A year ago, I decided to stop buying new clothes (underwears and shoes excluded for practical reasons, as they’re pretty hard to find used — and in the case of the former, not super appetizing). The idea was part experiment and part actual commitment to changing my lifestyle so it could better reflect my values. Full disclosure: I did cheat and bought 4 t-shirts from Everlane in October, so if you prefer, we can say it’s been seven months. Other than that, I stuck to my challenge, and I have learnt tons : about clothes, about myself, and about shopping for used clothes. The first idea I’d like to share about it is:
There is so much to learn by learning how to sew.
Sewing is a bit like cooking: a very useful skill that you need for a daily activity (granted, not one that is as necessary to survival as eating is). Yet, very few people know how to sew a button on, and we happily forget about how the clothes we wear are made, and by whom.
Learning to sew was a game changer. It opened my eyes to the labour-intensive work that making clothes is. For some reason, I imagined my clothes were made by machines, but no: clothes are hand-sewn by people, using machines. The only difference between me sewing my clothes and someone in China or Bangladesh sewing the T-shirt I’ll buy is that they have more experience and skills, and a better sewing machine (and they aren’t doing it for fun).
It also taught me about fit, cut, fabric, and all the details that make a garment a quality piece. I recognize immediately homemade garments when I see them in second-hand stores, I can spot a poorly made dress a mile away, and no defect can go past me anymore. That’s a tremendously useful skill to have when you want to create a stylish, efficient wardrobe, be it composed of new or used clothing, especially as mainstream ready-to-wear clothing is becoming cheaper, in all senses of the word.
It has given me confidence to shop in used store knowing I can easily alter and fix an array of little things, such as adding a pocket on a stain, shortening a hem or changing a lining. I also have a better sense of what looks good on me, and of my body type and size, and can usually tell just by looking at a piece whether it’ll work on me or not.
Finally, and most importantly, it made me question fast fashion and educated me about the social and environmental costs of clothes. There are a great many, that I have mentionned before.
I recommend checking out this book by Elizabeth Cline if you’d like to learn more about this topic.