I actually have three long-sleeved, white cotton shirts in my closet currently. I love the feel of cotton, the breathable aspect of the fabric, especially as I live in a very warm climate, and I love the versatility of the long sleeves. You can button them and pull up the cuffs, or unbutton the cuffs and roll them up. In cooler weather, you can obviously wear the sleeves down.
Lately though, I have been doing a little bit of research regarding the sustainability of cotton. It is a natural fiber, and it does biodegrade after time (as sometimes, chemicals can be used in the process of creating the fiber). However, from planting to harvesting, enormous amounts of water is used. Even when growing cotton organically, without the use of fertilizers or pesticides, the amount of water is astronomical, and that sort of makes this fiber a less sustainable option than other natural fibers available.
Because of our focus in 2020 to be more focused on Slow Fashion, I want to be more aware of the clothes I bring into my closet. This is not only looking at how much I buy and trying as far as possible, to avoid fast fashion, but also taking into consideration the fibers used to create the garment, and the process taken from start to finish of a particular garment.
Hence my research on linen. I found out that linen is grown from the flax plant. It was the first fiber ever to be woven into fabric! And that was long before fast fashion, so it caught my attention. As it’s grown, it does not need to be irrigated. Yay! That’s a win already. The process taken to create the fiber is the fiber is combed from the stalk and then spun into yarn. This process is what makes the fiber quite a luxury feel. If left untreated, this fiber is also completely biodegradable. Check! It is a strong fiber, and is long-wearing. Another win! I want to keep clothes for longer. When organically grown, no pesticides are used. Yet another win! The workers aren’t harmed and any run-off doesn’t harm the environment.
For those of you who have been following MSJ for a while, will know I shop off a list. On that list, is a white, button-down linen shirt. When I find the right one, I will replace my cotton one. I won’t just be throwing my cotton one away. It will go into our store: Belle Whimsy, (https://www.instagram.com/belle_whimsyclothing/) as it is still in great condition. Someone else can love it and appreciate it, keeping it in the cycle for longer.
I will definitely keep you updated as to whether I find my shirt or not. Watch this space.
My journey with fashion, started somewhere in the 70’s. I’m not sure exactly how old I was before I became aware of fashion, but it was really early in my life. My mother taught me to knit when I was around 5 years old, and the very first thing I knitted was a halterneck dress for my Kewpie doll? Anyone remember them? But I digress…
Needless to say, I have had many different ‘styles’ through the different stages and ages of my life. My mother made most of our clothing growing up. It was how things were done back then. At that stage of my life, my sister, who is 17 months younger than me, and I, were often dressed the same. We were never mistaken as twins though, as we looked so different. I grew up thinking this was normal, but soon found my own identity when I was around 12 years old. This was when I went off to boarding school. Oh how I loved creating different outfits back then. I went to an all girls’ school and we had so much fun with our ‘civvies’ clothing. We wore a uniform to school, but the weekends proved to be a fun time where my growing love of fashion was concerned. We used to borrow each other’s clothes and come up with some pretty cool looks.
Fast forward to when I left school and went off to study. I studied nursing for 4 years. My entire, minuscule salary, was spent on clothing after rent and food was paid. I wish I had some good quality photos to share with you all from this time of my life. Our group of friends also shared clothing and this provided some great pieces to create some outrageous outfits. This was back in the 80’s. You could pretty much wear anything and be in fashion. A fun era, although, looking back, not a very stylish time in fashion. I did have one friend who had a classic style. She seemed to always look polished and timeless and even back then, when most of us were wearing neon, crazy leopard print and Boho clothing, this one friend, always managed to stand out.
In 1989, I finished with my diploma, and I had a baby. I was a single mother, and all ideas of fashion flew out the window as the reality of single-motherhood set in. Anyone who has ever navigated parenthood alone, especially if they were young, knows that it’s financially tough. My money was spent on my daughter and on making a home for us. For many years to come, there was no extra money for fashion and clothing. It was a humbling time in my life. Many friends would gift me their second-hand clothing. They never gave me anything that wasn’t in perfect condition and to this day, I’m so grateful for their generosity. However, this was the beginning of me losing my own style.
And so, my perception around second-hand clothing, was cemented. People who wore second-hand, in my opinion, were poor people. This idea stayed with me for many years. When I could eventually afford to buy my own clothing, you bet they were new and so started many years of wasteful shopping. You know the feeling – I am certain of that! We have all been there where we don’t really need an item, but we buy it anyway because it might look good with that nice skirt hanging in our closet, or there is a possibility we will wear it to an event. This is not my own unique experience for sure.
