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The Green Life: Fashion Forward

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May 12, 2007

Fashion Forward

The days of the dowdy environmentalist are très passé: It's easier than ever to do good while looking good too. Here's how:

Opt for organic
Make a fashion statement by supporting designers and manufacturers that care about the planet and are making everything from beach wear to little black dresses out of pesticide-free cotton and wool. Check out Blue Canoe and Patagonia for stylish outdoor and workout clothes; Wildlife Works, No Enemy, and Mission Playground for trendy tees; and Under the Canopy, Of the Earth, and Stewart & Brown for dressier duds. If you can find local options, all the better.

Go alternative
Hemp isn't just for Rasta gear anymore; while it still can't be grown in the United States, imported hemp is making its way into lots of clothes, providing a durable, pesticide-free option for many outfits. Fast-growing bamboo makes lightweight, quick-drying fabrics, while plastic soda bottles are being recycled into fleece.

Be thrift-y
Vintage shops, thrift stores, high-end consignment shops, and even eBay are full of fabulous fashion finds. Or organize your own clothing swap: have everyone bring a bag of clothes and accessories they don't want anymore, sort everything out by type of item (one enterprising host I know arranged to borrow clothing racks from a store) and let everyone loose to try on--and take home--whatever they like. Anything that doesn't find a new home gets taken to Goodwill.

Refashion your finds
Since I wrote about some clever clothing-lovers snipping and sewing their way from cheap to chic, the trend of refashioning discarded duds into something you'd actually wear is popping up everywhere. The owners of Stitch Lounge in San Francisco have published a book, Sew Subversive, that'll show you how to "make fashion your way...by transforming clothes that have lost that lovin' feeling into something completely different and absolutely you: t-shirts into skirts, sweaters into hats and leg warmers, pants into hipbelts.... Don't settle for what everyone else has--subvert fashion and sew subversively!" Meanwhile, the "Wardrobe Refashion" group on flickr is constantly posting photos of their amazing transformations. If you think you're up for the challenge, take their pledge to "abstain from the purchase of 'new' manufactured items of clothing ... [and] refashion, renovate, recycle preloved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium."

Take good care
No matter what you wear, you can reduce the wear and tear on the environment by avoiding clothes that are dry-clean only (or hand-washing them, which is safe for most unstructured, unlined items); always doing full loads of laundry; washing in cold whenever possible; and cleaning the lint filter on your dryer regularly--or using a clothesline or drying rack instead.


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