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Garment Self-Sufficiency

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Intern Casie Lukes is on a quest to learn to sew … and she’s starting with the bare essentials: underwear!

Indigorchid's Underwear Pattern
Indigorchid’s Underwear Pattern

In my previous post, I touched on the beginnings of my journey into ethical shopping/clothing production. I confess: I haven’t gotten much further on this journey  other than not buying clothing items. (I also consider forking over a few hundred dollars for a bridesmaid dress to be a major fail. But it leaves something to be considered — what do you do in a situation like that?) I have, however, picked up Elizabeth Cline’s book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion from the library and am excited to dig into it. According to the book’s site:

“Cline (a former fast-fashion junkie herself) sets out to uncover the true nature of the cheap fashion juggernaut, tracing the rise of budget clothing chains, the death of middle-market and independent retailers, and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals. She travels to cheap-chic factories in China and Bangladesh and looks at the impact (both here and abroad) of America’s drastic increase in imports. She even explores how the pressures of cheap have forced retailers to drastically reduce detail and craftsmanship,  making the clothes we wear more and more uniform, basic and low quality.”

The site also provides a great Shopping Directory for clothing, denim, footwear, and accessories/handbags that meet at least one of a list of standards Cline provides. These include: U.S. production; sustainability; lowering environmental impact; and, if the items are made overseas, they are either fair-trade or living-wage conditions.

As I scour the web for ethical clothing, and have discussions with my roommate, who just finished Overdressed, I continue to run head on into the high cost of good clothing. This is similar to food, but an organic apple is always more affordable than a pair of ethical, sustainable, handmade jeans. Closing the gap and scrimping when there’s not a whole lot left to scrimp makes it difficult to get started.

As my roommate and I talked about this over red wine and organic chocolate the other night, she mentioned that in Overdressed, Cline touches on the major loss in craftsmanship within a generation. This brought us to the idea that we should learn how to sew. Since fabric is expensive and we have no idea what we’re doing, we settled on trying to learn to make underwear: Small garments = less of a waste of fabric while we self-teach the trade.

While looking for patterns, I came across a great site called Indigorchid, which offers free patterns for sewing underwear (out of old t-shirts!), and tutorials on basic and extras for undies, so we can follow step-by-step. So until I have a few more dollars to put toward those sustainability produced clothing items, I’m dedicating some energy into trying this out. I’m pretty excited about it, and will keep you posted on how my first pair turns out! To get the free pattern, click here!

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