Thursday, October 2, 2008

ethical clothing: a retrospective

about two years ago i was reading about the human rights and environmental issues presented by north american overconsumption. i was pissed off that something as basic as clothing myself caused people and the earth to suffer. my contribution to these wrongs seemed inevitable. but i got to thinking... is it? could i opt out of consumer culture?

i don't have much money, so i couldn't go spending hundreds of dollars on hemp clothes tenderly coddled into being by unionized former child prostitutes in the third world (although, if i had the money, i would definitley support such an endeavour) and the city i live in isn't known for its overabundance of counterculture, so i couldn't just go to a mall and have a variety of ethical clothing options handed to me.

in fact, when i started out, it was really hard. there was a fraction the number of online sources of ethical clothing that there are now. and everything cost more. niche markets are like that. but i searched (this was back when i used yahoo instead of google, so i can't say i googled) and checked the clearance sections of several sites weekly until i found the things i need with ethics i could live with at prices i could pay. i paid 11$ for my organic hemp, union-made hightops. i got underpants for 8$ a pop, organic cotton and union-made. i got socks, 2$ a pair, organic cotton, made in the states (hopefully not by undocumented workers). it's gradually become easier and easier to find these items. last month i spent 6$ on organic cotton, made in canada yoga pants at zellers. (that's the canadian equivalent of target)

ethical has become trendy, and that kicks ass. blogs have popped up all over the place with info on what not to buy, what's ok and what's fantabulous. it's become almost easy to skip the mall.

well, almost. i'm about to have a major issue, since my winter boots need replacing and i'm not aware of any affordable, ethical options. finding used sorels (or similar) is nearly impossible. also this past spring i ended up buying two perfectly unethical bras at 60$ a pop. it was insult to injury, paying so much for something that i was opposed to. but my boobs thank me. and i really don't know what i'll do about a winter coat in a year or two. i rushed out and bought a dressy shirt at old navy the night before my sister's wedding, since i was three weeks postpartum and didn't fit the dress i had originally intended to wear. so it's not perfect. but neither am i.

it's nice. i started out anxious about how i was going to make it work and looking enviously at all the cool things i couldn't have. i felt so sure that a new this or a pretty that would make my life sparklier and happier. but then i sort of just forgot that those things in the stores are available to me. now when i walk through the mall i see all sorts of things on racks, but they aren't for me. before i had kids i could walk past racks of kids clothes and register that they were there, but not give them a second glance. what would i need with kids clothes? now the whole clothing department is off limits to me, more or less.

so i'd like to welcome the rest of the world to the place i've been for the last couple of years. relax, stay a while! take in the incredible textures of organic cotton and the amazing prices of thrift store items! realize that what you already own is more than you will need for a long time.

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