Terri of RAGS Against the MACHINE Takes the Six Items Challenge

Six Items Challenge

It’s been a week now since the July round of the Six Items Challenge for Labour behind the Label’s effort to raise awareness about working conditions in the global textile and fashion industry. And, it’s been curious to watch my behavior…to see if anything has really changed. And after a week, I would say it has.

Early in the challenge Franca at Oranges and Apples wrote a post that worked on my thinking throughout the challenge. She speculated that a challenge would only be possible with frequent laundering, thus contributing to the environmental impact of a reduced wardrobe. Two of the items I selected for my challenge were Dry Clean only (the black slacks and woven skirt). Two were cold water wash items (the reversible shell and white skirt) and two could be tossed in with other items of laundry I might be doing (the white and black tees). I learned to change into my nightgown earlier in the evening than I ordinarily would. I learned that simply airing clothing might suffice; I wore items longer between washings. And, I learned to wash items in my bathroom sink. I dry cleaned once during the month, using a kit and my own washer/dryer. Today, 6 days after the challenge ended, I had my first official laundry day in a month, having run out of underwear.

I also worried that such intensive wearing might permanently ruin the six items I chose. I am happy to report that the white tee was the only item that showed this wear, with the hem beginning to ravel in the last week. The black slacks, however, will likely never be worn as a pair of dress slacks again–as I’ve discovered how comfy and “dressed up” they are for every day wear. In fact, as I type, I’m wearing the black slacks with a Harley top that Sandra from Owl Molt sent toward the end of the challenge. Picture it: a 58 year old woman, braless, in a tight motorcycle ridin’ top. DH loves it.

I rediscovered the WEALTH of accessories I own and have done a second closet cleaning since the challenge ended, trying to think of a better way to organize these accessories. I need something like a shoe box for each color in the palette where items could be sorted according to color. Do any of my readers have an arrangement like this?

I also discovered what summer shoes I do not wear and have tossed them into a new box intended for a thrift store donation. Even more of the wardrobe that remained after the first closet clearing has now been added to the pile of things I’ll attempt to sell on eBay. The reversible top may show up there. (I’ve made my first sale!)

Before the challenge began, I had wanted to include a dressier skirt and a grey linen blazer which has seen no wear this summer. Given the additional challenge that the hot-hot-hot weather added to the challenge, I consider myself very LUCKY to have stumbled across the reversible top in a thrift store just before the challenge began. It reminded me of this dress I had been very tempted to purchase last winter. Early on, some of my readers had questioned the long-sleeved tees, but given the intensity of the sun in my area during July, I was glad to be covered up. Luckily, my work does not involve going to campus in the summer time so I was able to make do with a fairly casual wardrobe.

I have never been a fan of fast fashion. The $20 wardrobe I worked with entirely originated in a thrift store. Rags has long ago proven that it is possible to dress professionally for very little expense, but the challenge has shown that I could likely do with a fraction of wardrobe I currently own. Another round of the challenge is upcoming in September for those of you who think you’d like to try it. And my fund-raising widget will remain in my sidebar until that challenge begins. I encourage you to try it!

This post was written by Ethical Fashion Blogger Terri of Rags Against the Machine, Visit her blog to find out more about her challenge and sustainable style. If you would like to find out more about the next Six Items Challenge visit

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What Ethical Fashion Means To Me By Lady Cherry

Ethical is a big word these days. Some might say a buzz word. Some might say unaffordable since the global economic crisis. Ethical fashion, in particular. But what does ethical fashion actually mean? I can only speak for myself – it’s one of ‘those’ words; like right, wrong, and moral, everyone has an opinion, and every opinion is in all likelihood, slightly different.

As consumers, in the forefront of many minds is the cost. We want it, we want a lot of it, and we want it cheap, if you please. Some of this attitude has been fostered by the fashion industry – new collections, new trends, new ‘must have’ purchases. And some of it has come from the idealogy of the ‘American Dream’ – you can have and do anything, so long as you work for it. Status symbols – having the latest design of Ugg boots, that sort of thing. These are the principles by which many of us have lived their lives, and many still do.

We can choose to inform ourselves about the true cost of our purchases – not just the financial cost to us, but the cost in social and environmental terms, too. It may be cheap to us, but have you ever stopped to wonder who made that cheap skirt? What their lives are like?

Like so many things, ethics is about balance. By purchasing clothing we are able to provide an industry and employment in a developing nation, increasing their skills and wealth, and in turn enabling them to increase their quality of life. I don’t have an issue with this. I do have an issue with people being exploited; being kept prisoner, using children thus depriving them of the ability to get an education, however basic, or not being paid a fair wage. Several well known companies have fallen foul of uppholding their social responsibilities – the likes of Nike, and Gap. Stores that tend to charge more than average for a tee shirt. The problem is that global companies operate in areas where there is no minimum wage, no right to a safe workplace, no working time directive. They can choose to operate in an ethical way, or not. Iit is up to us, the consumers, to police them through our purchasing power. When I buy new, I ask myself what sort of life the person who made it has. If there is a chance their are being exploited, I leave it where it is. That is too high a price for me.

Then there is the environmental cost. Yawn worthy to many, I know. But many of our clothes are made in the middle and far east. It takes on average 2700 litres of water to make one tee shirt, from growing the cotton to it getting on your back. That is 1,350 bottles of coke. To make one top. Think about that for a second. While water is literally growing clothes, 40% of our wardrobes are unworn, and 54% of the African population have no access to a safe drinking water supply. While we wonder whether to buy it in pink, or blue.

So, I inject ethics into fashion through these principles: If something is worn, can I mend it first? If I want something new, can I buy it second hand from a charity or vintage store, or eBay? Can I make it myself? If I buy something new, is it British made ?- I’d quite like to support our own economy as much as I can. If not, what sort of circumstances has it been made in? Is it from a company that operates a fair trade policy? If not, do I really want to pay upwards of thirty quid for a dress than probably cost the company less than a fiver to make, including employee’s wages? And if I don’t need it anymore, can I give it to someone who does need it?

What is ethics, if not a set of principles we chose to live our lives by?

This post was written by Lady Cherry of Vintage Goddess in Training. Lady Cherry is a vintage lovin’ gal who likes to bake, quaff gin, sew, thrift, look glamourous….You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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