Slow Thinking Part 2: My Slow Wardrobe?

Previously I spoke about the concept of a Slow Wardrobe, and how I’m changing the way I’m looking at the boundaries of where clothes begin and end. I was pretty confident that I knew where I was going, and what I would write in this follow-up post. However, at that time I wasn’t aware of Karen Templer’s Slow Fashion October initiative. She really opened up the topic of Slow Fashion. Some aspects I hadn’t really given a lot of thought before, while other aspects have been shown in a different light. This has left me not quite knowing how to give shape to my Slow Wardrobe — however, that’s something I embrace: I deliberately chose the title Slow Thinking as I’m still shaping my thoughts and I’m in no rush to come up with “the answer” any time soon; in fact, there is no one right answer.

Hand-spun Jacob yarn

Hand-spun yarn from Jacob fleece, acquired through Ravelry

Some of the most pertinent discussions for me revolve around a number of topics, and as I’m still working out where I stand on them, I just list them here (I feel Karen captured some important discussions in the this round-up post. Warning, following this link will send you right down a Slowtober rabbit hole with many avenues to explore):

  1. The “privilege” of repair and wearing repaired clothes, or wearing the same outfit frequently; and what is acceptable where (eg office vs home, uniforms (workman clothes, but also high earners, such as Steve Jobs and many a fashion designer who always wear the same outfit), suits/office wear and gender differences therein)
  2. The notion that one should buy less, but spend more on individual items: does a higher price tag always equate to better quality? But also: not everybody can afford the initial lay-out
  3. The all-or-nothing way of thinking. Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything at all. There are many entry points to make a difference to suit different budgets (read this post about knitting yarns by Karen to see what I mean, even if most of her examples are US based)
  4. Making your own clothes is another thing that gets mentioned a lot. Again, it is not a solution that can work for everybody: nowadays, making your own clothes comes at a high cost, which you could express in money and time. Some people have neither, others have one but not the other

So with that in mind, I would like to share what certain aspects of a Slow Wardrobe mean to me at the moment. This is mostly about when I want to make something new, but I’m conscious that there’s another side of my wardrobe, which is all the clothes I already have. I tend to wear clothes for many seasons, and they are important, too.

Materials

When I make my own clothes, I have more control over the materials I use for the garments. I can choose to use mill ends, secondhand, repurpose, or buy fully traceable materials. Obviously this depends on what I want to make. For example, when it comes to wool yarn for knitting, I can take it as far back as buying a raw fleece and do ALL the processing myself. Money-wise this is a very cheap option, but it is extremely time consuming. This would be a very different story for eg cotton fabrics; I would not be spinning and weaving cotton to make, for instance, boxershorts, so then I can look around for another solution.

boxershorts from old sheets

Boxershorts made from old sheets

Labour

When I make my own clothes, I know there’s only one person involved in the making of it: me. However, I do realise that any materials I use will have been made by somebody, quite possibly not me. So I can do my best to make sure to use “labour-friendly” materials. In addition, I can take my time, which will allow me to get things just as I want them to be.

hand-made clothes

In a completely natural and unstudied pose, I show off some items that each took me a long time to make: socks, trousers, jumper, and gloves were all time-consuming projects

Style

I will need to have a long-term view when it comes to the style of the garments I’m making. I’m no longer a skinny teenager, and if I want to make clothes to last, then I will need to take into account that my body shape might well change over the years. I can make sure that making size alterations in the future will be easy, and keep styles easy and perhaps a bit on the roomy side. I’d like to make clothes with long-term style in mind, not short-term fashion. Obviously, visibly mended clothes will play a big role in my wardrobe.

Longevity

 

Looking after my clothes is important. Make sure they are washed and stored appropriately and they can last a long time indeed. There is a lot of information available on how to take of your clothes, and the Love Your Clothes initiative is a good place to start. In my practice, creating and mending textiles are in constant conversation with each other; if my clothes acquire a darn or a patch along the way, then that can only be welcomed!

I’d love to hear what you have to say about this topic, and I hope that you, like me, are planning to join Karen Templer in Slow Fashion October next year. It will be interesting to see how my thinking will have evolved between now and then.

Edited to add: although this post puts the emphasis on adding new clothes to my wardrobe, I feel it’s important that I believe my existing clothes are the starting point of my Slow Wardrobe. Using what I already have is, from a pure sustainability point of view, probably preferable over adding new things, however “slowly” made. What that means for me as a creative person with (wearable) textiles as my main practice I’m not sure yet. 

