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Life would be easier if we were nudists

January 9th, 2006 · 3 Comments

This week I’m disgusted and frustrated after spending hours shopping for clothing. Ted and I in recent months have needed to add to our wardrobes. This need for new clothes was in part driven by the appearances we are making at conferences and meetings. I also hadn’t bothered to buy many outfits during my years of pregnancy and nursing and the clothes I’ve had for a while are revealing their age. I’ll confess that some of the shopping has been fun.

The cycle of consuming clothing

Yet after weeks of trying to find clothes for our family to wear, I suddenly see how much clothing has become consumable and disposable. Even if we can find clothes that fit the first two qualifications [ we like it and it fits us] the items only last two or three years (or less than that, for my kids) before we have to go shopping all over again. Clothing lacks durability. Some items seem to begin unraveling after a round or two in the wash. It only took me a few months of diaper changes on my knees to rip holes in jeans. Quality construction seems lacking. And then there are stains that remain, even after treatments with OxyClean or bleach. Clothes are made to be consumed, used for a short time and then discarded. I think I heard once that bras are made to last six months. It’s a constant cycle of spending and disposing.

If I wanted to make my own clothes, I couldn’t. I haven’t studied sewing long enough to be efficient at it. Yes, I can sew. I can make simple skirts and pants. Once I made Ted a fleece jacket. I made us matching pajamas too. But I am slow enough at sewing that it would be a full-time job for me to clothe all our family. I spent much of my youth in school, studying, not sewing.

Few people I know would be able to make their own clothes. We have to buy our garments. We’re stuck in this cycle, going round and round. Clothes are disposable. It feels wasteful to me, a waste of time, money and fabric, a cycle I wish I could stop or slow.

No more Mom with the sewing machine

I imagined I would sew for my kids when I became a mom. When Ted got his first job and we moved to California, one of the first things I did was to buy a sewing machine and start lessons. But as soon as the kids arrived I realized that my sewing utopia would not happen for a number of reasons. First of all, it was no longer practical to sew for my babies. The pants, booties and diaper covers I made weren’t comfortable for them. Store-bought onesies were better. Plus, with all the hand-me-downs and gifts we received, I didn’t need to make clothes. It didn’t make sense to spend time and money on clothes when I could get them for free or low-cost. Fabric is expensive. Often it costs less to buy an item that someone in another country has sewn, rather than trying to sew it myself.

When I shopped for clothes years ago, I used to go to the mall and compare every possible option before choosing one. Now I don’t have that kind of time to spend in a brick and mortar store. The other night, I walked into the first store I could and made purchases then and there.

Of course, the Internet offers numerous choices I can browse from my home. i’ve spent hours this week comparing one site to another, wondering which socks or coat I would prefer, staring at the screen and scrutinizing the data before clicking on the shopping cart button. It’s not necessarily more efficient.

Short term relationship

Even if we find clothing we like, the relationship doesn’t last. By the time we need to buy another item, the designer has changed the line or cut of the clothing. Ted used to be able to find jeans at the Gap that fit him, until they changed their sizing. For years I’ve worn the same winter coat: each time I needed a new coat, I’d pick up another one in the same line. Yet now this coat has been discontinued and I have to search from scratch to find a new one.

Size is another issue. Ted’s had trouble finding smaller sizes now that clothes have accommodated the obesity in America. Depending on the fit and cut, I can wear anything from a S to L. Many times I have to chose a larger size simply because my arms are long.

Fashion sometimes feels like yet another system where I don’t fit. Clothes are manufactured based on a certain body size and shape, predicted dimensions. But what if you don’t fit that mold?

I’ve begun to recognize brand loyalty. For example I know that clothes at Children’s Place usually fit my daughters well (and I know what sizes they are) so purchases at that store are usually a safe bet.

Consignment stores are not the bargain I had hoped they would be. I find that when I shop at thrift stores in this area, I am only saving a few dollars on each item if at all, compared finding the same items at sale prices. Plus second-hand stores don’t have return policies, so if the pieces don’t fit or work out, money is lost.

It seems silly to say, as some sort of suburban American blight, but it is stressful at times, trying to buy outfits for five people and keeping each one of us in the appropriate and necessary clothes for the season. I suppose it would take time to make the outfits too. Yet shopping seems wasteful to me. I’m amazed at the amount of resources it takes, the assumed cos in time, money and energy, simply to keep oneself from being naked. Nevermind the futility of laundry…

Life would be easier if we were nudists. 😉

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lucy // Jan 9, 2006 at 10:05 am

    Random shopping thoughts:

    (1) LLBean puts their clearance on the website on the first day of the month. Tons of their coats go on serious clearance Dec.1st, when they also have free S&H.

    (2) HannaAndersson is expensive, but their stuff lasts and lasts and lasts. I’ve got clothes that have gone through three active children and will look practically new for the fourth one. No kidding. Their big clearance is now, in its second week. And The Playdress isn’t really on sale yet. They post their clearance on the website late on Thursday nights.

    (3) As a short fat person, I feel your tall thin pain! One would think that designers would understand that when an adult gains weight, they don’t also gain height. My favorite shirts are the ones with three-quarter sleeves, because they don’t cover the ends of my fingertips!

  • 2 timbu // Jan 9, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    Glad to see you are posting again!

    Sometimes I think the best thing about shopping at consignment stores, at least for children, isn’t the price so much as getting to see how well the garment looks after being worn and washed a few times. Of course, we’re lucky, living in a big city makes for more used kids clothing stores.

  • 3 Liz // Jan 13, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    Hi, we met at Blogher. I hear you loud and clear! I basically have uniforms. The work-at-home uniform is long-sleeved polo shirts from LL Bean and/or Lands’ End, plus jeans from Land’s End, both of which have proved quite sturdy, thank you, and fit well. The more professional uniform is (a)unstructured: mix & match pieces from Tienda Ho or (b)tailored trousers, a shell, and a smashing jacket or coat.

    Tienda Ho has an online catalog (you have to call to order but you can see the pieces online).


    I stock up when I am in Santa Barbara, there’s also a store in Berkeley. Their clothes would look good on your body type, I think. The Santa Barbara store has a $20-per-piece rack, I loaded up when I was there this summer.

    I have found that Target has acceptable women’s clothing, if you shop carefully.

    The girls are more difficult. The previous poster, on Hanna Anderson, was correct–my daughter’s clothes went on to two more girls before becoming too shabby to wear, really. Now my daughter is in her teens, and gets a clothing allowance. She has an Edwardian figure and after trying on literally dozens of jeans, finally found jeans that fit at Lucky brand. They are expensive, but I taught her my rule: when you find trousers that fit, buy as many pairs as you can. I supplemented her clothing allowance for this occasion so she could get 6 pairs–two each in the colors she liked.

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