the fabric of your life -- how bad are the fabrics we're wearing?

I've read a billion blog posts about sustainable fibers but never seem to retain the info other than:

  • synthetic fibers = bad
  • natural fibers = good
    • except cotton, which = bad, 
      • unless it's organic, which = good
    • and except animal ones because I don't play that because I don't agree with the commodification of animals even though a lot of sustainable textile guides either don't take that into account or are okay with the commodification of animals to some extent 
Easy, right?

Today I ran into another blog post about this, a good refresher, from Eco Warrior Princess -- you can read it here. Tortoise & Lady Gray has many blog posts about this as well, in addition to a $9 downloadable resource. Fabric choice is one of those things I have to remind myself to think about -- over and over and over again. And how does that fit into what I buy?

I'm still trying to focus only on secondhand. I have so much already and working with a very limited wardrobe for Project 333 has left at least 50% of my closet underutilized -- and unmissed. Why buy more? I try to only buy apparel when it's sitting in a secondhand store, waiting for someone to come along who is the right fit. And in that case, I buy any textile as long as it's not animal skin or hair. 

outside a Goodwill after buying 
a perfect-fit 100% cotton striped shirt

Buying synthetic fabrics, even secondhand, is also a bit of a toss-up on the "less harm" scale. When laundered, synthetic fibers end up in our water. I haven't purchased a Guppy yet. (To be honest I'm like, can I just launder synthetics in a pillowcase and it would do the same thing?) So by pulling a synthetic shirt or whatevs out of the waste stream, I'll end up laundering it and microfibers will likely end up in our water. I could try to launder it less than every wear but that doesn't eliminate washing entirely, obviously. 

Is using a secondhand synthetic garment and laundering it better or worse than it going right into a landfill? Right now I'm leaning towards...better? Using the garment is better? Washing the secondhand synthetic garment in a Guppy bag is better? I'm not trying to be a Valley Girl but ending my sentences with a question. I really don't know. 


  1. I wrote a giant comment and lost it. Curse these mystical interwebs.

    SUMMARY: I'm right there with you, mulling over these things endlessly. Since I've been trying to improve my sewing so I can make more of my own clothes, I've been extra conscious of fabric content; 100% cotton usually wrinkles like hell, which is unfortunate, and sometimes I want a bit of stretch in a fabric... but I'm buying biodegradable fabrics when and where I can. My coworkers probably think I LOVE denim and chambray, when in reality it's just the least-damaging (OR IS IT?!) thing I can regularly find in stores. Plus it's blue, which is almost the only color I wear now. Planning to change that.

    I remain skeptical of the Guppy. Is it genuinely that different from the cheap sweater bags in which I wash my delicates? Is THAT why it costs twenty bucks? Isn't it disingenuous for Patagonia to be selling a band-aid rather than phasing out fleece? Have I lost my train of thought?

    RE: Laundry, I make a DIY "refresher spray", and when I come home from work, I spritz my work dress and leave it to hang in a doorway or someplace for a few hours. Once it's aired out, I hang it on the "worn once" end of my closet. My spray is just water + a little alcohol + some perfume. Cheap, effective.

    I am trying to normalize having a small wardrobe in my neck of the woods. So far, no one has said to me "Rebekah, don't you have anything else to wear?" or "oh, those earrings again?" The concept of Bea Johnson's bitsy wardrobe still speaks to the depths of my soul, though I could never part with my jewelry every six months.

    I have also noticed that the wealthy Germans I work with seem to have small (if expensive) wardrobes and many wear signature pieces of jewelry; the most stylish lady I know here has worn the same necklace every day for... years? So maybe all those smug stories about the French wardrobe were sorta kinda true... ... Yet Germany has all the regular fast fashion stores, so I wonder if it's only young people who shop there.

    Yesterday, I saw a blog called "High Heels in the Wilderness" and thought "Blech, I'd rather read about Flats in the City." Then it struck me--- that's your blog!

    1. These days it's more like sneakers in the city because I'm so lazy about clothing and I walk so much.

      I feel the same about the Guppy. And I keep saying I'm trying not to buy synthetics but most of my prior new impulse buys were synthetics.

      I don't think people notice small wardrobes unless the pieces are very distinctive. I feel like my wardrobe must look small anyway because I have 40 very similarly striped shirts and 4 pair of the same black jeans.

      You are far more civilized than I am about re-wearing. I will just leave it in a pile and if I want to wear it again, I'll hang it in the shower so the steam gets most wrinkles out and then just wear it. Oh well.

    2. I count sneakers as flats. I'm pro-foot comfort.

      Civilized, schmivilized. If it works for you, then it works.


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