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Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Seven" study - week 2 - clothes

This week's Seven challenge involved raising awareness about our clothes, specifically in 2 areas -
(click here to read about last week's challenge, or click here to read the whole series)
1) We have too much, spend too much, and take up way to much time thinking about them.
2) We have a responsibility to know the circumstances in which our clothes were produced so that we can make the wisest, most cruelty free decision possible.

How much is too much?

I love that, in the video lesson, Jen Hatmaker walked us through her closet. She still has a lot of clothes. She's not saying we need to get rid of everything. She just wants us to become aware of how much of our time, energy, and financial resources we're pouring into this area of our lives. We don't have to become nuns or wear the same 3 raggedy outfits over and over. Although, I always tease Dennis that I'm going to get 10 of the same outfit and wear the same thing every day so I don't have to think about it. Rumor has it that Einstein did just that, and look what he was able to do with all that extra time to think!
I hope I'm not the only female fashion tragedy out there.
Anyways, the challenge was to limit our wardrobe drastically for 7 days. Most of us chose to wear the same 7 items every day for a week. That breaks down into something like 3 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, and one set of pajama/gym clothes type wear. At least that's what mine looked like.
Again, I thought this week was going to be easy peasy. I mean, I don't have to worry about digging through my clothes to figure out what to wear. I must admit, that's been nice, but I didn't realize how inconvenient it could be to only have 4 workable outfits. This is particularly true in South Louisiana in late June. It's really been a comfort issue. Since I'm no fashionista, I mainly focus my wardrobe on comfort and decency. Well, when you only get 3 outfits plus pajamas, you have to make sure they're all presentable for a public outing, which means they are not great for blueberry picking, hanging out at home, or going for a walk. At any rate, just like 2 weeks ago when I wrote about food, I'm thankful that I have the opportunity to have enough comfortable outfits for any situation.
I still like only having to decide between 3 shirts... call me strange.
I had hoped to add a clothes purge to this week, like the one I wrote about here. I find that each member of our family only needs about 18 outfits each per season -
  • 7 "going somewhere" oufits,
  • 7 "play/work" outfits and
  • 4 "dressy" outfits.
This simplified my life greatly last year when I cleaned out.  I just haven't taken the time this week. Maybe when Jen makes us get rid of stuff during "Possessions" week. Oh, and check out this great blog - Loving Simple Living - about minimalist living. They limit their wardrobe to just 33 items per person, which of course sounds wonderful to me!

Who touched this before I brought it into my home?

I'm not talking about sharing germs here. I'm talking about the people who crafted that shirt you are wearing right now. Have you ever thought about them? Someone grew the cotton, someone made the fabric, the dye. Someone sewed it together. What is his life like? Are her working conditions safe? Does he have the freedom to leave if not? Is she a child? One great practice to help us remember to think of these things is to check the tag to see where an item is made before you buy it. It doesn't really tell you much about how the item was produced, just where. It does help us to remember that this pretty dress didn't just appear on a rack with a price tag on it.
I believe that we have a responsibility to find ways to avoid giving our money to companies that employ child labor, slave labor, or have workers being payed less than they need to survive while they work in dangerous conditions. Click here to read about a factory in Bangladesh that collapsed, killing many people inside, just a few months ago.
I know it's overwhelming. This is a journey I started on nearly 5 years ago, and I feel like I'm just now getting a handle on how this can be possible. Here are a few tips and tools I've found along the way:

Free2work - this is an app for your phone designed by the people of the Not For Sale campaign. If you have a smart phone, you can actually scan the barcode on the tag of the item to learn more about the company it was made for. Each company is graded based on things like transparency, factory/farm monitoring, and workers' rights. (The book link is connected to my affiliate account - I gotta tell you that for legal purposes.)

American Apparel - almost every bit of production of their clothing is done in the U.S. with the intention of being able to adequately monitor the process and keep jobs here. Our court system is very flawed when it comes to dealing with slavery, but it is much better than in the third world countries where most of our clothes come from.

Fair Trade - If an item carries the Fair Trade logo, it's company has been through a rigorous process of being checked for unfair practices. This label can be found on clothes, but is more frequently used for food items like coffee, tea, sugar, chocolate and bananas. We try to always stick to buying Fair Trade in these items in our home, aside from the bananas, which are hard to find. I've written more extensively about fair trade and other similar labels in my "Ethics at the grocery store" series part 1 and part 2.
Buy used - this one's my favorite. I love shopping second hand, and it's extremely affordable. It takes a while to get used to shopping at thrift stores, but it's kind of addicting once you get in the "treasure hunt" mindset and find which local stores you like. Many of them are owned by charities, and you can be sure that you are not "voting for slavery" with your money by supporting a less than ethical manufacturing process. This isn't a solution to the problem because these clothes still had to be made somewhere, but at least my money isn't going to line some slaveholder's pockets.
Learn to sew - I will never do this. I hate sewing - it makes the top of my list of things I'd rather pay someone else to do. However, it is a great option for those of you with the time and talent and I highly recommend it. I'll send you my measurements if you'd like to make me something nice. ;)
I also wrote a really emotionally charged article about this issue. It was inspired by a thought I had while out jogging one morning about this time last year. I just rediscovered it and I'd like to share it with you. It's called "Thief, Slaveholder, Murderer". I just reread it, and it's so in line with what Jen Hatmaker says in "Seven" that I can't believe I hadn't actually read the book yet when I wrote it. God has had me on this journey for quite some time. Check out my Stuff I Recommend page to see some other great reading about these issues and people who are fighting this fight.
Most importantly, have mercy on yourself. We were not raised to know these things or to shape our shopping around them. It's not as easy as just not buying these items. Sometimes you can't find what you need, sometimes you forget or just don't care. That's called being human. Just please don't use the excuse that you can't change the world as an excuse to not change your own habits. Who knows what your decisions might inspire someone else to do? That is my prayer, to live as above reproach in this area as possible so that I can teach others when the opportunity comes. My children will know what it's like to grow up in a home that askes "What was the real cost for this item, not just what the price tag says."
What are you going to change today? Are you going to commit to buying less? Switching to one Fair Trade item on your next shopping trip? Finding some great second hand stores in your area? Please share so we can all learn from and encourage one another!
Do you have any other ideas for ethical shopping to share with us?
Shared at Fat Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesday

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