Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Simple Suggestion #108... Naturalize your wardrobe

Working at the Clothing Room at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's distribution centre, we see a lot of clothing donations... some of which we put out for clients to access, some of which we send to other agencies, and some that goes into the round filing cabinet because it's no longer fit to wear (why people donate their paint shirts or torn jeans is beyond me. Do they really think we'll have time to clean/fix their stuff if they don't?) And we perpetually ask: what should we do with these outdated, out of style, often polyester outfits that may never come back into fashion? Does polyester ever break down?

I haven't actually been to the Clothing Room since my dizziness began three months ago, and I'm really missing it, my volunteer friends and the folks who come in to get clothes and kibbitz with us. It's been on my mind more than usual lately, because I have a few clothing items that my girls have outgrown that I could take for the sometimes empty racks there. And I'm thinking about it today because of the many bags of clothes I've unpacked there over the last few years that have given me a definite bias about my own wardrobe.

After sorting through bags and bags of some blessed deceased old lady or gentleman's clothing, and reflecting on what they left behind and how their offspring couldn't bear to send it to the dump, I've decided that I want, as much as possible, to live in natural fibres. For one thing, they breathe better, and for another, when they get to the end of their lives (or mine), if they end up in a landfill, they will biodegrade in a way that polyester and other artificial fibres don't. As for leather... it's not a great choice because of the toxins required to process it into something wearable. Of course, these days, almost everything we wear is processed in one way or another, so it takes a bit of extra effort to find wool, cotton, hemp, and other natural fibres that aren't chemically treated in ways that wreck our environment at their beginnings, or aren't made by people in poor working conditions. But if we can find it, clothing manufactured using sustainable, people-friendly methods is often of such good quality that it lasts longer than the unsustainably made equivalents, if you can even call them equivalents.

I've spent part of my afternoon today looking at clothing on sustainable clothing websites like and and realize that 1) there aren't a lot of Canadian retailers for sustainable clothing, and 2) the so-called eco-boutiques are way out of my price range! But there are other options... like buying natural fibre clothing second hand instead of creating consumer demand for new items, or going to the big Fashion Clothing Swap that will be part of the Metropolis Winter Festival in Sir Winston Churchill Square on February 17th from 7 to 10 pm. There's also a "Handmade Mafia Market" happening that evening, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on February 18th. If it's a way to refresh my wardrobe in a sustainable way, it's worth the trip in my books!

Or... maybe my wardrobe is just fine the way it is, and I don't NEED to go shopping at all. Yup. I think that's probably true.

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.


  1. Thank you for the info! Last night I was trying to de-fur my going out coat and found it impossible. The fabric-it's supposed to be wool-was impossible to get clean. I'll be giving it away and finding something easier to maintain.

  2. Fur is one of the worst things. We throw a lot of donated clothing into the garbage because of it. I guess people don't realize that if they don't want to wear hairy looking stuff, our clients won't choose it either.


Take a minute and tell me what you think...