CAN CLOTHING CHANGE YOUR LIFE? CAN IT CHANGE THE PLANET?
Notes on fashion, organic clothing and life
DOWN THE MEMORY LANE
When I worked in an engineering office my closet was full of suits. Nice, coordinated, and… boring. I felt as the suit gave me a presence in a male dominated space; it was literally my "suit of armor".
Occasionally a young female architect came by our office. She dressed ”outrageously” (as defined by our conservative firm). She showed skin, wore clothes never found in Macy's and created a stir between my male colleagues with each visit. Interestingly, once I got to know her better, I found her to be the sweetest, shyest person and her provocative dressing was her suit of armor for the world.
I quit my job when kids came and gave the suits away. In time, we started renovating houses and sturdy denim became my uniform. I remember one day coming home drenched in construction dust, showering and quickly changing into a formal evening gown. How bizarre it felt to switch personalities by merely switching clothes.
Dressing for occupation or lifestyle makes decisions simple. But kids grow up, jobs come and go. If you can wear anything, what do you choose? You must have stood in front of full closet, thinking “what should I wear?” at least once. Or twice…
I invite you to treat getting dressed as a simple tool of self-discovery. For me, it helps me with the process of re-defining who I am, what I love. Each time we change our hairdo or try a new dress, don’t we re-invent ourselves in some manner? People die with regrets ”I wish I would have...". Why don’t we find out what makes us happy sooner? We are interesting creatures - probably never truly understood by others. Even more curious, we spend a lifetime trying to find ourselves – while we are the only ones holding the answer.
There are hundreds of guides of “What To Wear”, “How To Look The Best”. However, the question is: Who determines “the Best”? Which standards do we use? It can be confusing. I hear from our clients that when a daughter or a friend wants to borrow their outfit, that’s the best compliment. Naturally, so. We feel admired, relevant, young at heart.
Yet, the paradox is - we strive so hard to fit within our culture or group, while quietly craving to express our individuality. Which side do you give more priority? No wrong or right here. The only thing that matters is that your message is yours. Unique, just like you. Take time to understand it. It is important.
There were times when I considered fashion to be quite shallow. I don't think that any more. Clothing can be a tool of expression, learning, as well as being fun. How about looking in a mirror and saying “This is me. There is not a single thing wrong with me. I love my two ears, love my round belly. We have been together for a while and this body has been a great friend. Now, what clothes would represent Me today?” Don’t strive for an imaginary “best”. Focus on being true to who you really are.
Marie Kondo wrote a fabulous little book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, advising us to keep only the items in the closet that give us joy. That makes so much sense! Honestly, on a tough day, the main thing that gets me out of bed is having fun of choosing the outfit. The little TLC, a small gift of joy to myself.
When we give up our right to decide to others, even a fashion or health guru, we give up our birth right to knowing who we are. We think that somebody else is more qualified to decide for us. That there is some arbitrary perfect look, some “perfect” behavior we “should” exhibit. Why? There are no brownies for that. You don’t tell a friend “your nose should be … thinner, fatter, shorter etc. etc. …” But we do it to ourselves all the time. Think of that! Nobody is an expert on You and your nose IS perfect because it’s yours!
When my Mom says, “Well, I wish I could go but I have to work in the garden”, she believes she must do it. That there is an imaginary foreman waiting for her. I respond “Mom, say – I want to work in the garden”. She looks at me puzzled like I was speaking Chinese.
THE TEST – WALK THE TALK
How about doing what you want? How about saying, feeling, wearing what you want? Let’s live the way we want to, starting with any decision, like the color of the belt! I noticed that my wardrobe varies from “public” days and private, when only my family, my goats and chickens are the witness. I want to be consistent so I started a project of unifying my life and wardrobe. Not easy. I have lots clothes (as a store owner, I test what I sell). I don’t give up garments easily and the ones I have are timeless and hold up well – it’s a blessing as well as a curse!
So, I take the least favorite piece, try it in different arrangements until the decision is obvious. It either works or not. The key is, I allow myself to have extra morning minutes to play with clothes and not feel guilty. I allow myself to start the day playing! Isn’t that priceless?
WHAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW
I hope the information below might be of help to you. I am passionate about organic living because adding toxins to my family life and the world, seems senseless, dangerous and reckless. I have sensitive skin and react negatively to chemicals in clothing and synthetics. I don’t understand why we are bombarded with these.
TOXIC CLOTHES - I despise plastic. Wearing polyester clothing is literally like wearing a plastic bag. Outside the fact that polyester is made of crude oil and tremendously damaging to earth, it is bad for our health. You sweat in polyester with no ventilation, so all the sweat and eliminated harmful substances get reabsorbed into your skin, promoting bacteria growth. So it stinks. Literally.
But that’s not all. Polyester is created by breaking up its source – oil, by a reaction with harmful chemicals, most of them carcinogens and poisonous like ethylene glycol. Imagine what it takes to break down crude oil to make a thread. If you ever tried to wash the oily stains from the car rags, you know nothing gentle will accomplish it. It takes heavy duty chemicals. If you get hot, itchy and uncomfortable when putting a polyester item on, this could be a contributing reason.
NATURAL TEXTILES - I love linen, hemp, ramie (a form of nettles). They breathe. They are the most revered textiles in the history of the world, have been used in ancient Egypt, China, Greece. These textiles have an imperfect texture, which gives the colors unique shading. I bet that if Atlantis really existed, linen fashion was the rave there! I think that the thousands of years our bodies were wrapped safely in linen or ramie created symbiosis that will last forever. Even if wrinkled, linen feels and looks expensive, classy and timeless. Even if linen crumples, I love it even more because frankly, we crumple too. So, we match:-)
SUSTAINABLE CLOTHES – We cannot drill crude oil, the prime source of polyester, forever with impunity. But we can grow plants sustainably to be the source of fiber – such as flax (source of linen), hemp, organic cotton and more. We can even compost our healthy clothing when worn out. The earth does not have to suffer because of us.
