Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 2

Elsewhere: Slotober edition 2

We’ve still got the weekend to talk about the Long-Worn theme for Slow Fashion October this week, which is a good thing because I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface! Hopefully everyone saw the two related posts here this week — 21st-century thrifting and My week in the Craftlands — and both have loads of great comments on them at this point, so click back and take a look at those, as well as the contributions I’ve featured on @slowfashionoctober so far this week, and my post about how to wear worn clothes without looking shabby.

More highlights from the great discussion—

– So many amazing heirlooms and hand-me-downs have been shared on the #slowfashionoctober feed throughout the week. I want to mention that the aran sweater Jess’s grandmother knitted is from a 1967 Bernat pattern book called The Bernat Book of Irish Knits and has made two separate appearances on this blog – here (top right in the bottom photo grouping) and here (no. 5). It’s always amazing how many people say “I had that book” or “I had that sweater.” I have the sense it was the Boxy of its time! And it’s fun to imagine a single pattern being such a huge hit in a pre-Ravelry world.

– I’ve been falling down on the job with the My First Sweater series, so I especially loved Dianna’s blog post about hers, in the Long-Worn context.

– “It’s amazing to put on a piece of clothing that was made decades ago, worn by a woman I love and respect so much, and passed on to me.”

– “My involvement with slow fashion is organic to the way I’m trying to live my life – in a way that reflects my values and ethics and is mindful.  It is also a way to assert individuality in an increasingly homogenized world.” (Don’t miss @proper_tension on IG — I love her style!)

– “I’m not sure how precisely I define ‘slow fashion,’ but for me a big part of it is about being thoughtful — thinking through what I need, being willing to wait for it (either because of the time it takes to make it or the time it takes to save for it), and then committing to keep it for a long time.

– “Last night I started Kate Fletcher’s new book Craft of Use, and I’m excited, amazed, emboldened, and more. …” — omg I’ve lost track of who posted this! Please raise your hand if it was you!

– “However, don’t wash your clothes unless they need it.”


– “I often hang on to quality pieces that still fit me well once I get tired of them. More often than not, I’ve found the item gets resurrected after a break in the back of the closet and becomes an oft-worn favourite all over again. … I’ve been thankful so many times that I didn’t pitch great clothes in a fit of closet purging.”

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about and would love to discuss is the question of whether SMALL matters. This was actually one of my themes last year, and I’ve said already I feel a bit repentant for having suggested — as is so often done — that a closet clean-out is an important starting point. I’ve long felt that, especially with anything that was potentially sweatshop goods, the best way to honor that sewers work is to not banish it but to put it to use. The more I think about it, and the more I know about what happens to donated clothes, the more I see the capsule concept conflated with slow fashion (there are lots of people making fast-fashion capsule wardrobes — they may overlap, but they’re not the same thing), the more I wonder about this. There’s no question that simply buying less — participating less in the fast-fashion marketplace — is a good thing. But what about our obligation to those clothes we already own? What if — IDEALISTIC RHETORICAL SCENARIO ALERT — all you buy is small-batch, locally woven, organically-grown fiber clothes made by lovely people whose small business you’re supporting with your purchase? What if — EXTREME EXAMPLE TO PROVE A POINT —  you’re stylist-designer Rachel Zoe out buying up and preserving decades of significant vintage garments and preserving them in your immense closets, thereby honoring them and keeping them from the landfill. What I’m saying is buying less is critical, absolutely, and what we buy is critical, but a smaller wardrobe isn’t automatically a more virtuous one, is it? Who was it that made the great point on IG about having more clothes to choose from meant each garment got worn less often and lasted longer. Fair point? Discuss!


– Knitting for victory (thx, Kelbournes)

– If you loved Jane Richmond’s sweater from the Cowichan Knitalong last year, it’s now a pattern!

Thanks for all the incredible input this week, everyone — have a fantastic weekend!


The images up top coincide with links above or posts I’ve regrammed this week; click through for the originals — top lefttop rightmiddle leftmiddle rightbottom leftbottom right.


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: My week in the Craftlands

35 thoughts on “Elsewhere: Slow Fashion October edition 2

  1. As I read your wonderful post I look down and notice I am wearing a lovely housecoat that belonged to my mother, who died 25 years ago. It is the perfect weight for spring and fall in the south. Now that I have retired I sit with my coffee, read the paper, as she did, and read my emails. It just feels right.

