Episode 190: Why New Clothes Are Kinda Garbage, part 3

New clothes ARE kinda garbage these days, from low quality synthetic fabrics to zippers that are a problem from the very first wear to lack of detail and poor fit.  And the low quality and short lifespan of this clothing is creating an environmental and ethical crisis for the planet and its people. 

Why are these clothes just so bad? In this three part series, Amanda breaks down the hidden reasons that new clothing is kinda garbage. This episode covers the following:

  • How the illusion of free shipping is widening economic inequality AND driving down the quality of the things we buy.
  • Yep, the nonstop parade of DEALZ DEALZ DEALZ is also responsible for a sharp decrease in clothing quality.
  • Less people working on creating more clothes=very disappointing clothes.
  • We just keep buying these garbage clothes (so the companies are going to make more until we stop).

We’ll also hear an amazing audio message from Caroline and talk about how we can change our habits and buy less stuff!

Delias 1996 Winter Catalog
Learn more about the Fashion Act

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February 29, 8pm EST.  Free (but please support Clotheshorse via Ko-fi if you enjoy yourself)!
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Transcript

Welcome to Clotheshorse, the podcast that is getting really into turtlenecks right now.

I’m your host, Amanda and this is episode 190.

This is part THREE in a series about “why new clothes are kinda garbage these days.”

 

So, yes, this week we are continuing to unpack why new clothes have become total garbage over the past 15-ish years. There are so many reasons to talk about this, right? For one, if we’re just going to allow ourselves to be selfish for a moment, it’s terrible for customers. Nothing fits well. Nothing lasts long. And we’re constantly having to replace items, so we’re spending money on clothes that could be better spent on just about anything else! Furthermore (and maybe this is just my issue because I am so sensitive), these clothes depress me.  They eat away at my self esteem.  Because of course, I tend to blame the bad fit or lack of longevity on myself, I blame myself for the fact that these clothes are so crappy in the first place.  Ironic, because I actually KNOW that these clothes are crappy.  

 

But beyond ourselves, the garbage-y nature of clothing is a pretty big deal because this low quality is actually fueling overconsumption and a growing environmental crisis caused by an unsustainable volume of clothing being produced and tossed out every year. And as I touched on in the last episode when I talked about returns, the fashion industry is kinda shortsighted about the impact of these low quality clothes on their business model because while we are buying more clothes than ever, we are also returning more clothes than ever! So it’s harder for retailers to make the math MATH, which is pushing them to lower the cost of creating these clothes even more…which leads to more returns (because the quality is compromised even more), which leads to pushing the costs down even more, which leads to more returns, and so on and so on.

 

And really, when you think about it, all of the reasons that clothes are so garbage-y right now that we have unpacked so far are indicative of an industry that is just so short sighted, it’s hard to see how the math will math for them forever:

  • Overproduction–we talked about this in part one.  Every time we buy a brand new garment from a big retailer, we are also paying for the 45 billion garments that the industry produces every year that are never sold or worn.  Not only are we paying for the manufacturing and materials involved in creating those garments, in most cases we are also paying for the disposal.  The industry creates all of these unsold garments for several reasons: 
    • marching toward unrealistic sales plans: the higher your sales plan–which btw investors and shareholders want to see high sales plans and growth year after year–the more inventory you need. Miss that sales plan? You’re left with a lot of unsold inventory.
    • Buying in higher quantities to get better pricing…even though retailers know they will most likely NOT sell all of those units.  They buy to the higher quantity because the targets for cost are so low (thanks to all of the things we have been discussing)
    • Rushing so much, skipping fittings and sample reviews, that the final product ends up having major quality/fit issues.
    • I’ll also say that a lot of this excess inventory stems from buying into every single trend (even if it’s a short lived or unappealing trend) leads to a lot of unsold product. Also, buying into the same trends as every other retailer results in unsold stuff, too. We’ve talked about how brands are copying one another sort of endlessly.  Put a pin in that idea because it’s going to come back later in this episode.
  • All of that air freight: it still blows my mind that most clothing is being shipped via airplane around the world, sometimes more than once.  What a waste of fuel and money! If the industry slowed down, it wouldn’t have to pay for all of that air shipping.  And then maybe it wouldn’t have to overproduce in order to get the better pricing.  Or cut the quality of clothing in order to afford the air freight, and then, you know the clothes would be better and be returned less often. Instead we have an industry that is not only selling us crappy clothes in the name of speed, but also creating a massive climate footprint in doing so.
  • And then there are all of the returns.  On average, about 3 out of every 10 garments sold in the US is returned. For some brands, it’s even higher (like Revolve, where it’s 6 out of 10). And processing these returns is SO EXPENSIVE.  In fact, some analysts believe that it costs retailers 59% of the original selling price to ship and process a returned item.  Which means, the retailer usually loses money by taking that return.  And that’s why more and more of them are charging for returns, just making it a lot harder in the first place, maybe only offering store credit instead of a refund, or telling you to just keep the item. The thing is, this return rate has only increased as the quality of clothing has decreased. So maybe if stuff fit better and wasn’t made of bad fabrics, the returns wouldn’t be so bad, right? But currently, we are all paying for these returns as retailers have cut the costs of making these clothes in the first place to cover the cost of these returns.

