Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Protecting the planet, one gorgeous item at a time

Did I ever mention that, in addition to filling your closet with items of style, originality, character, and quality, taking the "vintage route" is also an eco-friendly way to dress yourself?

Consider what we know about big-box store clothing (I won't name names, but the big-box stores I'm thinking about are all owned by the same parent company...):

--> Clone-like.
--> Not particularly well cut or tailored.
--> Mass-produced in third-world countries, often under questionable conditions.

Sure, we all need a simple white t-shirt or a cheap little tote bag now and then. But as consumers, we're becoming more aware of the back-story of that little tote bag:

I started out as an innocent cotton plant blowing gently in the (genetically modified) cottonfields of Sri Lanka. But they cut me down too young and I grew up to become fabric of questionable quality fondled by the angry hands of (underpaid? underage?) workers. I took hard knocks as excess product packed onto fossil-fuel-burning ships, trucks, trains, and planes. Then I went on to live a crowded, unfulfilling existance as a low-grade accessory crammed into a local big box store. I ended my life as an expendable tote bag in an 80s-style floral motif crushed and forgotten in the dusty depths of someone's closet...

Well...perhaps it's time to think twice about those easy, cheap, mindless little purchase that I, for one, make all too often.

It's hard to say no to a harmless little bag. The muzak, it lulls us. The fabric, it caresses us. The thrill of immediate gratification and the unspoken promise of something new!, it calls to us...But maybe the harmless little bag isn't quite so harmless after all.

In any case, why settle for clone wear when you can have something truly original? Enter vintage, and also enter local small clothing designers and producers. On a personal note, I find myself avoiding malls altogether these days. Even in the relatively small city in which I live, there are lots of wonderful little boutiques popping up--and guess what? Many of them sell new original clothing by small local designers as well as vintage and recycled vintage clothing. I really like how these mindsets (small/local/vintage) are forming a natural merger.

Ah...but the cost! you say. Let me tell you something about the cost.

A lifetime of shopoholism has granted me certain economic and psychological insights. We all have an invisible price safety-bubble. "If it's under $30/$20/$40, it's an automatic deal," we say to ourselves. So we never buy that amazing $100 handmade blouse we saw at the little boutique on the way to work. We walk buy it every day, loving it, wanting it. But we're not going to spend $100 on a blouse, dammit.

We think we're strong. We self-martyrize. But then one day we're at Le Chateau and we see a cute little wallet with strawberries on it...$10! It's on sale. Sure, it's a cheap plastic wallet, but we just want a little something new. After all, we were so good about not buying the $100 blouse!

...Oh, and there's a pair of shoes on sale at the Gap for $25. I mean, $25 for a cute pair of polkadot espadrilles! Those will NEVER go out of style! (After all...didn't buy the blouse...)

...And...I think I need a pair of white jeans for summer. I'll hit Old Navy after work. There's a pair for $39.99! They don't really fit perfectly, but they're just for bumming around in. (The blouse wouldn't have been practical like these...)

...Oh, and look what they have at the cash! The cutest little red and pink striped clutch! $5! Sold! (...would look cute with the blouse...)

...And I really could use a tote bag...I love that jungle print one...$15! Maybe I'll get one in each colour...(...blouse...)

You've just spent your $100. On a bunch of stuff you like but don't love, which will be out of style by the time you exit the mall. Eventually you find $20 in a coat pocket, see it as an omen of good fortune, and go buy the blouse anyways...

If this (purely hypothetical, honestly) story doesn't sound at all familiar to you, go rebalance your investment portfolio or something.

Grace & Cello
A friend recently shared this site with me. This Montreal design team makes beautiful eco clothing from wonderful fabrics (I LOVE that yellow shirt-dress). The cut, colour, and style is wonderfully Mo-ray-al. Montreal women are the Parisiennes of Canada, by the way. I think they're the most stylish in Canada, but that's just my personal preference. They haven't jumped on the hipster bandwagon. They have managed to maintain their originality. These two women have it in spades.


At 9:58 AM , Blogger ambika said...

This is a post after my own heart. I was shopping thrift long before I was conscious of it having an environmentally positive impact but I fully embrace it these days. If I buy retail, it's generally shoes (very hard to find in decent condition in a wide enough size), or something that I just can't find anywhere else. The last wedding I attended, I wore a vintage dress and I have *never* had so many compliments.

At 11:26 AM , Blogger whyioughtta said...

Vintage dresses are PERFECT for weddings! Hooray for you for looking fabulous and original!

Good point re: shoes. Unless one is a size 5.5 narrow, vintage shoes can be a problem. Also, there's the ick factor of wearing someone else's shoes--a little more intimate than wearing a dress that you can wash.

Vintage deadstock (unworn) shoes are an option, but the chances of finding a pair one loves in the right size are slim--although it is a good excuse to do more shopping (as if we needed one).

At 11:09 PM , Blogger Emmy said...

Oh, man. I agree with the shoe problem. I wear a size 9 shoe, and have passed over so many amazing finds that happen to also be disgustingly tiny.

Often I end up spraypainting cheap Goodwill heels to give them a vintage look, or to complement my vintage dresses.

At 10:59 AM , Blogger Carolina Lange said...

Wow, that first dress is amazing! Fabulous! I love it!

At 4:36 AM , Blogger whyioughtta said...

Emmy: As a size 10 shoe gal, I feel your pain. I like your spraypaint idea, though...very creative!

CL: I stupidly forgot to track where I got that pic...I'll do some research and hopefully can get back to you with the vendor's URL.

At 10:12 AM , Blogger Stylefinder said...

Yeah, gotta love the vintage. Original and usually very chic - I am a hige fan of 1950's party dresses and day dresses, with a nipped-in waist and a full skirt.

in regards to shopping habits - I totally do that! Except, for me anything under $100 seems a bargain. I dunno why, something about triple digits...in any case, last time I went shopping - really like a day of shopping - I ended up spending about $400 on stuff that at the time seemed like great deals, but when it all added up I was broke!

At 12:06 PM , Blogger whyioughtta said...

But did you at least have some loot you loved to keep you happy when the bills came in? Ah, sweeeet materialism...


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