Last week I wrote about my reaction to the documentary "The True Cost". In short, it made me deeply confused and caused me to reexamine my behavior. How do I continue as a personal style blogger when I know that the people who make my clothes are treated so poorly, and when the mass production has catastrophic effects on the environment?
After much contemplation, I realized I already knew the solution: reduce, reuse, recycle.
Step 1: Reduce
- Buy less. I've never successfully quit anything cold turkey, and I don't think shopping will be my first. However, I do think, nay, I know that I can buy less. My goal will be to only buy replacements, but allow myself to buy treats for reaching goals during my dissertation process and getting through tough stretches of teaching.
- Avoid "fast fashion". Stores that sell tops for $7 generally rely on cheap labor to do so. When the stores successfully sell these items, they have no reason to change their strategy. (And if they do change their strategy, it's to pay garment workers even less so they can sell clothes for even less.) My goal is to avoid supporting these stores by not buying from them. I'm also trying to learn more about which garment workers are treated the worst, and avoiding buying products that were made in those countries.
Step 2: Reuse
- Wear more. I'll admit it: I'm one of those people who treats my closet as a mausoleum. I suspect it boils down to some irrational fear of ruining my clothes. (It's entirely irrational because I can't remember ever having ruined any of my clothes, and the ones that had to be retired were heavily worn for yeaaars.) Also, if I'm going to allow myself to buy replacements, that means I need to wear things so that they can be replaced.
Step 3: Recycle
- Thrift. I can't tell you how many times I've used the line "I never find anything in the thrift stores". After so many trips to these stores, I realized that there was a reason I never find anything. It's because those stores are catered to a younger demographic, or they sell things I have no interest in. One of the thrift shops in town has one aisle (of maybe five for women) devoted to our local college and sports teams' apparel, one aisle for athletic gear, one aisle for leggings, one aisle of mini skirts... Another thrift shop has a quarter of the store devoted to jeans, another to Coach purses, and then has a mess of unorganized tops and bottoms in the other half. If you know me, you know that I can't shop in that kind of environment. When I was 20, I almost applied to work at Charlotte Russe but realized I could never handle working in such a loud, hectic, and messy place. I prefer a calm environment, with organization and space. So what does this all have to do with thrifting?
There's an alternative to the Plato's Closets and Goodwills of our towns: ThredUp. I know, I'm presenting groundbreaking news here, I should have warned you. But seriously, I knew ThredUp existed, but every time I went on their website, I was overwhelmed and gave up. With a strategy of starting with narrow searches that would limit results, I was able to successfully shop. But that's a story for another day. [In the mean time, you can get $20 to spend when you sign up!]
In summation: I was overwhelmed and truly struggled with the way I approach shopping and blogging after watching the documentary "The True Cost". After a great deal of reflection, I realized that I could do something, and I should do something. I should shop less - not because of financial reasons - but for humanitarian reasons. I know alone I can't do anything, but I do believe that change relies on movement, and is therefore contingent upon action. Moreover, the majority of my shopping should be done in thrift stores. Thrifting still gives me the benefits of retail shopping (namely, clothes) in a much more environmentally sound way.
So what does this mean for this blog? I'm not sure yet. I'm not calling it quits, but I'm also not putting pressure on myself to post. For now, I'm going to enjoy the last bit of my summer vacation.
[By no means am I advertising this solution as the right one for everyone, but I think there is something worthwhile in a deep examination of the way we behave, and acknowledging that we can be better.]