W345: Wardrobe Research

The following is a guest post by Lee of Greengalsglobal. Although this research is not something I would undertake, I appreciate that someone is looking at this and I hope that it is something that is taken much further. Statistically, clothing in the United States is a major consumer product. The Average Household Spent $1,760 on Clothes in 2007.
IN THE CLOSET :: Know your clothing
June 12th, 2008
Posted by: Lee

On April 20, 2008 I went into my closet and cut all the content and care labels out of my clothes. My idea was to use these in an artwork about global warming. We can lessen the impact that our clothing has on the environment by examining clothing content labels closely. After examining my own clothes I thought, “what have I done all my life?” I have been oblivious to the fundamentals of clothing and had not been as aware as I had hoped.

My vintage clothes didn’t have any content labels so I gathered that we have made big improvements with clothing regulations. One vintage label said, “This jacket can only be washed by specialized cleaners.” I guess that was the early stages of dry cleaning.

My outdoor clothing didn’t come close to being earthy at all. My “sin-chilla” did me wrong. All my waterproof gear put a drain on my sense of green. Hey, when did canvas become nylon and how much polypropylene can girl own? Breathable, but perhaps not environmentally bearable.

The brand names that made me feel good – names geared to ignite emotions of pure love, goodness, hope and peace – made me cringe when I read some of the materials used and the distance they travelled to get to me.

I have some long underwear made of Cap-eye-lene. And, sorry to say that most of my wool sweaters have acrylic in them. My little black dress is rayon, like bamboo, regenerated natural cellulose turned into a man-made “fiber.”

I have a few items with 10% steel in them, how bold is that? There is a pair of yoga pants made of hemp that made perfect sense. I am now very proud of my USA made organic fleece hoodie.

It took some work, unfolding, finding the tag, cutting gently so as not to cut a hole, refolding again and again. I thought about how we are beginning to work on making our clothing, from field to final wear, green. We are discovering what questions to ask:
  • Where are our clothes made (domestic or overseas?)
  • What are our clothes made of (man-made or natural content?)
  • How are our clothes made (processing and production methods?)
  • How do our clothes get to us (how far has it traveled?)
  • How long will our clothing last (materials and trends?)
  • How is our clothing cared for (care instructions and durability?)
  • What type of businesses are we supporting? (transparency?)
By knowing more about materials and methods we can contribute to a healthier environment by making our choices heard. As I learn to read clothing labels I imagine “my look” will be changing. I imagine clothing producers will have to follow suit.

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