Most people don’t understand the damage the garment industry is doing to the environment and to the people in developing countries who make our clothes. The world now consumes 80 billion pieces of clothing each year, which is up 400% from two decades ago, and the average American throws away more than 65 pounds of clothes each year! Over 60 million people are employed in the global clothing and footwear sector and most of them make less than half of what’s considered a “living wage” in their countries. These are just a few of the staggering – and sobering – statistics I recently read about in an article that was posted on Facebook.
The current fashion industry model is not sustainable and urgent changes are needed, as explained in the 2015 documentary film, “The True Cost.” I recently learned of a sustainable fashion initiative called #30wears that was started by sustainable fashion advocate, Livia Firth (wife of Oscar-winning actor, Colin Firth). This movement strives to counter the wastefulness of “fast fashion” by focusing on buying quality pieces that we will wear at least thirty times before we discard them. Simply asking ourselves, “Will I wear this a minimum of thirty times?” while we’re shopping can help us to make choices that are better for the world at large as well as our closets.
Looking in My Closet – My “30 Plus Club”
After I read the article, I got to thinking about my own wardrobe and wondered how many items I own have been worn at least thirty times. Being the lover of statistics that I am, I decided to gather the data. I found that I currently have 45 items in my closet that meet the thirty-plus wears criterion, which can be broken down as follows:
- 27 garments
- 10 pairs of shoes
- 8 purses
Here’s a look at all of the items I’ve worn at least thirty times (one clothing item is not pictured):
Now let’s take a bit of a closer look… My most worn clothes fall into the following categories:
- 7 pairs of pants (4 jeans, 3 trousers)
- 1 skirt
- 3 coats
- 5 jackets
- 4 cardigans
- 6 tops (1 sleeveless, 2 short-sleeved, 3 long-sleeved)
Here’s a photo of those items (one jacket is not pictured):
The items above are almost all casual knit or denim pieces that are suitable for my lifestyle and they have been in my closet for at least a few years. The styles are all classic in nature as opposed to trendy and they’re all basic enough that I haven’t grown tired of wearing them. A few of the garments shown have been worn over 100 times and thus have a very low cost-per-wear.
The Shoes and Bags
All of my most used shoes and bags are either black or metallic, as shown below:
Again, they’re all classic styles that work with many of my outfits and thus have been worn regularly. A couple of the bags haven’t been used recently, but I keep them around because I can still see myself wanting to carry them in the future.
The “Up and Comers”
In addition to the items that have already reached the thirty wears milestone, I also own quite a few pieces that will either be there soon or should reach that threshold at some point. Here’s a look at the 45 items that I believe will make it to thirty wears:
This group can be broken down into the following categories:
- 4 pairs of shoes
- 4 pairs of pants (1 jeans, 2 trousers, 1 Capris)
- 4 skirts
- 2 jackets
- 2 coats
- 2 cardigans
- 2 vests
- 25 tops (4 sleeveless, 3 short-sleeved tops, 18 long-sleeved tops)
You may have noticed a glaring omission in the group of “up and comers.” There are no dresses in the mix! That’s because I don’t tend to wear my dresses more than four or five times per year and I’m not sure if I will hold onto them for the six to eight years necessary to reach the thirty wears threshold. What this shows me is that I either need to start wearing dresses more often or maintain a much smaller collection. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I should get rid of the ones I have, but if I don’t really love certain dresses, it makes sense to pass those on so that my favorites will see more wear.
What if They Won’t Last for 30 Wears?
Another category that doesn’t feature prominently among my current or prospective “worn thirty times” groups is short-sleeved tops. This may seem surprising because I wear these items so often living in the Southern California temperate climate. The issue here has to do with quality. In recent years, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to find t-shirts that will wear and wash well. More and more these days, the care tags on such items specify that they either be hand-washed or machine-washed on cold in a delicate cycle. Whatever happened to the durable cotton t-shirts of yesteryear? They are still available to men, as my husband’s shirts tend to last well, but the quality of women’s knits has plummeted for the most part.
