Early today I read a very interesting article on Slate.com (an excerpt from the now-on-my-reading-list book: Over-Dressed - the Shockingly High Price of Cheap Fashion) about what happens to our clothes once we are done with them.
For me, reading this was rather embarrassing. Each time I clucked my tongue at the shame of all that waste, I was slapped in the face with memories of mountains - piles taller than myself - of clothes that I have discarded while still maintaining a full closet. College sticks out as a notably shameful time.
I admit that at one not-so-long-ago point in my life I saw my massive collection of clothes as a source of pride. I appeased my guilt by donating most of my cast-offs to the thrift store rather than simply throwing them away. I rationalized that if I didn't replenish my wardrobe with fresh items I would end up looking dated and that other people would both notice and care.
Its hard to shake the fact that a massive wardrobe isn't only culturally acceptable ("can a woman ever have too many shoes?"), its also culturally possible with mark-down sales, outlet malls, and cute-n-cheap retailers (Forever 21, Target, etc). These fashion retailers are designed to move consumers as quickly as possible to the next thing. So, am I "expressing myself through what I wear" or simply "wearing what is currently in style"?
But I digress, the reason this article was lodged into my subconscious all morning was the point it made about where old clothes are the most useful. To my surprise/disbelief/chagrin, its not in the thrift store. Actually, my Tshirts would be better off in my crafting pile. My clothes would stand a better chance of not simply becoming waste if I transformed them into something I found useful.
Buying clothes second-hand is a no brainier for me. Keeping a minimal, functional closet is an on-going project of mine. But, really evaluating what I'm letting go of is clearly "the next step". Before I send a bag of couture to Goodwill, I need to ask myself 'can I do something with this?' 'Do I have a need that can be met somehow with this item?' Disposal is unfortunately one of the responsibilities that comes along with ownership and - when it becomes a pain in the butt (like this) - can serve as a great motivation to acquire less.