Wardrobe essential: knowing your clothes

by - 18:44

Fringed Shirt - Zara
Cropped Jeans - Zara
Knee-high Boots - Public Desire

I'm sure you'll agree that putting an outfit together can sometimes be one of the quickest parts of the 'getting ready process' or one of the longest and most stressful due to the number of factors which need to be considered - occasion, weather, comfort, style, etc.  Upon styling this outfit for my evening birthday celebrations however, a new factor arose, I began to really wonder about what it was that I was actually wearing.  Across from me in the mirror I saw a fringed shirt, cropped jeans and knee-high boots, an outfit which altogether looked put-together and stylish, yet, one I realised I knew absolutely nothing about; what is each item made of, where were they made and by whom?  Now, correct me if I'm wrong but so many of us purchase items based on aesthetics - from that initial moment of spotting an item on the shop floor/website, to deciding whether a pair of jeans suit one's body formation.  Does anyone walk into a shop and begin their search by browsing for items made from cotton, or items that were manufactured in India?  No, aesthetics is the main priority when shopping.

So, how many of us really think about the clothes we buy and wear at all?

As a fashion consumer myself, I very rarely determined a purchase on its fabric content or place of manufacturing.  If an item was aesthetically pleasing and I could afford it, then most often than not that item became mine.  At one point, I'd put money aside after each pay-day just to do a monthly clothes shop, at the time I thought it was cool and it was a way of keeping up-to-date with the latest fashion trends, but now I just see it as an unnecessary amount of shopping.  But, with my transition in attempting to reduce my fashion footprint this year, and by becoming more conscious of ethics and sustainability behind brands and their clothes, I was led to this moment - what about the awareness of the clothes that I'm already wearing?  If we take the time to learn about the origins of our clothes, we can care for them better and improve our consumption.

It won't be surprising to hear that by being made up of a white shirt and black denim, around 2/3s of this outfit is made from cotton.  As a fibre, cotton is one of the most popular and most useful in textile production, in fact, interestingly the WWF suggests that cotton represents almost half of the fibres used in the industry.  But, here's something really crazy, did you know that around 2,700 litres of water go into making a single cotton t-shirt?  I read in an article that in terms of the amount of drinking water that collates to, is around three years' worth, and that's just for one shirt!  If it takes that much for one shirt, just think about how much water is used for all the cotton in garments and textiles being manufactured almost daily.  No wonder there's a water crisis.  What's more is that despite its popularity, cotton has severe impacts; the contamination and pollution of water from the use of pesticides and fertilisers in cotton production has affected biodiversity in surrounding areas, human health and the environment in general.  The Aral Sea for instance, once the fourth largest lake in the world, lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan has almost disappeared due to unsustainable cotton farming.

There is so much important information surrounding cotton production and it's sad to think that once an item sits in someone's wardrobe, it becomes rather unimportant.  As I mentioned earlier in this post, we need to think more about the clothes we own and buy.  When browsing a shop rail or the internet, don't base your decision just on aesthetic and price, factor in taking the time to understand the product.  Of course, not all information can be acquired directly from the garment such as the equality and fairness of the labour in factories, but by simply looking at the care label there's a start.  Organic cotton, for instance, is the sustainable alternative to regular cotton as it grows the cotton without pesticides.  Side note, however, organic cotton does have its downsides including needing more water than regular cotton to produce, but as it is sustainable and ethically produced, it is best considered for products that are essential wardrobe pieces, like a cotton t-shirt.

To conclude this longer than usual post (sorry) I'd just like to add that, most importantly, by understanding the garments already in our wardrobe and taking better care of them (reading the care label, washing less often, taking care of whether to hang or fold items, correctly using the washing machine, etc.), we can extend their life cycle thus reducing the need to buy.  I read a super interesting fact which suggests that if we can extend the life of our garments (particularly cotton ones) by nine months, the water footprint of clothing can be reduced by 5-10%, obviously, it's not massive but it's a useful start and changes really do need to start being made. 

Lyd x

P.S a lot of where I got this fab info from was 'Good On You', it is my go-to for information on sustainability and equality in the fashion industry.  Not only do they provide articles on a range of topics, but they rate a whole load of brands based on their impact on animals, the environment and labour and provide a variety of alternative sustainable brands.  If you're looking to learn more and create some changes, download their app because it's honestly great.

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