Woof…does anybody feel dizzy from all of this?

Get ready to get dizzier because today we are going to break down the final four reasons why clothing is kinda garbage right now:

  • Free shipping
  • Dealz dealz dealz
  • Cuts in the number of people working in design and production at these brands.
  • Because we’re still buying these crappy clothes.

So let’s get started with free shipping! I think by now you all know how I feel about free shipping, as we have talked about it pretty regularly around here.  But let’s get into it, okay?

 

Yes, free shipping is a myth! And this myth has a complex impact on clothing quality, wages for people both within the fashion/retail industry, and outside it, and the myth of free shipping actually exacerbates wealth inequality.

 

FREE SHIPPING IS ACTUALLY A MARKETING STORY BECAUSE IT MOTIVATES US TO SPEND MORE. And in my experience, it  drives more sales than an actual blowout clearance because we will spend more money to get that free shipping. And if we were waffling on making a purchase, the offer of free shipping motivates us to make the purchase without continued thought because it feels risk free.

 

Big retailers use free shipping as an incentive to get us to buy more (gotta hit that threshold). But their use of free shipping as a way of getting us to buy more stuff has a trickle down effect…

Smaller retailers have been forced to jump on the free shipping bandwagon thanks to the big retailers offering it.

This trickles down to even smaller businesses on Etsy, IG, and the various resale platforms because guess what? We all expect free shipping now! 

And when we ask small businesses and one person microbusinesses for free shipping…well, we’re asking them for a discount. Because they have to pay for it somehow, right?

 

But here’s the thing…big retailers are also giving us a sort of invisible discount when they offer us free shipping, because they spend some money to get orders to us:

  • Before your order leaves the warehouse, the retailer has already spent some $$$:
  • Paying a worker to “pick” your order (pull all of the items from shelves/racks).
  • Paying another worker to pack it all up/prepare it for shipping.
  • The cost of packaging (boxes, tape, labels, packing slips, any free swag the retailer throws in the box).
  • The retailer pays for shipping. It seems obvious, but the retailer has to pay UPS/USPS/FedEx/DHL. They are able to negotiate better rates based on the volume of packages they are shipping, but it still costs a chunk of change.  And I want you to put a pin in that idea that the retailers negotiate lower shipping costs because we are going to come back to that…

 

Shipping is expensive for a reason…

It’s a complex set of logistics:

First, the shipping carrier picks up your order (and a lot of others) from the warehouse. 

Next it heads to a sorting facility where it is sorted and loaded onto a truck heading toward a sorting facility closer to its final destination.

Depending on how far away this is, it might go to the airport and take a flight! And then it is loaded onto another truck!

At the final sorting facility, it is loaded on a truck that will deliver it to your porch.

All of these trucks and airplanes require fuel, maintenance, insurance, and drivers/pilots.

The workers sorting and loading need to get paid, too!

 

We are all paying for free shipping

So how do retailers make the math math (and bring in those nice profits for executive bonuses and shareholder dividends)?

I mean you didn’t think that they were literally going to give us free shipping, right?

Well, they do a few things…

Some retailers might raise the prices for customers. That’s a risky strategy in the era of fast fashion because customers want stuff be to cheap AF.

It’s more likely that they will make each item more profitable by decreasing the cost to make it.  

 

Throughout this series I have been explaining how companies cover the costs of things like returns and free shipping…and how that relates to product cost. Let’s review that again:

 

Buying, design, and production receive margin targets from upper management.  The margin target is the markup products should have on average, and is non-negotiable.  If, as buyer, you don’t hit that margin target, you will not have a job much longer.  Those margin targets translate into cost targets for everything you buy. 

