May 6, 2011

Simple Living: Clothing

When I read Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, by Judith Levine, an otherwise interesting read was ruined when the author wrote about her clothing. Among other things, she described a sweater that had deteriorated to the point of uselessness within the time span of her one year experiment. "She's not going to make it," I thought. Her book may be about not shopping for a year, but it is definitely not about simple living.

However, Levine did cause me to consider my relationship with clothing. When she fretted about whether her favourite expensive wool socks would last through the 365 days of her shopping hiatus, I thought about my own sock drawer.

The socks I wear are also high quality wool, and I find it difficult to imagine what I would have to do to them to wear them out in one year. Even if they were the only pair of socks I owned. In my experience, a $12.00 pair of good wool socks should comfortably provide service for many years. Unless you are fire walking with them, or something.

I have thought a lot about clothes, which originally were intended to simply cover and protect the body. Any budget I have seen has a generous line for clothing every month, up to several hundred dollars. Thousands of dollars per year for clothes. Are people, like Levine, wearing their clothes out extra fast? Losing them? Why is this necessary?

Fashion is one of the most obvious forms of waste and planned obsolescence. Go to your clothes closet. Set aside enough clothes to wear a different outfit each day for a week. Wear only the clothes you’ve chosen for the next two weeks. Then consider, "What are all those other clothes for?"

Wasting clothing does not honour the clothes, or the people who make them. It wastes our money, and closet space (not to mention psychic space). We can keep a simple selection of clothing, making sure that we wear them out before replacing them. We can learn sewing skills and repair clothes rather than toss them. We can make do with the clothes we have. We can do without fashion complicating our lives.

Whoever joins me must be ready to sleep on the plain floor, wear simple clothes, get up early, live from undemanding nutrition and even clean his toilet.

- Mahatma Gandhi


  1. I've got some walking socks that must be about eight years old and they still look good. Admittedly they weren't cheap - replacements would cost me GB£15.99 for two pairs at current prices - but the point is I don't need to replace them yet!

    Most of my daily work is outside gardening and I've found that men's or boys' (if you are small) clothing is much better made and harder wearing than women's. It is also has a more practical cut if you have a physical job because the shirts are longer in the body and the and the trousers are less figure hugging and more comfortable.

  2. Halfrida,

    Thank you for sharing some very practical clothing tips. And for pointing out that good socks can last a long time. Happy gardening.


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