Happy New Year, my friends. I’m back and ready to launch into 2021 with gusto. But before I can kick 2020 to the curb, I must do my yearly slow fashion review. Every January at this time I review my purchases from the year that just ended. What I bought, and how I measured up in my journey to be a better, more ethical shopper. And this year, of all years, I thought my count would show that I had bought very little. That I had demonstrated uber restraint, even more than in past years. I mean, I didn’t go anywhere. I’m sure I bought next to nothing.
Ha. Not so fast Miss Jumping to Unsupported Conclusions. It appears that I am totally wrong in this assumption.
But before I reveal what my 2020 count actually was, let’s review previous reviews, shall we? I started this whole yearly slow fashion review thing back in 2016 after I read an article that said the average American woman purchased 70 items of clothing in 2013. Surely not, I thought. How was that even possible? So I counted my own purchases, and found that I had purchased 26 new pieces of apparel in 2016. I bought 25 new items the next year in 2017 and the same in 2018. And last year in 2019 I had whittled that down to 20 new pieces. Last year’s review is here if you’re interested.
What was interesting to me this morning, as I looked over my posts from past years, is how many of the pieces featured in these old posts I still love and have no intention of eliminating from my wardrobe any time soon. And how many of the outfit combinations I’m still wearing. Which is good, I think.
But what is not good is that I have made little progress over the past five years in becoming a more ethical shopper. I have cut down on purchases a bit. Not because of any real ethical effort on my part, but simply because I didn’t need any more clothes. And I have made little, if any, progress in finding and buying from ethical companies. I should do better. I need to do better. Year after year, I say that.
But let’s move on to 2020 and what I bought.
My list of 2020 purchases:
- 1 pair of jeans
- 2 sweaters (1 grey mock neck, and 1 navy V-neck, both Vince)
- 3 short-sleeve tees (1 pink, 1 blue, 1 white, all Everlane)
- 1 sleeveless tee (red Everlane tank)
- 1 turtleneck (white Everlane)
- 2 long-sleeve tees (1 green, one navy mock-neck, both Everlane)
- 1 blouse (black puffy cotton by Everlane)
- 2 pairs of sweatpants (both Roots Canada)
- 1 bag (grey AllSaints cross-body)
- 1 scarf and 1 wooly hat (bought while Christmas shopping at Indigo)
- 2 dresses (both grey sweater dresses from Arititzia)
- 1 skirt (faux-leather, black midi-skirt)
- 1 pair of boots (Ugg winter boots with fur trim)
- Total number of pieces… 20. Same as 2019.
So what are my conclusions? Ha. That my hypothesis about my 2020 buying habits was totally wrong. I purchased the exact same number of items this year as last.
I was on a roll with Everlane tees this year, having just discovered them, and their short, boxy shape, which is perfect for my body type. This upcoming spring and summer I will be well outfitted with tee shirts. The Everlane tank and the turtleneck were both purchased to make my at-home wardrobe a bit nicer, and easier to look at in the mirror, day after lock-down day. Ditto with the two pairs of sweat pants. The dresses and skirt were a splurge. My only defense is that a dress or skirt has been on my to-buy list for several years. The winter boots I just plain needed.
But you know what is ironic? Our long spring lock-down didn’t help with my count. In fact, if I had not been staying at home so much, I would not have purchased those sweat pants at all, and probably not as many tees. But I was royally sick of wearing my usual raggedy, at home, slumping around the yard outfits.
So. What have I learned here? Well, not much, I must admit. It seems that between 20 and 25 purchases is my set point for shopping. I have settled into a pattern, buying what I need to fill a niche in my closet, choosing carefully (most of the time), not depriving myself, but not pushing the shopping boat out either. Again… most of the time.
My biggest slow fashion accomplishment this year was in reviving old pieces from my closet. Old jackets and coat-sweaters mostly. And one surprising sweater that I knit for myself a few years ago, and forgot about. I did pretty well with my “intentional dressing” initiative in the fall. Deciding to wear one old piece each week. That was fun, and gave several older jackets and sweaters an outing that might not have happened otherwise. Even if it was only to the grocery store.
And what was fun for me, while I was preparing this post today, was seeing how many of my old pieces still look good with my new white hair. Phew. That’s a relief. I was nervous in the spring and early summer while my hair was growing out, afraid that I would have to abandon some of my favourite pieces. In fact I have packed away only a couple of sweaters and tops which do me no favours now that my hair is white. Most of my wardrobe just needed a bit of rearranging and some tweaking to suit my new hair.
Let’s have a look at how that major change in my look (i.e. my hair) has altered my style, shall we? Here’s the Max Mara jacket I wore last winter for the first time in years. Inspired by an Emma Hill video, I dug it out of the closet. And I was chuffed to find that it still fit and that I still loved it.
