I recently threw away my favorite t-shirt. It was a frustrating experience, chiefly because the tee is vaguely irreplacable. I bought it from Zara last summer at the lucrative if not questionable price of $9.90. We had a good run — I must have worn it upward of 50 times — but just a year later, it was destroyed. Stained in places I had never gotten it dirty. Ripped along seams that were barely tugged at. Not worthy of resell, or donation, or even use as a dish cloth. I cringed as I threw it into the garbage. Would it contribute to the waste permeating our planet?
It got me thinking about fashion — both fast and slow, and how the former is beginning to feel a lot like fresh produce.
Which is a terrible thing, you know, because fashion is not supposed to feel like produce.
You are not supposed to buy clothes and then find that you feel guilty when you don’t consume them within 48 hours of purchase.
Independent of your personal taste, which is a matter of aesthetic pleasure, you’re not supposed to worry that your clothes will rot.
Clothes don’t rot.
Our closets are not refrigerators.
They are hurricane cabinets.
Zones primed for nonperishables that can — and will — sustain us whenever hunger strikes.
So I’ve been thinking about what building a reliable wardrobe looks like and I keep coming back to good quality jeans and white shirts and extravagant shoes that don’t want to yell, but kind of just do. Recently, I’ve also been really into belts.
I am never not a proponent for the seasonally in/appropriate jacket. The thing is, these tend to be the items that are the least exciting to buy. The shit you get because every woman knows, you’ve got to have “the basics,” right?
But think about this for a second. When you feel most excited to get something, how long does that relationship with the garment last? How long do you really feel excited! Connected! Awesome! On trend!
A month? Two months? Maybe three?
Now think about the last white shirt you bought. Did you even think twice?
Are you wearing it today?
It’s not so different from companionship, you see. Because the suitors who get your heart racing — and keep it racing — are often the ones who disappoint you. Who fall off. And offend.
The ones that feel easy, though? That don’t make you think or second guess yourself; that shine the g-dang flashlight on your Pantene-locks — they stick around 4-lyfe.
And this, I submit, is what we should aspire toward with our wardrobes.
Of course, there is the question of whether building a “sustainable wardrobe” — a closet of hurricane survival tips — contradicts The Fashion Experience. That is, the ability to play dress up day in and out. To wear your temporary tattoo in the form of a skirt, or a dress, to cover your body in a mask that extolls one thing but then the following day decisively rejects it.
There’s also got to be a happy medium, so I’m proposing the following:
Buy less, wear more.
I know it doesn’t sound novel — but that’s because it’s not. And yes, duh, I know that a splurge can mean $300 for one person, $15 for another. I also know that the culture we have helped to cultivate is one that acts impulsively, that galvanizes the “treat yo’self!” mentality, but we can break that pattern.
We can save our money and wait to buy the thing that stops us in our tracks and steals our heart. We can invest in quality that will last beyond next season. It’s like passing on the salad in order to be really, really hungry for the thing you’ve actually been craving. You’ll be so much more satisfied, and when you look back on it one, two, five years from now, chances are you’ll think: yeah. I still want to wear this.
And what’s better, really, than knowing yourself that well?
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis