work that the only thing that changes peoples minds and opens their eyes is when they start caring about “the other”. This is achieved by having a personal relationship. Care is the motivation that can make us do hard things, become angry about bad things and have the will to do something about it. So maybe in this age of superficiality and social media (don’t get me wrong I love it when it is used productively), we need to craft clothes and experiences that access the ability of humans to care.
I’m treating myself and my family to vacation but I’ll be back next week. Working on The Syllabus so stay tuned, BTW I’m wearing a reconstructed piece made by Re;Code, I’ve written about them before but click on the link; they are doing amazing work. For those who missed it here is a link to an earlier post about a piece they made for me from some old clothes and recycled materials. And YES those are cotton ball earrings!
Excellent, eye-opening article!
I so appreciate this mindfulness and awareness of how choices ripple out through the world in many ways.
This post really resonated with me. I struggle with wanting to buy something new occasionally — but also knowing that my purchase will have an affect on the environment or the person who made it (good or bad). I was lucky to have a mother who was an amazing seamstress. She would make many of my outfits and also share with other friends who had older or younger daughters. I am eager to see more clothes reimagined from your meeting with the students.
What a great idea to rework some of your pieces. I look forward to this post.
I am also trying not to buy anything new.
I probably have enough good quality pieces to last the rest of my life!
The challenge will be not to allow my body to change too much, and to style things creatively so these old pieces look fresh all the time. We can turn to fashion blogs like yours for inspiration!
I think this my favourite post I have ever read of yours! I am continually surprised at how people treat each other, and careless is the exact word to make that link between clothes and relationships. Good luck with your project, it sounds fantastic.
I have always felt the need to not only buy second hand, but to make my items better before sending them back into the world to be re-consigned. I repair purses. De-pull sweaters. Add cute patches to holes in cashmere. Make jewelry out of raggedy pieces, and combine two pieces into a whole new piece if possible. After reading your post, I now feel stronger than ever about my convictions. I still haven’t looked into how to recycle old undergarments. So if you have any suggestions…
I see an alteration course in my future!
LOVE this. I can’t wait to see what you all create. You have provided a blueprint for all of us that care about our clothing and the planet. It’s exciting. Li Edelkoort, the trend forecaster, said “Fashion is dead. Long Live Clothing”. This speaks to what you’re doing. Fabulous.
Rock on – I have kept away from fashion because I have felt uncomfortable about the careless transience. I do however love dressing creatively, keeping my memories wrapped around me and being held and comforted by my clothes. Love the experimentation you are doing.
Would love to share your individual posts on social media if there were share buttons available
I will look into adding that thank you
Love your ideas but grammar is important to credibility- should be “whose”
Thank you, I am an imperfectly perfect writer and so appreciate the tip.
Great piece! I so agree. Some retailers are worse than others (e.g., Zara, H&M).
I can hardly wait to see what you have created. Enjoy your vacation with famiky.
I also just recently got hit with this realization after hearing a piece on NPR about the fashion and clothing industry makes a very big, negative impact on the environment. I’m also thinking about re working done of my pieces. Good idea! And proud of you!!!
You are an inspiration. Thanks for being so caring about Mother Earth and for not being afraid to say that it would really help if we all re-did our clothes. You are showing us it is possible and necessary.
Great article and lovely idea. Thank you! Makes me want to reconstruct a few pieces in my wardrobe into a one of a kind Frankenfashion piece.
I love reading this post, because there is a lot of truth in it! To be honest I love fashion and I spent a lot of time looking for “The good stuff” but I realize that I love my clothes in my closet so much every piece has a story and I find the way to make new combinations with the old and the new ones and the results are good. The older I get how more I will wear clothes who reflects my own personality and not what fashion discribes in magazines or the catwalk and the accessories become more importent, for example shoes, handbags, a coat and a good pair of jeans and a white shirt can make your outfit complete. The most important things for me are the fabrics they use and of course the shape!
This is such an important topic, we all need to find ways to cut out the fast fashion, it’s the equivalent of processed food!
Exactly! Perfect metaphor.
I love this post because I started doing something similar last year: I take thrift store finds along with things from my closet that are worn out or no longer fit, take them apart, and then put them back together to make something new and unique (I call it “Frankenfashion”). I love knowing that I am giving these items a new life instead of creating waste and pollution by throwing them away. Also, it is a fun mode of creative expression, one that I prefer to traditional media like painting or sculpting. Good luck with your experiments!