13 Replies to “Slow Thinking Part 2: My Slow Wardrobe?”

  1. I’m sitting here in my handknit (by me) cardi, and socks……and my linen pants made by an etsy friend and wishing that my sewing skills were up to snuff to continue the look with a linen tunic. (Those boxers BTW are AWESOME….wondering if hubby would like some?!?)….the thing that struck me most about this post, though, was all the clothes ‘pre-slow wardrobe’ that have been acquired over time. For me, most of mine are from resale shops, but just because I saved them once from the landfill doesn’t make them ethical or slow; I have greatly downsized the wardrobe ( we downsized our LIFE!) so do I make that one last fiber purge…..and start over…..or do I simply make more conscientious decisions from this point forward, knowing that what I live with now will be with me most likely for years still. I guess I’ve been slow thinking, too. I’ll be interested to follow this thread….. 🙂

    1. I think that buying from resale stores (I take that to mean secondhand or thrift stores. Is that right?) is an important part of a slow wardrobe. Many people concerned with sustainability would argue that using what’s already available is should take priority over making something new, regardless of where you found the materials you’re making it from. Of course, being a creative person with making clothes as my main creative output makes that a difficult position and one I struggle most with; it probably deserves a blog post all on its own.

  2. Dear Tom, Please bring your Sanquhar gloves when you come to Cambridge in December. See you at the darning day. Jo.

  3. You have some interesting thoughts and questions.

    I have a job that allows me to wear visibly mended clothing, not everyone has that option. Even with the option, I tend to wear the most repaired clothing at home and work clothes have less visible repairs. I realize I don’t need to do this, but our culture pushes the idea of looking professional.

    You may also want to consider injuries. When I sprained my thumb, I had trouble with some buttons and tying shoes. I swore off button-fly jeans then, and I was happy that I had slip-on shoes I could wear until I could tie laces again. Now I think about injuries when I consider new clothing.

    1. Looking professional is definitely an issue. I also have a non-textile related day job, and I don’t wear many of my visibly mended clothes in the office. I hadn’t thought about injuries and putting on clothes, even though I’ve been there myself. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  4. I so enjoyed this posting. I will pondering it for a long tie. I suffer from your point #3 so badly that it actually cripples me from accomplishing anything. I am very intrigued with your mending art.

  5. The other aspect of downsizing your wardrobe needs to be considered too. I took a long time to realise that I needed to pass on my still in very good condition work clothes after I retired. I tried to find the organisation that provides such clothing to disadvantaged people entering the workforce, but they had folded (pardon the pun). In the end they went to the charity-run thrift store as they do separate the better clothes for specific people before sending what’s left for sale. Where my clothes are worn and made of natural fibres I may also cut them down and re-dye them with plant dyes for use in my art work or to make test versions of patterns I want to try before committing new fabric.
    I’m for jumping in where you are. Being a perfectionist will only get you stuck in a place of indecision.

    1. At the moment I don’t have to wear any specific work clothes such as a suit, but as I’m still a couple of decades away from retirement that might change. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get there as I’m not sure whether I’ll have a special work clothes by then.
      I agree that one should just jump in and what I’m trying to do is document my thought processes along the way. Hearing other people’s view points helps me with my journey.

  6. Hello Tom I agree with you. It is so interesting listening to a younger persons point of view of make do and mend, repair, I love your slow wardrobe approach. Your narrative is so interesting as to how you perceive it all. In fact I recently enjoyed your workshop and was keen to see how you approached an older group. By the end of it you actually had us all rethinking our attitudes on how we would approach this whole concept of our own clothes. We I arrived I actually do not have anything with a hole in it!! That’s sad perhaps I am too careful!! You have made me aware and I look forward to following your work. Norah

    1. Hi Nora, I’m so pleased to hear you enjoyed my workshop. If I made you rethink then I’ve succeeded with my class. It’s important to me to put everything into context and share my journey, rather than just keeping it about the techniques. I get a whole range of ages in my workshops, although the vast majority are women, so certain things we’ve discussed during the workshop haven’t changed much.

  7. This was a great post! As a professional maker of clothing I do have the skill, but not always the time to add to my wardrobe. I do have some items that I acquired 35 years ago! And they are still going strong. I do have the luxury of not having to wear ‘professional suits’ and I really don’t mind not looking fashionable. BUT interestingly – I do get comments of people that I “always look so groovy” or whatever, and it’s simply that I don’t care for fashion, and I am happy to cobble together my eccentric/ eclectic style… so there you go: timeless is actually stylish…

  8. what a fanatastic find -your blog. iam a second year contemporary creative practice student who concentrates mostly on textiles, iam currently working on a project called “the Everyday” and i am looking at how we take clothing their manufacture and their existence for granted. iam also making exampes od=f mndings and darnigs for ymy evaluations so your blog is a great inspiration. Thanks

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