Here’s how I was wearing the jacket much later in the year. Post COVID-hair grow-out, and after Carmen added my new low-lights.
Here’s the Adrienne Vittadini camel blazer from 1991 which I wore last winter when I was experimenting with layering jewellry.
And here’s the same jacket this past fall. I was so surprised that I could still wear camel. A total camel look up next to my face is a non-starter now. But with the right underpinning, in a cool colour, the jacket can work. I love this outfit with the black turtleneck. Or with a black tee and the grey scarf around my neck.
Again playing with jewellry-layering in a post last winter, I wore my old red Banjo and Matilda cardigan.
And a couple of months ago, a similar look with black jeans instead of my leather pants, loafers instead of boots. And white hair instead of dark blonde. Still looks okay, I think.
I also found that my new hair colour and style made me want to try looks that were a bit more slouchy than I usually wear. Suddenly I liked my Vince sleeveless tee on its own and not hidden under a jacket. I was owning the half-tuck with my high-waisted Frame, straight-leg jeans instead of skinny jeans. And these old black cotton cargo pants seemed just right to me, rolled up over my sneakers, and worn with a baggy tee and a jacket with pushed-up sleeves.
But let’s get back to the main idea behind posts like this one. How am I doing in my progress to become a more ethical shopper? Not that great, I’d say.
The things I do well… like shopping carefully, keeping an inventory of my closet so I know exactly what I have, and buying intentionally with an eye to filling holes in my wardrobe or replacing basics… are the same things I’ve always done well. Chalk that up to my love of organizing and researching and keeping lists. I’ve pretty much always been that way. And taking credit for it is like saying I deserve credit for being tall. I’ve always stashed away clothes that I love and which still fit, hoping to bring them back out a few seasons, or sometimes many seasons, later. I was doing that long before slow fashion became a thing. So, that can’t be considered progress, can it?
Since I first started learning about slow fashion, and ethical fashion a few years ago, I have been reading about ethical brands. I tried to find brands that were well rated. Brands which used sustainable materials, and which weren’t fast fashion. Brands whose products I liked, and which I could afford. And which didn’t have to be shipped from half-way around the world. I thought I had a winner with Everlane. Then that all changed with the kerfuffle during the early days of the pandemic, when Everlane was accused of union busting. Various “influencers” whose opinion I trusted were abandoning the brand. And I began to wonder if I should do the same.
As I’ve said before in these posts, the whole ethical fashion issue is so complex. Finding clothing made from sustainable materials is not enough. Polyester is a no go. But is recycled polyester okay? Shopping for thrifted pieces is always a good idea, but I have rarely found anything in a thrift store that I have wanted to buy. I always know what I’m looking for, which is a problem because thrifted pieces are always one of a kind, and are rarely in my size. Smart thrift shopping means rolling with whatever you find. Being more flexible than I am.
I watched an Emma Hill video last year about thrift shopping. On Emma’s first ever thrift shop shopping adventure, she found a lovely black cashmere sweater and a pair of black jeans, both of which were a good deal and fit her perfectly. Great, I thought. Except how many pairs of black jeans do you already own? If you don’t really need an item, is it still considered slow fashion just because your purchase is thrifted? Not in my books.
So once again, I’ve become mired in all the bits and variables that comprise the ethical fashion issue. But as I was reading, and thinking, and typing today, I saw this: “Ethical [fashion] is not necessarily the same as eco-friendly or slow fashion” (source.) And I experienced a kind of epiphany. Of course they’re not the same. D’uh. No wonder I’ve been confused when I have been using these terms interchangeably. Slow fashion means slowing down consumption. I’m down with that. Maybe not all the brands I wear are, but I am. I shop selectively, buy quality for the most part, and keep my clothes for a long time. I shop my closet year after year. I’ve been better lately at the eco-friendly thing, mostly because brands are better at reporting what they use, and where it comes from etc.
But the “ethical” part of ethical fashion, namely the people part (workers, factory conditions, salaries etc.), I need help with that one. And so I rely on rating websites which look at the complex variables and give brands an ethical rating. Separating these terms out is important, I think. And I still need to do better in researching ethical companies. And to stop confusing it with slow fashion.
So. I may not have made much overall progress. But I have learned something after all. And the journey of learning continues as it should.
You know, I always thought by the time I became a white-haired little old lady, I would know everything.
And maybe by the time I become one… I will. Ha.
So that’s my slow fashion review for 2020. My ethical report card. That’s my shopping story. And I’m sticking to it. Now that 2020 is done and dusted, I am keen to explore pastures new. Both fashion-wise and otherwise. I’m quite hopeful for 2021, actually.
How about you, my friends? How would you characterize your style journey this past year? Are you feeling a bit lighter now that 2020 is history? Do tell.