Slow Fashion October: Week 2

This “week,” the theme is Small, and suggestions for topics include: handmade / living with less / quality over quantity / the capsule wardrobe / indie fashion / small-batch makers / sustainability in every sense.

As a young person with limited income, much of my wardrobe falls into the category of “living with less,” even removed from the ideals of sustainability and being more locally-minded in my purchasing choices. Since I was a kid, thrift stores have held a sort of magic for me. It’s not just about the unpredictability of what’s out there- depending on the town you’re in, there is truly no telling what kind of stuff you’ll find. I’m still kicking myself for not buying that Oregon Corrections Department orange jumpsuit I came across at the bins a few years ago- as it was, it had no everyday, practical application, but wouldn’t it be A) a killer Halloween costume, B) some really strong, high-quality fabric I could dye and make into bags, pouches, something else, and C) an awesome story? Aside from that, my upbringing and subsequent financial situation has always led me to the conclusion that secondhand is (nearly) always better.

Since moving to South Carolina, I’ve been struck by the difference in quality in secondhand stores from those I was used to on the west coast. We lived around the corner from a Goodwill back in Oregon, and we really could just walk in and find whatever we were looking for. A small flowerpot? Check. A pair of fun-patterned leggings? Check. A vacuum cleaner? Check. A picture frame that measured about 26.5 by 19.5? Check. The culture there supported donating and shopping at thrift stores in a way that I haven’t seen here on the east coast. I wonder if there isn’t a stigma associated with shopping for used housewares and clothing, along with economic pressure not to part with things that are still usable, that results in fewer people donating and fewer people shopping because they can rather than because they have to. Wes and I try to turn to Goodwill or other donation-based thrift stores first whenever we need things, but we often decide we didn’t really need those things after all.

Since becoming a more focused and more accomplished knitter, and since acquiring a sewing machine, I’ve made a bit more of my clothing. I don’t think I have the sewing chops yet to make a wardrobe, but I’m starting down that path. Part of what keeps me from going after it is that I don’t need anything right now. There aren’t any holes because I keep clothes for so long and wear the same things every day.

Which brings me to… Capsule wardrobes. I’ve read a number of posts on various blogs, linked by Pinterest or other social media hub sites, about The Capsule Wardrobe, which has been touted The Right Way To Do Minimalism In Your Wardrobe. I can’t wrap my head around it, and I keep coming back to how commercial it feels- just one more fad that means you need to buy things. Each of these posts mentions something about saving money, saving time, etc. It seems like a good idea in theory: own fewer things, make sure you love the things you own. But all of those posts include a segment on going shopping for the perfect new _______ to fit into that new collection. Perhaps the focus is more on the paring down, but I guess I need someone to explain how it’s different from just… owning a small number of clothing items that work well together. I have dresses brought back from Ghana or made by my grandmother, socks I knitted, and those things don’t fit into the boxes of wanting to hit tally marks for certain kinds of clothing. I want my wardrobe to come together more organically than it seems the capsule wardrobes of most bloggers do.

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