  2. Getting back to your question. I feel it is up to the personality. I have friends who just do not care about fabric, style, etc. It is something not in their radar. They think I spend way to much time thinking about the quality of my clothes and spend way to much money getting the quality. I wear my clothes and shoes forever. I work hard to stay the same size so that I can do that. Are they good people? Yes, they buy organic, recycle, and do what they can to take care of the earth. We can’t do it all. We have to do what we a comfortable doing.

  3. Thank you so much for the shout-out! It means a lot to me, and I’m doing a little happy “I-can’t-believe-she-likes-me!” dance (completely dorking out, if I may say so myself). When I discovered Slow Fashion October, it became part and parcel of my life, and I really am so happy to have found my people. In fact, I’m doing a little talk on slow fashion at A Handmade Assembly in Sackville, New Brunswick next week (as well as leading an English paper piecing workshop), and I owe a great deal to you and everyone who participates in this important conversation.

    Hilariously, I was the one who posted about reading The Craft of Use. Really, I need to have an altar to slow fashion goddesses somewhere…or everywhere.

    Discussion topic is good, especially since I have a huge closet but am really trying to figure out how all the parts of my identity and values fit together. I’ll have to think a bit more on it. Cheers!

  4. I’m realizing that many of my clothes are very old, but because I wear them so often, I feel that they are current. My favorite sweatshirt jacket was bought in the 80’s and I still love it as much as when I bought it. Guess I’ve gotten my money’s worth. I knit my first sweater in 2000 and still wear it every winter.

    • So true, and I find the opposite is true too– the less I wear something the less I love it and the sooner I am over it.

  5. Thank you, Karen, for rethinking the closet purge so openly here. I’d been tempted to do that kind of cleanout in the past but was always stopped by the already fairly small size of my wardrobe. And the more I learned about what happens after you donate (thank you, Elizabeth Cline!), the better I felt about never going through with it.

    Weathering the Mari Kondo craze on blogs, Youtube, and Instagram was a tough challenge for me. I don’t enjoy feeling judgmental and so I kept fighting that ugly urge that strikes on the Internet to throw in my two cents about other people’s choices… But at the bottom of it all wasn’t really judgment, but sadness and concern about what happens with all those unwanted things. There are things that do not “spark joy” but are nonetheless useful, or that might “spark joy” or at least really come in handy later, or to someone else — if we wait a little and find a good new home for them.

    Hanging on to things isn’t automatically hoarding. It becomes dangerous when you lose track of what you have and thus lose connection to what you have and end up constantly stocking up.

    The key to slow fashion in my life isn’t so much investing in quality items (I’m not there yet, financially) as it is slowing down to consider the things I already have and to learn — at my own pace — how to make new things or mend and refashion the old ones when necessary.

  6. jess’s sweater reminds me of a half complete cabled vest my grandmother started. she has the two vest fronts done. I don’t know how long it’s been “hibernating” because I’m 25 years old and I have never seen her knit. it’s a pet project of mine to finish it but there’s no pattern and it’s in acrylic yarn.

  7. Today I wore a crocheted baby blue poncho that my Nana made for me when I was probably in 5th or 5th grade. (I’m now 47). Despite not wearing it for decades, I kept this poncho because it was probably one of the last articles of clothing she crocheted for me. I also have the dresses she sewed for me when I was heading off to college. I don’t worry about the closet space these items are taking up because I love looking at them, feeling the fabric and admiring the stitches. When I wore the poncho, 2 unexpected things happened, 1- my youngest daughter dragged out a poncho my mother knit for her and wore it to school so we could be “twins,” and 2- a handful of women on the school playground, came up to me and said, “I had a poncho like that,” and we laughed together. My poncho isn’t in the closet any longer. It’s on the hook by the back door, waiting to be worn again.

  8. I don’t think any wardrobe size is inherently more slow than the other. As a diehard small-wardrobe-capsule-approach-enthusiast I’m happy to share the specific slow fashion challenges that comes with a smaller wardrobe.

    1) I don’t believe that a small wardrobe wears out “faster” than a larger one. If a pair of jeans can be worn X times before disintegrating then it doesn’t matter if I space these wears out over 2 or 10 years. The only difference is the time spent in the closet. The real challenge with a small wardrobe is that if my one and only pair of blue jeans break beyond repair – I don’t have a backup! This means that I have to be super aware of what is going to need a replacement during the next 6-12 month so that I have time to properly research good RTW options or make the piece myself. Otherwise there’s a real risk of panic shopping.

