I recently picked up a free paperback copy of Wear No Evil: How to Change the World With Your Wardrobe by Greta Eagan. I get pretty much all of my clothing secondhand, and I try my utmost to purchase only natural fibers, so for some time I've considered myself pretty green in the wardrobe arena. In fact, Ms. Eagan puts this at the eco-warrior, or second, level. Even so, the knowledge I have gained from this book makes me feel more empowered and prepared for when I go clothes shopping at the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or DAV. (I passed a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store a few weeks ago, and I think I need to check that out, too.)
Did you know that the average T-shirt requires 700 gallons of water to produce? Just one shirt! And because many of the techniques and toxic chemicals used to process and dye that shirt are illegal in the US, it is done overseas where laws are less stringent, and the waste is simply dumped into the local streams and rivers where it is later used as drinking and washing water by the unsuspecting folk down the way. There is just so much wrong with this picture.
There are 16 points in what Eagan calls the integrity index. She doesn't ask you to follow all 16, though, which would be nigh impossible. She simply asks you to pick the 4 that resonate with you and use them as a guide. If an article of clothing you are considering purchasing hits 2 of them, as I do automatically, good for you! The first is pretty much a gimme since it is "Style," meaning if you like it and it looks good on you, buy it. If not, don't buy it. This should be easy, but all too many people do not take this into consideration when purchasing their wardrobes. (It boggles the mind.)
If it looks good, you like it, and it's made from a natural fiber, like cotton, congratulations. You are an eco-citizen. If it looks good, you like it, is made from a natural fiber, and comes from a thrift store, you are an eco-warrior. Add in one more, such as it's organic, made locally, or supports a charity, then you are upgraded to eco-guru. Really, it's that simple. Any combination of the 16 can be substituted for any that I've mentioned (that is just the route I generally take). Except for "Style." Style is a must. Eagan calls "Style" your home base and sets up the levels of eco-ness in the shape of a baseball diamond, in fact calling it the Diamond Diagram. Who in America isn't familiar with how bases work? Uh-huh.
Chapter has been extremely useful to me. It is devoted to the Closet Cleanse, something I try to do at least once a year, but don't usually have a defined outline of how to go about it. I usually just keep what fits and can be used as work clothes, then donate the rest to friends or thrift stores. I've acquired a number of pieces from friends doing the same, which I thought was working out pretty well. Then I realized, as I used chapter 4 in Wear No Evil as my guide, that a lot of pieces that I had acquired this way I didn't actually like very much or consider to be my own style. I just took them because they were free, fit, and I could wear them to work because they didn't have any pictures or logos on them. A few were all right, but didn't really fit my body type (I have a long torso, and I don't like exposing my tummy because I think it's rather tacky), and others I really just didn't like. So why were they in my closet?
Well, they aren't anymore! I filled one paper grocery bag with clothes bound for Goodwill, and another with clothes I hope to sell at a consignment shop since I really did have some great pieces that were difficult to part with until I finally accepted that they don't fit, probably won't fit for a while, and I only wore them once or twice to begin with. They were really just taking up space, and it made me sad when I caught side of them poking out of the back, as if to say, "Hey, remember when...?" I really think they were holding me back.
This isn't only a book about how or where to buy your clothes. It goes on to include accessories, the right fit for your body type, the best colors that will help make you glow, sleepwear, underwear, hosiery, footwear, and even leather jackets. Above all else, this is a fashion book written by a fashionista, who also happens to be environmentally and sustainably conscious.
But it isn't just the environment we're talking about here. There are countries that still use slave labor to harvest cotton. How else do you think you got that cotton T-shirt for so cheap? There are prices to cheap fashion, we just aren't usually confronted by them.
Right now, so many people are concerned and vocal about what we're putting into our bodies, whether it's organic, GMO-free, sustainably raised, etc. Why aren't we more concerned about what we're putting on our bodies? Our clothing is right next to our skin. It helps us to define who we are, what we do, what we are about, and what we want other people to know about us right in the first glance. We should be concerned about where it comes from and where it goes once we're through with it.
To learn more about Greta Eagan and what she has to say on the world of eco-fashion, check out her site Fashion Me Green.