Thanks, you are an inspiration
Good Morning, and thank you for this wonderful message you shared this morning. It’s very, very inspiring! I personally have bought only clothing from thrift stores since the 1970s, and I also sew. I wasn’t thinking about the planet when I started doing this; I didn’t even know the scope of what was happening. I just knew I didn’t have the money to look like everyone else, and didn’t want to.
I enjoy receiving your messages so very much. I find your writing uplifting, and enlightening. I want you to know I’m very proud of you.
This piece brought tears of joy and affirmation…changing identity, caring, countering disposable, meaningful….
Just lovely. So glad to see this in so many ways.
Wow! A lot of reflection to do !! Thank you !
I have been re designing clothes for myself & loved ones for years. I can sew really, really well! Several Wedding gowns too! I don’t like waste & if the fabric is cherished it will last for generations. Good for you to bring it to the forefront.
I think we are about the same age and have had parallel careers. Once I worked as a fashion designer, many moons ago and now I am a visual artist, primarily working as a sculptor. I was also a journalist for 20 years. Listening to Greta Thunberg at the UN yesterday made me think about how I idealistically signed up for GreenPeace in the 70’s — I was one of the original signatories, in a wooly hat on board the ‘Rainbow Warrior’ in Vancouver, BC, the birthplace of GreenPeace. Your posts always resonate with me but this one really struck home. We protested back in the day, we resolved to ‘do it differently’ and now time is running out. I admire and celebrate your current reactions towards the fashion industry! Way to go, Accidental Icon!!!
The pollution generated by fast fashion is a major problem. While it is good to be aware personally of the issues and do what we can do alleviate the problem on an individual level, we need a systemic change in the way we consume clothing, plastic bottles etc. I don’t know the answer. I wish I did. I do love style, which doesn’t have to be about consuming. Its how you put things together.
If I get tired of wearing something, but it is still in good condition I put it away in a big trunk. Then a few years later I dig it out again and it’s like discovering it all over again. Sometimes it just needs a bit of restyling like shortening the sleeves. I have a blouse that I bought in the 80’s wore it for a couple of years and just took it out again. It’s a beautiful colorful silk and right up to date! I am never getting rid of it.
After spending the last 45 years trying to change large systems and institutions I have become convinced that change comes from the ground up. How can small communities begin to make a change?
It all starts with each one of us. That is why I am so glad to read this post.
Most people are oblivious to the consequences of their actions.
Fast fashion is an environmental tragedy and humanitarian one as well.
I never buy from Zara, H&M well basically any mass retailer. Anyone who does is complicit in both slave labor and environmental destruction is the reality.
I no longer buy manmade fibers either. Few realise the pollution created when washing polyester, the toxic chemicals used to produce viscose and the destruction of forests to source the raw material.
There is plenty of information now available to educate consumers. The movie FAST FASHION ought to be required viewing.
A deep bow to you for bringing this to your readers attention. You are an advocate for a more humane planet.
We’ve lost our balance, and now will go the other way.
It’s simple. Buy vintage. When I was poor, I bought all my clothes at The Salvation Army and Value Village. It’s a habit that’s hard to break. I wash everything and put in a hot dryer for one hour to kill bedbug eggs. If you find this disturbing, think about privilege. Yesterday I saw an immigrant woman and her child picking through discarded clothing in the garbage area of my condo basement.
I’m reading your post here in my sewing room, which vies with the kitchen for most-used and most-loved room in our house. I am so glad you are taking this interesting turn! Working (and playing) with the Parsons students should be a blast. I edited down my wardrobe seriously earlier this year and am gradually building it back with pieces I’m making myself. I am really glad you are examining reconstructing clothing because there is so much to be learned, enjoyed, and discovered. I can’t wait to see what you do next.
Playing is the operative word.
I love this so much! I too love fashion, and am obsessed with color and texture and shape and pattern, but am also troubled by how fast fashion moves and how detrimental that impact is on the earth and our resources (and my bank account). I look forward to hearing more from you about what you and the designers from Parson’s come up with. We shall look for a better way forward to satisfy our fancy spirits with much better care for the earth.
I love this, thank you! A local artist, Coco Gordon, formerly of New York, has been creating wildly wonderful reconstructed clothing art in her Stylista workshops for years, here in Lyons, CO. Check it out. (I can send photos, if you’d like.)
