Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

To some, the concept of wearing clothes found in a box on the sidewalk may seem unthinkable – to San Francisco’s Haight Asubury neighborhood, it’s practically a way of life.  No matter where you fall on the hippie spectrum, though, you probably have some treasures hidden in the back of your closet that could use a good rescuing.

I found this sweater on down the street from my house a couple of weeks ago, and after a good washing and a little bit of planning, it’s ready for a makeover.  It would appear that someone had already tired of it once before, cutting the arms off (luckily, at the seams, so that the body of the sweater did not come un-knit) before tossing it completely.  It’s not the cost of the sweater that is the biggest waste — this cotton/acrylic H&M sweater probably cost its original owner very little, which is why it’s so easy to part with our unwanted clothes these days — but were it to have ended up in the trash instead of in some scavenger’s hands, it would be contributing to the millions of tons of textile waste we consumers generate each year.

I like the olive color that this sweater already has, so instead of dyeing it, I’m going to roll with the olive inspiration and give it a military feel with epaulettes and a cinched sash at the waist.

This is a good DIY project for beginners (or lazy folk like myself).  All it takes is a deserving sweater, cardigan, or t-shirt, a little bit of scrap fabric, and the most basic of sewing skills.  The patterns for both the epaulettes and sash are easy geometric shapes based on simple measurements, and can be tailored to your preferences.

For this project, I’ll be using some of this interior design fabric that was given to me.  The botanical print is unexpected for a military-inspired design, the colors complement the sweater, and (most importantly) I happened to have it lying around.  I’ll also be using some vintage buttons for the epaulettes, and maybe some seam binding or bias tape around the cut-off sleeves if they need a little cleaning up.  I will take step-by-step photos of the upcycling process for interested parties, and the final product will be thrown up on My Etsy for your shopping pleasure.


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Bourbon and Branch is definitely the spot if you’ve got a pair of sweet Balenciaga spectator pumps that occasion doesn’t call for often enough.  After a couple of drinks named after a “Never Ending Story” character, I forgot all about my sad stocking, which was mostly covered by the hem of my dress anyway, until this morning.

Do I miss shopping already because I am that much of an addict, or do I miss it because I suddenly can’t have it?  My best friend has asserted the theory that it’s the latter, and I would have to agree.  We all want what we can’t have, sometimes just because we can’t have it.  Days off, even when you have only one a week, have a nasty habit of enabling your vices, and this morning I wanted to shop.  I didn’t necessarily want to buy anything, or even shop for clothing, I just missed the feeling of walking through a store, entertaining the endless possibilities (some personal favorites include: flapper Melissa, film noir Melisa, mod Melissa, and post-apocalyptic draped monochromatic layers Melissa).  Instead, I went to Trader Joe’s.  And came home with an absurd amount of food.

Talking to the check out girl about vegetable burritos and the prospect I’ve been entertaining of becoming mostly-vegetarian again, it occurred to me that I do not have to define myself as vegetarian in order to eat more sustainably.  Likewise, I do not plan on never setting foot in a Zara again, but the point of this experiment is to hopefully inspire a lifelong change in my shopping behavior.  It goes beyond clothes or meat or energy or whatever the new hip thing to conserve is, but I think it’s probably easier to quit shopping completely and ease myself back into it rather than approaching equilibrium from the other end.  Even if fast fashion isn’t your vice of choice, there are so many things that can you can do to limit your impact on resources and waste, from eating less meat to unplugging your laptops and iGizmos when they’re fully charged.

Being sustainable isn’t about buying “green”, it’s about buying less in the first place.  It’s going to take a hot research minute, but check back for a thorough disemboweling of the “green” movement and perceived vs. actual benefits of various eco-fibers.

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My name is Melissa, and like so many Americans, I am a clotheshorse.  With masstige apparel, quick response manufacturing, and targeted ads that sing the praises of planned obsolescence attacking consumers from all angles, it’s easy to fall into the seductive trap of modern fashion consumption.  Nearly all of us are guilty of buying more than we need and wasting what we have long before it loses its utility, and with Americans creating upwards of 11 million tons of textile waste per year1, less than 20% of which is successfully recycled2, our bad shopping habit is clearly having an impact on more than just our wallets.  For this, and many other reasons, I have made the decision not to shop for a full six months, in an effort to understand what it is about our culture that spurs us to shop until we drop, destroying the environment and perpetuating human rights issues for the sake of instant gratification.

A lovely cotton gown I fashioned out of a vintage sheet. See, kids? Sustainability CAN be fun!

When I say “no shopping”, what I mean is no contribution to the traditional retail economy.  No new clothing stores, no online shopping, no shoes, bags, or accessories.  No used clothing stores, unless I am trading in old clothes for credit towards other used ones.  No independent boutiques or eco-brands (an issue I’ll likely discuss in depth in the near future) unless the textiles themselves are post-consumer recycled, and even then, not unless utility necessitates them.  No thrift stores, street vendors, or even sewing of my own clothes unless they come from resources I already possess or come to possess through the recycling of post-consumer textile “waste”.

For the sake of full disclosure, I will be using my own wardrobe, as well as garments borrowed from stores to shoot a final project for a fashion styling class I am taking this semester.  For the sake of my grade, it may become necessary to buy clothes, shoes, or accessories in order to complete each look, but anything bought will be returned in the same condition I bought it in, tags in tact and shoes taped, released back into the retail wilderness like some kind of cute woodland creature, nursed back to health after some non-fatal accident.

Along the way, I hope to document my observations and reactions to the next six months, from the annoying highs of self righteousness (this is, after all, San Francisco), to the lows of inevitably jonsing for a fast fashion fix.  This blog will serve as a space to drop knowledge (holla back if you love statistics!), share resources (from swap meets to D.I.Y. craft porn), and, hopefully, raise awareness of alternatives to the wasteful industry that so many of us have become complicit  to.

1 The American Textile Recycling Service
2 For all you fact whores, ATRS estimated 1.9 million tons recycled (out of a total of 11.9 million pounds of waste) as of 2006 at a rate of 15.67%. The Environmental Protection Agency has a page on their website from last fall dedicated to textile waste recycling with slightly more optimistic numbers, but they also reference a fact sheet from the Council for Textile Recycling, which cites figures from the late nineties, which doesn’t inspire confidence…

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