On Practising What You Preach

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I hate to get all heavy on you all but let’s talk about the environment. As mentioned in my previous post, my commitment to secondhand clothing and sustainable fashion comes from my desire to make a difference and try and reverse the destruction of our planet. The images that I see of plastic choked oceans, starving polar bears and drought and famine across the world make me sick to my stomach. Sometimes, when I think about it too much, I am filled with this sense of despair that I am a part of this problem.

“But what can I do about it? What difference can one person make?”

True, no one person is going to remove all 5.25 trillion pieces of ocean plastic but I cannot simply turn a blind eye now that I know that scale of the world’s problems. I must do SOMETHING. I must live in line with my beliefs.

And this idea has motivated me to do all sorts of funny little things that get me odd looks and comments from friends and strangers alike. At first, that was bringing a reusable shopping bag everywhere with me. Sure, I earnt myself a reputation as a ‘bag lady’ but the joke was on them when the plastic bag tax was introduced. I had been in the habit of carry spare, reusable bags with me for years and to this day I have spent a grand total of 20p on plastic bags, all of which were bags for life and I still own.

My latest one for funny looks has been my reusable, metal drinking straws. In case you didn’t know straws can’t be recycled and they are incredibly damaging to ocean wildlife. (Have you seen the video of the turtle with a straw stuck up its nose? Be warned it is quite distressing.) For several months now I have been refusing the straw when ordering drinks in bars and restaurants. Sure, over those months I have probably saved less than 10 straws from landfill, but over a year that would probably be 30 straws. Over my lifetime we are talking about nearly 2,000 straws.

Change is slow and gradual and comes up against many barriers but talking to people makes a difference. Now there is a whole movement on Twitter called Refuse the Straw and big pub chains like Wetherspoons are listening and no longer automatically give you a plastic straw. So just think how many straws one branch of Wetherspoons goes through on a Saturday night. It’s starting to feel like this might actually make a difference.

And so now you are probably thinking ‘alright, alright but get to the vintage part already’. Well…

Vintage Fashion is Sustainable Fashion

People come to vintage fashion for all sort of different reasons; some like the aesthetic, others enjoy the nostalgia. For me vintage fashion, is first and foremost sustainable fashion, it’s recycling. And as we all know recycling is good for our planet. But just like the straws quickly adding up, what I hadn’t realised was the amount of clothes that already exist in the world.

Think about how many clothes you own. Times that by about 7 billion. Then think about all the clothes that are currently in shops right now. On top of that add all the clothes in charity shops and thrift stores and listed on Ebay, Depop and Vinted. Plus, all the clothes that are being made right this minute. SO MANY CLOTHES. And sure some of those clothes are worn out, or ugly or will never fit me, but there are so many beautiful ones just waiting for me to find them! Who needs new clothes when so many gorgeous ones already exist?

I believe that one of the easiest switches you can make to help the environment is to ditch new clothes. Yes you can buy ethically produced, beautiful new clothes, but those clothes have still used energy and resources to produce. For me the best sustainable fashion options is to buy nothing new.

As a vintage lover and costume history nerd, I have spent a lot of my time studying beautiful dresses in museums. And there is one dress in particular that really brought home to me just how long clothes can last. In a museum in Italy, there is a 16th century dress that was exhumed from a tomb almost entirely intact. THE BODY HAD DECOMPOSED BUT THE DRESS REMAINED. And that FREAKS ME OUT. Nowadays almost everything we own will out live us; our bodies will be dust before the nappies we wore as babies will have rotted away. Every pair of cheap Primark leggings I have ever owned will be kicking about this planet somewhere for years and years to come.

Well, no more. Just like with the plastic bags and the straws, I have made a commitment to add no more nasty polyester leggings to the mass of waste suffocating our poor planet. And so far, you know I really can’t complain. I own some really beautiful clothes, some of which are deadstock from the 1950s and 60s; no one has even worn them before and yet they are secondhand. But I also have pairs of jeans that I picked up for a couple of quid in a charity shop. My style has evolved to celebrate all the amazing clothes that already exist in the world and my habits have changed to appreciate the satisfaction that comes with finding that perfect item after many months of patient searching.

Do I miss fast fashion? Do I mind the comments about my style or the funny looks on the tube? Not one bit. Sustainable fashion is the way to go.


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