Growing up in 1970’s Adelaide, my brother and I played cricket in the cul-de-sac, climbed trees and brought home tadpoles from the creek. We were real kids who spent the entire day outside under the endless Australian sun, and you could tell by looking at our clothes. Complete with grass stained knees, muddy flare hems and torn belt loops from running away from my older brother’s grasp. In order to preserve our good clothes, mum became very creative with our “muck about clothes”; some she made, others she fixed, patching our corduroys and overalls, darning our turtlenecks and generally extending the lifespan of our clothing.
Even in my 20’s and early 30’s, I never really had a huge wardrobe for a few reasons. The first being, I’m not really what you would call a clothes horse being rather un-statuesque at a mere 5 foot 1 inch. Pants and skirts always need to be taken up a few inches and some tops are so long I use them as dresses. Secondly, like many people, I love to travel and when I was 24 I travelled around Europe for nearly a year, living out of a backpack trained me to mix and match a limited amount of clothes. I also worked in a customer service centre for over a decade and wore a uniform, so I really only needed some casual clothes and fancy outfit or two. Lastly, I am a larger sized woman and plus sized clothing was less available than it is today.
I knew my wardrobe had grown slightly between the low prices at Kmart and keeping Australia Post operating via my constant eBay purchases; it still came as quite a surprise, when about three months ago I was preplanning my holiday outfits (everyone does this, right? Or is it just that I am obsessed with planning?) for a trip to Melbourne for my Dad’s birthday, I opened my wardrobe and saw a very unexpected sight – it was overflowing. Then I realised so was the cupboard in the spare room not to mention the huge pile of clothes I bought second hand to refashion (I am addicted to Jillian Owens blog ‘Refashionista’ and every time I read a post I think I can do it too and have grand illusions of creating one off haute couture masterpieces). When did this happen? Where did all these clothes come from? How much money had I spent? And probably most relevant now – what am I going to do with them all?
I started to think about where all the clothes came from, Kmart, Myer, Autograph and realized none of them were made in Australia. They were made in Bangladesh, China, India or Indonesia. Were the clothes on my back made in a sweatshop where workers earn 20 cents an hour in squalid and unsafe conditions? What was I going to do with all these clothes? Too much already goes to landfill and I recycle everything I possibly can, but I don’t know how many more cleaning cloths I can fit in the laundry cupboard!
I like to think that I am a person with strong ethics, I care about others and our beautiful world, how has it taken me so long to realise the damage my clothes can cause. I needed to do something, so I did some research and found an article on the Greenpeace website about a woman who bought no new clothes for a year. Instead she bought second hand, vintage, went to clothes swaps and even made her own, and I thought ‘I could do that; I am going to do that!!’
And that is how my personal challenge has come about. In 2016 I vow to only buy second hand or vintage clothing, swap with friends and family, refashion or upcycle what I already own and try to make my own (after a couple of sewing classes). I do have one small disclaimer, as an FF cup, I will be purchasing bras new when only completely necessary. And if that weren’t exciting enough – I am planning to take you with me on this crazy journey – so check back every week and see my progress, give me tips or just laugh along with the woman who could end up going everywhere nude!
So ladies pop on your sports bras (I won’t be sexist – gents, pop a cup down your pants) and let’s strap ourselves in – there could be blood, sweat and tears (thankfully they will be mine and not a worker in Bangladesh), there may be skirts thrown over the head – this could be a bumpy ride!
I should note, this is a two way street and I’m keen for your feedback and any suggestions you may have for me. I would love to know if you have done this or a similar challenge? Do you refashion second hand clothing? Is there any item of clothing that you could never give up?
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About the Author
Sam is a lover of travel, fashion, tea, winter and Star Wars; a bibliophile and pluviophile; a worker, a volunteer, a wife and mum of three fur children. She’s scared of chickens and the inevitable zombie apocalypse. The world is such an amazingly beautiful place so she don’t understand why we are intent on taking it to the brink of destruction. Shes, for one, want to change that.