Friday, October 25, 2013

Disposable Fashion

I’ve mentioned on this blog several times that I am a bit of a magazine junkie thanks to airline points that let us snag magazines for nothing. While I generally enjoy getting my monthly reading materials, I was a bit dismayed this season when the catalogue-sized InStyle magazines landed in my mailbox touting the latest fall fashions.

As I began flipping through the September issue, I was initially intrigued by all of the latest fashion trends and beautiful models showing off the looks. But as I continued on, I couldn’t help but have a sinking feeling. Pages and pages of people essentially screaming the message of consumerism at the top of their lungs. Buy this! Wear this! You need this! Ew, don’t wear that! Instead of feeling inspired, I felt sad. Are these really the values that I adhere to? Do I really give a crap what some designer thinks I should wear this season?

The answer was that yes, I sort of do. At least, that’s what my buying behavior would suggest. I love clothes and I love to look cute. And while I’m certainly not a trendy dresser, I love to look fashionable and current, which means buying the latest stuff and buying it as affordably as possible. It’s one of the parts of my life that sadly doesn’t align with my other values of health, helping the environment and living cleanly and simply. Unfortunately, this is true for most Americans. And, upon doing a quick Google search, I found that our obsession with disposable fashion is not only damaging our wallets and our self-esteem, it’s doing major global damage in ways that you wouldn’t even believe, including our massive donations of clothing.

So, it’s my new quest to work on this incongruent part of my life. I want to reduce my global impact, live more simply, and stop buying in to these messages that lead me down a path I don’t want to go. Here are some of the steps I’m already taking:

Re-imagine your wardrobe

One of the ways I get sucked into buying more clothes is because I lose creativity with what I already have. We all get stuck in that rut of wearing something the same way over and over and completely lose sight of the item’s versatility. Recently, while poking around on a clothing store website, I saw an outfit that I just loved – flared black leather skirt, black and white striped tee, charcoal gray blazer and chunky silver necklace. I was tempted to buy the $200+ outfit until I realized that I had some version of every single one of those items, except the tee, already in my closet. So, I pulled out what I already had, snagged a black and white striped tee from TJMaxx for $12, and had a whole new outfit I never had even thought of (and that I now get tons of compliments on). I’ll admit that it’s a fine line to walk – using a clothing store’s tempting website to come up with new ideas for your wardrobe – but it can really help provide a new perspective on how to combine pieces you already have into something that looks fresh and current.

Stick to the basics

It’s amazing what a little white or black tee can do in a wardrobe. It goes with denim, pants, skirts, jackets, jewelry and, well, basically everything. Instead of buying trendy pieces, I’m sticking with good quality basic tees that I can mix and match with everything to create new looks without buying more clothes.

Use consignment stores to sell

In the past few months, I’ve started taking my gently used, brand name clothes to a local consignment store. It requires a little extra effort for me as the clothes must be in-season, washed, pressed and on a hanger, but the results have been fabulous. Most of my items have sold and I get to split the profits 50/50 with the shop, so I’ve been getting some nice little monthly checks to put toward items that I truly need. Plus, my clothing is going to a new home where it will continue to be in someone’s wardrobe circulation in my community instead of being shipped overseas or taking up more space in an already-stuffed Goodwill.

Use consignment stores to buy

Consignment and thrift stores are great spots to find new additions to your wardrobe or your home. I highly recommend consignment stores for clothing. You can often snag handbags, special occasion pieces, suits and more for a fraction of the price. I recently picked up a skirt suit for a mere $15. It cost me an additional $15 to have the skirt tailored, but I still managed to walk out the door with a complete suit for just $30. Plus, I helped keep great clothing in circulation longer.

Thrift stores are great spots for finding home décor items or for repurposing old items into new. One of my favorite home décor blogs shows how to make throw pillows for winter using old cable knit sweaters found at Goodwill. Use Pinterest, design blogs like Centsational Girl, and more for ideas on how to be creative with consignment and thrift store finds.

Get things repaired

I’ve been getting my high heels repaired for years to extend their life. When the taps go bad, the local shoe repair shop replaces them and cleans up the shoes for a mere $6. The shoes look completely new and I get years more of wear out of them. Some of my favorite high heels have been repaired several times, but I’m still wearing them after 7+ years.

Consider other charitable organizations

Have a suit that didn’t sell at consignment? Donate it to Dress For Success, which provides job interview suits to low-income women to help them land a job and better their situation. Each woman gets outfitted with a suit for the job interview, then once the job is acquired, she receives a full week of suiting for the job. Have a special occasion dress? Check out the many organizations that help low-income teens look beautiful for homecoming or the prom. Think outside the thrift store box when giving away your clothes to ensure it truly has a second life.

Stop f-ing buying stuff

Ok, this is way easier said than done, but I’m working on it.

What are you going to combat the obsession with disposable fashion and consumerism?

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