As promised, I’m going to share some slow fashion tips and tricks. All of these are things I do, and as with anything, try them, then modify to suit your life! Even one change can have a nice impact. Bottom line, I want to spend my time enjoying my life, not being a slave to “must dos”.
Slow Fashion: Laundry
I come from a world of slow fashion. I have been doing laundry since I was about 10 years old. My mom wasn’t a fan so she enlisted the help of her daughters. We did not have a dryer until I was a teenager. Everything was hung on the indoor or outdoor lines. We were so grateful when we got a dryer, but it was used for linens only. Clothes were ironed as needed. I liked mine ironed so I was taught how to do it. It wasn’t long before my father requested that I iron his shirts because I did a better job. The up side was I got to watch TV while I did it.
As with many things, I promised myself I would never do things that way when I was in charge. Except it turns out that slow fashion is the better way! My dryer is used for linens. Everything else is hung in the unique set-up I have in my tiny laundry room. I wash in color groups or in types of laundry. I turn my jeans inside out to wash them.
The dryer take too much energy and it wears thing out by pulling fibers and over-heating them. So socks and other first-layer things will last longer if they are hung to dry. Knits, shirts, pants, etc. will all last longer if they aren’t put in the dryer. In the years before I had a laundry room, I dried things on a rack in the bathtub.
My main thing with laundry, and what I really want to share with you, are some things that have made my laundry easier!
My Life in Laundry
Because his arms are too long for ready-to-wear shirts, Mitch gets his shirts custom. Most cleaners do not actually get the dirt out from collars and cuffs, and we need these shirts to last, so I launder and iron them. I admit it isn’t my favorite thing, but I use the time to listen to books and for quiet reflection. Over the years I have searched for remedies to remove that dirt that gets ground into collars and cuffs, and something to remove splatters (me) and spills (Mitch). I have made concoctions of baking soda, others of vinegar and detergent, used dish soap, toothbrushes. This is my major laundry pain. This is not a part of slow fashion I want to experience!
I was at TNNA in Portland in January 2019 and got talking to Pino Blangiforti from Unicorn Fibres. Pino began relating the story behind his Fiber Wash, but mentioned his Fiber Scour, which is what really got me interested. It seemed to me if something was formulated to get grease and dirt out of fleeces it might exactly suit my shirt laundering purposes. Pino sent me a generous sample trio (Fibre Wash, Fibre Rinse, and Power Scour) to try out.
I was hesitant to use Fibre Wash because you have to rinse it. Euclan was my preference because I liked not having to rinse. Fibre Wash rinses very easily though, so I’m able to use the minimum amount of water, and if you are concerned you can save the rinse water for your next wash.
I did notice a tiny bit more dye release (on hand dyes) into the water when washing things the first time, but that is actually a bonus because it means that release doesn’t happen later on! This is now my go-to for my knitting treasures.
I don’t use fabric rinse or softener. I have used this with our athletic gear (the only non-natural fiber stuff we wear) to get them smelling fresh again.
I am in love with Power Scour. When applied carefully it can be used on silk (best diluted), cotton, linen, and even wool fabrics. I use it on Mitch’s shirts and they come out of the washer clean! He recently had an encounter of suit pants (wool) with hollandaise sauce. I used diluted Power Scour to remove the large greasy spots left behind. In all likelihood those pants would have been returned from the dry cleaner still spotted, with that nice note they send along. I have used Power Scour to remove spills from cashmere and merino as well. My silk tops are no longer a minefield of tiny oily spots! Do use caution as it can remove color if not diluted.
I do not ever plan on having to clean a fleece. I do plan to use these products on grimy cuffs of sweaters and continue to use it in my laundry life. Power Scour has made my shirt laundry so much easier and that is what I always look for.
My other great slow fashion laundry tip can be used to remove red wine, tomato, and fruit stains:
Mix 2/3 white vinegar with 1/3 laundry detergent.
Drape the fabric and spots over a terry towel. Spray or pour your mixture onto the spots on the fabric. Repeat. Continue to saturate the area and watch the stain disappear.
Apply this mixture when you remove the garment, then again later, repeating until the stain is gone. This mixture works even when stains are not attended to immediately. Be very generous, but it does take repeated applications. I keep some in the bathroom as well as the laundry room. Again, something that leaves me time to do what I want to do. I cannot find the original link for this. Everything I can find is much more complicated and I like to keep it simple.