Thanks for your honest, conscientious and positive approach to this aspect of caring for our beloved planet Earth. We all can reassess, and make positive changes.
Love your style.
This was an amazing article! Thank you ?
I love your solution to being in a troubled industry – fashion blogger in a fast fashion world. Another solution would be to focus the blog on different ways of wearing the same clothing. Especially when investing in higher quality items, it helps to see styling tips/inspiration. So maybe a fashion/style blog.
Thank you, this is a wonderful idea.
Brilliant! I have been thinking about the struggle of how to continue a love of fashion with a love of planet and people. I agree that empathy and relationship are the start of the conversation. Will be looking forward to reading more from you to continue the conversation and continue the inspiration for new ways of creating.
I’m with you on this. And the shirt is lovely by the way.
I was just thinking this morning as I looked into my overstuffed closet (stuffed with a lot of things i don’t wear it live to wear) that this has got to end. Your post was just what I needed to get motivated. I might even read that book. Thank you for being so fabulous!
I love this. You’ve hit the nail on the head with careless versus care. I look forward to the syllabus!
Terrific piece, Lynne! Echoing my own recent thoughts on the fashion industry. We are of a similar background and age, and although I have always loved clothes since a young girl have only realised in recent years how important they are re self-expression. Even more recently I have come to notice that I have enough of everything in my home and in my wardrobe, and I have been de-cluttering in all areas, and find myself being drawn to a more sustainable way of living. This creates a dilemma when I see a fabulous piece of clothing or furniture I love. The only current answer I have is to recirculate things to make space for anything new vintage or otherwise.
Thanks for this latest post. I have been following you for a long time, and they always resonate and make me think!
Thank you for writing this. At a time when our children are fighting to protect the environment it’s important to acknowledge that we all contribute to its destruction in ways we often don’t consider. I’m not a buyer of fashionable clothes, but I sometimes find it hard to resist a pretty but needed item. I will keep your message close so that the next time I’m tempted I’ll happily say “No thanks.”
You should check out a company called Asiatica. They make beautiful clothes by recycling old kimono. And they have been doing this in a workshop in Kansas City for more than 40 years. They do pop up shops in New York 3 times a year as well as shows in many other cities. I think their collections would resonate with you. I so enjoy your blog and your thoughtful writings about changing and evolving. Thank you for being so open and sharing.
Thank you, I will check this out.
Lately I’ve been following you with a bit of shame, for I have turned my back to the world of fashion for all the above reasons about pollution you mentioned. But I could not resist reading your posts and following you on Insta.
Now I will be following you proudly, because with this post you proved, yet for another time, that you are much more than a fashion icon.
Love you for being so thoughtful and authentic.
Oh my this means the world to me as I try to find my path through this strange world called fashion influencing,
Brilliant writing. LOVED the article, and you are such a thoughtful and truly concerned writer. It is very appreciated. I became aware many years ago as a fiber artist how the cloth industry used formaldehyde in cotton fabric, and I was horrified at the time to learn that. Since that time, I have followed the issues related to fabrics, and you are so right about the textile industry being one of the worst polluters. The raw fabrics themselves would not, I think, be a problem, but the things that are used in them are the real genuine issue. When these things go into the landfill, they do not break down but pollute the landfills and seep into other areas. Even recycling clothes in the sense of the second hand stores does not stop the problem. We send lots (tons) of cloth to other countries, and so the problem is spreading. Thank you bringing this issue of this wise and I think extremely important issue to the forefront. Whatever we can do for our universe now cannot ever be a bad thing. I love that you are always leading the forefront in these issues. I remain a loyal fan of yours always. I will be 78 in November, and I think there is a huge opportunity to bring fashion – wise fashion – to those who have lived long lives, and don’t wish to fade into the background without ever having made a statement about who they are and who they have been in this life. I think even housewives should be able to have an identity as something other than frumpy old ladies, but something that makes environmental sense. No one, to my knowledge, has ever addressed this issue fully, and every woman needs to be able to express a positive identity with her clothing and her makeup, etc. that makes good sense while providing a genuine statement. And women, everyday women, need to receive education on the fact that we ALL deserve to be recognized for our individuality.
A personal ethics of fashion, love that. If we do not take control of our makeup and fashion choices and use them to express who we are and who we want to be we become victims of social control. I love the sentiment expressed in your comment for many reasons.
Great article. What you say is so true! We cherished and cared for our clothes better years ago when we had fewer pieces of quality, and they held so many memories within the fabrics!
