Tuesday, February 23, 2010

slow clothes movement

Oh boy, if you've been on board with what I've been talking about lately, go read this! It's good stuff, and comes very close to articulating what's been churning around in my head.

Did you read it? Ok, ok, let's talk about it, yes?

Do you like shopping? I hate it. I go into a store and look at the racks and racks of clothes, and I kind of freak out. Too many choices, too much useless "fashion" for me. I have become almost painfully practical, and cannot deal with the fast-changing styles in the store.

But, I admit, I also dislike shops like Goodwill and Amvets. I'm all for hand-me-downs and will take them from people I know, whose homes I've seen and whose care of said items was good. AJ's physical therapist, who has also become a good friend, brings me enormous bags of beautiful boy clothes, and has just offered me several pairs of winter boots for my son. Oh yes! I will definitely take those. But I haven't gotten on the used clothing train as far as second-hand shops. There is nothing wrong with shopping there, I have no problem with anyone else doing it, it just isn't for me at this time.

Rather, I like to buy and make very classic, standard wardrobe items and then wear them out. And I like to either find made-in-the-USA if I can, or make it in the USA, specifically, in my house.

It has long bothered me that the people making our cheap, mass-market clothing are likely very, very poor people, young children, or overworked and abused women in oppressive countries. I think we tend to believe that because the US has strict labor laws pertaining to children and to a legal number of hours worked by adults, other countries do, too.

HA. They do not. The 12 year-olds making our t-shirts in the Philippines are not subject to labor laws, I don't care if they are working under the Target umbrella. And I think it is kind of important to remember that. It is important to know what happens to get those inexpensive clothing items into your closet.

Sure, fabric production is not much better, but perhaps by reducing our insatiable desire for newer and more fashionable clothing we can reduce demand for these cheap items. At least by purchasing the fabric rather than the finished good, I have removed one part of the slave-labor chain.

That said, I broke my self-imposed rule of sewing only from stash today. Our local WalMart is eliminating its fabric department, keeping only notions from now on.

Considering most of my fabric stash is small cuts (1 yard) originally intended for quilting, I've been having trouble scraping up enough to make dresses for Daughter. So when I heard about the WM fabric clearance, I went to check it out.

In this case, spending a little money will turn out to be very frugal in the long run!

For about $30 I got enough fabric to make at least 3 dresses and about 4 or 5 sets of pajamas. This flannel (plus a red piece that is currently being washed), was $1.48 per yard, making even the largest pajamas for Daughter about $4.50. But if I cut carefully I'm betting I can squeeze more (like extra pants for AJ) out of some of these fabrics (where gender-appropriate, of course).

I'm picturing a fall school dress for Daughter - main body being the large print, collar and cuffs/pockets in the small print. About $5 for this. It will be perfect with some white tights (or better yet, handmade knee socks!) and brown buckle shoes. Love!

There are some other pieces too, which we cut right into for a sundress, and a large cut of dark indigo denim for another fall dress (also being washed right now so unavailable for photographing).

And we need to get the kids involved! Cripes, it is so sad to hear about moms and grandmas who cooked and sewed but told their offspring to get out of the way...it is a story I have heard more than once. (Princess getup is optional.)

Or how about some good old-fashioned repurposing? That was big in the "old days" too - you got a hand-me-down dress from your cousin/older sister/neighbor, and your mother made it fit. Gosh, I don't even know anyone who knows how to do that (I do not...I've never learned alteration skills, though I'd like to). Even Martha Stewart is getting in on it - next time one of Hubs' dress shirts wears out, I'm making one of these.

I mean, there is definitely the argument to be made that trying to clothe your family from handmade and repurposed clothing is time and labor intensive. Yeah, it sure is! That is why I am starting my Daughter's summer dresses in February! But if you step back from the relentless pursuit of more, and instead make do with fewer, better items, it could be done. There is a great post about that here, regarding buying and caring for very high quality items for your children, especially if they can be passed down. Why do our kids have to have 5 or 6 or more sweaters, when really 1 or 2 will do? My Daughter currently has about 10 pairs of pants in her drawer (several were Christmas gifts). She never even wears about 5 of them because she doesn't like them.

