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Slow Clothing

Last night as I was rummaging around in my closet looking for something to wear, it occurred to me that I have given, thrown, or recycled a lot of clothes over the past ten years. Darn, I’d love to have some of those items back, and if not the items themselves the time it took for me to shop, clean, futz, and manage them into my wardrobe. Especially now since my clothing budget barely allows me to splurge on socks at J.C. Penny. I remember vividly, an amazing pair of DKNY shoes I bought at Nordstrom on a whim about eight years ago. They were this sort of retro ’20s style with a stacked heel and velvet accents. I wonder who’s wearing those now. I wish I were.

This morning, right on the heels of my closet rummaging, I turned on CNN and this guy with a handlebar mustache, an author and self described expert, was talking about his new book, something about how cool it was to be a “Cheapskate.” Now let me go on record, the only thing worse in my mind than a Cheapskate is a Spendthrift Narcissist. As I reached for the remote to switch to Matt Lauer the Cheapskate threw out an amazing statistic … only 2 percent of the clothing we Americans throw away every year are actually worn out. Hmmm.

I wanted to climb into the television and ask Mr. Handlebar, “Can you please define worn?” Does worn mean … ketchup stains, holes in the knees, or impermeable body odor accompanied by yellow armpits? Or does it mean stylishly out of date?”

Heidi Collins, the beautiful redhead CNN morning show anchor, didn’t go there, probably because she’s never officially “worn out” an item of clothing herself. Guilty. Regardless of the correct definition of “worn out” the Cheapskate is probably right, I actually don’t think I have really “worn out” much in my adult life, unless of course you count underwear.

The C-skate and his eye-opening statistic got me thinking about a “slow clothing” movement. There are official slow food, slow money, slow travel, and slow sex movements these days. Why not a slow clothing movement? I wondered.

So I googled “slow clothing” and “slow fashion” and guess what … I’m slow to the movement. People have been blogging about this for a long time. “Wear local,” they say—is that like a sweater made with Fido the family dog’s hair? Or does it mean belting your neighbor’s old drapes and wearing them as a topper, a la Maria Van Trapp? Maybe we could learn from the Hispanics who wear huarache sandals made from repurposed flat tires? Buy from a thrift store and then remake your own, the experts suggest. Sew the arms of one sweater to the bodice of another, cut off pants and make them into a patchwork skirt, turn a tube top into a Rasta hair band. I am envisioning a renaissance fair.

In one article I read in the Christian Science Monitor, the author challenged U.S. households “to create a single outfit for every man, woman, and child that is homemade.” Going back to a bygone era, she also suggested that people mend and darn their clothes.

Good idea for those people who:

a.) Know the meaning of darn in this context.

b). Know how to darn or sew

c). Have a sewing machine. (Investment Tip: Buy Singer, Ticker Symbol: SEW, you heard it here.)

Darn (as in darn-it), I wish I had those DKNY shoes back. And that brown Liz Claiborne maxi, corduroy coat from 1987, and let’s not forget the blinding Neon Obermeyer ski jacket I bought in 1992 to match the bottom of my K2s. Looking back, I admit, it was a wasteful, hedonistic, and consumer-centric few decades—but we looked good.

Now, with my apparel budget cut to the quick I am left fantasizing about my old wardrobe. I imagine a lovely waif of a “slow clothing movement” girl prancing down the runway of life in my old clothes and DKNY footwear. I trust that she appreciates where her wardrobe began. I really hope, upon further reflection, that the “slow girl” hasn’t sewn the arms of my Obermeyer ski jacket onto the bodice of my brown Liz Claiborne Courdory Maxi coat. But if she has, all I can say is “you go—slow girl!” –Sally Bjornsen

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