 

Those margin targets that upper management hands down to everyone begin in a larger budget, where things like rent, salaries, freight, and even the cost of processing returns are itemized. Basically (I’m about to make creating a P+L really simple here), after finance realizes the expenses to keep the business running each year (and profitable of course), then they use that information to create a sales and margin plan that will cover all of those expenses (and make a profit). And that includes things like returns and free shipping.  So the aggressive margin targets (meaning: higher markups) that fast fashion has  right now, mean buying, design, and production have to cut the costs of every product they design and buy even more. 

 

 That means cheaper fabric, cheaper trims, less fittings (“it’ll fit someone”), less details (say goodbye to those pockets), and of course, squeezing the factories for lower costing. And as a result, garment workers are paid even less. So there we go….the quality just gets worse.  Basically what I’m saying is that every time you buy something new from a big brand or retailer…even if it’s IRL, you’re paying a little bit towards all of that “free” shipping.

 

They will also cut the expenses elsewhere:  pay their own workers less, provide less expensive benefits, and keep workers at less than full-time to avoid offering benefits.  So here we start to see how free shipping exacerbates wealth inequality.

So remember how I said that retailers renegotiate shipping costs with the carriers?

  • They do this to get the cheapest price they can, and they often do this by sort of promising to ship a certain number of packages each year.  And often getting those lower prices on shipping for next year, means promising you’ll ship more stuff next year…which means you’ll do anything you can to sell more stuff next year! So the free shipping machine kinda fuels the overconsumption and waste colonialism happening right now.
  • Furthermore, these shipping companies have executives to pay bonuses and shareholders who want dividends, so they have to make up the cost somewhere too.   For one, they raise shipping rates for small businesses and regular people who just want to send a gift or some cookies!  
  • This also forces shipping carriers to cut costs, by paying their workers less and decreasing benefits for their employees. They probably cut employee count, too, having less people doing the same amount of work as more people. 

So here again we see the myth of free shipping suppressing wages and just generally affecting quality of life for more people.

Workers around the world are feeling the pinch of covering those shipping costs as their wages are pushed lower: garment workers, the employees of all of these brands and retailers (including corporate employees, retail staff, and warehouse workers)…and anyone who works in the shipping industry, from mechanics to truck drivers to parcel sorters to delivery people….and all the people working in the corporate offices too.

And on top of that, we get some really low quality clothing…and those clothes are more likely to be returned, which means the return rate increases, the cost of processing those returns increases, and then the cost of  making our clothing is further reduced. 

You know, let’s take a moment to list out the things we are paying for when we buy clothes that aren’t the actual clothes, okay?

  • Air freight
  • Returns
  • Overproduction
  • Free shipping

 

When you see that list, you can’t help but wonder, “okay, but how do they keep the prices so low? Like, how does the math MATH here?”

 

The answer is…well, it kinda does and it kinda doesn’t.

Which brings me to the next reason why new clothing is kinda garbage these days: all of those dealz dealz dealz!

 

As I say often: clothes are actually less expensive now than they were in the 1990s, even though the retail prices of just about everything else have increased. 

 

And it’s a twofold issue: for one, the original prices themselves are lower. And two, things go on sale faster, there are a tremendous amount of promos and discount codes, and so it starts to feel kinda irresponsible to pay full price for anything when you know it will go on sale soon or maybe you can track down a discount code.

 

But I thought it would be kinda fun to compare some 90s prices to now.  And specifically, I decided that I would compare the 1996 Delias winter catalog to the Urban Outfitters website.  In my mind, they both target teen girls, so it makes sense to me.

 

First things first, thanks to inflation, $1 in 1996 is about $1.92 in 2024.

So keep that in mind as we do this little experiment.

 

I kinda can’t believe the first item we are going to compare from the 1996 Delias winter catalog: a Bulldog zip up hoodie. Guess what? Bulldog was the precursor to the BDG brand at Urban Outfitters. Over time, Urban dropped a bunch of letters and shifted Bulldog to BDG.  In 1996, the zip hoodie was $36. That’s $69.12 in 2024. Guess how much the BDG zip hoodie for sale on the Urban Outfitters website is right now? $59. So $10 less. Unfortunately the Delias catalog doesn’t list fabric content (naughty, naughty Delias) but I can tell you that the UO hoodie is 80% cotton/20% polyester. That poly blend helps keep costs low!

 

So I wanted to compare this wool sweater from the Delias catalog (it’s called the Scandinavian Sweater and it’s a really cute fair isle pattern), but I couldn’t find a single wool sweater on the Urban Outfitters website that wasn’t vintage.   The Delias sweater was $59, which is $113.28. The vast majority of the sweaters on the UO website were priced far below that, but they were also synthetic.

