When the lockdown started–I consider it to have begun exactly eight weeks ago today–my discretionary spending dwindled down to a trickle. Since that time, I have purchased for personal use the following: A new Bluetooth headset to take the place of the annoying earpiece style I’ve had for a couple of years, one t-shirt, a couple of books (one of them an e-book), a set of viola strings, and one DVD. I also allowed my payments for the upcoming TSO season to go forward–as a gesture of hope, and to support them, and I subscribed to the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall. I also bought a few yards of cotton for mask and scrub cap making. And earlier this week I had five cedar shrubs delivered to form a “fence” in the back between our house and the one next door. That’s about it.
Part of this was the realization that I have two closets bursting full of clothes I am simply not wearing. Even before the lockdown started, I was probably only wearing 40% of my everyday clothing on a regular basis. Now, I’ve been rotating through about 15 sweatshirts and about five pairs of jeans, and mostly wearing a single pair of shoes. I can’t really see needing new clothes for a very long time. And now, I have ethical concerns with mass-market fashion, particularly “fast fashion,” and new reasons to want to keep my dollars local.
When I was working in downtown Toronto, it was very easy to go for a walk in the PATH and see some item at Winners or Cleo or H&M that I’d grab on impulse. And then there was the online retailer Zulily, which has had some wonderful prices on unusual clothing in colours I liked. Some of these items became staples, but too many of them vanished into my closet after a single wearing. I just had too many items. And clothes that were once an integral part of my “rotation” were going untouched. My employer had relaxed its dress code in the past year, allowing denim, and suddenly my large collection of black pants were going unworn. I haven’t worn a suit jacket in probably two years.
But it took the pandemic to drive this home to me–and to allow the issues with mass market fashion to help finalize my decision. So much of this clothing is made of synthetic materials, manufactured cheaply overseas in sweatshops, and there is a growing issue with disposing of used poorly-constructed clothing. And then there’s the issue of knock-off companies stealing the designs of artisans and smaller-shop manufacturers.
The result of all of this for me is twofold: First, I will be extremely judicious about buying new clothing going forward. There’s really nothing I need. If I buy an item, I need to be willing to get rid of something I own but am not wearing. Second, if I am going to buy something, it’s going to need to be special. That might be an item made by a local designer or artisan, or by a sustainable clothing company, and I will be willing to pay for it to support these kinds of businesses as we try to recover from the effects of the pandemic. I will not support “fast fashion.” As much as possible, anything I will spend will support local makers.
There’s also the third possibility. I’ve been sewing some items of clothing based on vintage patterns over the past couple of years. I now have several items I did not get a chance to wear before the lockdown, with a couple others I had in the back of my mind as possible future projects. I haven’t wanted to sew any of these kinds of clothing in the last couple of months, with no real potential for wearing them in the near future, but I do have in my stash some lovely linens and wools, so there is the possibility in the future that I may look to sew more of my own clothing if I find a pattern that inspires me. But I suspect I won’t want to do anything of that sort until the pandemic has passed and we see where we are on the other side. For now, my sewing will likely remain limited to the immediately useful–masks and surgical caps for donation.