How do we decide when it’s time to throw a piece of clothing out?

How do we decide when it's time to throw a piece of clothing out?

Buying, mending, and disposable fashion.

Writing about mending my favorite pair of jeans last week got me thinking about how we decide when it’s time to throw a piece of clothing out.

How do we decide it’s time to throw a piece of clothing out?

Or rather, when do we decided it’s time to donate a piece of clothing, so someone else can throw it out?

When a piece of clothing can easily and cheaply be replaced, it’s almost never a case of necessity that prompts us to dispose of a piece of clothing.

And more than that, when the common avenue for disposing of our clothing is by donation, then we’re asked to donate them in “good working condition” – way sooner than the end of a piece of clothing’s life cycle.

It used to be (not that long ago) that clothing was designed, patterned, and manufactured with the idea that it would be altered, worn, altered, worn, passed along, altered again, worn, altered, worn, mended, worn, altered, worn, mended, worn, and re-purposed until they became rags.

Clothing was designed, manufactured, and purchased with an intimate understanding of how labor intensive & expensive making fabric is.

Wide seam allowances & generous hems make it exceptionally easy for garments to be altered – both to fit the original purchaser, and also to fit whoever ended up with the garment next. Consumers knew what a quality garment was, and shopped with quality (as well as price) in mind.

Disposable fashion isn’t disposable until we throw it out.

When it comes to fast & disposable fashion, tons of attention is given to the beginning of a garment’s life cycle. Lots of focus is put on manufacturing clothing in ways that is less devastating to the people making them, and the environment.

With all this attention on the creation of a garment (which should absolutely be getting attention), it’s simple to forget about the end of a garment’s life cycle.

What exactly happens after we donate a piece of clothing is information that is readily available with a quick google search, but hadn’t entered the collective public consciousness in the same way the exploitation of garment laborers has.

Which is kind of a shame, because the end of a clothing’s life cycle is something we, as consumers, have a tremendous amount of influence over.

Just because a piece of clothing was designed to last for 30 seconds, doesn’t mean we have to pass it along after 30 seconds. Disposable clothing and fast fashion, aren’t disposable until we dispose of them.

We can mend our clothes. We can alter our clothes. We can re-purpose our clothes.

And they might just last longer than we think they will.

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