 

Next, let’s move on to an icon of 90s style: the carpenter jean.  Now, Delias has a pair from Bulldog (aka BDG) that are $39. That makes them about $75 in today’s money.  Urban Outfitters has a pair of BDG carpenter pants on its site right now and they retail for $79…but they are an additional 25% off, making them $59.25, less expensive than the Delias pants. And this is not a sale item, just a random promo that Delias would have never done.  In fact, Delias did periodic sale catalogs, but there was not the steady stream of new markdowns that we see from Urban Outfitters and other brands in the fast fashion era.

 

And that’s the thing…Urban Outfitters (and all of these brands) now plan to sell most items on sale, so they push for lower costs for these items in the first place.

 

As a reminder: as fast fashion grew during the 2008 recession, retailers realized that they had no choice but to lower their prices. H+M and Forever 21 were killing them with their super lower prices.  Places like Anthropologie, Free People, Urban Outfitters, Madewell, J. Crew (big brands with higher prices) took a sneakier path to the bottom:  they knew that putting out prices like $1.90 or even $19.90 would ruin the image of their brands as more “premium,” as superior to the other fast fashion brands.  But they also knew that customers couldn’t really afford those higher prices. So what was the brilliant workaround? Keep the higher prices on the tags, but plan to sell most of the inventory on sale.  And if you planned that in advance, you could architect the item to sell on sale and be just as profitable as a full price item had been in the past.

 

Let’s go back to those carpenter jeans, okay? Before the rise of fast fashion–let’s say at peak Delias era, not the sadness that it became in the 00s–Delias knew that it would sell the vast majority of its inventory of carpenter pants at full price.  Let’s use that 2024-ified price for illustration here:  $75. They might sell a few on sale that were leftover at the end of the season, maybe in less popular sizes and colors. But in general 90% or more of those pants would sell for $75.  That means that they could spend $26-30 making each unit of pants. Wow, just saying that out loud feels so expensive for me as a buyer with a fast fashion background! But while Delias had the cost of making catalogs and shipping orders, they didn’t (at least in 1996) have a chain of stores that increased their overhead.  So they could probably spend $30 to make those pants (their margin targets would have been much lower than those of the fast fashion era).

 

Well, in 2024, the buyers at Urban Outfitters (and any other brand) have many more things stacked against them in terms of cost.  For one, they know that most of these pants will NOT sell at full price, whether they are actually on sale or there is a temporary 25% promo or if the customer has a discount code from subscribing to the email list or being a part of the loyalty program.  So they are probably planning that on average, customers are really going to pay about $45 for these pants. That’s a big difference from the $75 Delias was going to get to charge.

 

Next, the buyers have received really aggressive margin targets from leadership thanks to all of the free shipping, returns, and overproduction.  So they are probably looking at being able to spend about $15/unit to make each pair of carpenter pants…literally half of what Delias had to work with. But to make matters worse, most likely those pants are being shipped via airplane (whereas Delias almost certainly shipped all of their carpenter pants to the US via boat), so that cuts another $2 off of what the buyers could spend on these jeans, bringing them down to $13.  

 

That’s less than half of Delias cost for their pants…which means: these pants might be called carpenter pants, but they are going to be a lot different.  The fabric might be thinner (that saves on shipping cost, too). The trims like zippers and buttons will be lower quality and not last as long.  And who knows how these pants are going to fit.  But for sure, they won’t be as nice and long lasting as the 1996 Delias carpenter jeans.

We have talked a lot about how brands and retailers are cutting costs to make garments in order to cover the expenses of all of these deals and free shipping and returns, etc…but there’s another cost they are cutting that might not be visible to the shopper, but is very obvious when we look at what we brands are selling and how those garments actually fit and look: brands have continued to cut back on design and production staff, all while increasing the number of styles these teams are required to create each month.

 

I couldn’t find any data to throw at you for this, but ask anyone who works in corporate fashion and they will tell you the same thing: over the years, our wages stagnated. Promotions and raises came less often. Our workloads increased, often double or triple of what it was pre-2008.  And at the same time, when someone would leave, they were never replaced. Soon everyone was doing the work of two or three people.  

 

What this meant is that designers, production managers, and buyers had a lot less time to get things right, or even design really cool stuff in the first place. Furthermore, pressure increased from management to just buy “samples” (spoiler: they weren’t actual samples, just things we bought from other brands) and just copy them. Which leads to more and more brands kinda selling the same stuff, as they copied a copy of a copy of a copy.  

