An introduction

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I knit this cowl to completion nearly three times before finally deciding it was done and binding off. After wearing it a few times, I think it needs to be smaller, so I think one more rip is in its future.*

I’ve been thinking about Slow Fashion October for the last year — every since Karen hosted the first one last year — and have been really looking forward to this month and all the discussion it is already generating.

I am such a big fan of the idea, but wow is it hard to write about/articulate. Despite a year of thinking about this in a fairly focused way, I have started this blog post multiple times and ended up deleting everything and trying again. A quick look in my WordPress drafts turns up multiple abandoned posts from this time last year, so clearly lots of thinking hasn’t helped me clarify my thoughts. Strangely, what actually helped was this short magazine piece about why we love Ikea furniture.

The story looks at how the rise in Ikea furniture (and furniture like it) has essentially created a class of disposable furniture. Pieces we buy because they serve an immediate need, look good, or are the right price, but are ultimately also pieces we don’t plan to keep, whether because we know our tastes will change or because we plan to upgrade in the future, or whatever. We don’t get attached to it, we’re annoyed but not surprised when it falls apart, and, in the end, we’re kind of excited about the excuse to replace it with something new.

Last weekend (before the above-linked article was published, let me add), after we got back from our honeymoon, L and I went furniture shopping. We were looking for a couple of specific items, and instead of going to Ikea, we drove out into the country to an antique store. We didn’t find quite what we wanted, but that’s fine, we’ll go back in a couple of weeks — nothing we need is desperate, and although we could go to a store and probably find it pretty fast, we prefer to wait, and we have the luxury to do so.

In a nutshell, that pretty much sums up my evolving slow fashion philosophy. I try really hard to invest in quality pieces whose provenance can be traced — my wedding dress was designed and sewn in Toronto, for example — but I do still sometimes just need a black t-shirt, which brings me to the mall. I am trying to make more of my own clothing, and where possible I try to use materials with ethical/traceable sources, but particularly with sewing (and as a fairly beginner sewer), there is a lot of waste. And, of course, there are financial implications to all of this, because I have the luxury of both time and money to be choosy about what I buy and how long it takes me to get things done.

As I’ve thought about it this more and more over the last year, I have definitely noticed my habits changing. I was never a big shopper, but I shop for clothes even less now, and when I do buy things I tend to spend a bit more for items that are locally made and that I know I’ll wear for years. I’m also much more particular about my stash, both of fabric and yarn. I have a lot of materials on hand, and I have been working really had to prioritize using what I have over buying new things.

And I’m a lot more comfortable with being slow. There’s very little I really need, so what’s the big deal if it takes me a couple of weeks to sew a new shirt, or a a month to knit a sweater? Being aware of that time commitment is actually really gratifying (though it used to be frustrating) because it tells me pretty fast how much I want something: Is it something I’m willing to wait for, or something I just want right now but will likely tire of later? If my excitement can sustain me through a project, that’s a pretty good sign.

Anyway. I’m not sure how precisely I define “slow fashion,” but for me a big part of it is about being thoughtful — thinking through what I need, being willing to wait for it (either because of the time it takes to make it or the time it takes to save for it), and then committing to keep it for a long time.

Have you been following Slow Fashion October? How do you define it (or do you even care?)

*I have been sitting on this post for a week now waiting to get a couple of pictures to post with it. But, that is not happening, and we’re away this weekend, so lest it end up just another draft, I’m posting it with just the one. More pictures next time, I promise.

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6 thoughts on “An introduction

  1. salpal1

    Good post! I don’t “participate” in Slow Fashion October as much as I keep doing what I do. I have LONG advocated for spending limited clothing dollars on “bones” not “fluff” and am often wearing an outfit comprised of something I bought ten, twenty, or even thirty years ago. I don’t sew as well as I might, but I sew well enough to make some basic summer skirts and to mend things when they need it. 🙂 I think that not only is this way of clothing ourselves good for the planet, it is good for our budgets, too. And it is possible to look quite nice in things that are basic, they dress up well. Not too long ago, someone told me they loved my “vintage” skirt, and wondered where I found it. I found it in my closet, of course. 🙂

  2. caityrosey

    I have never participated in Slow Fashion October, but maybe this year I’ll make a bit of an effort. I don’t sew, but I suppose I could simply make an effort to wear something I’ve made by hand each day. A sweater, a hat, a pair of mittens (it’s in the 40s here today). I’ve definitely started to get more into the notion of buying classic, quality clothes that are going to last. I am also very into shopping second hand. I love our local consignment shops and can often find good quality clothes for a fraction of original retail. I suppose my version of Slow Fashion October is an amalgam of handmade/classic higher quality/mindful thrift. As Tim Gunn says, I’ll “make it work.”

  3. Stefanie

    That meme makes me think of sewing but I know it can expand to knitting and crochet as well. I would have to be reminded of it way in advance. Christmas knitting usually takes center stage every year. This year I’m actually embarking into me territory but it’s slow but it’s something yeah?

  4. Audry

    I’d like to think that I keep Slow Fashion October in mind all year long. I prefer to buy things that will last as long as possible. When I bought boots, I did my research to make sure they we able to be re-soled. I know that not every purchase is the most sustainable. But my Mum has always told me that it is about doing good, better, best. If you can’t do the best, then aim for better. And if better doesn’t work out, then choose good.

  5. Pingback: Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 2 | Fringe Association

  6. Aimee

    I have had your post open in my browser, meaning to reply– kind of like all of your drafts on this topic! It’s so good to finally get the words and ideas to come together, right? I think the analogy to IKEA is apt– I definitely have bought clothes that were “good enough for now” planning to replace them with something better and I when I start out with that thought it just sucks all of the joy of wearing the item. I’m always thinking about the better thing I will have in the future. I still can’t imagine never having anything new– and I think some of our out-of-control consumer culture began as a reaction against a history of real deprivation for most ordinary people, and now we tend to romanticize the Spartan past– but I can imagine not settling for the IKEA furniture or H&M tshirt while I wait for something better– or make it! And I can imagine trying to appreciate the abundance of my life more, rather than taking it for granted.

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