We moved 2 years ago, and in addition to my books, the hardest items to donate were my beautiful suits that I had purchased in the 90s when I worked at a large art museum.
I will also check out the book, too! Love the piece you are wearing, too!
This is so beautiful! Thank you again for helping me to continue to open my eyes! You cannot imagine how wonderful it is to know there are people out there thinking and working on the things that I am also passionate and want to learn more about. Wishing joy for you on your vacation!
How utterly fascinating. I am in the process of really evaluating what I wear and simply expressing myself with no thought as to what others wear, and oddly people tell me how nice I look. Growing up my grandmother made my clothes a lot and they were always special to me. It was so much fun to pick out just the right fabric for a particular pattern. Can’t wait to see how you reconstruct some of your clothes. A great idea.
I’ve been aware of the unethical business practices of fast fashion. Joe Fresh here in Canada is one example. Their clothing was found in the horrific rubble at the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh . Yet the continue to use third world countries. I’ve written on their Instagram and left messages. All I get is a trite mission statement. For someone whose has worked in religious education for years, I’ve come to hate mission statements. They say nothing.
I’m conflicted as well with my love of fashion, and my shopping. It’s difficult to find ethically sourced clothes though I’m starting to see grass roots movements.
I love following you for a number of reasons, fashion being one, and perhaps also because you’re a woman of a certain age like me and maybe because you taught in a Jesuit institution.
That being said, sorry for being long winded. enjoy your vacation.
That is very cool
Thank you for your courage, I, too, have been struggling with this issue for a number of years. I have a design background, I can sew circles around most folks! Yet, the time and energy it takes to do so–as I stitch with great care and love–does not a complete wardrobe make. Even as I shop, I am questioning interiorly–who made this? were they treated fairly? paid fairly? how did this item impact our environment? Small steps will add up and I’m glad to see a generation of women and men beginning to take those steps. I too will continue to make baby steps.
Again, thank you.
Love your comment Nancie. Living mindfully is a major shift in how we make our
choices every day. When I see an article of clothing that catches my eye. I hold the garment in my hands and try to feel the energy from the garment. More likely than not I decide I can live with out it rather than continue to add to the horrible problem of garment pollution.
An interesting project would be to identify a series of questions we should ask ourselves before purchase,
These are questions we should be asking whenever we are contemplating a purchase.
Dear Lyn, this blog was so thought provoking for me. Some of my earliest memories are sitting at my little desk, tracing a doll figure, then designing outfits for it. My mother was a great example of elegant simplicity with her clean lines and minimal accessories. Over the years I have embellished the clean lines, for better or worse, but always having fun. Fashion mags have always filled my mailbox, Vogue, Bazaar, InStyle and more recently, Porter.
But now that I am sixty-seven, I am less interested in the latest trends and new designers, maybe because I see just now much we all have. My closet is overflowing with beautiful clothes. Do I wear them all? Ala: Marie Kondo, I am constantly culling the collection and asking the hard question…..do I wear this? Will I? Do I love this piece? I donate a good amount of pieces to justify buying new things, but lately have been well aware that I have ENOUGH.
I just love your idea of repurposing your clothes, creating totally new pieces from existing ones. To your point of Fashion Week showing many clothes that are just for “show” and not really wearable and then I think of the mainstream stores like Forever 21 that just sell masses of garments every few months. Where do all these clothes come from and where do they go. Now that the great subject of climate change and doing things sustainably, we definitely need more wonderful ideas like you have to keep humanity in check.
Thank you for your innovative and exciting ideas!
Where do the clothes go? Huge containers of clothing arrive in Gujarat India where on arrival they are shreded. Some are rewoven, some become the Indian rag throw rugs and even large quality rugs. Think of the transport, labor, energy expended.
Thanks for this article. Had not heard of “Fashionopolis”, but have read “Deluxe” by the same author, and “The Thoughtful Dresser” by Linda Grant (also highly recommended). I am not nearly as creative as you are, but I have committed to buy ONLY thrifted clothing, and have done so for about 3 years now. I’m fortunate to live in an area where we have a lot of great thrift shops. My fashion dollar can benefit animal charities, hospice, veterans services, hunger – and I’m saving money at the same time. I hope we can all find creative ways to dress fashionably AND responsibly.