 

Actually, let’s take a moment to talk about who works on these teams:

  • Buyers obviously. Well, I’ll tell you it’s hard to manage your business and look at data and buy the right things when you shift from managing four categories to six and leadership won’t let you hire an assistant to help.
  • Designers: not just the people creating the garments, but also print designers.  I’m worried that the print designers will soon be replaced by AI–don’t worry, I’m working on an episode about that.
  • Technical designers: they create the actual tech packs that turn into patterns.  They also handle a lot of the fit related stuff.  They are always in short supply, and they never have enough time (thanks to the accelerated pace of fast fashion) to do more than one, maybe two fittings with an actual fit model.
  • Production managers: they handle all of the really hard stuff, working as both project managers and the link between buying and the factory.  They are the ones who negotiate pricing, look for cheaper fabrics, share feedback with factories, and ensure that stuff arrives on time.  They all have no work/life balance because they are understaffed and there are just too many styles to work on.  This means they are often rushed to settle on a cheaper fabric or yarn that no one loves.  Or good styles get dropped because there just isn’t enough time to make the pricing work out.

 

All of these people are working hard to find that sweet spot that means a good article of clothing and hitting the pricing targets handed down by upper management.  But there’s never enough people and never enough time to actually make that happen.

 

Upper management knows this, which is why they encourage (no, demand) that corners are cut in order to deliver lots of cheap product. And that means a lot of pressure to copy stuff that already exists. 

 

There’s this chart that I share periodically on social media titled “Is _____ fast fashion?” And it’s a little checklist.  Most of the items I list aren’t too shocking for those of you who have been on this Clotheshorse journey with me for a long time.

how to spot fast fashion


That last one really taps into this issue of smaller teams and higher style count…all of the things on this list are all part of the same machine that requires us to buy as much stuff as possible, as often as possible in order to keep the machine running. But that last one–copying and stealing designs from designers and artists–it’s a function of everything that comes before it:  the constant flow of new stuff. The constant deals and low prices.  Very little stuff selling at full price.  And cutting the size of the teams responsible for creating the new product.

 

And here once again, we see how the industry is just in this dumb shortsighted cycle:

  • Designers and production don’t have time to get products right: so there are more returns and unsold inventory, which pushes down the cost of the items in the first place, meaning that the quality goes down and returns increase.
  • Management pressures design and buying to copy from other brands: well, now there’s less demand for it because it already exists, so the brand has to sell even more sale (or destroy what doesn’t sell) which costs the company more, and drives down costs even more, leading to lower quality product that doesn’t sell or gets returned.
  • Or, management pressures design and buying to straight up copy from a small artist or designer, word gets out, the product must be destroyed (usually thousands of units) and the company eats the cost of any legal issues, making that destroyed product, and actually destroying that product…which, you guessed it, drives down costs on other items, reducing their quality, and leading to more returns and unsold inventory.



It’s just so stupid. I don’t know how fashion ever makes it out of this cycle.  I also don’t know how long it can stay in this cycle before brands just disappear.  They have already understaffed their stores, offices, and warehouses. They’ve cut benefits and wages.  What is left to cut to make the math MATH?

It’s just so stupid. I don’t know how fashion ever makes it out of this cycle.  I also don’t know how long it can stay in this cycle before brands just disappear.  They have already understaffed their stores, offices, and warehouses. They’ve cut benefits and wages.  What is left to cut to make the math MATH?

 

But here’s the thing…and this will bring us to the last reason why new clothes are kinda garbage these days…the machine, this cycle of stupidity and waste, it keeps on moving if we keep feeding our money to it.  Basically, the clothes stay garbagey until we stop buying them.

 

As I have said before, in the early days of fast fashion, we didn’t think it would last.  Wouldn’t customers get tired of the bad fabrics? All of that polyester? The low quality? The bad fit?  Wouldn’t they hit a point where they said “no more” and we would be forced to backpedal on low cost/high margin stuff and start creating better stuff with longevity?

 

Well, they didn’t. We didn’t. Every day, people are still opting to support this machine that sells them disappointing stuff. We are still opting into it. 

 

And I get it…we need clothes. Right? I mean, we need different clothes for different jobs, different things we do (workout versus sleep versus sit on the couch versus go to a party). Our bodies change, our lives change, where we live changes…and we need clothes.  Furthermore, these crappy clothes don’t last very long, so we have to keep replacing them.

