Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A sustainable wardrobe...

Since I started sewing I've been on a quest for sustainability. It started slowly, I was tired of "shopping til I dropped", buying things on a whim and never wearing them, it became a chore to go on a "shopping spree", something I had previously loved. It didn't start as consciously as wanting to be more green;  instead I bought a couple of vintage patterns on ebay and tricked my mum into a weekend of sewing- she sewed, I learnt! 
From there it grew...I began to think about this throwaway culture we take for granted, buying a new pair of shoes, just to match with one outfit, or a skirt, just for this or that holiday. Only two years later I made a pact with my husband not to buy any new clothes for a year. We thought it would be a massive sacrifice but we both were committed to trying to shake off our consumerist habits (I'm sure he has more pairs of shoes than i do!), actually it turned out not to be difficult at all, and apart from a couple of minor purchases (and a couple of pairs of shoes!) we haven't bought any clothes for about a year and a half. 
It helps that I can sew! But it has really been this challenge that we set ourselves that improved my sewing hugely. Previously if I had that feeling, you know the one, you see something in a shop window, or a magazine and feel your life won't be complete without it, I would just go out and buy. Now, when I have that feeling, and I still do (it doesn't just go away when you stop buying although maybe it does lessen), I have to make! Sometimes, that hasn't been difficult but other times, I can tell you, its been a real test.  
This change of lifestyle has really helped me to become more aware of how we have become conditioned to be insatiable consumers. Even today on Eid, the holiday is all about spending, buying, consuming, it sums up perfectly what post world war II retail analyst Victor LeBeau said “Our enormously productive economy…demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.” Think Christmas or birthdays or any other holiday and what is it you do? Shop!
Of course, I still love clothes and I'm sure you do too. Why wouldnt we? But there are other ways to get your clothes high than buying something for $20 at H&M, that at that price doesn't even come close to paying for the cost of the thing. Here are some ideas for developing a more sustainable wardrobe: 
~ Go for quality over quantity. Buy from small independent companies or one-of-a kind things from independent designers. Check out etsy for some great stuff.
~ Buy vintage, second-hand,and refashioned clothing. This can be difficult in a place like Beirut, where I live but The Bargain Box on Bliss (opposite AUB tree, in AUH) has some decent things and is always restocking.
~ Check the labels for organic and earth-friendly fabrics, Fair Trade, and union-made clothing.
~ Find a seamstress or tailor you like and have good-quality apparel custom-made or altered to fit. The cost may be lower than you think. This is a really easy suggestion for those of us in the Middle East as there are tons!
~ Pass on clothes you no longer want by having a clothing swap, donating them to thrift and charity shops, or selling on consignment.
 ~ Do you own refashioning and reuse sewing. Make small repairs that will keep an article of clothing wearable longer. Look out for a new class coming soon!
 ~ Finally, and very importantly, learn to sew! 

Of course, I still have a way to go. Most of the fabric I buy is probably not produced in a sustainable way, and until I find a way to source that, I'm sort of stuck with that. However, I have begun buying second hand fabric, or using old sheets and pillowcases and turning them into clothes. And most of all I am committed to making all my own, and eventually, my husband's clothes. 
A me made outfit in readiness for self stitched September

Another homemade outfit on a not so willing subject!
So to mark that this month brings us Self Stitched September and I am so in!
For some more information on what happens to all the "stuff" we buy watch this great little film. At around 14 minutes it talks about fashion...excellent stuff!

Where would you classify yourself on the spectrum of sustainability? Are you a super greenchic kind of gal or guy? Or more on the way to sustainability?


  1. I found your blog via the self stitched challenge - I joined too as I am trying not to buy new any more. With five children this can be hard! I have gone 2 months without buying anything new except groceries - not even visiting the local shopping center so I won't be tempted. I have started helping out at a local thrift shop on Saturday mornings, and get great bargains there (I even get a discount as a volunteer). With so many pre-loved clothes around, I can't believe I ever bought new. I even my my fabric there, and sometimes old sheets for fabric. thanks for your tutorials, i will be back to read more! My blog is http://alittlebit50s.blogspot.com/
    if you want to check it out. Keep up the good work!

  2. Fabulous post, thoughtful & thought provoking. And love the idea of self stitched September...too much alliteration is never enough!

  3. Thanks Me, and KK, kind words, and glad to see some people are reading! I'll keep you updated on how the self stitched challenge goes- started today with a favourite me made dress!
    Me- i will be posting more about self sufficiency soon, stay tuned for homemade cleaning products and cosmetics!

  4. Hi again - Me here - actually vintage mama, i had just changed the name on my blog to fit and didn't realise it would be my name!
    So if you see vintage mama you know I have not deserted you!

  5. Actually I love the design its an old school design, honestly fashion is my life I can't live with-out it, if ever when are the near place I just want you to make that clothes.
    custom suit designer


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