Sustainable fashion was an interest of mine long before it had a snazzy, hashtag-worthy name. Back in the day, it was called plain old thrifting, and I loved it for purely selfish reasons.
In fact, I can remember my first time.
The thrill of it. I was 14, wandering around NYC on my own because my father is a mad Frenchman and let me loose on peaceable Murray Hill. I remember the dusty smells of the thrift store, the furtive folks rifling through racks, and the first time I felt real velvet, clutched tight in my grimy paw. The catch at my heart. The pure, unadulterated delight, as I made the discovery that I could afford luxury items. Fabulous, heeled shoes. Real leather purses and tailored jackets that should have been far out of my Contempo Casual budget.
I can even remember what I purchased that day: a dark blue velvet jacket with frog closures. An exquisitely draped red Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress, one little ink spot marring the bodice.
I don't know where I thought I was going to wear these purchases, mind you. I was a teen, living in the Deep South! My native New Yorker mother had, and has, a thing for hiking the Blue Ridge, but me and my interest in fashion were in exile down there except for vacations when I visited my dad.
All it took to get voted "Most Unique" my Freshman year of high school was wearing that deep blue velvet jacket. That was all it took to qualify me. Actually, I sort of did it on purpose on voting day. At first, I wanted to be noticed. Later I didn't. I learned it was not a compliment for a girl to earn that superlative, although it was for boys.
The boy who won "Most Unique" with me that year, also won "Class Clown". I'm still not that funny. Well, not on purpose, but I'm happy to say that I'm not afraid anymore to put together clothes that make me feel unique and happy.
It was only much later, while living in Soho that my interest in thrifting slowly turned into an issue of deeper concern. I began noticing how quickly trends were coming & going, and how insane the stampedes of shoppers looked up and down Broadway. At the same time, thrifting had a new, more polished monicker: sustainable fashion. As it turned out, it wasn't simply a selfish practice: I was saving the world! Fashion, as I came to learn from following other sustainable fashion bloggers, is the SECOND BIGGEST POLLUTER of the planet after big oil. Americans on average toss 65 lbs. of textiles away. Producing ONE t-shirt, just one, uses up THREE YEARS of human drinking water. Let's not even get into what it takes to make a pair of jeans. (Or let's. TEN YEARS. A decade of fresh water to produce enough cotton to make just one pair in that pile of thrifted jeans stuffed at the back of my closet.)
The good news is there are some extremely easy ways to make changes now!
1. Extend the life of your garments.
Mend your shirts. Find a cobbler or a tailor. Don't toss your clothes! Even making a small effort to wear your clothes longer, hugely cuts down on landfill waste. Super easy, see?
2. Dry Your Clothes on a Line or a Drying Rack or Tumble At Low Heat
I've been doing this anyway, because I think it helps my clothes (and my children's clothes) last longer. I only dry my husband's undershirts and our sheets and towels, but avoiding high heats has even more ready benefits:
"According to Well Dressed?, about 60% of the energy used in the life cycle of a cotton T-shirt is related to postpurchase washing and drying at high temperatures; transportation constitutes only a small portion of the energy profile to produce a cotton product. As for whether it is better to buy locally produced garments, the report argues that this approach would cut severely into the livelihood of peoples in developing countries where the products are now being manufactured."
3. Donate Your Old Clothes, Don't Throw Them Out!
Again, Americans toss out 65 lbs of textiles a year; that's not even taking into account sheets and curtains. Plus, donating can lead to other fun things, too. I brought three bags to Impact Thrift Stores in Montgomeryville, PA last night after taking my daughter to see Beauty & the Beast (the reason for the Belle doll clutched in her little hands above). I ended up finding several beautiful picture frames for about $15 total and a brand-new pair of children's size 12 UGG lace-up boots that both my daughter and son will be able to wear! You never know what you'll find. It's like a treasure hunt.
4. Wash Your Clothes Only When Necessary
See! I told you these are easy! This one will make your life even easier, and if you're a mommy like me, it will also erase those pre-feminist, lingering feelings of guilt. "Hey, I'm not being a lazy mommy by avoiding the piles of laundry in the basement! I'm saving the world!"
b. I also turned one of my baskets into an alterna-laundry basket. Clothes I've worn but that seem okay to wear again go in there. It's harder with my baby, but I've been able to do the same with my potty-trained toddler.
5. Choose the Right Detergent
We use Mrs. Meyers, and it's available everywhere. Even at Target!
"This is a very important step in avoiding environmental pollution. This is a difficult step since companies are not required to list the ingredients on the container. Some of the harmful ingredients are surfactant nonylphenol ethoxylate or NPE, phosphates and bleach. In order to avoid these ingredients start by choosing detergents without dyes, such as those recommended for washing baby clothes. If its gentle enough for a baby, its likely to be gentle enough for the Earth. Some eco-friendly detergents I found during research were Seventh Generation, Biokleen, Planet, Method and Ecos. Remember to take into consideration the water temperature as another step in sustainability. Whenever possible, use cold water. There are detergents especially designed for cold water like Tide Free for Coldwater. You will save energy and money on your bill. For optimum savings try making your own detergent by adding baking powder or vinegar to your water."
That's it for now. See? SUPER easy way to be the Earth's superheroes. (Sorry, my toddler is obsessed with superheroes right now.) Thanks for reading this far. Now for the fun stuff!
As promised here are the winners of my new blog's bag & book giveaway.
Bag #1: Vintage Italian Leather Satchel
To Erica at The Simple Chic Brunette!
Bag #2: Vintage Backpack
Bag #3: Tylie Malibu Crossbody
To Marci Reid!
Congratulations again, guys! DM me your address whenever you have the chance, and I'll send the bags & a copy of my book your way.
Thrifted Outfit Details:
Secondhand Self-Portrait dress from www.Tradesy.com, secondhand Swedish Hasbeens boots from https://greenestreetstores.com/, vintage necklace from a shop on 8th Street & Avenue A in the East Village, Consigned Celine bag from www.ebay.com, secondhand Elizabeth and James ring from Tradesy
*Names generated by a random name generator.
French-American dual citizen on a green journey, making a Paris out of Philly or a Philly out of Paris, depending on the day.