 

Selkie as an example…

 

I always say: there are only two things that will change the way fashion works right now: the law (which we’re working hard on with the Fashion Act) and customers buying less stuff.  Yes, it’s true…we all have so much power in this situation: we can pressure our elected representatives to push for legislation that regulates the fashion industry (did you know that the industry is largely unregulated?). We can show our support for legislation like the Fashion Act (I’ll share links in the show notes).  And we can stop giving our money (as much as possible) to brands that continuously sell us garbagey clothes. I promise that makes a difference because these brands cannot continue without us. And teams of people within those companies are looking at data every day, trying to figure out what to sell us next. If we stop buying what they offer, they will be forced to change how they are doing things.  I’m not saying you have to go cold turkey on new clothes (after all, let’s be realistic here), but even buying less clothes makes a difference when we are all doing it.  

 

But how do we stop buying so many clothes, when we’ve been kinda programmed to need a lot of new clothes? It takes work, right? And it means revisiting how we approach our clothes!

 

So that brings me to a message I received this week from Caroline, a Clotheshorse listener. Let’s check it out!

Thank you so much to Caroline for such a thoughtful and informative message! And like THE EMAIL, Caroline’s message is a great conversation starter for all of us.

 

I feel like Caroline was really thorough for revisiting how we sort of manage our relationship to clothing. I don’t really have much to add.

 

I guess I would also say:

  • Revisit and remix what you already own.  As you all know, I recently moved from Austin, TX to Pennsylvania and the weather couldn’t be more different.  In Austin, I was basically wearing spring/summer clothes year round, maybe with an added layer in January.  Well, now I’m living somewhere that has many more cold days.  And when we first arrived, I felt kind of overwhelmed when I surveyed what was hanging in my closet: lots of lightweight, short sleeve dresses.  I felt like I needed to buy stuff…but I also didn’t want to buy stuff and there was nothing that I wanted to buy anyway!  So I took a few  hours and I really took stock of what I owned that could add warmth to my already existing wardrobe. I found three turtlenecks in my possession: one a black mockneck that I think I bought from Free People in 2018.  Next, a silver turtleneck that a friend gave me (and I’m not mad about it). Then a black thermal turtleneck from Uniqlo that I think I bought on a buying trip to NYC in 2019 when I was so desperately cold walking from appointment to appointment that I just needed to dip into a store to buy something to wear under my clothes.  I started wearing these turtlenecks under some of my dresses. And you know what? They look super cute and kind of change up the look.  There a couple of dresses that aren’t my favorite that suddenly are my new favorite thing to wear with a turtleneck.  I also dug out my two pairs of thigh high legwarmers: I think I’ve had those since we moved to Portland in 2016. They layer great under dresses and are super cozy.  These are just a few examples of what I have been doing, but the good news is that I haven’t bought any new clothes, outside of one amazing thrifted 90s “Liz Sport” cardigan (it’s black with flowers and it’s so nice) and two thrifted flannel shirts.  And I feel good to make it through the winter! I already had a nice pair of snow boots, which I’m glad I held on to because I’ve already worn them ten times in one month!
  • As Caroline mentioned, I am a big fan of moving things in and out of my closet (or in my apartment living days, moving stuff from the back to the front of my closet) so that it feels new to me. I can’t explain it…but it works.  If you keep any of your clothing in a dresser, try to rotate in there, too. Not only does it give me that “something new” feeling, it also ensures that I don’t forget what I have!
  • I also set up a rolling rack in our spare room that is for special things I want to wear when I go somewhere (versus stay in the house working), so on Saturdays when Dustin and I go out to do something fun or a weeknight where we have dinner with a friend, I grab something from that.  It feels special and new, it gets worn, and it didn’t mean having to buy something new.
  • I’ll also just add that it’s important to change up our shopping habits:
    • No impulse purchases. And that means, not randomly adding something to our carts from the sale section just because we were already buying something else.
    • Don’t buy stuff just because it’s on sale.  If you’ve been considering something for a long time, you know you want it and will get a lot of wear out of it, and it just happens to go on sale: GREAT! But studies have proven time and time again that we are less likely to buy stuff we bought just because it was on sale…because it doesn’t feel as valuable to us.
    • Next, don’t buy stuff just to get free shipping.  Seriously. This is how you end up with too many socks or underwear or a random thing you forgot you bought in the first place.
    • Rethink how many you need of something, based on how often you plan to wear it (and be honest/realistic with yourself) and your access to laundry.  Like, after rebooting my wardrobe with my three turtlenecks, I was like “oh, I should buy some more.” Do I really need to do that? I have three, I don’t wear a turtleneck everyday, and if I need to do laundry  because those turtlenecks are dirty or have coffee all of them), I literally have a washer and dryer. So do I really need MORE turtlenecks? The answer is no.  I see this happen a lot with layering stuff, leggings, basics like tees and tanks, even bras and underwear.
    • You know what else? (and this goes back to Caroline’s tips) be honest with yourself about what you will really wear and how often you will wear it.  Are you really going to wear a metallic jumpsuit that often? How many floofy pastel dresses do you really need? Are you comfortable in crop tops or not? I had to have that conversation with myself when it came to jeans.  I just kept buying them because I felt like I was supposed to wear them, but I never actually wore them. Why? Because I don’t like wearing jeans.  Maybe I’ll change my mind, but I’m just not a fan. So I stopped buying jeans. I resold the ones I had. And that was like four years ago.  I’m sticking to this no jeans life. And it’s nice!

