Eco Habits: Repairing Clothes

I had an a-ha moment at the car wash last week.

I was sitting at a counter, flipping through a recent issue of Lucky magazine (it was a light reading kind of day, you see) when I came across journalist Kayleen Schaefer’s personal essay, “Does a Perfect Wardrobe Equate to a Perfect Life?”

The piece chronicles her obsession with having the contents of her wardrobe repaired—a habit that has her running from her tailor to her shoe repair place (actually, she “rotate[s] between a few shoe guys for resoling and de-scuffing”), as well as to her jewelry polisher, dry cleaner and even a reweaver.

“At all times, I have a list on my phone titled ‘to fix,’” she writes. “I spend at least $100 with my repair crew every month.”

It’s an honest and dizzying account of behavior that borders on obsessive compulsive (see: “I believe, somehow, that if my clothes are perfect, my life will be too”). But I took something important away from it that I don’t believe the writer intended. In her story, I spotted a gaping hole in my eco-friendliness: I’m too lazy to take items to be repaired. After shamefully lengthy periods of wearing ripped, scuffed or otherwise battered clothes, I give them away or retire them as rags. As for clothes that never fit right in the first place, they languish in my closet, unworn reminders of what could have been.

I’m far from the perfectionist Kayleen Schaefer is, nor do I want to be so bound to the cycle of tiny adjustments at the tailor and the buffing of every scuff on my shoes. But she’s on to something that I now realize I should grow up and embrace. Because why waste a garment when it can be fixed? Why replace it with another item that will also fall apart someday instead of making the small trek to the tailor? 

It all ties into another aspect of green wardrobes that I’ve been pondering lately: investment pieces. Schaefer writes that she keeps a fairly minimal closet comprised mostly of timeless investment pieces. It makes sense to repair expensive items that you’ll still want to wear (and that will still be stylish) 10 years from now. When it comes to investment pieces, a bigger upfront cost in the present means a bigger payoff in the future—and less waste. As I advocate for moving away from “fast fashion” (cheap, poorly made clothes that we use up and toss out like a cup of coffee), well-made clothes that will last longer—thus slowing the waste cycle and diminishing our closet’s environmental footprint—are a sensible replacement. And to help these items last well into the future, we can take a page from Schaefer’s story and visit our local repair shops. Not as often, perhaps, but that’s probably for the best.

Eco-Fashion Report: Mata Traders' Spring Collection



The Penny Rose readers may remember Mata Traders, the “fair trade fashion” company that we spotlighted last May. (The chunky yellow necklace featured in my last post was another Mata Traders treasure—one that I am now happy to say I own.) I was excited to recently discover Mata Traders’ Spring 2014 Collection, and recommend checking it out. The new lineup (a few items from which are spotlighted above) is characterized by cheery, simple, feminine dresses and more stylish statement jewelry. The designs are even more impressive when you take into account the production limitations the company operates within—all of its items are made by women’s cooperatives in India and Nepal. If the concept of female-led ethical fashion enterprises piques your interest, give this recent Forbes article, titled “Ethical Chic: How Women Can Change The Fashion Industry,” a read. 

Eco-Friendly Find: Red Prairie Press

While perusing the always-tempting offerings at Wallflower Boutique, in downtown Santa Cruz, recently, I was instantly won over by two seemingly simple items from the same company, Red Prairie Press. I walked away with an earthy green tee and a teal pullover—both adorned with elegant floral imagery on the front—and have been raving about the company ever since. Not only does Red Prairie Press boast several buzz-worthy practices (sweatshop free, hand printed, woman owned, sustainable and ethical manufacturing, non-toxic inks … the list goes on), but the clothes themselves are wonderfully soft and notably well made. They are a perfect go-to casual option: basic and comfy with a feminine feel and colorful twist.

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Eco-Fashion Look: Faux Leather Accents


Winter fit


What can I say? Other than bags and shoes, I never thought I wanted to wear much vegan leather. But my recent jacket kick (see this past Penny Rose post) led me down a rabbit hole of lust-worthy faux leather clothing. Dresses with animal-friendly leatherless leather accents, like this feminine-yet-edgy Easy If You Twilight Dress from Jack by BB Dakota, particularly caught my eye. Paired with faux suede flats, a vegan clutch, and a chic coat, the dress becomes the perfect holiday party pick. Dress it down a bit with a warm sweater and wear it to happy hour or out and about on the town.