I am right with you on this! My kids, 14 and 21, don’t shop for new stuff, they “thrift” at Goodwill. I’ve come a long way too. I have a small brand working with tribeswomen in Ethiopia whom I pay to create patterns that I then use on textiles. They earn life changing income this way and that’s good. But I was digitally printing the textiles in China bc the cost to digitally print in America is 2.5x. The products sold well. But then I read an article that in certain parts of China residents can tell what the fashion “color of the season” is by what color the river is–where the dye residue is dumped! Good lord. I was horrified. Coupled with the fact of child labor in China…I decided to quit digitally printing altogether. Now, I have textiles handwoven in Ethiopia and taught the tribeswomen how to block print their patterns with non toxic fabric inks. I teach them the importance of protecting their land from toxins. So, I can’t mass produce anymore but the one of a kind textiles are more than worth the trade.
The importance of critically thinking about everything we do is so beautifully described in your comment.
My favorite post so far. The topic is so relevant to today’s concerns about sustainability. I plan to get a copy of the book.
You always bring me to another dimension of thinking! I so enjoy reading your blog!
Totally agree with you!
I also resonate with what you have written. This is such a complicated issue! I have a number of lovely garments I have made (mostly handknits), or have altered and embellished. But I admit that once in a great while I buy a fast fashion item –with intense guilt–and usually I keep these for years and wear the heck out of them, just like my handmade stuff. More often I buy second hand, but I know that it’s not the solution fully either. The good news is that we are talking about it, and taking steps to alter our habits in really important ways that will contribute to saving the earth.
I’m doing the same thing with jewellery, taking a part of and old and loved jewellery to make something special and unique that will go with you for a long time.
Will endeavour to find this book in Australia-
You make me want to fly across the ocean & become you !.
You’re everything I wish I was ….?♀️
I love this approach. I have decided that I’m only buying used clothes – not adding to the prob. And editing my closet more tightly so others can do the same…..when my mother died I gave away many of her clothes and jewelry to friends – now we love seeing ‘her’ amongst us ….. we imagine how she would enjoy the event we are at and feel as if she is present. Clothes are memories of people and events. Can’t wait to see your collaborations!
What a lovely way to honor your mother.
Thank you for this insightful piece. When I was working at university I was able to spend indulgently on clothes because I could wear something different every day. Since I’ve retired from academia (but working in social justice and mental health), I no longer need the volume of clothes, nor is it appropriate for me to look like Lady Bountiful ministering alms. So I have been selling on eBay and doing extremely well but also I give my clothes to a charity called Dress for Success which prepares women who have fallen on hard times to enter the job market with confidence. At first I found it difficult to break the lifetime habit of buying clothes but selling them on or giving them away has filled the void.
This is my favorite of your articles. I have decades of clothes. Ones I have made, thrift store finds, off the rack clothes, a few designer labels. Some I have loved to thread bare. I feel best about the ones I have worn to thinness. But, I have many clothes that are mostly unloved, unworn. The idea of redesigning these is inspiring.
That looks like the perfect garment for a ladies our ages! Still warm over the shoulders and airy on the other parts that needs to be aired 😉
I like it because it works for any age.
It was very interesting to ready your article and I would like to make some remarks.
In the fashion world there is the “real” and “ unreal”.
Brands like Gucci, Prada LV etc. have become impossibly expensive to purchase not just because they manufacture in countries where labour is expensive but also because the advertising machine behind it is very costly.
“Needs”were not created we bought when we really needed something. Look at Instagram. As a 61 yrs old woman, I look at it because is fun and draw some ideas from time to time for clothing style, but a lot of young girls swear and live by it.
The generation who claim to love the planet is the same which consume more that any other before. Millennial are more “ fashion victims” that our generation.
Is easy to criticize fast fashion but brand like Zara or H&M give average persons the possibility to dress fashionably without breaking the bank. To be less expensive is not always synonymous of poor quality. Purchased should be base on common sense and real needs not just because a “ celebrity” and the machine behind it is telling us,
one must have the “ IT” bag of the year. I have things from Zara’s which are over 10 yrs old.
I was brought up that anything that we have must be appreciated and preserve. What you are proposing is not new to me. I love sewing as a hobby and from time to time, when a piece is no longer fitting or I just feel it need a new moment I do try my best to be creative and re-invent a use for it. Even old tee shirts can become cleaning rags!
I hope not to have bored you. But is an interesting subject for sure that require a proper conversation.
