Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ethical clothing pledge: a review.

Six months ago I started reading isismade, became interested in Isis's ethical clothing pledge and 
decided to join in on behalf of my family.

It's time for a review... so here goes.

The GOOD. 
The best thing about taking the pledge is the motivation it provides to stop. and. think. about wants, needs, and who might be affected by my consumer choices. There is much I can be happy about.

For six months I've clothed and shod my weight-fluctuating body and my growing boys almost solely in second-hand items (the beloved has just kept going in all his normal clothes, apart from one op-shopped sweater and a starashan t-shirt).

I've put some mending, resizing and refashioning skills to good use.

I'm emerging with a flexible, trans-seasonal, and rather eclectic wardrobe, which I plan to have a very long-term relationship with!

I haven't saved lots of money, but I have put my money where my mouth is, and that if far more important to me. I've made some expensive choices by opting to buy vintage,  handmade and quality items, and not hunting around or trying to make things myself. I could've saved money, and in the long term I will, but more by learning not to buy rather than by bargain-hunting I suspect.

The BAD.
Yep, I've broken the pledge on a number of occasions, mostly in a premeditated fashion, but at other times out of laziness and poor planning.

These are my sweatshop confessions: several non-maternity bras for my ample bosom (after 3 years of breastfeeding and daggy-bra wearing... BUT I added in some rather unnecessary matching underwear), bathers (for the boys and I), socks (for my beloved), and my running gear.

I also went into a really horrid chain store after Christmas and purchased a $10 drapey vest thing, which I seriously could've made in ten seconds, even with my paltry sewing skills. I don't even love it, and haven't worn it much. Really, that purchase was a moment of rebellion, a binge. What a shame I didn't binge on something classy or good-quality instead!

There have been some interesting side-effects in taking this pledge which potentially straddle both good AND bad categories for me.

The first is my newfound fearlessness with wearing what I would have previously considered to be strange outfits:

Whose granny did I mug for that cardigan? WHY am I wearing skinny jeans when I swore I never, ever would? Because they were $5, fitted, and tuck nicely into my thrifted COWGIRL BOOTS, another fashion faux pas I knew I would never touch. Oh well, I'll just throw some Suffolk puffs around the neck, that'll make me fade into the background.

I just asked the beloved if he could sum up my 'fashion style' in a few words, and his verdict was 'Betty White meets Snoop Dogg'. 

Ouch. But fair call.

The second grey area is my growing penchant for vintage clothing: 

For example, my new favourite outfit. The dress is vintage and cost $45, the cardigan I bought for $3, and trimmed the pockets with old lace. (In fact I'm very much into trimming stuff with lace and doilies at the moment. I call it granny-punking. Justin prefers granny-pimping. Both sound just a LITTLE dodgy, no?)

This is partly good, because I think it's healthy to wear good flattering clothing in good condition and to find creative expression in clothing oneself, to a degree.  But it's partly bad, too, because I can see that too much interest in fashion, whether sweat-shop or op-shop, encourages consumption by creating a dissatisfaction with what I have and a desire to replace it with something new, different, better. 

And SO...

I'm going to keep at it! Permanent, like.

As expected, it's been a learning curve. I've struggled, but as we know, these are not *failures* but *opportunities for growth* (thanks, pop psychology!).

Here's what I'm going to work on:

1. Shopping in my wardrobe: Enough is enough. I think I've run out of excuses (post-pregnancy, weight gain, weight loss, wedding to attend etc etc) for buying new clothes. I have plenty. I hereby declare that I am going on a clothes-buying-fast for the next 3 months. I will not buy any new item or accessory for myself from anywhere for 3 months. It's not very long, but that's ok, I need to be gentle and start small. I'll push it out to six if I'm feeling brave in July.

2. Upping those sewing skills: If I want to be in this for the long-haul I must learn to install a zipper, make a button hole and NOT just randomly hack a hole in some fabric and call it a skirt. I have a Thread Den voucher, now I need to make the time to use it.

