New Clothes, Part 2

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Image from Treehugger.com

I committed an environmental faux pas recently. On the 18th I wrote a post extolling the virtues of new clothes and four days later I wrote a post for Earth Day on how we’re ripping off Mother Earth by using up her resources.

Well, okay, one way we do that is by buying new clothes. At the very least I should have recommended buying green clothing. However, one reason I didn’t is because of my own confusion about what constitutes green clothing. Until I found this invaluable article on Treehugger about that very topic.

Turns out buying new is the worst thing you can do for our environment. The only reason to stop wearing old clothes is if they have to be dry-cleaned, which is definitely bad for the environment. What if the clothes are out of style? That’s a good question. There are a few ways to deal with that problem:

  • Buy classics. Clothes that will stay in style forever. Pencil skirts, a well-cut blazer, straight-leg trousers, basic pumps or flats, a simple black dress, a trench or pea coat.  Pick neutral colors that never go out of style. Change up your look with accessories (which shouldn’t be new either.)
  • Have your old clothes altered. Sometimes all you need is for a skirt or dress to be shortened. Even lengthening isn’t out of the question if there’s enough of a hem or a border can be added. Add or remove a bow or a ribbon. Altering is especially good advice if you’ve lost weight (don’t we wish!). It may sound like an expensive proposition, but it’s cheaper than buying a brand new item.
  • Repair what is wearing out. This may also require a seamstress, but again, it’s worth it. Sew on a button (seriously, you’d be surprised how many people won’t do this!), replace a zipper, sew up a hole in a seam.
  • If you do get rid of old clothes because you’ve outgrown them (that’s more likely, I know) or they’ve gone hopelessly out of style, donate them. You’d be surprised what other people will wear that you would no longer be caught dead in. (Some people have no choice.)

What if you still want new clothes? Then you want to buy green if at all possible. Seek out green companies and designers. Buy natural fibers. Read the tips in the Treehugger article I cited above.

Green clothing isn’t always easy to come by. And for now at least, it can be very expensive and/or limited in the styles that are offered. One solution to that is to sew your own, again using natural fibers if at all possible. I’m not aware of outlets that offer green fabrics, but they must be out there somewhere. Maybe my readers can help.

If you find that green clothing is not available where you usually shop, start asking for it. If enough demand is out there, they will start stocking it. It’s the wave of the future.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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