Take a look in your closet. Pull out a garment and find the label. What is the fabric? Where was it manufactured? How far has that one item traveled to be right here, in your closet.
The vast majority of present-day consumers have no notion of the contents of their closet. Harmful chemicals and toxic dyes are common in the clothing found at most American retail outlets. Some of the top grossing fashion brands sell garments that represent human endangerment and exploitation in sourcing and manufacturing practices. Increased awareness of these issues can help shift the huge environmental and human rights costs of fast fashion.
This week, we challenge ourselves to rethink our clothing choices. Here are 5 steps you can take to build a more forward- thinking, slow fashion closet. Break it up into small tasks throughout the week, or set aside on a less busy weekend day. Share your experiences, questions, tips and recipes with the Lady Farmer community on Instagram and tag us at @weareladyfarmer.
Be sure to tag us for a chance to win this week’s challenge prize - a $100 gift card to NUI organics & a lady farmer book!
Pull together your entire wardrobe. Divide it into 4 groups, separated by fabric type.
- natural fabrics (linen, cotton, wool, hemp, silk, ramie and jute)
- cellulose fabrics (acetate, bamboo, rayon, modal)
- synthetics (acrylic, polyester and spandex)
- Fabric blends (combination of any of the above)
- Think about what your clothes represent, and what you want to wear on your body. Natural fibers are better for the environment, our health, and safer for workers and manufacturers.
- Learn the proper care and maintenance of your natural fiber clothing so it will last. You can extend the life of your silks, woolens and 100% natural fibers such as organic cotton by hand washing or gentle cycle only and drying flat or on a line.
- Keep in mind that no matter the contents, if you already own something and are using it, the more sustainable thing is to keep wearing it as long as you can, and to minimize the release of microplastics by limiting how much you wash the athletic wear and fleece. Be realistic about which items you will use, and which ones are just taking up space.
- Thrift outlets or rummage sales, the more local the better!
- Host a clothing swap with friends!
- Have a garage sale in your neighborhood.
- If possible, avoid nonprofit collection boxes unless you can confirm where the items are going. (These often end up being shipped overseas where they disrupt local markets, or end up in the landfill.)
- With a simplified closet, you can remember what items you already have before buying more.
- Buy or swap for second hand items from thrift store when possible.
- You might choose from the natural fabrics list above for all new clothes. Select brands that source and manufacture ethically and sustainably.
If you do choose to transition your wardrobe to more natural fabrics, notice the comfort and the “feel” against your skin with all synthetics removed. Our bodies know!
If the harmful chemicals and shameful manufacturing practices aren’t enough reason to abandon fast fashion brands, the environmental implications will eventually make it a necessity. Ubiquitous synthetic materials comprise nearly every item of athletic wear and microfleece. The microscopic bits of plastic that are released when we wash our yoga pants, bike shorts and cozy hoodies are being dubbed “the new pollution,” due to the evidence of microplastic contamination being discovered in our air, water and oceans.
“The apparel industry is a leading source of pollution on the planet. Staggering amounts of water are used to make a single t-shirt that’s flown all over the globe for different stages of production before hitting some chain retail shelf for a few dollars. Hands that sew each individual garment belong to a person earning slave wages and working in unsafe conditions. Many of the chemicals and dyes used to color and treat clothing are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors, directly absorbed into your bloodstream through your skin. Do we have your attention yet?”
Take the challenge this week to build a forward-thinking, slow fashion closet. Take a look at how we can evaluate what’s in our closets, use what we have and minimize our impact on the environment. What fabrics should we look for? How do we care for our garments so that they last longer? What do we do with items that we can no longer use?
What if everyone knew the story of their clothing and its impact, good or bad? Would they make changes?
Join Mary, Emma, and the Lady Farmer community inside The ALMANAC this month to participate in group forums, weekly meet-ups, and advanced resources to take The Slow Living Challenge to the next level.