Slow Fashion October: Where I'm Coming From

Slow Fashion October is a celebration of the small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, known-origins wardrobe. This online conversation is hosted by Karen Templer of the Fringe Association blog and since the month is very nearly over, I thought I'd add in my two cents.

my in-progress Bellows Cardigan

my in-progress Bellows Cardigan

The provenance of my clothing isn't something I often considered as a child or a teenager. In fact, shopping with my mom is definitely a way that my she and I bond and spend quality time together. In graduate school, I began to realize that I'd often turn to shopping as a way to deal with an emotional lack - when I felt lonely or sad, I bought things to fill that hole. My growing knowledge in the nature of the textile industry, the way the fast fashion industry operates, and the low likelihood that donated clothes make it into the hands of people in need leaves me hesitant to shop too frequently, and when I stand in front of my closet today, most of the things I own aren't new.

a recent outing at REI: trying, but not buying...

a recent outing at REI: trying, but not buying...

I also think it helps that I've developed a personal sense of style - I now know what colors, silhouettes and styles I enjoy wearing most - so my clothes are less centered around trends. It took me years to realize that I prefer neutral colors (my closet has more grey, navy, black and taupe than anything else), slim proportions on the bottom, tomboyish styles and natural fibres. I know that I will turn to my silk blouses and ankle trousers for the office or my simple button up shirts and sturdy jeans for weekend wear for years to come.

And yes, I know that all of my musings come from a place of privilege. I've never known the feeling of financial insecurity and even when my funds were particularly low, I never wondered if I would have a warm coat for the winter. And since my perspective is one of privilege, I think it's my responsibility to purchase things that are made well - with quality materials, in sustainable ways, with respect for the environment and the people who are making them. It's why I now vote with my dollar, supporting companies like Elizabeth Suzann, NisoloTradlands and Patagonia.

However, I didn't start knitting because of an awareness of slow fashion. If anything, I became interested in knitting when I realized that I was too often shopping to feel better. When shopping began to serve as a balm for my sadness rather than to fill a true physical need, I recognized that I needed to take better care of myself and knitting became one of my outlets. Learning to knit and the gratification of successfully making things was stimulating to my mind and my heart. 

And knitting has continued to lift me up in darker times - from illness, from professional difficulties, from broken relationships, and from the everyday traumas of simply being human. Knowing that time and time again, I can return to my needles and find meditation, joy and community has been a great comfort. And if anything, knitting is now a ritual in my personal practice. 

However, this knowledge about the clothing industry opened a pandora's box for me. As a seasoned knitter, I've become more critical about the tools and fibres I use to make my garments. I often hesitate in buying superwash yarns because I now know of the noxious processes required to coat the yarn in plastics, despite the lovely colorways I see from many hand dyers. As a new knitter, I bought yarn with reckless abandon, but now I pause to plan and ask myself a few questions rooted in the basic history of good design - is it useful? is it necessary? will it bring me joy to make it? If it doesn't check off 2 out of the 3 questions, I wait. 

I write this often, but it rings true time and time again - much like my knitting, I too am a work in progress on this issue. My habits are not perfect and I need to remind myself constantly that I am able to shop with intention, create my own clothes with patience and love, and live a smaller, fuller life with fewer things. I'm grateful for the conversation and encourage you to check the #slowfashionoctober tag on Instagram to see what others are sharing - the thoughtfulness and open-minded exchange of ideas there reinforces why I so love this community of makers.