3. Stay aware of reality: I heard the other day at my church that if you own more than three changes of clothing, you are in the top 5% of the world's richest people. Hmmm.

Let me not complain about 'having nothing to wear' ever, ever again.


  1. I think the lace additions could be called anthropology style - no? Everyone else seems to call it that. I can relate to the extra materialism attitude that comes with op shop as opposed to buying new but I have a feeling that must eventually fade if it is not your normal persona. It's just a fad from discovering something new. BTW the bird sketch on the bag for my friend is getting rave reviews from all her friends. You could set up a business with that alone I think. Cherrie

  2. There's nothing unnecessary about matching underwear ;-)


  3. I take my hat off to you Gina..well done!

    Now...send me your address and I can unload some scraps for your hex quilt ;)

  4. Love the comment by hubby! Sadly I don't have any matching underwear....
    I actually like the ugly outfit - I would never think that skinny jeans, 80's boots, and a nana cardi would look good, but girl YOU make it look good.

  5. What a great run down. Love reading the pledge reviews going on recently.

    Bathers and socks and bras are likely going to be a problem for me, too. They're the kind of things I don't think about until I need them.

    Although Icebreaker is an awesome, quality sock brand. Pretty sure they're sweatshop-free, and they're also passionately eco-friendly.

    I think I should learn how to make bathers.

    I really relate to what you wrote about the fact that any buying feeds the habit of dissatisfaction, and your clothes buying fast is a great idea! I don't know if I'm ready to go there, but I think it would be good for me. Maybe once I've worked on my wardrobe a bit more. I recently donated about half of it, so I'm not sure what I've got and what I haven't now.

  6. I love your thrifted items... and your hubby's comment. Congrats on coming this far. As with everything it will get easier as time goes on. xo m.

  7. Whatever you're doing, kiddo, keep doing - it's working on every level. And please wear cowgirl boots to next meet-up. I'm going to need to experience those in person.

  8. first of all i just can't believe you took on this pledge with out much in the way of sewing skills - you are game!

    and i like the outfit, too, oops

    you are right, consuming at opshops is still consuming. sometimes i worry that because it's all so cheap at opshops, that it could get out of hand. maybe even worse than normal shopping.

    the purchases that broke the pledge were mostly hard-to-find items, so you did pretty well. no comment on the $10 drapey vesty thing though ;)

    keep it up, you are on a roll, and keep up the granny-pimping, too :)

    x isis

  9. Nice work with the Ethical Clothing pledge, granny-punking, granny-pimping both sound dodgy enough, your out fit looks great!
    If I can draw up in a way someone else
    might understand, I will post my cheats zipper, it is so easy...hassel me please, I might forget !

  10. Well done Gina. Imagine what it'd be like if all of us had a crack at your pledge for the next 3 months! I'll quietly do my best (starting tomorrow, I just bought some never worn but found in op shop green overalls - perfect for plodding about in the garden). I love to see your re-fashioning adventures -so just get into your stash-I learn loads from such posts about the possibilities that I couldn't see before. So thanks for the inspiration & the update. Peta

  11. Every time one of us says "I have no clothes, I have nothing to wear.... moan moan moan" my dad is flabergastered. He can't believe how much clothes we have, and that we have "nothing to wear". Granted a quarter of my wardrobe is waiting for me to loose that baby weight (don't think it's going to happen. The baby's turned 3 now!!), and another 1/4 is old, stained, stretched "at home" only clothes. But that leaves half, and that's a lot. I'm learning to be happy with what I have, and wear things day in and day out without feeling like I need something new. I don't actually buy new clothes very often at all, I just keep things for a long long time.
    I'll take the pledge with you. No new buying for 3 months (I'll even try and stick with the old 3 bras I have).
    I have to overcome my fear and learn to refashion what I have. I can sew something from start, but feel fear at cutting into something that's already a proper thing...
    Oh - perhaps no new crafting books too. Until I actually sew something from the ones I have on my shelf.....
    Thanks for the honesty and inspiration.