Polyester, like any plastic, does not compost. It disintegrates in tiny particles, eventually making its way to our rivers, oceans and water we drink. To our fish, which chokes on it and thru that fish back to us. It impacts young fish of all species. A2015 study estimated that about 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans annually (Science Feb 13, 2015). Needless to say, we do not carry polyester in our store.
ECO-FRIENDLY ORGANIC CLOTHES – Even though natural fibers are the best choice, the responsibility does not end there. Textiles industry are the second dirtiest industry after oil. Growing conventional cotton requires using enormous amounts of dangerous pesticides, with shocking estimates of 1/3 lb. used per one tee shirt. To supposedly “fix” that, much of grown cotton planted now is GMO, Genetically Modified Organism which cannot be re-seeded and is sold by greedy corporate sharks. Cotton uses tremendous amounts of water for processing so the manufacturing methods are of outmost importance.
Global Organic Textile Standards, G.O.T.S., is one of the most respected standards. They ensure that the fiber is grown in organic, non-GMO manner and the industry produces garments to with the lowest possible impact on earth, as well as people. In our store, we carry only textiles that are either certified organic or are grown in organic manner.
HEALTH ISSUES - Autoimmune shortcomings and sensitivities are very real for me, personally. I swell silly with bug bites and must avoid many foods. Ten years ago, when I started Natural Clothing Company, I had no idea how much people suffer because of conventional clothing. Now, each day I receive phone calls with questions and searches for safe clothing. Personally, it took me years to discover that not only allergic foods but also conventional textiles make me sick. Many non-organic textiles, even natural fibers like conventional cotton, are made using numerous additives and especially toxic finishes. These help the fibers bind together better, giving the initial appearance of a higher quality product. The impression is temporary, however, as after few washes the garment falls apart. In a meantime, the chemicals are absorbed by your skin, the body’s largest organ, and create havoc for your immune system. Many industrial dyes are heavy with chemicals, seriously harmful and even potentially cancer producing. You can read reports on our website, prepared for Greenpeace, which richly document that many top world and US fashion manufacturers are producing toxic clothes and harmful no-wrinkle finishes and flame retardants (read formaldehyde).
You don’t hear much about toxic clothes but it’s worth understanding. I just watched an Irish video about traditional ways of making linen, which said that in 18th century, adding anything to linen fibers other than water and sun was punishable by death! That’s how important it was to keep the purity of textiles. That law is long gone but that does not mean that poisons in our clothes are OK. We need and deserve clean food, water and clothes that nourish and serve us, not cause harm.
Organic standards are crucial for our health-being. It simply means “not poisoned”. In our store cotton garments are made only with organic cotton and all garments use low impact dyes, the safest method of dyeing. Several tee shirts are even made with clay dyes. It is our hope and a belief that all products in the world should be safe to use and that we, as consumers, need to demand and support clean choices, so in a short time that would be a standard everywhere.
ETHICAL CLOTHES - WHO MADE MY CLOTHES?
The textile industry employs millions of people around the globe. The majority gets paid pennies for their work while slaving in unsafe conditions. I enjoy a good bargain like anybody else but I cherish even more knowing that my purchases did not harm somebody else. If a garment worker gets paid only pennies, that is slavery, not work. How could I feel good wearing it?
“Who Made My Clothes?” is the question that needs to be asked. Products that are Fair Trade, Fair Labor or made in countries with strong labor laws guarantee workers’ rights. Simply put, in order to pay ethical wages, the garment must carry a higher price. So we, as consumers, must be willing to pay an honest price. If the t-shirt costs few dollars and is not Fair Trade certified, then it was probably made in a sweatshop. Would you really want it?
CHANGING YOUR LIFE
Living healthy, living fairly in the 21st century is a challenge for all of us. I love nature and grow my food. I wear organic clothes and support community but I don’t profess to have all the answers for solving the upside-down system.
I don’t have easy solutions to stop the
toxic load that our civilization imposes on our air, waters and soils. But I do know that caring about ethical clothes will cause more good than harm to our bodies, to others and to our planet.
There are a lot of us – people of good will, who ask questions, who observe and try to do the right things. The majority of our customers do that. If you are still reading this, you obviously care. And one thing we can do is to continue to keep repeat the message of needing, wanting and demanding a clean life and a safe environment for ourselves and fellow human beings.
At Natural Clothing Company, we develop relationships with manufacturers who make their products honestly and with care. Many, like us, are members of Green America, the oldest network of green businesses. We verify to the best we can and we trust their methods to be responsible. We give preference to certified organic fibers and Fair-Trade practices. And we are so proud that you insist on values you believe in, as well.
It is crucial. We have one life and one body. From a small girl playing with hair styles to now, we make a difference. As consumers, we dictate the textile trends. Current estimates say that for 2025, 98% of all fiber will be synthetics. If that’s what we all want, that’s what we’ll get. But let’s clearly understand what we want and love.
As long as we keep refining who we are and what we value, we will be fine. Every action, every aspect of our being, even clothes, takes us to where we want to go. If your soul calls for a connection with nature, with clean air and water, with a healthy body – then give this message a voice, now. Together, we do make a difference!
Please, feel free to forward this to your friends and family that might find benefit in this article. Thank you!