Jane and Beryl went to see an exhibition in Big London this week. It is called Fashioned From Nature and is at the V&A. They had assumed it was dresses made from leaves or some such, but oh, my goodness! Although there were indeed dresses made from eccentric things, like pineapples, there was so much more and it got our duo thinking about a subject which has been bothering them for some time now: sustainability in the fashion world and how they can do their bit. This is what they think...

Back in the day, the only problem with fashion in the sustainability stakes seemed to be where it was made. In other words, what poor soul was slogging for a few measly pence to make our clothes in undeveloped countries and how many miles said garment had travelled to get to us. Jane and Beryl have found that there is so much more to it, all obvious when you think about it - the growing or manufacture of the raw material, the spinning, dyeing, finishing and printing, all contribute horrors to our world. And while we may think that the fashion industry is not going away anytime soon and that there is not much to be done, Jane and Beryl have come up with a few personal ways to lighten the load...


No. 1
Buy pre-loved clothes

Pre-loved M&S coat
This must be the number one way to go, and while Jane and Beryl make no promises about sticking to this dictat completely, dear reader, you know that a second hand item is like the elixir of life to them. We are fortunate indeed that there is a plethora of avenues to find great kit of this ilk: charity shops, sales, dress agencies, auctions... the list is almost endless. Jane wants to revive the swishing party - remember those? Gather your friends together with their old clothes and either formally charge everyone five quid per item and give it to charity or just swap away. A complete new wardrobe in an evening and nicer changing rooms than most - what's not to love?

Also look out for: the Frome Wardrobe Collective's March Clothes Swap at the Silk Mill, Frome on Saturday 16th March and 
Sarah Quarren Evans's twice yearly Pre-Loved Clothes sales at Oriel Hall, Bath 

No. 2
On the high street, buy only what you truly love

Top Shop coat


This may seem like an obvious thing to say, but how many times have our WOACAs Jane and Beryl bought items that they know are a compromise? For an item of clothing to become green, it must be worn 30 times, we are told. Beryl has owned this Top Shop coat for at least four years and drags it about like a comfort blanky. Jane has a Ghost dress from before she was married, and that's a very long time ago indeed. When you truly love a garment you always feel great in it, prize it, and take great care of it, for fear you will not find a replacement. 


No.3
Mother knows best...

Beryl's lovely Mum
Beryl's ma was a great fan of only buying things of good quality which would last for years - Jaegar, Windsmoor, Country Casuals and M&S were her staples. She would change out of her 'good' clothes and into her housework clothes when returning home, in order to extend their life. Much as Jane and Beryl have scoffed at this worthiness in the past, they hang their heads in shame and have to admit that she was, of course, right. They intend to buy less, buy better, and stop chucking it on the bedroom floor in a rush.

No.4
Buy from brands with sustainable ranges

Dress by H&M

Gone are the days when sustainable meant rough cotton and baggy shapelessness. Where Stella McCartney went, others have clearly followed. Jane and Beryl have come across several high street brands which are going all out to provide clothes which are affordable as well as stylish, and have green credentials. 
These include:
Thought: great colours and fabrics
People Tree: fabulous styling
H&M: great pricing with their usual joie de vivre, and they take back bags of re-loved clothing to make the new stuff.


No.5
Recycle your chuck outs in what ever way...


Jacket photographed ready to be put on DePop
Dress photographed for DePop

Jane can remember her mother and grandmother using her Dad's old vests and other unmentionables as dusters and her teenage self thinking 'UGH'. Although she still slightly agrees with her teenage self, she has to admit that no clothing item should ever go in the actual bin. The charity shop is the main beneficiary in her world, but she sells some of it too and the rest goes for rags (or see swishing above).  


No.6
Shop your wardrobe

This hasn't seen the light of day for a wee while - must find an event and lose a stone, muses Jane...
Jane and Beryl have noticed that this is the mot du jour, as all the fashion eds are urging us to do it. They take it to mean, ferret about in the nethermost regions where only the moths go and see what is really lurking in there - then wear it. Philosophically, they are great fans of this, even if they don't do it as much as they ought. Food for fashion thought, though... (Too late, says Jane, I've just done my spring wardrobe weed and it's all gone, gone, gone to the charity shop).

No.7
Be a borrower and a lender

Jane, in gorgeous outfit for an Indian wedding borrowed with huge thanks from her friend, Kurti

Jane and Beryl well know the urge which rampages through a WOACA's soul at the thought of buying something new for an event, but stop! Consider: how many times will that outfit actually see the light of day again? Perhaps never. And borrowing from a friend can often mean you wear something you would not normally consider or that is far more appropriate than anything you might buy yourself (see Jane above).

No.8
Read the labels

Beryl wanted to buy this skirt, but when Jane discovered
it was made of 100% polyester, changed her mind
Beryl would do this if only she could find her glasses... fortunately, Jane is often around to do it for her, and has thus taken on the role of fashion politizzi in this department, something that Beryl fears she is enjoying rather too much. The problems is that all those natural fibres we bought were the 'right' things to wear like cotton and silk, turn out to be all wrong, wrong, wrong. The exceptions are linen, hemp, bamboo and organic wool, which are least harmful. Cotton, unless it's organic, uses too much water and chemicals, especially the manufacture of jeans, and silk is harmful to the worms (again, unless it's organic). And don't even start on the man-made stuff: polyester is a no, no obvs (unless it's recycled), but apparently viscose (made from wood pulp) is another horror too. Best stick to the pre-loved...







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