As I've explored the ideas of simplicity and minimalism, I ran into a lot of people talking about downsizing their wardrobe. In my first major purge I did donate several bags of clothes, but I had no desire to create a capsule wardrobe or try the 333 challenge (33 clothing items for 3 months). Then I read Jen Hatmaker...
As part of her fasting from excess, she wore 7 clothing items for a month and loved it!
I wasn't sure how I wanted to approach this month of 7, but I started by counting my clothes - tops, bottoms, dresses, nightgowns etc. I did not include undergarments. The total was 230. That is not a mountain, but it is still a lot for a person who claims to not care about clothes. So, I decided to jump in and see how little I could live on for a month.
I started with 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of shorts, 1 t-shirt, 2 dress pants (black and brown), 3 semi-dressy tops, 1 pair of sweats and 1 dress. I discovered it was sort of fun. I kept the experiment secret and wondered if anyone would notice. For two weeks I had this tiny pile of laundry and few choices to make in the morning. In fact, it was two easy. At two weeks I decided to narrow the playing field. I eliminated the shorts (cool weather coming anyway) and the sweats and one top. Now I had to repeat tops twice in a work week. Still no one seemed to notice. I guess the world really doesn't revolve around me. =p
By the fourth week I was a little bored with those tops and really ready to wear a different dress to church, but it certainly was not difficult or painful like fasting from food. So, I was right to say I'm not all that attached to my clothes.
Still, this was a fast, and I wanted to hear God's voice. I asked him what he wanted to show me this month. I had spent some time thinking about image and how we feel about ourselves and others based on clothes. I also pondered how much we spend as a nation on clothes and how even thrift stores will reject clothes at times because they just have too much. So as a society we have extreme waste in this area. I try to get most of my clothes used for this reason.
The one thing I had not considered was how clothing related to social justice. I watched Jen's video for this month and did some internet surfing to find out about worker abuse, child labor, and unsafe working conditions. It's a big topic and not at all clear-cut. Here at last was the place where this fast pinched. I found a listing of various companies and how well they were doing with safety, living wage, and child labor. Unfortunately, most of the labels in my closet were not on the list so I have no way to judge them. I did decide to support the companies with good rating when possible. Of course when you buy from a company that uses fair trade cotton and pays their workers above minimum wage, you might get sticker shock. Then I discovered that certain countries are more known for worker abuses. I started checking my labels again and I had lots of clothes made in the top two. Since I wanted to purge anyway, I donated many of these. I also chose to keep some - things I wear often or really liked. It wasn't as easy as I thought.
The next day I took my daughter shopping for a recital dress. We found one she liked (a major feat) and it fit. Only after it was in the cart did I check the tag -- ugh it was from the country I told myself I was no longer supporting... but it fit, she liked it, and it was cheap... and I bought it. =s
Now some will say, justifiably, that I have no way of knowing if that dress was made by a modern-day slave or a home-business trying to get out of poverty. That is true. It's also true that in that moment, the for-sure needs of my own child outranked the maybe abuses of somebody else's child. I am weak when it comes to my dearest treasures - my children.
So, I leave clothes month with a smaller wardrobe (@150 now) and a lot of questions about justice. As someone reminded me, it's not just clothes. Injustices abound in so many industries. I don't know how to even begin to make a dent in this issue. As with so many things the goal may be progress not perfection.