Thank you and best regards,
You make very important points here. Many people want to buy Zara because they love high fashion and want to participate but do not have the means to get brands like Gucci. Hopefully, Zara will follow through on some promises they are making about recycling and sustainability so people without huge clothing budgets can afford to participate.
Your article was very interesting to read. The bottom line for me is to have a society that return to what are the real needs and mostly common sense and coherence, which sadly seem to have gone lost!
Today, “ needs” are created. Look at advertising. At 61 I am quite happy to carry a bag or anything for that matter that doesn’t have a big Logo splash on it. Yet, you open any fashion magazine and we, the public are told that such and such brand is the “ IT” bag to have for the season. Same goes with clothes.
Affordability: there are items which I have purchased from lesser known brands that I still wear and I am happy with them. I enjoy sewing as a hobby and when things don’t fit me anymore or I feel they need a new life I do turn them around. Even old tee shirts can be turn into rags to dust furnitures. How many normal people can afford to purchase an item that cost as much as a monthly mortgage payment or even more?
Thank you and best regards,
I am so happy to see this! I have a thrift store habit, and it makes me sad to see some beautiful fabrics just going to waste because the style trend had passed. I have often thought about dusting off my sewing machine and having a go at remaking some things. Thanks for the inspiration!
I love love love your style! I was going through my closet a year ago and just could not part with some items I – at first thought – wanted to clear out. I thought both would look so good taken apart and combined to create a new piece. Haven’t done so yet but now you have inspired me to do so! I thought maybe people would think me nuts to do so because they are such different fabrics. I love the idea of meeting with the students to make it happen.
I am really excited, can’t wait to see what we come up with because I want to do a very modern and avant-garde take.
I enjoyed your article very much…and I agree! Thank you..
We have lived a long lifetime thinking about our consumption. We were raised to be consumers. At some point–was I 30?–Reduce, reuse, recycle became the mantra for feeling less guilty about it. What we love has to be constantly rejiggered. It’s exhausting! Thank you for letting us get to know how this works for you and giving us elders a beautiful public face that resonates with young people.
“Taking clothes apart and putting them back together” Does this mean you sew? (I used to love it!)
I have taken a few lessons and now have the time to take a few more.
I really like what you’ve done, reinventing pieces of clothes from what you already have. The self sufficiency and creativity appeals so much to me, as does wearing clothes of wool, cotton, and linen which will last for so long. For some reason your article tweaked something I’d seen about Ghandi, and his weaving practice which was spiritual, political, economic, social, and more. He felt everyone should spin and weave their own cloth. I experienced weaving many years ago, and it was a profound experience. I became deeply appreciative of how cloth is made, how intensive it is if hand made, and not from a machine. I found these quotes by Ghandi…. perhaps they will be of interest to you. Many thanks for sharing your insightful awareness, Lyn, in this and your other articles!
“I believe that where there is pure and active love for the poor there is God also. I see God in every thread that I draw on the spinning wheel.”
( Young India,20-5-1926)
“The spinning wheel represents to me the hope of the masses. The masses lost their freedom, such as it was, with the loss of the Charkha. The Charkha supplemented the agriculture of the villagers and gave it dignity. It was the friend and the solace of the widow. It kept the villagers from idleness. For the Charkha included all the anterior and posterior industries- ginning, carding, warping, sizing, dyeing and weaving. These in their turn kept the village carpenter and the blacksmith busy. The Charkha enabled the seven hundred thousand villages to become self contained. With the exit of Charkha went the other village industries, such as the oil press. Nothing took the place of these industries. Therefore the villagers were drained of their varied occupations and their creative talent and what little wealth these bought them.
The industrialized countries of the West were exploiting other nations. India is herself an exploited country. Hence, if the villagers are to come into their own, the most natural thing that suggests itself is the revival of the Charkha and all it means.”
Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful quotes with us. Inspiring and showing all the connections.
You go Ms. Thing! A very astute and insightful observation on fashion as we know it today. I buy “Altered Couture” a magazine of “upcycled clothing” that is awesome. Women of my generation watched our grandmothers “recycle clothes” before the term existed
this post spoke to me. I am the coordinator of a study group that focusses on exactly what you are describing. We call ourselves STYLE FUSION. We have taken apart handwoven and commercially woven clothes (as we are all weavers with too much stuff). Then we over dyed the fabrics, mixed and matched them and made new, very personally styled patchwork garments. I would love to share them with you. How can I upload the photos and a description?