I promise that over time, these changes we make within our lives become lifelong habits that we don’t even think about any more.  We just get used to  buying less clothes, so used to it that we forget we are buying less clothes!

 

There are many good reasons to buy less clothing: the fashion industry is built upon exploitation and waste.  Overconsumption has created a massive environmental crisis that is affecting every living thing on the planet. We save money by buying less stuff. Many of us already have plenty of clothing (and there are six generations of clothing on earth right now, so there’s plenty of used clothing in circulation).  And on top of all of that, new clothing is kinda garbage these days.

 

What are we paying for when we get brand new clothing from many brands and retailers? Let’s see…

  • All of the overproduction
  • Air freight
  • The cost of all of those returns
  • All that free shipping
  • Executive bonuses and shareholder dividends
  • And ultimately, a low quality, short lived, poorly fitting article of clothing

 

It’s just not a great deal for us. And furthermore, it props up a broken machine that is just stuck in an endless dumb cycle of churning out low quality stuff made with human exploitation…because it just can’t take the time to fix itself.

 

Here’s the thing: we deserve better.  Everyone around us deserves better.  The planet and all of its people deserve better.  Let’s make better happen for  all of us!

Want to Support Amanda's Work on Clotheshorse?

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Or call the Clotheshorse hotline: 717.925.7417

Clotheshorse is brought to you with support from the following sustainable small businesses:

Thumbprint is Detroit’s only fair trade marketplace, located in the historic Eastern Market.  Our small business specializes in products handmade by empowered women in South Africa making a living wage creating things they love like hand painted candles and ceramics! We also carry a curated assortment of  sustainable/natural locally made goods. Thumbprint is a great gift destination for both the special people in your life and for yourself! Browse our online store at thumbprintdetroit.com and find us on instagram @thumbprintdetroit.

Picnicwear:  a slow fashion brand, ethically made by hand from vintage and deadstock materials – most notably, vintage towels! Founder, Dani, has worked in the industry as a fashion designer for over 10 years, but started Picnicwear in response to her dissatisfaction with the industry’s shortcomings. Picnicwear recently moved to rural North Carolina where all their clothing and accessories are now designed and cut, but the majority of their sewing is done by skilled garment workers in NYC. Their customers take comfort in knowing that all their sewists are paid well above NYC minimum wage. Picnicwear offers minimal waste and maximum authenticity: Future Vintage over future garbage.

Shift Clothing, out of beautiful Astoria, Oregon, with a focus on natural fibers, simple hardworking designs, and putting fat people first.  Discover more at shiftwheeler.com

High Energy Vintage is a fun and funky vintage shop located in Somerville, MA, just a few minutes away from downtown Boston. They offer a highly curated selection of bright and colorful clothing and accessories from the 1940s-1990s for people of all genders. Husband-and-wife duo Wiley & Jessamy handpick each piece for quality and style, with a focus on pieces that transcend trends and will find a home in your closet for many years to come! In addition to clothing, the shop also features a large selection of vintage vinyl and old school video games. Find them on instagram @ highenergyvintage, online at highenergyvintage.com, and at markets in and around Boston.

St. Evens is an NYC-based vintage shop that is dedicated to bringing you those special pieces you’ll reach for again and again. More than just a store, St. Evens is dedicated to sharing the stories and history behind the garments. 10% of all sales are donated to a different charitable organization each month.  New vintage is released every Thursday at wearStEvens.com, with previews of new pieces and more brought to you on Instagram at @wear_st.evens.

Deco Denim is a startup based out of San Francisco, selling clothing and accessories that are sustainable, gender fluid, size inclusive and high quality–made to last for years to come. Deco Denim is trying to change the way you think about buying clothes. Founder Sarah Mattes wants to empower people to ask important questions like, “Where was this made? Was this garment made ethically? Is this fabric made of plastic? Can this garment be upcycled and if not, can it be recycled?” Signup at decodenim.com to receive $20 off your first purchase. They promise not to spam you and send out no more than 3 emails a month, with 2 of them surrounding education or a personal note from the Founder. Find them on Instagram as @deco.denim.

