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Peeling off the layers of our identity

t-shirt yarn

I love creating new clothes. The process of designing and sewing something that was just an idea is really magical. And I am sure every designer and every clothing brand out there in the world love what they do and are really passionate about bringing their creativity into life. BUT there is one tiny problem with it. Designing and bringing on this planet thousands of new garments four to six times a year, or sometimes even every two weeks (time frame some companies, like Zara introduce new mini collections, yes, it really takes them only two weeks from design ideas to complete garments on the shop floor) is… not only killing creativity but is really more than we need! Soft Shells project by Canadian Photographer Libby Oliver who wraps her subjects in every piece of clothing they own to photograph or Tamara Kostianovsky’s Tree Stumps art work really shows the overwhelming reality of fast fashion and its influence on our life.

Now we can “afford” to throw away a piece of clothing only because we don’t like it or it does not “represent our identity” anymore. I am not even talking about throwing something with minor breakages that can be easily repaired simply because we do not know how to repair and it is really cheaper to get something new than pay for a good quality mending…

Only a century ago clothes were treasured, looked after, repaired and passed down to younger generations. Clothes were made to last. They were laboriously made, expensive, how they should be. They were really functional, had removable parts like collars, cuffs or underarm liners, that were more likely to get damaged or dirty to limit the need of washing the whole garment so that it stays new for longer.  One example from my own childhood – is the school uniform from Soviet Union times. We had dark brown dresses made from pure wool and aprons – black for every day and white for special occasions. The dress itself was normally bought a few sizes up and altered to a smaller shape to start with, then adapted to the growing child’s body. It had removable collar and cuff parts (usually white or cream) that were stitched lightly by hand and removed for washing. I had about seven sets of collars and matching cuffs some of them hand crocheted from white mercerised cotton thread and some made from store bought white lace.

This is my own school uniform, vintage wool brown dress with removable hand crocheted cuffs and collar. On the fourth picture you can see the line where the dress was altered to small figure, to make it shorter so that it serves for longer.

When I was a kid we did not have money to buy a lot of clothes, and to be honest there was not a great variety of fashionable items available in the shops in those days so we really had to be inventive to look good and create our identity. I remember remaking my mum’s clothes from her youth times (shortening the dresses, redecorating the skirts, blouses, making them smaller or bigger if needed). And that is how it used to be, existing clothes were altered and redecorated to suit the newest fashion trends (instead of buying new ones all the time) and when it was impossible to alter them any more or they became too old they were used to make kids clothing or used for rugs. Nothing went into waste. Even if some parts of clothing were thrown away they simply degraded as all clothes used to be made from natural fibres like wool, cotton, linen, hemp or more expensive silk.

Today most clothes are made from synthetic man made materials and even the ones that are made from natural fibres very often have some synthetic parts or threads added to them. That creates a huge problem when they appear in the landfill… Even washing synthetic clothes creates a problem – millions of tiny microfibre parts are released with every washing cycle and go into our oceans, are eaten by fish damaging them and end up in our food chain. And again I am not going into discussion how much fabrics and threads people throw away these days. Internet is filled with articles on that topic. You can read more about it here or here to start with if you wish.

Scary?.. It surely is! But there must be something we can do. There are people out there who are already doing it. And the sooner you join them, the faster we might overcome this problem.


So WHAT TO DO??? I made a small personal list of actions that we try to do in our family. Most of them are easy to follow. I cannot make you follow them as I believe we all have free will and are free to make our own choices. As soon as we are prepared to live with consequences of our choices tomorrow.

1. Do not just dump old clothes into the landfill. Remake them, adjust them or have it done for you. Take to the op shop what you really cannot adjust or remake. The really old ones you can repurpose into millions of other things, here are some ideas to get you started and trust me internet is filled with advices like that these days! You only need to start looking! You can also look for clothes recycling opportunities in your area if you are really not a creative type.

2. Repair clothes that you like if they get damaged. From my own experience, almost any damage can be repaired or the piece of clothing can be refashioned into something else after really scary damages. If you live in Melbourne, Australia you are welcome to contact me to get it done for you. Or if you live far away or prefer to do it yourself and just need ideas contact me for inspiration!

3. Before buying something new ask yourself: do you really need it? Or you have a few more similar items in your wardrobe but you just don’t like the colour any more?.. (You can always dye what you have to change the colour by the way 😉

4. If you really need to buy something new (like underwear or socks or anything else on that matter) look for sustainable alternatives, do not just buy cheep stuff that will not last. Give preference to natural fibres. Do not know any local sustainable fashion brands? If you live in Australia look through Peppermint magazine! It is filled with eco brands that create anything from clothing to personal care products and healthy food and lifestyle objects.

4. Buy at op shops*. They are full nowadays, and you can hunt a really good quality and looked after clothes there.

5. Some people recommend to swap and share clothes* with your friends and family. It is a great idea, as soon as you have close friends or family members who are same size as you are, and who are on the same wave with sustainability. I was not that lucky so I do not practice that. Yet. 🙂

* The only thing to remember when wearing someone else's clothes or giving away yours is that clothes retain memories and energies of their owners. And if you are like me believe that everything around us is energy and every actions and even thoughts we produce create exchange of those energies with others, you need to follow some simple rules for happy non violent living. When you give away your clothes ask for all your memories and energies to stay with you and do not influence (and especially harm) others. If you buy someone else's clothes, especially if they are from people you don't know, kindly ask them to have their memories and energies from these clothes back so that they do not influence you. 


Do you have anything to add to that list? Share in comments! 🙂

As a conclusion I just want to add that great style is like art. It does not come with hundreds of garments in your wardrobe. In fact the more media you have the more chances you will just loose yourself in it. With less good quality pieces that are really loved and treasured you will be more creative and have all the chances to make your style look really great.

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