Tailor Your Wardrobe

My tailor and I have philosophical differences about two-way zippers. I don’t even know if that’s their technical name but you know what I’m talking about, right? Zippers with two thing-a-ma-bobbies on ‘em so you can zip the coat closed with the top ‘ma-bobbie and then open it from the bottom with the bottom ‘ma-bobbie. Great for sitting.

Why would a tailor, a veritable master of the use of fabrics, not like two-way zippers? Perhaps he’s a purist, or even a Luddite, and thinks even a single zipper is an abomination. The zipper led to the gear and the gear led to the automobile! Clothes should be tied on god damn it!

For the record, my tailor is a soft-spoken gentlemen who owns a shop in the Benton Park West neighborhood of St. Louis. I’ve only used him twice, so please don’t think he stitches custom-made clothing for me. I had the aforementioned two-way zipper put onto a fleece whose original zipper had bit it and had a pair of way-too-long jeans hemmed that I got for five freakin’ dollars from Old Navy. He did a great job on both.

I own too many clothes and tend to replace things more frequently than I should. I’m also fairly certain these clothes reproduce on their own but no one will buy that theory. I wonder if I covered each item in a dry cleaner style plastic wrap these would act as clothing condoms. So . . . when I decided to repair my fleece instead of just buying a new one, I felt a small bit of pride. The tailor charged almost what a new fleece would have cost – this one was of the Target variety – but there was nothing wrong with it besides the zipper issue.

What’s the point of this rambling? As I’ve mentioned before, I receive The Green Life newsletter from Sierra Club. In a recent series of posts the newsletter has focused on greening one’s wardrobe. The manufacture and distribution of clothing not a very green process. First of all, most of it is made overseas and needs to be shipped to the U.S. Second, the materials used are generally not very sustainable. The implications of putting people in developing nations out of work is a topic for another post. Admittedly, in the most simplistic way, I’m prioritizing environmental sustainability over social sustainability.

So, what should you do to green your wardrobe? Two things: buy vintage and take note of materials. The first idea is not a new one. Resale shops are becoming more common every day and they offer all styles and qualities of clothing. Frequent them and you’ll be surprised. I’m going to make a more concerted effort to preserve the clothing I have and buy “new” clothing in a more sustainable way. The second idea requires a little education, the bulk of which I’ll leave to the Sierra Club:

Buying used is greener, but if you do buy new clothes, at least make sure they’re made of sustainable material. Bamboo and hemp (much more comfy than they sound) are planet-friendly because both plants quickly regenerate and are easily grown without pesticides (hemp’s downside is that it must be imported since it’s illegal to grow in the U.S.). Organic cotton is another decent option; though cotton is a water-intensive crop, the organic variety at least forgoes the polluting chemicals. There have been developments in fabrics made of recycled stuff, including plastic bottles (Revenge Is is super soft) and other fibers (try Gramicci). Buying clothes from companies that donate to environmental charities and manufacturers that offset are other ways to vote green with your wallet. What to avoid? Synthetic fibers (polyester, vinyl, nylon), animal products (leather, suede), and cellulose materials (rayon). For more, check out Lucky‘s April issue.

Make note of the what to avoid list. Each material on this list is terrible in a different way; some require oil and some are produced through very violent and terribly resource-heavy processes. I would add wool to this list as well. Most of it is sourced in a way that’s worse than leather and suede, as sheep are filled with drugs to over produce wool and are repeatedly subject to misery and torture as opposed to just dying once for the sake of a pair of shoes or a purse. I’m guilty of owning some of these synthetic fabrics but am doing my best to replace them – when necessary – with more sustainably made clothing. I hope you do the same.


  1. Sage

    What if we just gave up on the notion that we need to look different every single day, and adopted a very limited set of clothes we wash and wear daily? Or be like Einstein and have a set of identical outfits to choose from. My rationale is here.

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