The Pewter Thimble Is there a little bit of Italy in your soul? Are you an enthusiast of pre-loved decor and accessories? Bring vintage Italian style — and history — into your space with The Pewter Thimble (@thepewterthimble). We source useful and beautiful things, and mend them where needed. We also find gorgeous illustrations, and make them print-worthy. Tarot cards, tea towels and handpicked treasures, available to you from the comfort of your own home. Responsibly sourced from across Rome, lovingly renewed by fairly paid artists and artisans, with something for every budget. Discover more at thepewterthimble.com

Blank Cass, or Blanket Coats by Cass, is focused on restoring, renewing, and reviving the history held within vintage and heirloom textiles. By embodying and transferring the love, craft, and energy that is original to each vintage textile into a new garment, I hope we can reteach ourselves to care for and mend what we have and make it last. Blank Cass lives on Instagram @blank_cass and a website will be launched soon at blankcass.com.

Gabriela Antonas is a visual artist, an upcycler, and a fashion designer, but Gabriela Antonas is also a feminist micro business with radical ideals. She’s the one woman band, trying to help you understand, why slow fashion is what the earth needs. If you find your self in New Orleans, LA, you may buy her ready-to-wear upcycled garments in person at the store “Slow Down” (2855 Magazine St). Slow Down Nola only sells vintage and slow fashion from local designers. Gabriela’s garments are guaranteed to be in stock in person, but they also have a website so you may support this women owned and run business from wherever you are! If you are interested in Gabriela making a one of a kind garment for you DM her on Instagram at @slowfashiongabriela to book a consultation.

Vagabond Vintage DTLV is a vintage clothing, accessories & decor reselling business based in Downtown Las Vegas. Not only do we sell in Las Vegas, but we are also located throughout resale markets in San Francisco as well as at a curated boutique called Lux and Ivy located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jessica, the founder & owner of Vagabond Vintage DTLV, recently opened the first IRL location located in the Arts District of Downtown Las Vegas on August 5th. The shop has a strong emphasis on 60s & 70s garments, single stitch tee shirts & dreamy loungewear. Follow them on instagram, @vagabondvintage.dtlv and keep an eye out for their website coming fall of 2022.

Country Feedback is a mom & pop record shop in Tarboro, North Carolina. They specialize in used rock, country, and soul and offer affordable vintage clothing and housewares. Do you have used records you want to sell? Country Feedback wants to buy them! Find us on Instagram @countryfeedbackvintageandvinyl or head downeast and visit our brick and mortar. All are welcome at this inclusive and family-friendly record shop in the country!

Located in Whistler, Canada, Velvet Underground is a “velvet jungle” full of vintage and second-hand clothes, plants, a vegan cafe and lots of rad products from other small sustainable businesses. Our mission is to create a brand and community dedicated to promoting self-expression, as well as educating and inspiring a more sustainable and conscious lifestyle both for the people and the planet. Find us on Instagram @shop_velvetunderground or online at www.shopvelvetunderground.com

Selina Sanders, a social impact brand that specializes in up-cycled clothing, using only reclaimed, vintage or thrifted materials: from tea towels, linens, blankets and quilts.  Sustainably crafted in Los Angeles, each piece is designed to last in one’s closet for generations to come.  Maximum Style; Minimal Carbon Footprint.

Salt Hats:  purveyors of truly sustainable hats. Hand blocked, sewn and embellished in Detroit, Michigan.

Republica Unicornia Yarns: Hand-Dyed Yarn and notions for the color-obsessed. Made with love and some swearing in fabulous Atlanta, Georgia by Head Yarn Wench Kathleen. Get ready for rainbows with a side of Giving A Damn! Republica Unicornia is all about making your own magic using small-batch, responsibly sourced, hand-dyed yarns and thoughtfully made notions. Slow fashion all the way down and discover the joy of creating your very own beautiful hand knit, crocheted, or woven pieces. Find us on Instagram @republica_unicornia_yarns and at www.republicaunicornia.com.

Cute Little Ruin is an online shop dedicated to providing quality vintage and secondhand clothing, vinyl, and home items in a wide range of styles and price points.  If it’s ethical and legal, we try to find a new home for it!  Vintage style with progressive values.  Find us on Instagram at @CuteLittleRuin.