When I express my interest and support of Sustainable Fashion, I’m usually met with puzzled looks and lots of questions including: “What’s that? How does that work? What do you mean by sustainable?” As a movement still gaining traction, Sustainable Fashion, seems to encompass many characteristics from eco-friendly to fair wages and treatment of employees to preserving traditional handicrafts. Upon hearing of Tortoise and Lady Grey’s 20 Day Sustainable Fashion Challenge, I decide to participate to effectively illustrate the concepts behind Sustainable Fashion to my readers. What’s even better? Finding out how this challenge not only reshapes my wardrobe, but makes Sustainable Fashion even more meaningful to me.
To start off, what do I actually know about Sustainable Fashion? Before my previous summer with Run by Rural, I knew very little. However, as a seamstress (both as a young girl and for theatrical costumes), I was always taught to use every scrap of fabric and keep sizable scraps of fabric and interfacing for unexpected repairs. As a craftsperson I was always eager to learn new techniques and skills as well as support my fellow artists. The best part was when I learned there was an actual career advocating for eco, ethical, artisanal, and cultural products. When I discovered Sustainable Fashion advocates to preserve and value traditional handicrafts, provide fair wages and business training for artisans, improve working conditions, and source materials with consideration to the environment, I sought opportunities to be involved and now I’m starting with my own wardrobe.
How exactly do I currently treat my wardrobe? Are my shopping habits effective or wasteful? As a thoroughly trained bargain hunter with a small theatre salary, I don’t think I’ll be able to kick the sales hunting habit easily. However, this doesn’t mean I have to stick with clothing chain stores like H & M, I can shop at thrift or second-hand stores that sell used clothing to give clothes another life instead of letting them be tossed out. I’ve found great dresses and tops for travel as well as clothes for working in the Costume Crafts Department that I don’t mind getting paint or a drop of glue on at second-hand stores. The other difficult situation about money is that my paycheck is never consistent. Sometimes I won’t have work for a couple of months, so I have to be careful with bills and expenses, other times I have plenty of overtime stashed on a paycheck, but my extra money goes to paying off other responsibilities I had to wait on since I wasn’t paid during the past month or so. The best conclusion I can come up with for this dilemma is that I should continue to repair clothing to help it last and have a list of clothing items I really want, so when I do have money I can spend a little more on quality clothes. With these thoughts in mind, it’s time to audit what I have.
What do I have in my wardrobe that doesn’t seem to leave the hanger? The great news is that I have some great items that I can see lots of potential for, but the bad news is I don’t have opportunities to wear them. My work in Wardrobe Crew restricts me to wearing complete outfits in black so I am not possibly seen by the audience backstage and working nights and weekends I don’t really have opportunities to wear some of the cute dresses I’ve purchased over the years. Does this mean I should give everything away? Resolved to find alternative solutions, I put pieces together to see if I can make multiple outfits and write a wish list to determine what I need to complete any outfit that seems lacking. This way I know what I need to find and don’t purchase things I don’t need. I can also make sure that what is on my list contributes to many outfits, not just one. But when can I wear these fabulous outfits? I tend to wear minimalist clothing for work backstage and in the Costume Shop, but when a special event at the theatre or a Sunday night dinner with friends is available, why not take the time to wear something that’s been waiting in my closet? Realizing my wardrobe’s potential, I begin trying on clothes, making sure I still fit some purchases. If it’s too small or I can’t alter the shape of the garment to be more flattering, it goes on the “give away pile.”
Where does this first week leave me at? Besides a stop at a charity store for donation, I’ll be finding new ways to wear and style my pieces. Instead of wearing the same cardigan with the same top and jeans, perhaps it’s time to pull out a pair of tights and a skirt. Even though I usually opt for workout clothes or jeans during the daytime before my night shift at work, perhaps my mint boyfriend cut pants could use some styling with a sequin top and jacket or maybe one of my sweater dresses would like a chance to be worn. In the meantime, I’ll be using my online bookmarks to keep track of opportunities to purchase items on my wishlist from Sustainable Fashion companies in addition to keeping up on my mending, repairing, and construction of various sewing projects (I am no longer taking additional classes and have homework, so I no longer have excuses). After seeing multiple outfit posts from fashion bloggers, I’m beginning to think I’ll do my own outfit posts for Theatre Technicians featuring outfits of black clothing from Sustainable Fashion companies and second-hand shops. More importantly, I want my involvement in advocating and promoting artisans worldwide to help others see the importance that my fellow theatre and non-theatre artists bring to their communities and everyday lives.
Want to see what else I encounter on this challenge? Then be sure to read future posts to see what I have in store for the next couple of weeks during this wardrobe challenge!