Am I the only person who purchases a coveted item and then leaves it hanging in the closet because it’s “too good” and needs saving for “a special occasion”? My closet is like the Good Room from your grandparents home with the leather seats you weren’t allowed to sit on, the unblemished carpet and the glass cabinet that held all the Royal Doulton rose patterned china.
The flaw in my plan being…I don’t have that many special events in my life. I’m looking after my kids, doing a bit of travel on the weekends and going to the local shops when the milk runs out. Not that many occasions on my horizon that call for floor length dresses or the good china.
So I’m trying to get out of the good room. Trying not to feel afraid of wearing the new sustainable purchase because it cost a lot and is too beautiful for every day wear. Trying to reframe my whole thought process (psychology training rearing it’s ugly head here) into the idea that an expensive item worn many times becomes a truly ethical purchase.
Worn often, worn with love, worn well.
So I took my brand new Cocoon Dress on a weekend away to test this theory of not being too precious with my purchases.
It terrified me. The dress is a natural white, let me repeat that…WHITE and I was on a road trip. With children. Several of them. Of the male variety. But I vowed to press on and use it or lose it. And it worked. I wore it as a dress with sneakers out sightseeing all day. Then I popped some jeans underneath to wear it as a shirt dress for a fancy dinner in the evening. The next morning I wore it as a coverall over bathers for a morning at the beach. I’ve since had a revelation that if you open the buttons, you could also wear it as a jacket or duster. GET OUT OF TOWN!
This business of buying sustainable stuff can be frustrating at times and it often doesn’t work, particularly when buying online. Then at other times, it all comes together and you realise that buying small batch clothing (especially from brands run by women who are workers, mothers, normal humans who have to move around in the world) can be a true long term investment that makes your life easier. That’s what I’m talking about!
I completely fell off the wagon this past week. My 3 month fashion buying freeze turned into a fashion buying frenzy in the space of about 3 minutes. In a big way. You may think I’m exaggerating but here goes. Let me lay my shame out for you all to see. I purchased:
2 tops from a sample sale
1 last pair of heavily reduced jeans that may or may not be the right size for me
1 pair of trousers (last run, not to be repeated)
1 cocoon dress I had been coveting for ages which was on a great secret discount
Can you see a pattern here? I’m a sucker for sales, good offers and discounts. And I made a huge mistake in not preparing myself by shutting down all social media when starting this challenge. So I’ve mentally flogged myself all week, thought about giving up completely and have now come to confess. Clear my sins. Ah, the psychology of consuming.
This is ultimately what interests me the most. The “whys” of what we do with our consuming. For me the prospect of a bargain features very strongly as does the buzz of a last chance sales situation. I’m a marketer’s dream. There is also the internal psychology of what we perceive a purchase will achieve for us. This piece of clothing will turn us into a different person – cool, fashionable, comfortable with ourselves, confident. Once we achieve the perfectly curated capsule wardrobe our life will be changed. Things will be better. I know all of this and yet I still fell for it. So much to learn! So in the spirit of not giving up, I’m going to get back on my bike and keep trying.
On the plus side, my purchases were all from local brands with ethical production methods so when I get the sizing right, I do expect them to be wardrobe staples that will last many years. And I hope to make some sales of my own unwanted items to offset some of the costs. Some lessons learned!
Would love to hear from anyone else struggling with their no purchase challenges so feel free to comment below or on Instagram.
I may have made a HUGE mistake. I’ve signed up for Fashion For Good’s three month fashion challenge which involves:
No New Clothes
Little did I realise that around this time the whole of America goes on sale for the 4th of July. Everywhere I look, my favourite clothing brands are offering great deals, super specials or creating new fabulous pieces that I “really, really want” to quote the Spice Girls. Insert very sad emoji face. However…this is exactly the point! And precisely what I need at the moment. A little brake pedal on the purchasing power. A reason to pause and consider. Time to ask all those useful questions –
*Do I really, really need this item?
*Have I already got something similar in my wardrobe?
*Can I buy the same item or similar second hand?
*Will waiting 3 months for this item kill me? (It might if State the Label release more petite sized Origami pants in Smoke before September 21st…)
Out in the social media sphere, some sustainable fashion bloggers have embraced the challenge while others have expressed their reasons for not subjecting themselves to this ridiculous torture…I mean, for joining in. All equally valid viewpoints and ultimately a personal choice about what works for you. I’ve jumped in feet first because it helps me to shine a light on the issue of my wants versus my needs. I’m as guilty as anyone in deluding myself with the notion that I’m doing a good thing by shopping sustainably, so therefore it’s not over shopping. Or do I call that Unconscious Consuming? I think sustainable/ethical/slow fashion is definitely a good thing. However I also find myself seduced by the beautiful Instagram pics, the marketing, the influencers, the weight that a label of “handmade, ethical or sustainable” gives to a product. Which at the end of the day remains a product. Ideally, the best thing we could do is consume less products. There’s already plenty here.