    2) Another challenge that I think is often overlooked in the capsule hype (please note that I love capsule hype!) is that when you want everything to go with everything the small details of design and fit become more important and harder to get exactly right. Thus the risk of buying/making something that doesn’t work increases. A top may be the right style, material and color for my taste, but if the hemline acts weird with the waist of my one and only pair of blue jeans – it’s just not a good fit for my wardrobe. I try to avoid this by paying attention to how the shapes of my clothing go together to gain a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. But if something enters my wardrobe that just isn’t a good fit for my wardrobe (and it can’t be altered), I try to acknowledge it quickly so that I can pass it on to a friend or sell it while it is still fresh.

    Now, I’m happy to take on these challenges as best I can, because a small wardrobe is the right thing for me. I’m just more creative and confident with my clothes when there are some boundaries.

    But if for any reason you feel happier with a larger selection of clothes and are willing to deal with the slow fashion challenges that come with it (I’m sure there are some) I don’t think it is a better or worse approach. It’s just different.

    The most essential part of slow fashion is probably to keep exploring what is the right wardrobe for your individual being, be it in terms of color, style, function, material, number of items and surely a lot of aspects I haven’t even thought of yet ;-)

  9. Would love to see some post about how to make slow fashion work if your body changes size. It’d be great if I could still wear pants that fit me a decade ago, or even five years ago, but that is not possible. It’s a constant conundrum and a source of guilt, but I can’t get through a long day of work in too-small jeans.

  10. Need some help on the “small” front. I recently moved aboard a 36′ sailboat with my partner, and the urge to purge is strong. As my style is defined it’s easier to see what doesn’t “fit” and storage space is hard to come by. I’ve sent quality goods to friends and family with larger closets who will hopefully appreciate them and turn them into long worn favorites, brought fast fashion fads from over the years to clothing swaps for a new life. But then I’m stumped. At this point I might break down and make a rag rug, because the tiny closet is too full!

    • Do you know about ThredUp? It’s a resale site that admittedly I haven’t used, but I’ve heard that they make it easy for you to send in clothes, and if they don’t put them up for resale (which would give a cut of earnings to you) then they pass them to textile recyclers. I don’t know if it’s more assurance than traditional thrift stores, but at least there’s some transparency around it. There are lots of other resale sites too like Depop and Poshmark, but I think those you need to manage the sale and shipping yourself.
      A rag rug also sounds like a good plan to me! I want to make some knit and woven baskets with scraps someday :)

  11. I can definitely see the value in having more than a small wardrobe, if the clothing in it does actually get worn. That clothing will last longer, because it is being worn less often. For me personally, I feel that “less” allows me to know that everything in my wardrobe does get worn and is useful to me. It allows me to experience “enough” and to feel satisfied with what I have. I know for a fact that I don’t need ten pairs of pants, so I’m not tempted to mindlessly buy another pair just because they are cute or I’m bored or I want a mood boost. When I see that I could use another top, I know that I can spend the time and/or money (because making is not usually a whole lot cheaper) to place value on farmer’s and garment workers’ work. “Less” for me is not about getting rid of more… it is about finding my “enough” and maintaining.

  12. I LOVE these discussions! I found myself feeling overwhelmed with my clothes about 3 years ago. When we built our home in 1983 the Master closet was plenty of space for both of us. Fast forward, kids gone, husband booted out to the other closet and my stuff was everywhere! Under the bed, in the laundry room, closet in the guest room! I never could find anything to wear! I focused on a year-long purge where every other month I tried on EVERY item and made a decision on whether to keep it. Slowly, I got down to the one Master closet which for me means that dressing and packing are no longer stressful.I now know what blouse goes with what skirt, what slip works with each item and which jeans need which shoes! My life is simplified! I refuse to buy more hangers so that I don’t overbuy again. That means if I bring something new in , some other item must be sacrificed. It makes me really consider before buying.

