5 Ways to Look Great and Go Easier on the Planet

5 Ways to Look Great and Go Easier on the Planet

Fashion is tough on the environment

When I read Stella McCartney's words, You can tell the colours of next year's fashion by the colours of the rivers in China",  I had a visceral reaction. I was horrified.  Now before you stop reading, this post isn't here just to make you feel bad - keep going - I promise!  I, like most people, haven't always thought about the environmental impacts of the clothes I wear. I've read about fashion's massive consumption of resources; from the creation of fabrics, to the shipping back and forth of online purchases, to the tons of textile waste (discarded clothing) dumped in landfills each year, it's a dirty business. According to the Business of Fashion, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. It's second only to the oil industry! You would think that an industry with this much negative impact would be top of mind for us. But the truth is, the scale of the problem is so enormous that it has been hard for me to grasp what it really meant. Until I saw that quote.

That quote about rivers in China made it real to me.

I grew up next to one of the cleanest, wildest rivers in North America, the Smith River. It's one of the few undammed rivers in the country. And I grew up drinking straight from it on hikes and while swimming in the summer. I didn't even have to think about whether it could make me sick. I shudder to imagine the Smith River running with so much chemical dye that it actually changed color. Here's its normal color in winter.

The Smith River: it looks like there's dye in it but that's its natural color in winter.

The Smith River: it looks like there's dye in it but that's its natural color in winter.

So what do we do?

The truth is, it's hard to change old habits and every clothing choice has at least some impact on the environment. It's complex. Choose clothes made from recycled plastic? It takes a lot of energy to recycle plastic. Most of us don't want to harm the environment, but we want to keep looking and feeling good in our clothes. For some people it's easy to go cold turkey and suddenly declare "I'll only wear clothes made of 100% organic, sustainable fibers". That choice is still stylistically and financially restrictive for most people. Others say, "No more new clothes. From now on I'll only wear recycled, consignment and thrift store clothes. I'll repair and refashion what I have". This plan is more do-able, but requires more skill in (or money for) repair and re-fashioning. Also, It can take a lot of time to find quality used clothes. I don't know if you've noticed this, but it seems the quality of thrift store merchandise has taken a dive since fast fashion came along. It's not surprising really. Garbage in, garbage out.  

Get into an LTR with your clothes

I like to combine Vivienne Westwood's fahion advice with some of Mark Manson's romantic relationship advice when shopping.

Buy less, choose well, make it last.
— Vivienne Westwood

Westwood's guidance combined with a healthy dose of consignment, vintage and swap treasure hunting can be really good. After all, someone has to be the first to buy the new, high quality garment. Women like me who hate to shop or have a hard time finding clothes that fit buy less anyway. It's hard to buy things that don't exist. Here are some more ideas to change our impact without giving up everything.

  • Be more thoughtful about our purchases, buying only what we need. We should be getting into LTRs with our clothes. I've started using Mark Manson's romantic relationship guidance when I shop. Here's how it works: If, when I try it on I don't have a real  "f&#k yes!" reaction, i.e. this outfit makes me feel AH-MAY-ZING, I don't buy it. I may need to get another opinion, or consult a tailor (see below), but in the end, we don't waste what we don't buy.
  • Make friends with a tailor so we can maintain what we have.
  • Choose high quality garments, using more sustainable fabrics like hemp, lyocell, and others.
  • Pre-loved clothes can be great. Go to (or host) a clothing swap party (see below).
  • If we live in a larger city, we may be able to buy locally-made products, which also helps our local communities. We're very fortunate in Portland to have many local designers, but in your town, you may have to actively seek them out.   


In keeping with our Earth Day theme, here's what we've been up to.

Modified Style Portland Clothing Swap 

Have you ever been to a clothing swap? A Naked Lady Party? Here's what happens. Each attendee brings clothes she no longer wants to the party and adds them to sorted piles of clothes other women have brought to swap. You can take home as much as you want from the piles. They happen all over town at private homes. I went to a big clothing swap hosted by Modified Style Portland last month. Modified Style Portland (MSP) is a local non-profit that advocates for sustainable fashion . MSP puts on two big clothing swaps per year to encourage recycling of garments and to raise money for their annual fashion show. The fashion show is a fundraiser itself for a local charity.

Here's how the MSP swap went down. It was in a club-venue, with a fantastic DJ. There were cocktails, there were McMenamin's evilly-good TATERTOTS and there were piles and piles .....and piles of women's and men's clothes. Hundreds of people walked out with huge bags of new-to-them clothes. Many dressed specifically for the event in easy-on-and -off clothes because there aren't dressing rooms to speak of. The scary thing was, at the end of the sale there were still piles and piles of clothes. At least 30 garbage bags full. Yeah, this textile waste thing is real. 

Here's some video I took there:

WeFitMe Coffee Chat on NE Alberta Street

Thanks to EcoVibe for this fun pic and a great morning!

Thanks to EcoVibe for this fun pic and a great morning!