If you send a WeTransfer to my email I can upload them in a future post. Lyn@accidentalicon.com
I miss the days of the department store. A destination place where customer service was as impeccable as the quality of clothing ; staple pieces that were classically relevant at any age and made you feel like a million bucks when you wore them.
I despise most of todays clothing stores and on line availability of the disposable clothing that you speak of. Gone are the days of quality and the respect for ones appearance.
True, trying to find a creative positive response to that condition is the challenge.
I saw a young women, in London, wearing pants that were worn jeans only in the front and dark striped trousers in the back. Perfectly tailored and a real statement piece connected on the side seams. Gorgeous and a real statement piece. Wish they were mine.
I saw a young women, in London, wearing pants that were worn jeans only in the front and dark striped trousers in the back. Perfectly tailored and a real statement piece connected on the side seams. Gorgeous, wish they were mine.
Now that’s what I’m talking about!
You are a great writer and more over you seem to be a responsible, reflecting and warm-hearted person. Your article really got me, because next to being a sculptress, I’m working as a best-ager model. Of course, I make my money in the fashion industry. I’m German and live and work in Munich and Palma de Mallorca. Soon I will be working and living in NYC, which will be a big challenge to my European life. I will keep tuned with your blog. My IG accounts are for modeling: simone_i_jacob and for art: simonejacob_art
Looking forward to perhaps meeting when you come to NYC
I am more and more interested in the idea of refashioning what I have. It makes me think of Louisa Alcott’s Little Women, turning sleeves and altering gowns — even two centuries ago, thoughtful people compared the obsession with must have new with virtue in upcycling. However, I don’t sew and if I am honest with myself, that is never going to make the short list of things I learn how to do. There are many talented seamstresses in every community I have ever lived in, and that seems like a worthwhile choice– I can design what I want and contribute to the local economy. There’s also the benefit of continuing to be able to wear those perfectly worn in jeans or beloved sweater in a new incarnation. There’s just something about a well loved fabric that transcends. Thanks for a great article that elicited so many great comments.
Excellent idea! I bet there are many talented older women living on fixed incomes that could use the money. I love this.
One other book I recommend is Wear No Evil: How to Change the World with Your Wardrobe. Another book is The Conscious Closet.
The saving grace of having a ton of clothes is that you don’t have to keep buying new items over and over. Use what you have until you can donate it or it wears out.
I’d prefer to buy eco-friendly clothes. Yet I don’t know of a Petite fashion alternative to regular vendors that sell Petite clothes.
I would like if in the Accidental Icon blog you could talk about other size options please like Petites. Finding great clothes in Petite sizing is not easy.
Maybe you could feature a guest writer to model different-sized fashion.
My version of What Now? is shopping in my own closet to create different ¨new¨outfits and not continuing to buy a ton of actual new clothes.
Your style ethic and statement evolve over the years. In the last couple of years I have been well aware of the unethical perils of fashion.
I too have read books like Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.
The Eco Chick Guide to Life: How to Be Fabulously Green was the most depressing. As it revealed that the mining of silver and gold is an ecological peril.
Another great social issue book is: We Are All Fast-Food Workers Now: The Global Uprising Against Poverty Wages. This book detailed detailed the human rights abuses in clothing factories world-wide.
More of us ¨voting with our pocketbooks¨will change this trend for the better.
Bloggers should open our eyes to alternative fashion brands that do the right thing.
Grazie – thank you – Lyn Slater for tackling this issue.
Many ways to attack the issue, I’m trying to find one that allows me to be creative in my response.
Thanks for all the great book references!!!
There is a real struggle to reconcile the love for beautiful garments with the awareness of how polluting the fashion industry really is. Although when I was growing up there wasn’t any fast fashion on the horizon, I have a feeling that the dyes used back then were still very toxic. The difference is that fewer garments were then made and also there wasn’t this connectivity we are enjoying these days through internet, transportation means, shared media and such, which allowed the reality of this industry to surface.
Unfortunately, years and years of mindless consumption paired with a fashion industry which has focused on growth at any costs brought us to a point when we’re scratching our heads trying to find a re-conciliatory path that would still allow us to wear clothes that we love without having a guilty feeling attached to.
I feel your pain and I wish Re.Code would come to my house to creatively reconstruct some of my garments. Or maybe I should just learn how to sew.
I took a few sewing classes and I am going to re-visit. So join me!
