What are you wearing right now? This is not a come on, but an honest
question. Add to that, what are your
kids wearing? Where did you buy it, and
how much did it cost you? Have you ever
thought about who made it? Have you ever
considered how and why clothing can be so cheap these days?
When my oldest was born, I got offers for a lot of hand-me-down clothing. Older friends who were further
along in their parenting days trying to help me out while unloading stuff
they no longer needed. But that was not
for me or my precious newborn. She was
new! And just born! Only the best for her would do, thank you
Oftentimes, that meant $4 onesies from Old
Navy or $7 dresses from H&M. These options were cheap and cute, and, I'll admit, kind of addictive. I
had a good time dressing my daughter up and absolutely enjoyed the compliments
received about how sweet she always looked.
Soon enough, though, I realized that my daughter was changing
so fast that she was literally outgrowing her outfits before she was even able
to wear them. She had too much. It turns out, $5 here and $10 there
really adds up. It took a little while,
but I finally discovered secondhand shops for children. I found a new kind of addiction—the kind
involving finding a pristine Hanna Andersson dress for $8 or super cool indie-label clothing that every other child in America was not wearing.
I was hooked. And I
haven't ever really returned to buying exclusively new clothing for any of my
three children since. Sure, a new piece
here or there. But, generally, those new pieces supplement a wardrobe built on
hand-me-downs and finds from children's secondhand shops.
There is no shame in recycling clothing that
kids wear an average of a few months before growing out of them.
It wasn't until recently that I learned the greater
significance of all of this cheap clothing available to us here in
America. A few weeks ago, I went to a
screening of a new documentary called "True
Cost." What an eye-opener. Filmmaker Andrew Morgan sheds a blinding
light inside the fashion industry, including the crumbling sweatshops where all
of that fast fashion we've been wearing over the past decade or so (and putting
our kids in, too) has been
There is a cost to the growth of fast fashion that far exceeds the few dollars a new outfit runs us.
These sweatshops are staffed with people making just
dollars a day for hard work in deplorable conditions, some of them young
mothers who have left their children in the care of others so they could move
into a city in the hopes of a better life. Some of them are older children themselves, surrounded by chemical— all
so we can wear the newest trend from Forever 21 for under 20 bucks.
Modern life can be relentlessly guilt inducing, but as Andrew Morgan says in an
interview catalogued on his web site, the clothing we buy has become a moral
choice. For that reason alone, I am
grateful to continue buying much of my children's clothing secondhand.
That's gotten even easier, as we can now do it
online. Moxie Jean is a growing online site of
secondhand clothing geared towards children from infancy to size 14. Prices are very affordable and styles range from casual to dressy with everything
in between, including a newly added maternity section. You can start your new little one out on secondhand wear in utero.
Another solid option is the growth of locally based virtual
yard sales that are popping up all over Facebook these days. A few months ago, knowing that my Dad was on
hospice care and close to death, I put out an S.O.S to the other moms on the local
page I am registered with that I was in the market for a boy's suit, size
6. Within just a few minute,s I had found
one for $15. Done and done. My Dad, a king among penny-pinchers, would
have been thrilled.
The thing is, recycling clothing is just as easy and
important as recycling our trash. There
is a cost to the growth of fast fashion that far exceeds the few dollars a new
outfit runs us. If we start our kids
from an early age learning to appreciate that there is no shame to the mantra
of reduce, reuse and recycle, we are helping so many more people than just
ourselves. And that's a great lesson for our little ones.