However, I certainly do not advocate going back to a time when the woman of the house spent every waking minute cooking, cleaning, and sewing. I can't imagine it, really - if I had to make my husband's every sock, I would keel right over. He has humongous feet and it takes me weeks to get through a big boring pair of socks for him! All I'm saying is that I wish we were all a bit more conscientious about our clothing (and our food, too...but that's for another day!) and participated a bit more in the process.

I know I am largely preaching to the choir here, and I promise I won't always rant and rave about this stuff. What I love so much about the internet and the blog community is the prevalence of thoughtful, like-minded women (and some men, too) who are taking back responsibility for what is worn, made, cooked, grown, etc. in and around their homes.

Boring, dreary February is almost over. Easter is coming soon for those of us who celebrate, and hot on the heels of Easter will be Spring and sun and warmth. Are you ready? Let's make stuff!


April said...

Interesting post, Kate. (yes, read the article in its entirety - aren't you proud!) I am enjoying your recent soapbox. ;) Really, truly I am! I totally agree with you that we as a culture, a society, as AMERICANS should demand manufacturing to be in the USA - it should also not be frowned upon for entrepreneurs to make a profit and actually provide for their families, or other families by employing American workers. Unions have become so corrupt that going offshore has been a necessary evil in order to maintain profitability. Granted, there still needs to be some accountability when employing offshore workers until our country can take back the GDP. This article really made an impression on me and thought you'd like to read it, too.... well, two articles actually.


and then this one: http://nypl.org/blog/2010/01/24/clothing-choices-1941-and-today

HangerMom said...

I need to bookmark that shirt dress - so cute and simple!

And you've inspired me. I need to get moving on the summer dresses for my girls. I've been wanting to do a better job of dressing them in home made gear, and if I start now I should have time to make progress!

Thanks for the motivation boost. I'm not making my own underwear just yet, but, you know, baby steps.

Shari said...

I also read the whole article and now I feel incredibly guilty for shopping the sale racks at the name brand stores. I had heard of these things before but it is just so easy to bury your head in the sand. Because I foster babies it is very easy to build up a vast quantity of clothing for them. I am constntly going through all of it donating stuff. I have been making an effort to knit their hats and mittens and the 9 month old is in desperate need of socks, so that is my next project. Because I always have babies there is no excuse for me not to build up a homemade, good quality layette for them one piece at a time that will be well,well used.

Loving these posts, thanks for taking the time to write them!

kate said...

Staci, I do not say this stuff to make anyone feel guilty! And I do not intend to make my own underpants anytime soon. Like you say, baby steps. I think dresses, pants, shirts and socks are a good start. :)

April, for me it is less about the working conditions of sweatshops (though it is a concern...two sides of a coin, really...the sweatshops create jobs right along with opportunities for exploitation) and more about our nationwide reliance on cheap, abundant goods. I'm starting to go along with the "peak oil" folks in fearing a gigantic spike in oil prices that make goods so painfully expensive we cannot afford them anymore. If that malaysian t-shirt costs $50 (b/c of transportation costs) are you still going to buy it? Not if you can get inexpensive yard goods and make yourself something instead, for $5. Problem is, no one knows how anymore. That's kind of where I'm going.

And Shari - wow, I am inclined to give you a total pass. You're fostering babies, already a stressful and desperately important service/job. That you would also want to do it as a responsible consumer is amazing. Bless you!

April said...

Awww - so you're thinking that the cost of ready-made goods will become expensive so that *making* them will become less expensive again. YIPPEEeeee!!!

Shari said...

I did it!
Yesterday I took my 12yo to the pet store (small locally owned) to get a new fish for his tank and there was a Fabricville next door. I went in thinking I would just look around but they had flannel on sale for 2.99 a meter. I figured what the heck, even if I totally mess it up I didn't spend alot of money and I'll just make pj's cause nobody will see them anyway:)
So I grabbed a pattern that said easy, Burda 9828, which I liked cause it seemed multi-purpose, came home, threw threw the fabric in the wash and today is the day. Going to cut and sew today, wish me luck, I have a feeling I'm going to need it!