Limiting My Fashion Footprint

Ilustration by @hannahelainesmith

I’ve never been one to be particularly wasteful. I still have makeup that I probably should have thrown away a while ago, I limit the amount of food that I buy so it doesn’t just end up molding in my fridge, and I’m still clinging to my iPhone 5S despite the fact that it basically has the battery life of my daily commute.

While I’m certainly cognizant of my footprint, a part of my attitude may stem from the fact that I’m a writer living in one of the most expensive cities in the country. With such little money to go around, I need to prioritize what I spend my cash on. One thing that I’ve always made a priority, though, is fashion.

While I’ve certainly never decked myself out in runway-ready duds, I keep up-to-date with the latest trends and like to experiment with my look. I’ve never been one to pass up a sale, and there’s nothing more cathartic than a weekend shopping trip when you’ve had a rough week. I never thought of my shopping habit as particularly problematic, aside from the headache I endured while moving in with my boyfriend and attempting to fit everything into our shared closet. That is, until I really delved deep into where and how American clothes were made.

According to KQED News, less than two percent of the clothes we wear are made in the United States, down from 90 percent in 1960, 70 percent in 1980 and 29 percent in 2000. Just about everything from my Doc Martens (apparently only their “vintage” collection is still made in the U.K.) to my cringey college club clothes, to my band t-shirts were made in Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Bangladesh or Thailand. All of these countries have incredibly lax labor laws and very low minimum wages – meaning American clothing manufacturers are able to churn out more clothes than ever before, at a fraction of the cost, leading to those rad $12 Forever 21 garb  we all love so much.

Buy products made in America, then, right? Well, not quite. That Orange is the New Black storyline about prisoners fighting over the chance to sew panties because the job paid more than electrical or janitorial work wasn’t totally fiction. In fact, a number of American brands that boast “Made in the USA” on their tags use labor from prisoners making as little as 23 cents per hour, according to The Hill.

While I do love to stay on top of fashion trends, I also firmly believe in fair compensation for workers and ethical sourcing. Those things rarely come hand-in-hand. At first, in a panic induced by seeing how many of the clothes I owned were made in inhumane factories, I declared that I wouldn’t buy new clothes, unless they were produced ethically, for a year. I’ll admit that I only lasted a few months, until winter rolled around and I caved. Going from shopping a few times a month to not shopping at all was tougher than I thought. I realized I needed to do a complete overhaul of my approach to buying clothes.

Since buying US-made clothing isn’t as cut and dry as I expected it to be, I’ve begun doing a lot more research as to where my clothes are coming from. There are plenty of resources available online, like The Good Trade and Well Made Clothes. I’ve also found that it’s a safe bet that a brand that doesn’t make a point to let consumers know they source and manufacture ethically, usually doesn’t. There’s a reason the process of tracking down what factories a fast fashion brand sources from is so murky. The issue, however, is that when factories are safe, workers are paid fairly and corners aren’t cut, that tends to reflect in a brand’s price.

While the idea of “minimalism” has never been my cup of tea, I’ve been learning to embrace it. I do respect the idea prioritizing quality over quantity. Do you really need three pairs of fast-fashion black boots when you have one pair that can take the beating of Chicago winter after Chicago winter? Invest in a sewing kit and some shoeshine and keep your stuff in shape to last you.

More alternatives to putting your hard-earned money into the cycle of fast fashion is to seek out independent vendors and stores and to learn how to shop vintage. Not only were most of these pieces not made overseas or with prison labor, but the fact that vintage dresses and blouses have survived for four or five decades is a testament to the quality. While I personally love retro pieces that not only look like they’re straight from the 1960s, but actually are, there’s a fine line to wearing vintage and looking like you’re in a time-period costume. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to work vintage pieces into a modern wardrobe.

I realize that I’m very privileged to be able to even consider the factories in which my clothes are made. I’m lucky to have the means to purchase clothes at the rate that I do. Limiting my fashion footprint is certainly a process, and an overhaul of the fashion industry won’t happen overnight. However, there are more and more brands making a commitment to ethical fashion, so let’s hope and work for greater accessibility in the future.

Originally published in X Chrome Collective.

Detroit’s Best Budget-Friendly Attractions

Originally published at Doorsteps.
Photo by Doorsteps.

It can be tough to imagine that it’s possible to spend a day in a busy metropolis like Detroit, without dropping a lot of money. However, not everything costs as much as a Tiger’s game or a dinner at Coach Insignia. In fact, you can have a long, busy day in the city on a small budget or even for free! Here are some of Detroit’s best free and low-cost attractions that you can enjoy when you’re in between paychecks.

Detroit Institute of Arts (Midtown)

Make sure you change your address when you move to Detroit, because any resident of Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County can attend the museum for free. Any adult who doesn’t live in the tri-county areas can visit for $12.50. The DIA has one of the largest art collections in the country, with approximately 65,000 pieces on display, and a collection ranking among the top six museums. Enjoy a latte in the Rivera Court, overlooked by “Detroit Industry, or Man and Machine,” an enormous mural painted by Diego Rivera in 1932. No matter what style of art you prefer, there will be plenty of pieces that catch your eye at the DIA.

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Detroit’s Best Independent Record Stores

There’s nothing like spending a day in the birthplace of Motown, sifting through records to complete your collection. It’s not a quick undertaking, though! Though there are a number of independent record stores in a small radius in Detroit, there’s no guaranteeing that you won’t spend a good chunk of time marveling at the variety that each location has to offer. If you’re looking to spend an afternoon with some fellow music geeks, here are some of the spots that you need to check out:

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Giving Downtown Detroit Its Due

Originally published at Doorsteps.
Photo from Doorsteps.

Detroit, taken as a whole, is simply massive: 140 sprawling square miles of unique neighborhoods, expansive public parks, and undiscovered treasures. At the center of it all sits Downtown Detroit, occupying in total just one of those square miles between the Detroit River and Midtown.

But don’t be fooled by its footprint. Downtown is what so many people think of when they think of the city itself, brimming with cultural attractions, financial and corporate institutions, and historical places. Whether you’re looking for something to do during the day or a place to party at night, there are plenty of options downtown. Here are a few you shouldn’t miss.

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Detroit’s Best Brunch Spots

Originally published on Doorsteps.
Photo from Doorsteps.

Is there anything more perfect than rolling out of bed at noon to meet up with your friends for brunch at your favorite local spot? Whether you’re a sweet or savory kind of person, someone who prefers a divey spot or doesn’t mind a bit of a wait, there are plenty of different types of brunch spots in the city of Detroit, so you’ll be sure to find one that suits you best. Here are some of the top picks Motown has to offer:

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How Detroit Makes Walkability A Priority

Detroit has always marched to the beat of its own drum. People may try to compare it to a big metropolis like New York City, or another rust belt city like Cleveland or Chicago, but it has an identity all of its own. While Detroit will always be known as the Motor City, the city has spent the past few years making an effort to increase its walkability.

More and more areas of the city are appealing to walkers, with new shops and restaurants popping up every single day. This makes driving around the city less of a necessity, and people are opting to park their cars and explore Motown on foot. According to The Foot Traffic Ahead report, released in June, Detroit is listed at number 21 of the country’s top 30 metropolitan areas, and is in third place for increasing walkability. Here are a few of the ways that Detroit is making it possible to leave your car parked and explore this great city in other ways.

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