Happy 2024 everyone. I’m back. Rested up, full of turkey, and with a head that is spinning from too much slow fashion research. Gad, I fell down some research rabbit holes these past few days. It’s all good, though, because I’m saving some of the ideas and information I found for future posts.
So let’s look at 2023. How did I do in 2023 in my quest to be a better, more ethical, and environmentally friendly shopper?
Before we do that, here’s a quick review of my slow fashion history as documented on my blog. I started this whole yearly confession thing back in 2016 when I first read about slow fashion as an antidote for fast fashion, and as a possible way to curb the effects of our rampant consumption of fashion in general on the environment. Back in 2016, I found a statistic that said the average American purchased 70 new items of clothing a year. I couldn’t find any Canadian data, but I assumed our habits were similar. And I remember thinking, wow, that’s a lot of shopping.
I reported in my first slow fashion yearly review that I had purchased 26 new pieces of apparel in 2016. Not bad compared to the overall stats. But still in need of improvement. Then over the ensuing years my “acquisition” numbers gradually decreased: to 25, then 20, then 17 in 2021, and finally 13 in 2022. You can read my 2022 report here, if you’re interested. Over the years I have made some progress in buying less. But I have made no progress in finding and buying sustainable brands. And I have not lived up to my aspiration to shop at consignment and thrift stores. I suck at that, people.
And in 2023, I even back slid in my efforts to acquire fewer new clothes. This past year my wardrobe grew by sixteen new pieces. Some were purchased, others were gifted. Not terrible. But more than the year before.
Let’s examine that total, shall we?
In the spring I bought black dress pants and a black tailored vest from Aritzia, and a pair of Levis 501 white (ish) jeans. I then splurged on a new pair of sunglasses. I say splurged because I already owned two pairs: one for good and one for sports. In the summer I was gifted three pieces from the clothing brand Grae Cove: a linen dress, a short-sleeved “camp shirt” and a long sleeved “pop-over” top. I will say that I made good use of these linen pieces during our hot summer. But, man oh man, do I regret not packing them for our fall trip to (still very hot) Portugal.
Later in the summer I shopped for our Portugal trip and purchased a black, quarter-zip sweatshirt from Aritzia, and from Uniqlo a black and white striped top, a pair of black jeans, and a lightweight, wine-coloured Merino sweater. I also bought a new pair of black Asics running shoes, for walking. Sadly, the tops and jeans were too heavy for the Portugal weather, so they did not get as much wear as I’d intended.
In September I splurged on a dark green silk shirt from Frame. And I also ordered a green tote bag from Everlane. I planned to wear the green bag and shirt with jeans and my fall blazers when we returned from Portugal in late October. Ha. Post-trip Covid put the kibosh to my plans to wear my fall blazers. By the time I was feeling well enough to go anywhere, winter coats were required. So my unworn planned outfits will have to wait for next year.
In late November an exploration of Uniqlo’s Heat Tech products much touted by some of my favourite YouTubers like Emma Hill saw me purchasing one piece: a turtleneck to layer under my ski clothes this winter. If we ever get snow, that is. And just before Christmas, I bought a black heavy cashmere turtleneck from Aritzia. I’ve been wearing it a ton lately with black boots, jeans, and one of my coats.
So. That amounts to 16 new pieces in my closet. None of them purchased second hand. None of them from the best sustainable brands. Clearly I have not been successful this year in my stated goals to buy less, and buy better. I am interpreting “better” not only with respect to price and quality, but also to mean brands which have a better reputation for sustainability. In teacher-speak, my slow fashion yearly review for 2023 says that I am in serious need of remedial work.
However, if I use Vivienne Westwood’s admonition to “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.” which I quoted in last year’s post as the benchmark, I am doing slightly better. For the most part I do choose well. I made some mistakes this year, but partly because the weather severely messed me about. And I make my clothing purchases last. I am what Orsola de Castro calls a “clothes keeper.” If I grow tired of a piece and it still fits, I will store it instead of getting rid of it. Then I haul it out at a later date to revivify the selection of pieces in my closet of which I am now, in turn, growing weary.
That is my fashion super power, people. Recycling my closet and making new outfits from old pieces. Like recently, below, finding a few new ways to wear my black faux-leather pants which I have not been wearing enough. It’s so easy to start with a foundation of boots and pants, and then change up a sweater and coat. I’ve worn two of these three outfits so far this winter.
One of my clothes-keeping success stories are my navy dress pants, part of my old, old Max Mara summer of 2002 suit. I wear the suit in the summer with a tee shirt and sneakers, and wear the pants in the fall and early spring with my green Max Mara coat and a navy turtleneck or with my navy Vince V-neck sweater. That old suit was definitely a great buy. The jacket still fits, and I’ve had the pants altered because my middle is NOT the same as in 2002. More’s the pity. Ha.
Last winter in an attempt to find a new way to wear my faux-leather skirt I added a very old silk neckerchief, a cashmere crew neck sweater, my Paige denim jacket from 2014, an old Kate Spade bag also from 2014, and my new coat. This coat is so roomy that wearing a denim jacket under a winter coat is no longer an exercise in sausage stuffing. This became my favourite outfit last winter.
Below left is a variation to the above theme with my black cargo pants and sneakers. I wore this a lot when I was in Fredericton last spring. And the same light down jacket helped me find a way to wear the tan Aritzia dress pants, below right, in the winter. I’d mostly worn them in summer with flat black sandals and a black tank top.
Sometimes I recycle a whole outfit. Like below. An outfit from 2022 which I reprised this past year with a different bag and my new white jeans.