Fast forward to the beginning of this year. After giving away so much of my clothing to friends, and becoming increasingly aware of how much I discard without getting proper use out of my pieces, I made a decision to only buy one item of clothing and one pair of shoes per month from January 2019! This was HUGE for me. I am a shoe-holic. But the thing is, after a year, I’m giving away shoes that are practically brand new. I needed a mindset change. So came the self-imposed ‘slow-fashion challenge.’ And it worked.
Within a few months, Matilda joined MSJ and we started on a far more sustainable journey. I started to watch videos about thrifting, and I loved the outfits the women were creating. They could express their own unique flair, without compromising on style! Because we had started to be more mindful in all areas of our lives, even watching where we were buying from, and trying as much as possible to support local brands, sustainable and ethical brands, thrifting began to appeal to me more and more.
So why do I thrift? The main reason is to keep clothing in the loop/cycle for longer. It is more sustainable. Buying new feeds into that whole idea that I have to have new and pretty things. I no longer believe that. Another reason I thrift is to spend less on clothing. I was becoming increasingly wasteful with my budget, and I want to travel more internationally. In order to do that, I need to save more. Thrifting helps me to do that. My final reason is that I get to find unique items. I draw inspiration from the current trends and I shop pre-loved to help me create similar looks, but with my own signature twist!
For the first time in my life, I am thinking about the outfits I put together. When you shop fast fashion, you don’t have to put much thought into how the outfit comes together. Everything is new and you just throw it on – or at least I did. Now, I take time creating curated outfits from old and new pieces, putting them together with much care and thought. I am loving the variety I have added to my closet since I started thrifting. I might have a tweed jacket, but it’s nothing like the ones now available in store. I love finding trendy pieces for a fraction of the price. It excites me when I find an item pre-loved that is on my ‘list’. Yes, I have a list of items I want to add to my closet!! Can you believe that? My previous shopping style was completely spontaneous. I put so much more thought into it now.
I will end this segment with this quote: “I love it when someone else pays full price for the item I now wear.” I don’t remember where that quote came from, but I do love it.
For a while now, I have been feeling that we are responsible for the appalling condition of our earth. We, and the generation before us, have a fast consumption mindset. We want it easy and we want it immediately. Twenty years ago, we didn’t know about microplastics or how long it will take for a polystyrene cup to not decompose. Mass produced clothes have become so cheap that we can afford to throw away perfectly good clothing. Those garments end up in a landfill somewhere. Is it a case of out of sight, out of mind? We cannot plead ignorance any longer. We need to act.
I know it feels like farting in a windstorm. As individuals we feel powerless to really bring change to such a huge problem. Big corporations need to change how they manufacture and distribute goods. I do understand this and I, as one person, have no influence over decisions made by big corporations. The only way to be an influencer, is not to buy rubbish. If a lot of people decide not to buy rubbish, they won’t make it anymore.
Enough talk about the problems we face. We can all make a difference by living more sustainable lives. Making wise fashion decisions, is a relatively easy way to reduce our impact on the earth.
Don’t buy new. It isn’t embarrassing to wear pre-loved clothing. It is responsible. The earth will thank you for keeping clothes in use for longer. Thrifting is slowly gaining momentum in South Africa. Belinda and I are advocates of this movement. Not only do Belinda and I wear second hand clothing, we also sell good quality, pre-loved garments. Here are links to our Facebook page: https://cutt.ly/bellewhimsy and our Instagram feed: https://cutt.ly/bellewhimsyclothing
Don’t discard. When you’ve grown tired of your clothes, why not donate it to a charity or a thrift store? Organise a get together with friends and have a swap party. Perhaps someone else is just dying to wear the clothes that you no longer want.
Buy biodegradable. Clothes made from natural textiles, like organic cotton, linen, silk, bamboo, wool, cashmere and hemp are fully biodegradable. Linen is actually a better choice than cotton. Linen has a lower environmental impact than cotton. Liv and Light uses only natural fibers in the manufacturing of their clothes. Here is a link to their website: https://livandlight.com/
Buy recycled. Swimwear and active wear can be manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. The first time I heard of this, it just blew my mind. Spiritgirl is an online shop that sells swimwear and yoga pants made from recycled plastic bottles. Here is a link to their website: https://www.spiritgirl.co.za/
Lastly, buy local. If you buy local you are supporting a small business. Your clothe’s carbon footprint, will also be much smaller, because it didn’t have to travel all the way from China or India.
I truly believe that if we come together and make small changes in the way we live, we can have a positive impact on our world. We can live more sustainable lives. We aren’t doing it for ourselves, but for our children and our grandchildren.