Sadly, I don’t see the knit items below making it to thirty wears:
As you can see, most of them are tees, but there are also a few knit dresses included. All of these items have started to pill considerably or become stretched out and some of them haven’t even been worn ten times! This is especially troubling because I don’t always wash my clothes after every single wearing, as sometimes I only wear a given garment for a few hours. What’s more, I baby my clothes when I launder them and rarely put things in the dryer. They should be lasting longer than they are for sure.
I’m sad to say that fifteen of the nineteen items shown above came from Nordstrom, which has been my go-to shopping destination for years. They used to be known for their exceptional quality as well as their stellar customer service, but that has changed. While good quality can still be found there, their dedicated store brands are not at all what they used to be. Consequently, I will have to start looking elsewhere for my tees and other knit items. If you have any recommendations as to where I can find quality t-shirts, please share them in the comments section, as I know I’m not the only one who’s having problems in this regard. I really want to do better in terms of my clothing sustainability practices and thirty or more wears from a garment is really not too much to ask, especially when we’re not frequenting “fast-fashion” establishments.
The Honorable Mentions
I thought it would also be useful to look at the items I’ve purged either this year or last year to see how many of them received thirty plus wears. What I found was that eight of the forty-two items I’ve passed on this year (19%) were worn at least thirty times: two jackets, one coat, one pair of jeans, and three pairs of shoes:
Interestingly, when I looked at my 2015 purged items, I came up with a similar statistic. Of the 74 items I passed on last year, fourteen had been worn thirty or more times, which was also 19%. Here’s a look at those items:
Some Conclusions and My Future Plan
I’m not at all happy with those statistics! While it’s probably unreasonable to expect that we will wear 100% of our closet pieces thirty or more times, 19% is pretty abysmal. I’m sure that number was even lower before I started the blog, but I don’t like that I’m such a big part of the problem related to clothing ethics and sustainability. The reason the garment industry continues to perpetuate such grave abuses is that people like me keep buying the clothes! We add large numbers of clothing to our closets each year and don’t wear what we own nearly often enough.
I can’t keep ignoring the elephant in the room. While I’ve downsized my wardrobe considerably and overhauled my style since starting this blog, I continue to experience far too much “wardrobe churn.” Too much is coming in and too much is going out without having been worn a decent number of times. This has to change and that’s why I’ve decided to adopt the every other week purchase plan that Mo of MOderate Wardrobe has committed to for 2017. I wrote about this in my shopping priorities and purchase update a couple of weeks ago and I know it’s the right thing to do. This way, I have a much better chance of being deliberate (my word for 2015) about what I buy and achieving a better balance (my word for 2016) in my closet.
As the year winds down, I’m going to be doing some wardrobe experiments and challenges, as well as planning my 2017 purchases. I’ll be sharing more thoughts and insights here and will also post my initial 2017 list once I’ve created it. This list won’t be set in store and I will review it at least monthly and ideally before every single purchase. I want to better utilize what I have and make targeted purchases based upon the observations I’ve made about what’s missing from my closet and what I believe will add the biggest “bang for my buck,” so to speak, to my wardrobe.
I will continue to track my wears (read why I do this HERE and learn about the system I use HERE) and keep my outfit journal. These practices take just a few minutes each day and have led to many valuable insights, so I intend to keep on doing them for the foreseeable future. I believe there will come a time when I’ll no longer need to do wardrobe tracking, but that will probably be when most of my closet pieces are being worn thirty or more times and when I’m buying less and making fewer mistakes. Until then, I will stay the course and keep learning and growing. The thirty wears benchmark adds a new layer to my recovery process and I believe it will help me to make better shopping choices. I look forward to being part of the sustainability solution instead of part of the problem!
I hope you enjoyed this post and that perhaps it has led you to think about your wardrobe and how often you wear your clothes, shoes, and accessories. Now I’d love to get your insights. Here are a few questions to spark your thought process, but feel free to comment on anything you’d like related to this post:
- What do you think about the #30wears initiative?
- How will asking yourself if you will wear something at least thirty times change your shopping practices?
- What percentage of your wardrobe has been or will be worn thirty or more times?
- What changes do you plan to make, if any, as a result of this post and the #30wears project?
- Which wardrobe categories do you wear more or less than others and why?
I look forward to reading your feedback on this important topic and to helping each other shop smarter and better use what we have. Thank you and have a wonderful weekend!