But, you know, I needn’t be patting myself on the back for my clever, creative slow-fashionista ways. Shopping my closet is not new for me. And the fact that it helps me be a more environmentally-friendly shopper is just coincidence. I’ve always done this with my clothes. And I’ve always loved doing it. Ever since I took control of my own wardrobe as a teenager when I was old enough to travel to town on the bus and shop by myself with my own money. Money I made from a part-time job selling hotdogs in the canteen at the Lady Beaverbrook Rink. Instead of Barbie clothes, I played with my own clothes, switched them up, swapped them with friends, or even added pieces from my sister’s or my mum’s closets when they weren’t looking. Back when I was fifteen and didn’t have a lot of money, new just meant different. Like Canadian blogger Erin Polowy says in this article: “There’s a lot of creativity that comes with constraint.”
I think we should all pretend we have no money like when we were fifteen. And use that impetus to get more creative with our clothes. Like Allison Bornstein says, “we don’t need more clothes; we need more ideas.” By the way I heard that quote in this video by Canadian YouTuber Christina Mychas.
But this slow fashion yearly review is not supposed to be about resting on my laurels. It’s supposed to be about fessing up with respect to last year, and planning how to do better next year. So, I’ve fessed up. Now what’s next?
In my reading this week, I came across an article by Lauren Indvik. Lauren is a fashion editor for the Financial Times. And her year end fashion column is about how she failed in her attempt to live up to the “Five Things Pledge” she made last January.
Let me explain.
In its 2022 report on sustainability and fashion, the Hot and Cool Institute, a “think tank researching the intersection of culture and climate,” outlined what a sustainable wardrobe would look like. A sustainable wardrobe is one that will help the world meet its attempts to keep the climate from warming more than 1.5 degrees C. In order to meet our climate targets, The Hot and Cool Institute says that people in “wealthy countries should be buying no more that five new items of apparel per year.” Hence the “Five Things Pledge.” You can read their full 2022 report entitled “Unfit, Unfair, Unfashionable” here, if you’re interested.
The “Five Things Pledge” means that one should buy no more than five new items of apparel (including footwear) over the course of the year. The pledge allows for new lingerie, new tights or socks, and all second hand purchases. The pledge also allows for borrowing, swapping, or renting clothes. You can read all the rules here, if you like.
So Lauren Indvik took the pledge this time last year, and in her December 28 article explains how she failed. Despite her best efforts, Lauren purchased 12 new pieces in 2023. In her defence, she did find out mid-year that she was pregnant, so I believe some leeway is allowed. Lauren says that she learned a lot this past year, and fundamentally changed her shopping habits: “second-hand fashion sites became the starting point for every shopping journey.”
But what struck me most about Lauren’s article, other than her honesty, is the fact that she believes “it’s important to try to live by one’s values, and bemoaning climate change while doing nothing to reduce my own impact feels wrong.” That and the fact that she signed up for the pledge again this year.
And that’s why I’m going to do it too. Or try to do it, anyway.
I know that signing on to a pledge to buy no more than five new things in a year will sometimes be a huge pain in the butt. And cause me way more work in the long run when it would be so much easier to just run out and buy whatever I want. If I could find it, that is. And that there really are no consequences if I break my pledge. I mean, who’s going to tell if I don’t? Not to mention the fact that my shopping, or lack of it, will make little difference to the increasingly urgent climate crisis. And it won’t cut down on the extreme overproduction of fast fashion mega-brands. Or stop anyone else from over-consumption. So why bother?
I don’t know, people.
Maybe it’s the fact that one source I read this past week said they found most “consumers’ spending habits do not align with their professed values.” Apparently we consumers say one thing about the need for change and do something different when it comes to our shopping. Maybe it’s that companies are getting away with rampant Greenwashing, and brands like H&M are merely giving the “illusion of commitment” to sustainability. And don’t get me started on all the clothes that end up in landfill somewhere every year; according to earth.org in the U.S. alone each person on average throws away 81.5 lbs. of clothing each year. And then there’s all that fast fashion that is bought, and worn once, and tossed. All I know is that at one point this past week in my research, and reading, and taking notes, I reached a kind of boiling point.
Maybe it was the latest edition of a fashion newsletter to which I (used to) subscribe, in which the writer listed everything she’d bought or was gifted this year. And as I scrolled down the list in amazement, I began to count, and ended up at 161 pieces. Jaysus. That’s a lot of stuff. Oh, I give her credit for honesty. Except it’s all there in her weekly posts anyway, if someone really wanted to add things up. I didn’t until I saw how long the list was.
And then I began to wonder if I made my living from blogging, and had a need for all kinds of clothes that I don’t need in my current life for events I won’t ever attend, and if I had access to free stuff all the time from brands I love … I wonder if I’d be any better.
Maybe that was the point at which I decided to stop resting on my laurels. And try to be better. And I always work best if I have a specific goal. Especially if it’s a number. So why not five? Why not join Lauren and lots of other women in signing onto the Five Things Pledge?
Anyone else want to join me? You can read all about “The Rule of Five”, find out the dos and don’ts, and even sign up for a helpful newsletter here, if you like.
Anyway. That’s what I plan to do. Try to limit myself to five new things this year. Only five. Oh my. Oh… salty epithet inserted here… that will be tough.
I will of course report back on my progress. Shall we say quarterly?
And if anyone wants to join me and take the pledge, and maybe wants to be part of those quarterly reports, let me know in the comments. Like our grey hair journey, I’d love it if we could support each other in our quest to be better, slower, more sustainable shoppers.
Now it’s your turn, friends. What what was your 2023 shopping like? Or do you keep track?