Wow! What a great way to raise awareness of what clothes and fashion mean to us as individuals, but as it relates to our planet and humanity. In the past few years, I’ve been calling the clothes we readily find in stores as “disposable.” That is indeed what they are and I’m really tired of spending money on things I’ll wear only once. My problem is that the things in my closet that I’ve hung onto for a long time, came into my life when I was 2 sizes smaller.
That is the beauty of the upcycling I want to try. Some of those smaller garments can be taken apart, combined with others or with textile scraps and become something that suits you now and is entirely new.
So glad you are continuing with your posts, you are awesome.
It seems to be old collection, but look awesome on you!
Lovely article. The third paragraph is especially true. When I was in my 20’s I bought myself a beautiful black Chanel style dress, a hat with netting and gorgeous 4” black leather heels. I wanted the Audrey Hepburn look and from then on I always bought classic clothes that I could wear to this day. My friendships are the same way for me, a very good few that I will love for a lifetime and a lot of disposable acquaintances. When I look at people today, the refinements such as the care and nurturing of relationships and common courtesies, such as a thank you and an appreciation from people willing to spend time with you because you’re you is almost gone. The clothes we buy are somewhat similar, falling apart or getting bent out of shape after a single wash. I live for today, so I’m not sad by this fact, but I am cognizant of making sure I pick and choose good friends and good clothing much more carefully and make sure I continue to nurture them with the love and care they deserve.
More and more convinced we need to figure out the balance between old and new, analog and digital, we need to get ahold of it.
Great article. I have been in the apparel industry for a very long time. The “fast fashion” has not made sense to me. When fabrics are shoddy, all quality is removed, have had garmentd which lasted only 2 washings. Pilling, color bleeding, poor sewing, fit an d construction are just a few of my issues. Years ago, I said enough! I only buy what works on my body type, fits, (am 6′ 2 1/2″), is my style/POV, or I make myself. All of this equals a closet of what I LOVE, is unique to me and will last the test of time.
we should spend some time talking about the art of personal styling as a way to make older clothing look fresh and modern
The American Rescue Mission receives all my clothing donations. It is gratifying to know they are making a profit from the sale and subsequently, are able to utilize the profit to provide food and shelter to individuals in need.
Additionally, Eileen Fisher sells her used clothing online at about 1/3 of the initial price.
what an amazing idea! i see so many people who have closets busting at the seams with nothing to wear. redesigning these items is genius. but we need to teach the basics of sewing. i sew buttons and tears for my grandchildren and they are amazed. let’s bring home economics back in the schools.
Loved this on so many levels as I am rethinking so much of my life at 61. Quality not quantity in all areas of life. Thank you.
Fantastic comparison of how we treat clothing (and other items) and how we treat people. Those of us who value quality over quantity can relate. In addition, so many people are struggling these days so all these thrown away clothes can be put to good use, just as vintage items can be remade. I have a cousin who takes vintage fabrics and makes the most amazing children’s clothing out of them. You can see them at Darwinanddelilah.com. Such a creative and simple idea.
I’m new to your blog. We share a love for fashion and a background working in areas of social justice (19 yrs!). There have been moments of guilt between assisting the disadvantaged and running into Nordstrom’s for a fashion “fix”. Eileen Fisher is my favorite designer, both because her designs work well with my slender body but also for her forward business approach to manufacturing clothing that’s environmentally conscious and supportive of women’s business cooperatives. Eileen Fisher has been in the forefront for recycled/repurposed clothing and is helping other clothing manufacturers learn their process. Her Company stores resale most of the recycled clothing and a percentage of the sales funds the Eileen Fisher Foundation. Damaged cloth is processed and made into a renewed item.
I’m new to your blog. We share a similar interest in fashion and a background working in social justice (19 yrs). My favorite designer is Eileen Fisher. Her designs work on my slender figure but – importantly, her company is environmentally conscious and supportive of women’s cooperatives. She’s been in the forefront for processing recycled/repurposed clothing and training other clothing manufacturers on the program. Donated items are resold in the Company Stores and a percentage of the sale supports the Eileen Fisher Foundation. It’s a win-win.
I don’t know. It’s a real dilemma. I don’t allow myself to shop Forever 21 or H&M due to unethical use of workers at low wage and child labor laws being broken. I find myself more and more shopping second hand and consignment. Much more variety and unique finds. I’ve never cared about labels. I think you were the one who said it? fashion says ‘me too’ and style says ‘only me’.
Great clothes to wear an awesome outfit!