There’s been some interesting discussion on social media this past week about authenticity, influencers, consumerism and the question of whether sustainable fashion really impacts on change at all. I have my own suspicions that a lot of what is out there is clever marketing dressed up in a cloak of feel good finery. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting to sell things to other people. It’s what we do. The key is the transparency of this process. It becomes complicated when you are presenting yourself or your brand as a community, a helper, different to other businesses, when the reality is really sales based. It’s important to point out that this also goes both ways. Small businesses are also duped by influencers seeking gifted products that they forget to market or review. People buy Instagram likes or collude in groups to like each others posts in order to bump up their numbers and make them seem more credible. Influencers forget to mention they haven’t paid for the products they’re showcasing or which companies are paying them for their content.
All rather depressing hey! I’m no expert in this area but I’m enjoying the discussions, the different viewpoints and the gaining of knowledge through free courses and reading. And while the 3 month challenge might be challenging, I think it’s going to go a long way in helping me reconsider what I already own, to reuse, recycle or repair, rather than add to the mountain of items already there.
Further Reading & Resources
3 Month Challenge – Fashion For Good
Check out @fashionforgood on Instagram or http://www.fashionforgood.com and tag your posts with #slowfashionsummer
I’m currently trying to create a more ethical, streamlined wardrobe for myself, as much as I hate how wanky that sounds. I recognise the financial freedom and privilege inherent in being able to sit around and contemplate not only my navel but what pieces of fabric I have hanging in my wardrobe. There’s plenty of other people in the world who are too busy pondering how they’re going to feed themselves or find shelter, rather than who made their clothes or whether their wardrobe reflects their true personality. I get it.
I think part of what I am really wanting to achieve though, is removing that whole process from my life. I don’t want to have to think about what I’m wearing or care what it looks like or how I might be judged by my on-trend friends. The whole focus on fashion and how we look does seem like such a superficial activity that takes up time we could spend thinking and acting on much bigger problems.
Simplify to amplify?
I know I’m stuck in the attempting to simplify stage and a lot of it feels very indulgent and self-focussed. I know myself well enough to also recognise that the ethical clothing focus gives me another excuse to obsess and shop. I’m aware that I’m probably a little lonely, unoccupied and bored. This becomes dangerous territory for sinking into social media overload and a consumerist approach to trying to make things better. When I can just get my wardrobe sorted, things will be easier. When my outfit, house, children and leisure activities look as shiny as they do on other people’s Instagram accounts, I’ll be okay. All of this is ultimately complete bullshit.
No matter how shiny you look, you’re still dealing with what is underneath it all. So what is the point? For me, the idea of trying to simplify life is about getting back to a place with less choice, less confusion and less noise. I’ve just finished reading Cait Flanders book The Year of Less about her own struggle with consumerism in an attempt to make herself “better”. Cait has undertake several different self-projects to deal with addictive behaviours in her life including drinking, debt and clutter. This book documents a year in which she attempts to reduce her belongings and restrict her spending.
Cait’s story is a great example of the way in consumerism can control us and leave us stuck in a never ending cycle of buying to soothe. I haven’t articulated it very well today but this is the idea behind what I am wanting to do and part of a greater vision for how the world could be a better place. Being happier by having less. Less stuff, less decisions to make, less waste.
Worthwhile? Or wanky?
Let me know your thoughts and feel free to share any of your own ethical dilemmas in the pursuit of a slow life.
Slow is definitely the new black at the moment which is great news for those with compromised high energy. Moving countries has accentuated my own inherent slowness, shining a great big spotlight on my preference for taking a very long time to do everything, even when I have almost nothing to do and nobody to speak to. But how ready is the world to truly accept slowing down?
Despite my own slow nature, I noticed this morning how I was hurrying my children on the walk to school. On chillier mornings, water runs along the street verges and all three of them find leaves, pods or small sticks to throw in, follow down our road, around the corner and see whose vessel wins the race by being the first to shoot down the drain. In the background of the squealing, shouting and accusations of cheating, I nag at them to leave it, come on, hurry up, keep walking, PLEASE…..hurry up. This morning I even threw in a hairy old chestnut – “If you’re late to school and get detention, I’m not waiting for you, you’ll have to get home by yourself.” Clearly a blatant lie.
