Happy Earth Week! As kids, Earth Day was the day when we were taught the three R's of environmentalism: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. As a mother, I still believe in these basics but I'm actually starting to sweat the mess we are leaving to our children. We should be applying the simplicity of the three R's to our daily lives all the time, but we probably don't think of them when we're considering our choices in fashion. I like to feel put together as much as the next mom, but at heart I'm a bit of an Earth mother and my conscience can't help but consider all the effects of the choices I make now on the future of my daughter's world.
When we think of the way resources are used, and often wasted, images of running taps or plastic bottles might come to mind. Besides the obvious culprits, the energy, materials and resulting waste that is part making, distributing and selling clothing may not instantly come to mind. Everyone has some staple items that stay in the rotation, or some sentimental pieces that will never leave your possession, but in general our closets have a sort of rotating stock. We get rid of old clothes and constantly buy new, rarely considering the environmental effects. I can literally hear you rolling your eyes and heavy sighing. Is this lady trying to get me in hemp shoes and a homespun tunic? I would never! Eco-friendly fashion might conjure images of rough, basic and unflattering garments, but the modern movement of green fashion has pushed all those old ideas aside.
Let me show you, in celebration of Earth Day, how we can make our wardrobes greener!
Reduce: Whether you're expecting, nursing, post-partum or post-post-partum, you may occasionally (daily?) have moments where you stare into your closet, shuffling through your hangers, and think 'I have NOTHING to wear.' I know that feeling. My boobs are engorged and my paunch is extra droopy and I'm meant to attend an adult function FOR ONCE and I stand there, naked and forlorn, in front of a closet full of clothes which all feel wrong.
You probably know exactly how I feel in those moments, so it might confuse you when I tell you that one of problems is that you have TOO much to wear. The hidden gems, the pieces that will make you look and feel best, are hidden in that closet by all the riff raff you picked up off the sale rack. I'm not saying I don't love a bargain (in fact I ONLY love a bargain), but sometimes we are all guilty of buying something simply because it's a good deal. We buy a shirt that doesn't quite fit or isn't totally flattering or has way too many sequins just because the price is right. And then we do it again. And again. And before you know it, you've got a closet of ill-fitting, odd colored clothes that make the true you obscured by the you that is addicted to clearance. One of the best ways to reduce in terms of fashion is to STOP THE MADNESS. You always have to appreciate a bargain, but you also have to be honest about what makes it so. If it's cheap but won't be used, it's just waste. Remember S and M's cost per wear theory and don't be afraid to splurge on one fabulous item rather than hoarding the cheaper, less desirable ones.
The next step, after you quit the compulsive sale shopping, is cleaning out that already over-crowded closet. Because even though you vow here and now to never buy four shirts in the same color again just because they only cost $15, the times you already did that are still looming large in your closet. Simple Mom, one of my favorite blogs, addressed this issue during her recent series Project: Simplify, so check her out for some awesome tips on how to reduce the volume of your closet and clear the way to a less stressed, but better dressed, you.
Reuse: When you are done cleaning out your closet in an attempt to reveal what aspects of your closet actually work and will be worn, it might feel a little bare. So go shopping! But get creative. Go thrifting. If you love sale, you'll likely faint at the gems you can find in a resale store. My sister is the queen of thrift shopping (check out how she uses thrift stores to furnish her home). She recently bought a GORGEOUS Shae sweater for $4.99, saving well over $100. Her tips are simple. She suggests using pieces for other than what they were originally intended. There is a rack full of scarves at your local Salvation Army that are dying to be used as belts. There are piles of clip-on earrings that will make an adorable broach. She also insists on staying true to yourself, and buying anything that your gut desires. Chances are you won't be paying more than $5 for anything, so why not try something bright or patterned or unusual. When you're shopping traditional retail or even at a more upscale vintage shop, all the clothes will be displayed cleverly and marketed to you as outfits. When you're thrifting, you have to be imaginative and patient, willing to visualize your own designs for outfits and dig a bit for true treasures. The hunt is half the fun, and everything you find is adding to your wardrobe while contributing no new waste to the landfill!
Recycle: When we clean out our closets of ill-fitting or out-of-fashion items, most of us pile all those garments into a garbage bag and drop it on the back doorstep of the nearest Salvation Army or Goodwill (where some other very wise woman is snatching them up for a buck a piece!). A few people take the time to sell their higher end items at a consignment shop. But there are those who are more creative than you and I, and more conscious of the environment, and those people recycle our old clothes to make new, fresh designs! Even when fashion evolves and a garmet begins to seem dated, the fabric/parts of these pieces can be used to fit in with current trends. The world of upcycled fashion is vast, but a few of my favorite designers can be found on Etsy. Check out this gorgeous pooch hiding top ($39) reconstructed from a man's shirt by Supayana, this elegantly funky cocktail dress ($160) by heidala or get comfy in this drapey-but-not-loose (isn't that the key!?) and nursing friendly top ($38) by fashionREdesign.
In ways big and small, we can use our dollars to work for the Earth more than against it. Remember to consider the three R's when stying your sexy-mama-self, and your kids will thank you for it!
Contributing author Lane is an intentionally unemployed social worker who is currently a new mom, following her husband's dream, trying to stay relevant, and practicing her mothering skills on two rescued dogs, Enid and Falcor (in addition to her new addition, baby Vesper). Check out her fabulous blog, the Overseas Trapeze.