We met up last weekend for a chat at Case Study Coffee then a stroll to two local, independent boutiques: EcoVibe Apparel and Frock

EcoVibe has two Portland locations ( 1408 NE Alberta St, and 904 NW 23rd Avenue) and showcases clothing made with sustainable materials. The vibe is calm, and colors mostly muted, earth tones. I had never purchased anything there before, but I wanted to take another look with some Shape Sisters. We had a blast styling each other, but newcomer Brandy (in the red jacket below) showed her passion for styling by working on the rest of us. Between our Brandy and EcoVibe's wonderful stylists Abbey and Bethany, I was talked into trying on several things I would not normally have tried on. EcoVibe's stylists Bethany and Abbey kept bringing me options, I kept doubting they were for me, and Brandy would make me try them on. It was pretty funny. Several times I had to admit I was totally wrong about how things would look.

Brandy styled me, a.k.a. made me try on this dress, and shoes, and jacket. Plus, she said she would do some alterations for me on the dress ....yay! That was enough to get my Mark Manson approval ;-)

Brandy styled me, a.k.a. made me try on this dress, and shoes, and jacket. Plus, she said she would do some alterations for me on the dress ....yay! That was enough to get my Mark Manson approval ;-)

Brandy styled Julie and herself in this yummy, light-but-warm   poncho you can wear eight different ways.  Colors on these photo don't do them justice!  

Brandy styled Julie and herself in this yummy, light-but-warm  poncho you can wear eight different ways. Colors on these photo don't do them justice!  

I recommend EcoVibe because they've started carrying extended (plus) sizes too. Their "Curve" collection is still small, but it's a step in the right direction. So let's get over there and support them! Finally, EcoVibe is partnering with 1% for the Planet. They donate 1% of sales to non-profits to help offset some of the damage that the fashion industry has on the environment.Thanks EcoVibe!

Our Next Stop: Frock Boutique

We headed over to Frock next, right across the street from EcoVibe. It's a totally different atmosphere. Where EcoVibe is serene and calmly neutral, Frock's vibe is party-like. Frock has a mixture of casual and party dresses. There is a retro-girly flair to the assortment (lots of fit-n-flare styles) and they carry a few brands that have extended sizes, such as Effie's Heart (out of California). Frock also carries some of the super-cool and very colorful clothes by Desigual (from Spain). After this winter and spring, don't you think we could do with some color?

Frock is also one of those places to get a silly gift for your best girlfriend. Silly socks, stickers, fun jewelry, and even Unicorn Snot.  Check out these crazy Princess Swan Pumps.

If you want to join us next time, sign up here!

Upcoming Events:

Curvy Chic Closet Consignment Sale and Fashion Show

Join us next Saturday April 29, 2017 at a plus-size fashion show in Oregon. This show, focused on ready-to-wear plus-size fashions is part of the annual Curvy Chic Closet Plus-Size consignment sale. I'm thrilled to see beautiful women in the spotlight who are shaped more like people you see everyday! As for the brands that will be shown, I'm curious to see the clean-lined looks from a new company called Universal Standard out of New York. US has recently announced they're going to allow a customer to swap out sizes any time within the first year if she needs to. Interesting and wonderful for the many women whose sizes can change dramatically within a year.

Started by Becky Jarvis from Beaverton, Oregon, Curvy Chic Closet Sale is the largest plus-size consignment sale in North America. It's going on all weekend. People come from as far away as Canada to shop because there are thousands of square feet of plus-size clothes. The digs aren't super fancy, but don't let that deter you. And frankly, wouldn't we rather be able to park at the venue and spend the money on the shopping instead of a temporary space? You can find great things and try them on right there. I went last year and found a (real) leather pencil skirt for only $12. 


1.. Portland's tomboy-inspired WildFang inspires (friendly) competition in DapperBoi. DB makes size-inclusive menswear-inspired apparel for women, which may appeal to more potential customers than WildFang's mostly straight-sized offerings. The more options for fit and style, the better!

2. Oregon-based Nike still has none of their plus-size designs in their flagship downtown Portland Oregon store... Odd, don't you think? I go in to the store every week and ask if they have them, and they say, "we're supposed to be getting them..." but can't say when. C'mon Nike, there's an eager and active population right in your front yard!

3. RSport just launched March 31 and it's going to give Nike some competition. Rsport is the first women's athletic apparel brand exclusively focused on technical, well-fitting and great-looking gear for women sized 10 and up (up to 6x). We spoke with the founder, CJ Riggens a couple of months ago and we've been so excited to see her line launched. RSport is solving a real problem for Athena athletes (LOVE that name too!)..Check out the article about Rsport in Outside magazine.

BONUS: Star Trek swimsuits. Just because. They're kind of cute too. 

Clarissa Cooper of Portland OR is the founder of WeFiTMe, an online community of like-bodied women helping each other find clothes that fit. Clarissa has over 30 years of experience in the women’s apparel industry as a CONSUMER, as well as a background in finance in the energy industry. This is Clarissa's first blog, but it’s not her first rodeo.

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