There’s nothing quite like moving cross-country to motivate you to shed and purge. And there is nothing quite like shedding and purging to make you think about where all of this stuff came from (and why), and where it’s going. Since I’ve started with clothing, I’ve had an opportunity to really think about what comes in and goes out of my closet — at the deeper level of what it’s all made of. Not for the first time, of course. For I didn’t get into spinning and dyeing and knitting fibers just because I wanted to master a craft; I want to be a part of exploring alternatives to the conventional textile and clothing industry. You probably already know that many of the big clothing brands are environmentally irresponsible — producing clothing that’s designed to be throw-away, and polluting the environment in the process (the textile industry is the world’s second biggest polluter of fresh water resources, after agriculture). But there are also sobering reports like Greenpeace’s Toxic Threads which show that many of their clothes are actually harmful to human health, with hazardous chemicals such as NPEs and endocrine-disrupting synthetic dyes.
So we want alternatives to that, right? One of the most inspiring examples, for me, is the Fibershed project in Northern California — a community-driven initiative to create and strengthen regional textile supply chains. The project began with founder Rebecca Burgess’ vision to create what she calls “a 150-mile wardrobe” using regionally grown fibers, natural dyes, and local labor. Imagine a network of sheep farmers, flax growers, plant dye growers, fiber mills, weavers, designers, artisans and shop owners all working together to create local, toxin-free wardrobes…! And the results can be truly beautiful.
While slowly learning the skills that would allow me to contribute to creating a fibershed in my region, I also make an effort to get as much of my clothing used as possible. Portland, of course, is a prime spot to do this since there’s no shortage of excellent consignment and vintage clothing shops. Of course, there are also online used clothing stores such as Twice and Tradesy (thanks to Ashley for introducing me to the latter!).
But my absolute favorite way of acquiring used clothing, and passing on items that I myself no longer wear, are naked lady parties (a.k.a. clothing swaps). It’s been a tradition among my Portland girlfriends for a couple of years now. We just had one this weekend and had a blast: we share snacks and drinks, try on outfits we otherwise probably never would, and provide support, honest opinions, and help getting in and out of dresses. I scored an entire new summer wardrobe for free, thanks to some very stylish friends who happen to be the same size as I am. Afterwards, all the items of clothing that haven’t found a new owner are donated to Goodwill. So we all end up buying fewer brand-new clothes, and ensure that our used — and still oh-so-useable! — clothes find someone who will use them.