Yes we have to get to school on time. That’s important. However so is what they were doing. They were doing naturally what we all spend time, money and resources trying to achieve – pure mindfulness. They have zero concept of time. My children knew they were walking to school but they had no anxiety about needing to get there in a hurry. The water was there and they had to be involved in that. Simple pleasure.
We talk about whether mindfulness should be taught in schools, the benefits of booking kids into yoga classes and how to help them be less technology trapped and more nature based. Yet on a day to day level, what we are actually communicating to them is – Hurry up. Go faster. You’re wasting my time. Get through things as quickly as you can. Finish your homework. Move on to the next thing. Attend multiple after school activities. There’s no time to stop and smell the roses, or race tiny vessels in the verge water. Move it, move it, MOVE IT!!
Tomorrow we’re going to leave for school early and watch the vessels complete their entire journey.
Fashion Revolution Week is here and it’s a great week for the uninitiated to get some fast info on fast fashion and why it’s time for a change. However I will admit, the information can be a little overwhelming. So if you’re asking fash what, here’s a brief blog post of the basics with ideas of where to start.
Fashion Revolution Week aims to educate, encourage and inspire people all over the globe to consider the fashion they consume and where it came from. The hope is that together we can make the fashion industry a safe space for everyone to work, shop and play. The #whomademyclothes is a prompt to consider where your items originate from by asking your favourite brands who makes their clothes.
The movement developed as a result of the 2013 Rana Plaza clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh in which 1134 people were killed. The movement has multiple goals, including safe conditions and fair pay for those working in the fashion industry, being gentle with our environment in garment production and reducing waste by resusing, repairing, recycling and reloving our gear! Read more about Rana Plaza below:
Fashion Revolution are a not-for-profit organisation leading the movement, not just during Fashion Revolution Week but all year round. Check out their great work below or follow them on social media for useful tips and prompts to get you thinking:
Once upon a time, thrift stores were crusty old places with worn out items that smelt a little like the back of your Great Grandma’s closet. Not anymore! For those of you who haven’t taken the plunge and plundered the racks of your local op-shop/thrift store/charity outlet, here’s some visual evidence of the treasures that are out there for the taking.
I love this next shirt, the colour doesn’t show up as well in the pictures but it’s a retro pattern in orange, white and black. It has a plunging V-neckline, drapes beautifully and is really flattering over the stomach area. This one was $10 from a regional op-shop in Australia.
The white shirt below is from Picnic and was $15 from a Save The Children op-shop. It looks brand new and is equally smart for work or play. Shoes are as previous by Diana Ferrari ($7) – I think these were also never worn as the soles were pristine. As your soul will be pristine when you support your local charity!
I hope these items from my second hand sourced wardrobe encourage some of you to consider thrift shopping in the future. Buying pre-loved clothing:
reduces demand for fast fashion
contributes to your local charities
saves you money
creates a unique wardrobe that won’t be the same as everyone you know
It’s easy to become overwhelmed at the thought of making changes to your lifestyle, whether it’s your health, your habits, your wardrobe or your relationships. While there are some amazing people out there who have implemented extreme changes such as completely cutting sugar from their diet, wearing only ethically made, sustainable clothing or going totally technology free, this isn’t going to be possible for everyone. What looks intimidating or even easy on social media doesn’t necessary reflect the whole experience and these same people would no doubt admit that it’s hard work, has taken them years to achieve or has involved considerable sacrifice.
So…instead of throwing your towel in the air and declaring you’ll never be a vegan, ethically conscious, save the whales crusader with a perfect hemp/linen/organic/edible capsule wardrobe, TAKE IT SLOW!
You don’t have to do it all at once. Small changes still make a difference and it’s best to start with what is achievable. This will encourage you to keep going, on to bigger and better things. Here are 7 small changes I’ve made that have worked well for me. Set to music cos that’s how I roll.
1. Keep on Loving You by Reo Speedwagon
Love the one you’re with. Before making a new purchase take a minute to think about whether you already have something similar at home. Do you actually need another grey t-shirt? Can you repair or repurpose something you already have at home? Is the item likely to last or will you need to throw it in landfill in 3 months time? While a new purchase gives you a short term buzz, the rush doesn’t last very long and becoming overwhelmed with too much “stuff” can be a downer. Reconsider. Reuse. Repair. Repurpose.
2. Think Twice by Celine Dion
I love op-shopping (thrifting) so this one comes naturally to me. At least half of my wardrobe would be from a charity shop, consignment store or given to me (usually by my Master Thrifting Mother-In-Law who conveniently volunteers at a fabulous hospice shop). It’s good fun, the quality of items are amazing these days and it makes a difference to the fast fashion waste around the globe. Get onto it. I’ve also purchased furniture, artwork and many, many, many books from thrift stores. I’ll have more tips on this topic later on the blog.
