Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fashion Whys?

* Why do so many people buy (literally and figuratively) into "they" (who are they?) telling us what the "must haves" are this season and we should purchase the latest "trend" (but don't wear it next year, you'll be out of style!) If something is a "must have" perhaps "they" should send us all one - for free.
* Why should we drool over and purchase expensive fashion way beyond our means. No matter how much I love an article of clothing, I'll inevitably tire of it or no longer fit into it and pass it on. How many $100 skirts and tops did I used to buy at Anthropologie, seduced by catalogues of women basking in a French farmhouse or in a field? How I wish I had the cash instead. Those purchases were frivolous looking back, not a "splurge" or "treating myself" - my old way of thinking.
* Similarly, that if a celebrity is wearing something, you should go out and get it too. I hear all the time in the vegan community that an expensive coat or shoes have been worn by vegans such as Emily Deschanel, Alicia Silverstone and Natalie Portman so we should be coveting them. I understand the marketing value in our celebrity obsessed culture, however, I DO NOT have their bank account, nor do the majority of women.
* Why do we think that just because something markets itself as "eco-friendly" it must be. Are "natural" food products all really "natural?" A colleague who works in marketing expressed his view that Americans cannot tie themselves to a social movement (we were talking about the environmental cause) unless consumerism is attached. We definitely want to support companies that reflect our values, but we need to do our homework or it's buyer beware.
For instance, bamboo is still regularly promoted on environmentally minded blogs, but the FTC has issued numerous advisories on it (such as this one).
* Why should people interested incorporating veganism more into their life get rid of perfectly good non-vegan items in their closets that were purchased before becoming interested in animal welfare? I still have non-vegan items in my household I bought years ago, and use them unapologetically. I will even acquire non-vegan items second hand through swaps and thrift. I don't let any activist shame me for my decisions or let them try to micromanage my life.
*Why does the label affixed to the clothing or accessory have such an impact on how we view it? How much of it is psychological? Recall the I Love Lucy story of Lucy, Ethel and those "Jacques Marcel" dresses. While browsing at a consignment shop, two women were shopping and one announced the label of every item of clothing she picked up from the rack. Even once declaring, "Made in Italy!"

One major source of clothing for me now: seasonal clothing swaps I co-organize with two lovely co-workers. Leftovers went to charitable thrift shops, including New York City's Housing Works, and the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop in Weswood, New Jersey.

We provide light refreshments during the lunch hour swaps from wallet and vegan-friendly Trader Joe's. For fall: olive hummus and reduced guilt pita chips; pomegranate sparkling cider and spiced apple cider, maple leaf and snickerdoodle cookies, and apples.

Here are some of my finds.

I recently saw vegan sweaters touted on a popular vegan fashion blog. The cheapest one: $150. My "new" Heather B vegan sweater for fall/winter, free.

A cotton Old Navy skirt. Loved the autumn-inspired leaf pattern, and the whimsical pink trim.

The cheerful polka-dot shoes from Nine West, never worn; a black cotton cardigan, American Eagle Outfitters, and a Janette John 3:16 cotton dress that someone brought back from the last swap since it didn't fit her. I'm wearing the dress in fall with boots, leggings and a cardigan, and will pair it with ballet flats in spring and summer.

Lest you think I'm immune to the label lunacy: I confess this story to be true. This top was put out as a "preview" item early the day of the swap to advertise. No one claimed it before or during the swap, until my coworker who brought it in said, "You should take it, it's from Anthropologie." Suddenly, it was more attractive. I did take it, and have worn it with a long sleeve white Banana Republic swap shirt underneath. It goes perfectly with my Old Navy skirt.

Consider hosting a swap of your own for frugal fun everyone can enjoy in today's economic climate. Swap with friends, co-workers, family members - anyone! Include beauty products, gift items like candles and frames, and accessories so everyone can find something if there's an excess of one size. Donate the leftovers to a charitable shop (find one through

This female blogger's "in's": financial empowerment, embracing your own sense of style, a closet (and household) filled with only items you truly are using and love, and independent thinking. Out: uniform thinking, living beyond our means, trends and "must have's."


ConsciouslyFrugal said...

I have another "why": Why is it considered frugal to buy cheap (both cost and quality) clothes made by children in developing nations? I always thought "frugal" encompassed the concepts of thrift, respect (for resources and people) and quality.

Catherine @ The Vegan Good Life said...

Precisely why I love your blog's title - "Consciously Frugal" - which asks such questions, because we must be frugal and money-minded with a conscience. Many "cheap" things come at a cost to laborers, animals, the environment, health and so on.

It's hard to make ideal choices all the time with anything, and it's difficult for the consumer to know conditions in factories. I do on occasion buy something new (usually shoes after I've looked extensively for second-hand).

No matter what my income level is, though, as much as possible, I'll strive to acquire already-produced clothes and items and pass on unwanted ones for reuse so not to contribute to the demand for new items and labor conditions I can never be sure of.

ConsciouslyFrugal said...

That's why I love how well you promote buying (or swapping!) used items. We can't always know what the conditions are for workers and it seems like we make fewer and fewer things as a nation these days. Used items are just the best way to go!

And I gotta say--you always get the best stuff. These clothes are adorable.

Catherine @ The Vegan Good Life said...

Thanks on all accounts! Since we live (sadly) in the land of excess, I never worry I won't have a supply of cute second-hand options available to me. I'm also very grateful I have co-workers who lug in all their clothes and accessories into the office for the swaps.

Swaps are rewarding because you instantly see how grateful people are for items that were lingering in closets unworn by others. I've also spotted people excitedly buying our donations at the C.A.T.S. shop which benefits homeless cats and dogs.

In the end - I think if you let go of items, the universe gives back.