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  14. This is exactly what’s been going through my mind ever since I came across slow fashion and decided to seriously start thinking about and make changes in my life in this regard (i.e. about a month ago). I have already downsized my wardrobe in the last year or so by donating a lot of my clothes, but I still seem to have too much. Most of the time these past couple of weeks I feel hypocritical to be talking about slow fashion and wearing designer shoes at the same time. But I also feel that since I already have these clothes/shoes/bags/etc, it makes no sense to “throw” them away just so I can acquire new more ethical replacements. But I do wish I could say I wear everything in my wardrobe. I guess small steps.
    For me the hardest thing about transitioning to this school of thought is when it comes to kids’ clothes. It’s much easier for me to stop buying clothes for myself or to pay a lot of money for a “slow fashion” item thinking it will last me a long time. But when I know my 1 year old will grow out of a pair of pants in a couple of months, it’s really hard to spend so much money. That aside, actually the even harder part is explaining to others not to get us more baby clothes and items that we don’t need. My family just doesn’t really get it.

  15. I think the concept of small means something different to everyone. I have more clothes than a capsule wardrobe concept because I wear my clothes HARD. I bike to work, I’m outside a lot, I spend a lot of time around kids, and I am – as my husband kindly puts it – an “exuberant” cook (re: messy). Some days of the week, my clothes also have to look nice enough to teach in. The clothes I wear, which run the gamut of very casual to nice casual, get messy, have to move with me, have to endure weather and dirt. They get WORN. Do I have more clothes than I need? Yes, I probably do, but I haven’t acquired much in the last couple years that I haven’t made myself, aside from some badly needed fresh running shorts and a pair of every day boots.

  16. “Who was it that made the great point on IG about having more clothes to choose from meant each garment got worn less often and lasted longer.”

    This is the issue that I grapple with. I’m still pretty new to clothes-making, and my work clothes still far outstrip my making ability (I have to wear suits pretty regularly), so I’m susceptible to the lure of fast fashion. But one of the reasons it’s appealing is that I do find that the things I like wear out quickly. Some of this is doubtless a consequence of being fast fashion (cheap fabrics/lower quality). But some of it is just a function of life, what I wear, and my size and shape (which also tends to fluctuate a fair amount, so I often can’t wear the same items for years and years). For instance, I’m death on shoes – my feet are wide, and I live in a hot climate and wear them without socks. Even excellent quality stuff gets trashed relatively soon. Or lightweight shells for under jackets and cardigans – wearing them next to my skin in a hot climate means they get washed pretty regularly, and the fabrics are less durable to start with (though these are items I can make for myself much more successfully). And in a work context of business formal, I personally find it hard to wear worn clothes without them looking shabby – a silky blouse or suit jacket just doesn’t wear/age the way that jeans or a cotton oxford or wool sweater do.

    Anyway, I feel like this comment is mostly whining, which is not my intent. But I am very interested in making and slow fashion and an ethical wardrobe, but feel like my 9-5 (usually longer) business-formal office job is directly at odds with what I’d wear if I dressed only for me. So sometimes it’s an exercise in frustration (because of course the 9-5+ office job limits the time I can spend making, as well as not paying enough to let me buy without regard to price, and then there’s the issue of not fitting well in standard sizes….sigh. Sometimes I love clothes and sometimes I hate clothes.)

    • “sometimes I love clothes and sometimes I hate clothes.” Me too! I like feeling good in what I’m wearing but I also get tired of thinking about it so much.

  17. I would love to hear more about what people do about children’s clothes. We are given a huge amount of clothes from a friend that are designer, expensive children’s clothes but they are still products of the fast fashion industry. I continue accepting them because I will then pass them along and we get a lot of wear out of them. I have quite a number of clothes from the fast fashion industry before I knew better so I have chosen to keep them and continue using them instead of donating them to another corrupt industry. As a partial stay at home mom, I am very aware of cost and growing children. I find the balance a difficult one to strike.

    • If you’re getting hand-me-downs that can be used for a long time, that’s great. Even if they’re part of an industry you don’t like, you’re making them last longer and that certainly counts for something. It’s impossible to take on the entire industry as one person trying to clothe her children! I have the same dilemma, and also, my kids are old enough that they don’t always like handmade clothes, even when I find the time to do it. This is especially true for my son, who is in 5th grade. When you’re 10 and you show up to school in something your mom made you are guaranteed to stand out. In my ideal world I have all the time and resources to make everything we wear and my family happily wears handmade without feeling dorky and we still have hours left in the day to work and sleep and exercise and do fun things like read good books and go hiking (or whatever your choice way of spending free time might be), but that is simply not realistic. At least not for me. I say do what you can and don’t agonize over the rest.

