It's hard to believe that there's only a week left of the Project. This October has gone much faster for me than other years. I'm still decently fond of my dress, too, which is unusual. Maybe I'm getting better?
Anyways, I was noticing in the Facebook group some of the girls talking about their dresses starting to look shabby and/or actively fall apart. My own dress (thrifted jersey wrap dress) is looking pretty good except that the seam on the front side of the wrap seems for some reason to have stretched out so the front of the dress is longer than the sides and back. It got me thinking about buying cheap ready-to-wear clothes.
I prefer to buy thrifted clothing whenever I can. Buying online from little handmade shops is a nice idea but without being able to try garments on, I know I would probably waste money on things I thought would look good on me, but didn't when they came. I don't like shopping at malls or big-box stores though, for a lot of reasons-- ethical concerns about the sourcing of the fabric, the integrity of the design process, and outsourcing of labour for one, and for another I'm not a fan of the way buying mass-produced garments goes against two of the tenets written into the Dress Project motto-- pro-creativity and anti-conformity. That said, buying more conscientious and creative garments can seem like an unnecessary expense to those of us without a lot of spare cash.
But is it? If you bought a mass-produced dress at a cheap price (and I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad about doing that; I'm going in a different direction), how have you seen it hold up? Is the fabric pilling or stretching? Are the seams unravelling? Is it holding it's shape? If not-- stop and consider.
You've been wearing that dress for twenty days.
The inspiration for the Dress Project, as you probably know, came from some remarks my grandfather made about the dressing habits of the frugal Dutch immigrants who settled the area I lived in in the first part of the century-- one dress a week and one for Sundays. Another group that I find inspiration from is the pioneers-- I think of the Ingalls family buying the fabric for one new dress a season and making over outgrown clothes for the next child down. For many of us, though we may have saved money, supposedly, by buying a $10 dress, if it's wearing out after twenty wears, it's really not saving us money.
I had never noticed or thought of this, because if you're not wearing that $10 dress every day, you might find it wearing out after six months of ownership without realizing that you've only worn it a handful of times in that six months.
I remember a quote from a Japanese craftsman that I read on the Kitka Design blog:
"Professor Oda pulled out a scarf and a pair of leather gloves that he has
... owned for over 40 years. He held up his scarf and told me that when
he was younger he purchased this wool scarf that was well beyond his
salary. It took him a very long time to be able to afford it, but he
purchased it with the intention of having it for at least 25 years.
That, he said, is the magic number. If you can’t pick a product up and
say confidently that this product will serve you well for a minimum of
25 years, it is not a good purchase."
I saved the quote when I read it because I thought it was sound and sensible. But I think one of the big takeaways from this year's Project for me is going to be a concrete sense, which I never had before, of just how much sense it makes to buy this way rather than just buying what's cheap.
What about you? How's your dress holding up? Where did you get it and how much for? What are you learning?
*Not sure of my image source here. Please let me know if you know it.