I never really had a chance to buy into fast fashion as I kept all my clothes until they were literally unwearable. I would put all my clothes into this boot camp cycle of being new and fancy, then being old and brought into the forest, then being holey and sewn up again and again until they were nothing more than patches of unwearable thread. Once I returned from the forest, the next run of remaining clothes went through the cycle over and over until I had barely any summer clothes left. In the winter of 2016 I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that I had been wearing the exact same clothes since high school some years ago and I wondered if I should still be rocking my skinny jeans, skate shoes and my oversized dance hoodie, but I shrugged and thought that if they had lasted all this time and were comfortable, why stop now.
The destinies of the clothes that I grew out of before they were able to take part in the forest boot camp were always passed down to my sister or donated to charity, however with the rising DIY trends I wondered if I could fashion anything from my old stash. I still have and wear a blouse that I fashioned out of a skirt that always had the zipper stuck, with the straps of another dismantled top attached to it. I played around with turning jeans into shorts and other easy changes, however you could always tell they were made by a girl with a pair of scissors and careless abandon. The more I learned about clothing waste from the fashion industry and its phenomenal environmental impact, I began watching thrifting videos and became awe struck at all the talented individuals who were able to up-cycle old pieces into amazing new outfits.
Not considering for a second that I had up-cycling capabilities, I began thrifting for clothes instead of buying them in stores and I felt elated to be adding these pre-loved items to my new circle of clothing life. I even discovered new styles that I never would have sought out when conventionally shopping which allowed me to feel more confident in my newfound style (which I was never able to grasp before). A few weeks before Christmas, I found a maxi skirt that screamed my name. A floral design with paisley and elephants at the hem appealed to my aesthetic, but the added bonus that it was in my size was a sheer stroke of luck. I bought the skirt but whenever I tried to wear it, it sat unhappily on my hips, a smidge too big to look how I wanted it to. Weeks later, I was hiding from the heat watching up-cycling videos again when I thought that maybe there was enough material in the skirt to convert it into a comfortable summer dress. I placed a summer dress over the maxi skirt and wallah! it was a perfect fit! I knew my housemate had a sewing machine so I asked if she could make the transformation for me.
“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat forever”
She sat me down at the sewing machine and showed me the ropes and before long I was cutting and pinning and sewing as if the full day of watching people cut and pin and sew actually paid off. A couple of hours later I was spinning around in my new dress wondering why I had always been afraid to try.
Piles and piles of clothing waste are accumulating in landfill around the world and textile fibers are littering our oceans. There are more clothes than charities know what to do with and as clothes get cheaper and more accessible, the less our planet can handle the consumption. Living in the wilderness taught me how to make my clothes last longer and to wear them until their last threads but learning from others has taught me how I can get creative and turn my high school wardrobe into something a little more “eco chic.”