“Haste makes waste, so I rarely hurry. But if a ferret were about to dart up my dress, I’d run.”
– The Cheshire Cat, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
The fashion industry has a quiet, lurking problem. They don’t want you to know this, but 13 million tons of textiles find their way into landfills each year. 95 percent of this waste could have been reused, resold, recycled, or otherwise repurposed, according to the Pretty Planeteer.
I remember the last time I paid retail price for an item of brand-new clothing. It was a deep, plum purple bodycon dress with sequins that I wore exactly once. I’d love to lie and say it was worth 25 dollars, but it wasn’t. It was an impulse purchase that I made in 2017, back in those halcyon days before I learned the full extent of the fashion industry’s hidden baggage and the deeply damaging consequences of fast fashion on the environment.
These days, I shop almost exclusively thrift and reused clothing. I am an avid fan of thredUp, and 90 percent of my wardrobe consists of clothes that other people bought on a whim and used a few times before it went out of style, stopped fitting, or more likely, lost its novelty.
I am a proud fashionista. I am no stranger to the allure of new clothes, the thrill of the search for the perfect complement to complete an outfit, the pressure to keep up with the latest trends, but one of the most important fashion lessons I’ve ever learned is this: Forge your own style. Don’t follow the crowd, because trends will come and trends will go, but having your own unique style never goes out of fashion.
In June 2018, I dyed my hair galaxy colors and wore an ostentatious, stand-out outfit consisting of a thrifted black shirt with ruffles along the bodice, a sheer black jacket I’d recently acquired at a local tag sale, and a gifted black-and-white skirt with a lace detail. The entire ensemble cost me virtually nothing, and a pair of elderly ladies coming out of the library as I passed by stopped me. One of them said, “Dear, you look like you stepped straight out of Alice and Wonderland.”
“Doesn’t she?” her companion agreed.
It was one of the best compliments I’d ever received, and I walked around glowing for the rest of the day.
If my wardrobe renders me a rebel, I shall wear the badge of rebellion proudly – so long as it matches whatever I’m wearing. 😉
Next time you buy clothing, please consider buying it used, and if ever you clean out your closet, please donate or sell your old duds! It’s better for the environment, and has the potential to benefit low-income individuals in your community.
Caitlin Cacciatore (she/hers) is a queer poet & writer living on the outskirts of New York City. In addition to being a fashionista, she can cook a mean coq au vin, seals her letters with wax, and loves Star Trek so much that her dream college at the age of seven was Starfleet Academy. She is currently pursuing an MA in Digital Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center. You can find her at https://caitlincacciatore.wordpress.com/