As someone who finds joy in getting dressed and uses style as a means of expression, the repercussions that accompany overconsumption dawn on me constantly. How can I find the middle ground between shopping excessively and being frugal?
I tell myself, time and time again: “THIS. THIS is the last thing I buy” or “that is not a necessity, you have more than you could ever need!”
But soon after, that stern conversation I had with myself never happened. Next thing I know, I’m enamored by a jacket I found while thrifting (THAT I DON’T NEED). Or a pair of shoes that popped up as an ad on my Instagram, while I scrolled aimlessly. (Make it stop)
THE ETHICAL SIDE OF THE MATTER
When I became conscious that fashion is one of the greatest pollutants on Earth, in some regard, I was distraught. And I felt foolish for feeling that way. Not to mention the implication that sweat shops were involved. I realized that the clothes I was buying seemed inexpensive, but they really weren’t. Somewhere, it cost someone something. The average hourly pay for sweat shops workers does not exceed a few dollars a day, and that’s the high end of the statistics. I came to the realization that I am partially responsible for that, because without business these corporations would cease to exist.
That is why I turned to thrifting, as a way to give preexisting garments a new home and not partake in the “games” these tycoons are playing. Buying pieces from secondhand stores gave me the opportunity to own pieces that perhaps are no longer mass produced and unique. Although only 10% of donated clothes end up being sold second hand and the remaining ones are sent to developing countries, thrifting repurposes used items and extends the life of each piece of clothing.
Granted, this doesn’t mean that I am unaware of the trends and products that come from fast fashion. I find myself tempted to buy from these places. But truthfully, I’m outraged by how inflated the prices of these garments become. When the truth of the matter is, these corporations don’t even pay a quarter of what they’re charging consumers to the workers who are creating them.
When thinking about buying something: new or used, I really determine whether or not it’s worth it. I will let myself sit on it for a few weeks and if I forget about it, clearly it wasn’t that imperative to begin with. When it comes to sustainable brands, prices are higher because garments are ethically sourced and produced and people are earning livable wages. These pieces are made to stand the test of time and in the long haul, are cheaper than crappy clothes that you find yourself constantly replacing. With that being said, I’m not perfect, nor do I claim to be. We live in a world where more is more, and I am working towards distancing myself from this idealized mantra.
In the 1960s, 95 percent of clothing was sourced in the United States. Today, only around three percent are produced within the country, which means that the remaining 97 percent is outsourced to developing countries all over the world. Production has increased 400 times over in the last 20 years, the U.S yields 80 billion new pieces of clothing annually. A great sum of which end up in landfills, 11 million tons from the US alone. All which are non-biodegradable and will sit in a landfill for the next 200 plus years.
I am not free of accountability. In fact, I am horribly flawed and a part of the problem. On my pursuit to incorporate more sustainable practices I try to remind myself why these issues matter and how I’m making an effort to combat them. As someone who loves fashion, my goal as of right now is only to add pieces that I will hold onto, that feel more than just a trend and that can be worn at least 30 different ways.
TIPS + TRICKS TO KEEP YOURSELF IN CHECK
In order to help me maximize the use of what I already own and minimize my impact on the planet, unethical working conditions, and my spending — I write down a list of low buy goals.
You start off by listing the why, your problem areas, and a set of rules
Here are mine:
Saving up for my move
Having more than enough clothing and things
Sharing my space with someone who owns things too
Coffee (unrelated to clothes but a serious investment nonetheless)
1. I am NOT allowed to buy anything unless absolutely necessary, it will give me the opportunity to wear what I already have. Plus, the less amount of things I have to transport when I move the better.
2. Go through this chart before purchasing anything
3. KEEP TABS ON WHAT YOU ALREADY OWN! Check your inventory, look at all the stuff you own so you don’t repeat buy. Ask yourself, how can I achieve this look with what I already have?
The role of fast fashion as a propeller of unethical working conditions, unlivable wages, pollution and excessive consumption is undeniable. It is a matter of greed and power versus fear and poverty. I’m merely scratching the surface of the problem, but in an attempt to bring light to these issues and understand my role as a contributor, this is the place to start.