Eileen Fisher organic linen handkerchief top (gift from EF last year) | 100% linen
Ulla Johnson denim overalls (year old) | 100% cotton
Everlane form sandals (gift from Everlane to review)
James Perse mini canvas tote | has a small amount of polyurethane in it
I finally listened to Elizabeth Suzann’s talk on EconTalk yesterday and am thinking a lot about much of what she said, but I particularly loved what she said in response to how long she wants her clothing to last: 3-7 years, NOT forever. (she was speaking both in terms of “trends” and in terms of the actual fabrics)
That sounds about right. With regard to “trends” I seem to cycle styles every 3-5 years, unless they’re things that I consider to be “timeless.” Things change, and I love to play around with whatever is “new” in the moment, so I appreciate that Elizabeth does as well.
Now to fabric. Clothing that lasts “forever” will not degrade in a landfill; Polyester, nylon, spandex, etc., will literally last FOREVER, so she chooses to use natural fabrics. But she also made the point that natural fabrics like cotton, linen, silk, wool, hemp, etc. will develop holes and succumb to abrasion over time from rubbing against things (or thighs rubbing together…), and just being WORN. Of course, items can be patched and repaired to last longer, but ultimately, natural fabrics will wear out faster than fabrics with some synthetics added for stretch, etc.
As I thought about it, in general, I believe that to be true. I don’t have a lot of items that have completely worn out, but some of my favorite things that have, were 100% cotton (James Perse sweatpants…I miss those…), or 100% cotton t-shirts that develop holes. I don’t have a lot of experience with silk, or linen, so I can’t speak to how long those fabrics “last.”
I do have a lot of exercise clothes with spandex or nylon in them, and they have a lifespan of about 2-3 years (sports bras seem to last forever, which is fine by me), but they lose their shape over time, shrink, pill, and wear thin. My leggings wear out at the knees and develop holes in the heels. You can’t patch those, and they can’t be passed on to someone else, so the only option for synthetics is the landfill, or recycling.
I take all my linens, clothing, etc. that can’t be donated (is no longer fit to wear/use) to H&M for recycling instead of throwing them away.
But aside from exercise clothes, which I can’t avoid needing to replace, and also can’t avoid synthetics, I am aiming to buy clothing that is made from 100% natural fabrics lately. That means I probably shouldn’t add any more JP dresses, but I have quite a few of those anyway, that I can do without adding any more. Ya’ll KNOW I can!! haha
There are all sorts of environmental problems with using synthetics for clothing anyway, aside from the production of them, there’s that washing them releases micro-plastics into the water, and then there’s the fact that they will never degrade when they’ve reached the end of their life. They basically have no end of life, even when they have surpassed their utility.
Natural fabrics aren’t perfect though, in terms of environmental impact: cotton and silk specifically take SO MUCH WATER to grow/produce/process – water that many parts of the world could actually use for drinking & food production. But they are better than synthetics overall, I think, and I choose to buy natural over polyester, etc. when I can, and as often as I can.
Anyway, I just thought her statement was interesting, and thought-provoking. The whole discussion was interesting, and worth a listen. The comments are good too, insightful. On her blog a few days ago she also addressed the longer lead times for the WWC pieces. Of course it all makes sense, but that’s a big reason I am choosing not to order anything right now; I know I’ll still love whatever I get whenever I get it, but 10 weeks is an awful long time to wait…
What are you thoughts on the longevity (in terms of wear) of natural fabrics vs synthetics? do you notice a big difference?