Unclothing The Horse and Juliet Schor

My husband Thor and I went to the Illahee lecture last night here in Portland. Juliet Schor spoke, a sociologist and economist from Harvard University. She was excellent, and one of the most salient takeaways for me was on clothes. (It’s only fair to report Thor has sometimes termed me ‘a bit of a clothes horse’.)

Ms. Schor reported that in 1991 we in the U.S. bought an average of 34 garments per year (not counting socks or hose). In 2001 that number increased to 52. That’s an average of a new garment every week, when we can’t even wear more than three or four at one time. Moreover, the millions of tons of surplus discarded clothing we have been shipping out to other countries has been climbing even faster. And fashion cycles have escalated, spurring an artificial need to buy.

Where am I in all this excess consumption that drains the earth’s resources? Well, even though my household income has become high, my shopping habits have changed little from my starving-artist days, i.e. I still shop mostly at Goodwill. But I shop too much (at least I did until my long commute kicked in two weeks ago) and I’m frequently needing to give little-used clothes away. And nobody even needs those clothes!

Used clothes in large quantities doesn’t equal less consumption. I’m part of that absurd statistic. This clothes horse needs some unclothing.


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