Slow Fashion: Buying Better
I admit that I love clothes and enjoy acquiring them, but I hate shopping. Having worked in the clothing industry, I understand the markups, and while I don’t begrudge anyone a fair price, I do want to maximize my shopping dollars. Let’s just say I love a good value; sometimes that value has nothing to do with price.
Occasionally I will make a more extravagant purchase, and over the years I have learned that when it is the right thing, it is not an extravagance at all. Slow fashion is a balancing act. Just as a day is made up of hours, and minutes, and seconds, and a month is composed from days, and years are made of months, your slow fashion life can be composed of lots of different types of component parts.
Buy the Best
My motto is always buy the best you can afford. Period. Full stop. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, then shop sales and markdowns. Do not buy cheap things that are trendy. Buy thing that you can afford and that will serve you well. [Note: I do not do second hand. Typically the clothing is not sized for me, but mostly, I cannot bear the odor on walking into second hand shops. It is a total deal killer for me, but it is a good resource.] That is slow fashion.
Once you find something you love, be willing to spend a few bucks to have it hemmed or altered if you can’t do it yourself.
So the pants in the photo. I bought them on sale in New York in 2004. They are from a French designer’s (Armand Ventilo) ready-to-wear line. I think I paid about $150 or $200 for them. I quit wearing them as my best summer pants about five years ago, but I still wear them. The fabric is wonderfully soft now, but the color is slightly worn. They have shrunk in length, so I had to let the hem down. I did some camouflage stitching to hide the wear line from the original hem. The cost to me per year for those pants at $200 is $13.34.
I can give you innumerable examples like this from my wardrobe. As I write this I’m wearing a cotton Calvin Klein dress that I paid $69 for, marked down. It is a rich chocolate brown, and I only wear it a half dozen times a year, so the cost to me is about $5.75 per year, so far. Today I am wearing a belt that cost as much as the pants, but belts get worn year round. That is slow fashion.
Sometimes it is just something I love. I have many, many of those things. Some of them cost little, some cost more. Always, the way I feel when I put them on, and the time span over which I am willing to wear them makes them good purchases for me. Again, slow fashion!
Slow Fashion: Natural Fibers
I have loosened what I include in this category to include rayons, Tencel, Lyocell, etc. as long as the original fiber is a natural fiber. No manufactured fiber is a natural fiber, but we all have to make compromises! I have some nylon, and I’m a fan of elastane and spandex because they make things last longer if cared for properly. Nylon is inexpensive, elastane and spandex are quite expensive, but most fabrics don’t need much. Most of the stretchy things people are wearing are primarily polyester or branded polyesters, and the stretch fiber is less than 15%.
Why natural fibers? They have less impact on our environment and are a better source of fiber than manufactured fibers. In a disaster they are less likely to injure your skin. Natural fibers breathe, wick, or absorb body moisture, and react better to temperature change. Natural fibers are better for your skin (except if you are allergic!). Animals are not killed to harvest their fibers (except pelts). Animals and plants are a renewable resource. Even though we consume tons of it, we do not know the full impact manufactured fibers are having on our environments. Beware of finishes put on fibers and fabrics. They typically are not environmentally friendly, and can cause health issues. Shortcuts can be expensive.
Everyone is currently demanding that their clothing be comfortable. I do not get this as a valid argument for wearing manufactured fibers. My closet is literally filled with clothing made of natural fibers and I do not have anything that is uncomfortable to wear.
Natural fibers may require more laundering care than manufactured fibers, but you don’t have to do as much as I am willing to do!
Slow Fashion: Maintenance
There is an old expression “anything worth doing is worth doing well.” I have no idea where it originated, and sometimes good enough is enough. In the context of your clothing, the care you give can save you money.
More importantly, if it is something you value, it may be worth the extra effort. A few years ago I decided I wanted linen sheets and pillow cases, and linen napkins. These require ironing to look smooth (which I am willing to do), but they pay back with each use. Linen gets softer with use, and every time they are used you feel the wonderful drape and softness.
If your life is full of family and work responsibilities, you may not have time for this right now, but when you do, it is worth it! In the meantime, teach your families (not you!) to care for their things. If they need trendy, then teach them the real cost of fast fashion. That is slow fashion.
I jokingly said to friends after I promised to send links to my favorite online shopping sites that I should do a webinar on how to shop well. Think about it and watch for more.