  18. I also own the Bernat Book of Irish Knits. Bought it for $1 in about 1968. I made 4106-145 for my first boyfriend. Most of the patterns would still work today – although perhaps not the above the ear men’s toque! I also still have the very 60s poncho I knit in 1969 complete with 10 inch long tassels.
    In the vein of Slow Fashion October, I try to use my leftover yarn to knit items for Plunkett, a charity here in New Zealand that supports babies and their mothers. And I recently sewed up my oldest fabric from my stash (pink and orange striped knit from about 1980- what was I thinking!) into a nightgown from a 1980s pattern – Vogue 9028.

  19. A little late to the party again but I finally finished my week two post: http://rigatoniknits.blogspot.com/2016/10/not-so-long-worn-slow-fashion-october.html

    I ended up grappling with my continuing wardrobe churn– buying too many things that I barely wear and then “editing”– because that is where I’m at in this process. I have some plans for refashioning some of my not-so-long worn things, but I do plan on selling, gifting, or swapping the rest.

    I don’t have any particular goal for the size of my wardrobe as long as I’m wearing the things in it– I don’t plan to be a museum or warehouse for things I don’t wear, or to keep things just in case I need them in the future. I have found that I rarely, if ever, go back to a piece of clothing once I am over it, so my goal is to get better at choosing things that I will enjoy for a long time. I don’t think a small wardrobe needs to be everyone’s ultimate goal, and we need to consider the impact of our cast-off garments– finding ways to reuse or refashion them is preferable to throwing them in the trash. I use my husbands old tshirts for cleaning rags, I have also been thinking about turning old tshirts into underwear!

    I can’t wait to dive in and read all the posts for this week!

  20. Pingback: Slow Fashion October 2016 (master plan) | Fringe Association

  21. So I was breastfeeding as I was reading this, and I thought ‘that’s funny I have an old book of Irish Knits’. I ran off and dug through my bookshelf and sure enough I have a Bernat book of Irish Patterns. I ‘borrowed’ it from my mother when I left home. That was 15 years ago.
    Mine was printed in 1983 but it has that pattern!
    I, too, have been trying to balance that urge to purge and pushing myself to use what I’ve got rather than buying more (no matter how responsibly sourced it is!). I’ve been pregnant and breastfeeding and occasionally back to my normal size multiple times in the past 6 years. There’s so many times I look at something and feel like I haven’t worn it in too long and wonder if I’ll ever get back to fitting in it. But I try to shift what I can wear now to the front of the cupboard and be patient with what’s waiting in the back.

  22. Pingback: Why I make my own clothes | Fringe Association

  23. I’d have more “long-worn” items if I hadn’t gained weight. I do still have a white, cotton/linen dobby-weave hooded “big shirt” that I made in the 1980s. It’s just not quite so big now. But especially when traveling, it has served as a bathrobe, beach cover-up, and nightgown, as well as a shirt-jacket. The fabric has only gotten better with time.

    Back in the days that were not only before Ravelry, but before people like Kaffe Fassett and Elizabeth Zimmerman gave us all permission to start spending money on hardcover books about knitting, back when terribly-photographed magazines and yarn company leaflets were the only resource, the Bernat designs in general were the best. Most of the things I knit in the late 1960’s and 1970’s were Bernat designs. It’s a shame that designers weren’t credited properly back in those days–not everything was by Eleanor Bernat. But it was a sad day when she died something like ten years ago.

  24. Thank you so much for all the interesting links and the discussion. While I have been not very conscious about my clothes for the longest time (even the hand knits – it would never have occurred to me to maybe unravel a sweater that did not turn out as I wanted before) this is slowly changing.

    I’ve pointed out some of the projects this year where I actually made an effort to mend and to re-use.

  25. I think small is important to Slow Fashion but to me small doesn’t mean two or three pieces of clothing but it’s definitely not 354 pieces of clothing that most of which you won’t wear. Having a small wardrobe makes me build a relationship with my clothing, it also teaches me to choose wisely.

  26. Pingback: Slow Fashion October, week 2: What’s in your closet? [with Erin Boyle] | Fringe Association

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