3. Give It Away by Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Re-gifting is not a dirty word in this house. If someone gives you something and it’s not your thing, your size, your taste – there is no shame in passing it on to someone who would love it. Share the joy – Marie Kondo would be proud! You could pass it on to someone you need to give a gift to (especially relevant when you get double ups for your children) or simply donate to an appropriate charity. I stockpile a small collection in a cupboard somewhere to look at when it’s gift giving time. Just make sure to pop on a sticky note with who it was from so you don’t re-gift it back to the original gift giver. Awkward.
4. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin
It’s taken some heavy duty research and a healthy smattering of trial and error but I have switched to natural make-up and deodorants. I don’t believe it’s possible to be completely chemical or nasties free in the modern world but I think eliminating some of what we put onto, and therefore into, our bodies can only be a good thing.
5. Walking On Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves
A long time ago I told my best friend that I had started running, so she promptly bought me some snazzy lycra exercise gear to wear when doing said running. Which I did. Once. She won’t make that mistake again in a hurry. My spirit animal is more Sloth than Cheetah. However, since moving to L.A. and being terrified by the combination of driving on the wrong side of the road, four way stop sign intersections, whistle-blowing crosswalk ladies and 1200 harried parents tooting horns and ejecting small children from cars onto sidewalks…I have suddenly embraced walking the children to school. It’s not far but over a day it adds up to at least 40 minutes of walking and sunshine (hello Vitamin D!) and I’m 6 lbs lighter. The heinous thing that America does to bread may also be a weight loss influence but that’s another story. Outside plus exercise equals good for your soul.
6. Push It by Salt-N-Pepa
Sometimes a slight tweak of something you already do can be a good thing. We all buy toilet paper, it’s one of those non-negotiables. When I got sick of the big 12-pack of loo rolls clogging up my supermarket trolley, I looked into buying bulk and came across an Australian company called Who Gives A Crap. They deliver dunny rolls to your front door. Their toilet paper is environmentally friendly, “good for your bum” with no dyes or nasties AND they donate 50% of their profits to helping build toilets for the 2.3 billion people that currently don’t have access to one. Win, win, win. I also grab their tissues (cos they tell me I’m beautiful) and their paper towels. Check them out below, they currently deliver to Australia, US and UK.
This one is a work in progress. I’m not the world’s most organised person so often gift buying is done with five minutes to spare before it needs to be handed to the lucky recipient. Then I spend the next 500 years hating myself for the generic, meaningless gift I’ve bestowed on someone I love. I’m now trying to be more timely with my gift buying and wherever possible, to buy from local makers or organisations that do something to help others. I’ve recently purchased jewellery as birthday gifts from companies such as The Giving Keys (providing support for transitioning people out of homelessness in L.A.) and Article 22 (handcrafted in Laos using war shrapnel with funding given to assist bomb clearing). Yes you’re still buying stuff but at least there is some giving back whether it be in supporting local producers, paying workers higher wages or helping those in need in some way.
The Giving Keys – https://www.thegivingkeys.com/
Article 22 – https://article22.com/
Hope this post gives you some ideas of where to start if you’re considering making some changes.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
My name is Dani, originally hailing from a quiet, isolated corner of Australia but recently transplanted to the bustling, busy world of Los Angeles. I’m a hoarder, an impulse shopper, a messy person and unorganised with a side serve of scatterbrained. In my defence, I am also a mother of three dragons (and one obese cat), as well as Chief Everything Organiser for a party of five that frequently expands to seven or more depending on whose overseas guests are visiting that week.
Over the past few years I’ve been making half hearted attempts to sort myself out… literally. Having walked through the valley of death, otherwise known as three children in three years, I’m now in a place where I’m ready to introduce some slowing down to the general speed of life. (I realise moving to Los Angeles was possibly counterintuitive to this goal, however…here I am!) I’m really interested in the ideas of mindfulness, the slow movement and all that sustainable, ethical, good-for-us-and-the-planet stuff.
But it’s not easy being green. This blog won’t be a shiny, perfect place that scolds you for snorting your Starbucks through straws. While I’ve always been an op-shopper (I think that translates to Thrifter over here) and a lover of old stuff, I’m also an over buyer and someone who gets it wrong. A lot. But I’m a researcher, a writer and someone who isn’t afraid to share my mistakes, so I figure you might pick up some useful tips as I sort out my house/life/wardrobe/health/family/self (or at least have a laugh).
Looking forward to getting to know you along the way!