  12. Gina,I was just having a conversation with the Hubby last night about how ridiculous modern life has become...We have become consumer machines...we need to take a leaf out of our grandparents book.They had less clothes & looked after/ mended/took better care of what they had. We discussed how our Grandy's had their work/around the house clothes ( hubby's grandma wore uniform style blue zip front dresses daily around the house)and then they had their special dressy numbers. I know I always blur the line between work & play. I dispose all to easily. I plan to sew more,opshop more & definitely upscale the maintenance.

  13. I just read the comments. I'm so happy to see your hubby comment about the matching underwear! Glad to see it wasn't wasted, and there's no guilt from him.


  15. Granny pimping. *snigger* Awesome.

    On the sewing front, you could do worse than to pick up a copy of "Sew What Skirts" by Rebecca DenHartog ( I think that's her name.) It's awesome and you will pretty much never need another pattern for a skirt. Well, an a-line skirt anyway!

  16. Hello! Love the idea of your pledge. Here's another reason coming from the inside of the "industry". To create the $28 t-shirt that is purchased at many stores, the designer has to work like a dog (50 hour weeks) cranking out artwork so the buyers have plenty of things to choose from. Then it goes into production in some form of overseas sweatshop. But the sweatshops start here in the design rooms.

  17. I want to say something intelligent, but all I can come up with is: I am so impressed. Thanks for sharing your journey. I am inspired.

  18. why would you not wear skinny jeans when you look so hot in them?! Looking awesome, I say, you are inspiration.

  19. I love the cowboy boots- I too vowed NEVER to wear skinny jeans- I pretty much wear them everyday in winter tucked into boots. I love the cowboy boots I think you look fabulous!!!

    I would be so hopeless at this challenge such is my love of clothes shopping however, my pleadge has been differnt- I have pledged- to myslef- never publicly- although here I am writing it on the internet- that i will not longer buy cheap crap clothing from cheap crap womens clothign stores- you know the ones... I guess my pledge is to go back to quality not quantity.

  20. Great post. Too much to comment on so hope you don't mind if I just let it swirl around some more in my head and leave it at "Great post."

    Oh, and "Zippers are not that bad! You can do it!"

  21. Great post Gina. Personally I love your outfit... especially that awesome yo you scarf that you made. Gorgeous.
    Thanks for reminding me how rich I am... so very very important to always keep in mind.

  22. I love that cardigan! And the whole outfit to be honest. I am with you on the "make some clothes" front. I have the fabric, I have the patterns now I just have to prioritise "me" in the sewing queue!

    Massive high five for all you've achieved so far ;)

  23. Ooh, awkward... Here I was loving the outfit and realising I've thrown something quite similar together recently minus the fabulousness of your scarf, and then... Bettie White meets Snoop Dogg... Hmmm... Mayhap I should never leave the house again?


    No no! It must not be! The outfit is ultra-cool, the scarf sublime. Go granny-cardis too!

  24. hi, I liked the 1st outfit!

    congrats on the 3 months of buying nothing...

    necessity really is the mother of invention.

    keep inventing!

    Non Consumer Girl

  25. I would like to write some kind of insightful comment but a lack of sleep and serious baby brain currently make this impossible. So briefly I love 'granny punking' and good luck with the no new clothes pledge. Like you I have a wardrobe full of stuff, in varied pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and post pregnancy sizes, I'm currently building up the courage to do a really massive clear out and de clutter and get down to the bare clothing essentials.

  26. Love love LOVE this post. Thank you for opening up my eyes to a few bad habits I was picking up. This winter I've decided to remix my outfits with new handsewn stuff, and re-jigged older stuff. I hate the stuff in the stores at the moment, especially for larger girls like me. And I have so much fabric.

    For the record, I really like that outfit with the pink cardi!

  27. I LOVE this idea, and really admire your conviction for it. It is something that I would love to try, but know that I really need to start small. I like the idea of op-shops, but generally do really badly in them. Other people I know find amazing things, but when I go in it just looks like junk. I don't know if I go at the wrong times, or whether I need to try and develop my eye for seeing the good things. You have definitely started me thinking though!


“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
~Albert Einstein