Guilt. Shame. Judgment. Insecurity. Anxiety. Feeling left out.
These are all feelings that come up when we talk about Slow Fashion, when we talk about how fast fashion is damaging to the environment, to fair labor, and more.
This year, Karen Templer, who graciously organizes Slow Fashion October, posted this in the guidelines:
The most important thing I can emphasize is this isn’t about judgment. We all have different opinions and resources and time and wishes and skills — we are each on our own path. ...[W]hat matters is just to be talking and thinking about it, and doing whatever is desirable and possible for you.
And yet. People still feel these feelings of being left out of the conversation, or shamed for their making/wearing choices. Two posts stood out to me this week on this topic of inclusivity and where this movement goes as a whole:
Why I'm Not Participating in Slow Fashion October from Knitted Bliss
Slow Fashion and Longevity from Temple of Knit
How can I possibly re-work my closet to be ethical and sustainable when I'm on a tight budget? It's just too expensive.
I love to knit/sew/make, but I can't afford the luxury of fancy ethical/sustainable/organic fibers.
I'd love to make everything in my wardrobe, but I don't have the time.
I want to wear only sustainable/eco/ethical clothes, but I have a dress code to follow at work.
All excellent points. It can often feel like Slow Fashion is there to tell us what we should be doing, how we should be conforming to some seemingly unattainable ideal that is possible only for someone with more time/money/talent/skill than us.
And, these worries that we have are universal. Don't think for a second that the "cool kids" who look like they have all their shit together on Instagram don't have these feelings too. They're human feelings that we all feel at one point or another.
But to pigeonhole Slow Fashion October into a movement that is only for those who have the resources is to ignore the small ways in which we can all make changes for the better. And if people feel left out of the conversation, the movement has a limited scope. And these are issues that affect everyone.
Slow Fashion is about mindfulness, not judgment or a proscribed set of rules. If we can be mindful of what we purchase, that's a huge step in putting the buying decision back in our own hands instead of following the lead of carefully crafted marketing campaigns. If we can be mindful of what we discard, we can start to think about whether they should be "thrown away" or "repurposed." Even if all we can do is be mindful that someone, somewhere, made the clothes on our backs, that's mindfulness, and it counts.
The idea that only certain people with enough time/money/skill/resources can participate in Slow Fashion October is simply not true. You don't have to purchase special materials or buy expensive clothes or shop only at thrift stores. Here are five ways you can participate in Slow Fashion October without breaking the bank:
Knit/make from your stash
Most crafters have a "stash" of some sort - materials stored up to use later. I say, if it's already in your stash, it doesn't matter what it's made of, where it was made, or how much it cost. Buy using something you already have, you're generating less waste, and that totally counts towards Slow Fashion.
Work on a WIP
WIPs, or Works in Progress, are the epitome of Slow Fashion. Whether they've been hibernating three weeks, three years, or three decades, nothing says Slow Fashion like restarting an old project.
Refashion/repurpose things you already have
I'll be the first to admit that refashioning old clothes is a skill I lack, but mostly because I haven't tried it yet. My latest obsession (pictured above) is cutting up the old, worn things around my house that are destined for the trash/thrift store anyways. Since neither is the ideal way to discard old items, working with these textiles offers unlimited opportunity - with no cost to me.
Buy from the source (or trade/barter)
Fiber farmers are some of the friendliest folk. They're always happy to share what they know, talk about their animals, and what goes into making their fiber products. Often,the products on display are priced "high" because there are a lot of costs associated with making them, and the farmers need to make a living. But if you're friendly and polite and ask if there are any more affordable materials they have for sale, they might just have something more affordable tucked away.
For spinners who also knit or weave, I find that buying roving (or even a fleece) directly from fiber farmers offers a great way to stretch my money and still participate in Slow Fashion. For $30, I bought a pound of good wool that was enough to keep me spinning for a month, and gave me a sweater's worth of yarn to knit with. Thirty bucks for a true Slow Fashion sweater isn't much more than you would pay for a fast fashion one - and it has a fun story behind it. And, if you don't have direct access to a fiber farmer, there's always the Internet, where there's tons of opportunity to find affordable, quality fiber.
Buy USA/Canada made materials where you can
Believe it or not, there are still inexpensive yarns made in the USA and Canada. And if your yarn was made here, you know two things: First, the people making it were at least paid the minimum wage. Second, the factory making the yarn had to meet basic environmental and safety regulations. These two things are huge steps toward breaking the cycle of destruction that is inherent in fast fashion. And these yarns are available at big box craft stores.
Slow Fashion is available to everyone. Don't let fear, judgment, or feelings of inadequacy keep you from participating. We can all start where we are without judgment. What's important is that we start, and we keep on going.