Last week — after 6 blissful weeks home with the kids swimming, creating, wandering and slack lining — I returned to my humble cubicle. It. Was. Rough.
Exchanging vitamin D-soaked days for air conditioning and fluorescent lighting; day dreaming with kiddos for beaurocracy and deadlines; garden-time for screen-time; casual outdoor adventures for alarm clocks and bus commutes — and my beloved barefoot summertime uniform for work attire. Admittedly, I am spoiled by summertime simplicity, so the thought of having to put on pants and footwear was devastating (and no, I’m not exaggerating).
BUT, rather than whine about it, I’m choosing to do a thrifty second-hand back-to-work fashion montage on a slack line (hey, why not?!)!!!
I’m not a shopper – I prefer comfort over fashion, thrift over brands, and eco over ego 100%. I’m more of a barefoot 30-something working mama going zero waste (…who really belongs on a beach…)
After a summer spent shoeless in a bathing suit and tank top, I’m transitioning back to office attire that I can feel good in (and can still move in, hence the slack line)! For the past few years, I’ve committed to buying Nothing New. This hasn’t been difficult as I’ve always preferred to buy second hand – partly out of thriftiness, partly for the creativity it allows (e.g. rather than copying an outfit put together on a mannequin), and hugely because it is a more ethical and eco-conscious choice that makes me feel good. See my earlier post on thrifted footwear. I’m also fortunate to have like-minded friends who pass on hand-me-downs (thanks, LB!).
That said, if and when I’m in need of something New, I intend to seek out locally made, slow fashion items — a shopping trend that I’m happy to say is growing in Canada (and the world)! Check out the links below to sustainable, Made in Canada businesses — also look for some of these popular hashtags on instagram for motivation #WhoMadeMyClothes #sustainablefashion #fashionrevolution #slowfashionmovement
While second-hand clothing may not guarantee support of ethical, eco-conscious fashion (i.e. many fast fashion brands [think Zara, Joe Fresh, H&M, etc.] don’t last long in closets as consumers are pressured to buy more, follow trends, etc.), at least buying used extends the life of these often short-lived garments and doesn’t directly perpetuate childhood labour, unethical working conditions and negative impacts on the planet associated with disposable fashion.
For more details, stats and tips, check out the references at the end of this post…
And in the meantime, here are some of my go-to work outfits, sourced entirely from Value Village or swaps with friends/family. [Please note, I am no fashionista… just striving for simple, comfortable and non-restrictive work appropriate items… that I can also slack line, hand stand and/or hula hoop in…]
The first attempt at capturing my thrifty wardrobe on camera went something like this — ultimately, posing for my husband, 4 and 6 year old felt… hmmm… just mutually AWKWAAAAARD!!! Hahaha
And so, we moved the photo shoot to the back yard slack line [Special thank you to my mom, who stood in the wet grass for about 30 minutes while I sprinted through some wardrobe changes and slack lining]
That photo shoot was much more natural for me… though of course I would prefer to be shoeless 😉
In the end, I realized THIS type of fashion photo shoot (below) would have been *much* simpler… but also *much* less hilarious… (excuse the wrinkles – folding clothes is not a strong suit of mine…)
These wardrobe items are not new to my closet – I’ve been wearing most of these pieces for years… To me, the whole back-to-work or back-to-school mania does not necessitate shopping sprees for more stuff or new stuff. I’ll buy when items are truly needed (and can’t be sourced from elsewhere), not just because it’s September and everyone’s rushing to the stores in a panic because purple is the colour of the month.
The grey leather purse by Mariclaro was a splurge I made at Etsy Made in Canada last fall – an item I had been looking specifically for: a recycled leather purse, made in Canada. Mariclaro offers a lot of really cool bags, all made of recycled materials like car seats — and construction takes place within 2 hours of Ottawa! This year’s Ottawa-edition of Etsy Made in Canada is coming up, so if you’re nearby, check it out!
No need to buy new clothes to refresh your wardrobe. Accessories or a few versatile pieces can really go a long way. Try thrift shopping or swapping with friends. Or for items you’re not going to wear multiple times, you can look into rentals — check out Rent Frock Repeat for high-end dresses and gowns (for me, this idea is brilliant because it’s not often I need to wear a gown). Less truly IS more.
Ultimately, wear what feels GOOD.
Random little note: the gold t-shirt dress thrifted from Value Village is ALSO made in Canada… most likely in the 60’s based on the retro fabric haha — but I Love it.
Unbelievable little note: the fuschia dress (Nine West) was actually destined for the trash! Seemed like it had never been worn and someone was going to toss it (not sell it, donate it, swap it… just straight up trash). BANANAS! Especially since there are numerous charitable organizations that offer to pick up clothing (and household items) for free… See the list at the end of this post
Check out these Made in Canada ethical/sustainable shops:
- Salts (Victoria)
- Wallis Evera (Vancouver)
- Seedyoga (Calgary)
- Encircled (Toronto)
- Mariclaro (near Perth, Ontario)
- Oom Ethikwear (Montreal)
Specifically, check out all their mission statements and/or ‘about us’ pages. Inspiring stuff — sometimes they’ll even tell you who sewed each garment! Sure, the price tags may be slightly higher than what you’ll find for box store imports, but when you think of the environmental impact, local job creation, and high quality of these items, it’s truly a feel-good purchase that will last.
There are surely a bazillion others, so if there’s any I’ve missed, please add a comment or send me a note and I can expand the list!
A few good reads (and listens) on the Slow Fashion Movement:
- What happens when fashion becomes fast, disposable and cheap (NPR)
- Ethical Shopping Guide (National Post)
- Slow Fashion : We can all afford to slow down (Green Living)
- 35 Fair Trade & Ethical Clothing Brands Betting Against Fast Fashion (World wide)
- Podcast by Katy Bowman – Katy Says, Episode 27 “Fashion Movement”
DON’T TOSS IT!!!! What to do with un-wanted clothes?
- drop off at your local Value Village or other thrift store
- donate women’s work attire to Dress for Success , a non-profit providing support and professional attire to local women
- donate menswear to Suits His Style (in Ottawa), a non-profit supporting employment opportunities for local men
- seek out a consignment store, like AMH Style in Ottawa (where you could actually get some $ back)
- organize a clothing swap with friends/family/community
- list the item(s) on Freecycle, or a Buy Nothing network/ Facebook Group, or via other community groups
- donate in support of the Canadian Diabetes Association by locating a Clothesline program drop-box (they’re all over Ottawa!) or you can even call them and they will pick up from your home for free!
- donate in support of the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy by calling for a free pick up!
- find a buyer on kijiji or through a Nothing New Facebook group
- cut up old clothing to be made into rags, baby burp cloths, reusable gift wrap or check out Nature Prenatal, where old t-shirts can be made into reusable cloth pads!