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Redefining the Value of Clothing

Recently, I've been deeply considering what "value" means and how it relates to clothing. In truth, there's a lot of value placed in the clothes we (you and I) wear, but also in a lot of other items.


I've been looking at this concept for the last couple of weeks and bringing it up in conversation. Whether that value be what's presented to someone else, or what I value personally, to gain insight into how do we define value individually and collectively. So with that, I pose the question to you, what does "value" mean to you; and what do you consider valuable?


When I hear the word "value", my mind immediately goes to monetary value. However, the deeper I think about it, it may evolve depending on the object that's holding that value. For instance, family. I can't place a monetary value on my family, because I love them, which then brings in an emotional value. Then I start thinking about things I like the most over other things and why. I consider my preferences to food, art, fabric, environment...and the list can go on. So when it comes back to clothing, I look at it in a number of ways that we're going to explore, especially because I hold onto items for a very looooooong time!


And here we go! Jumping into it. From some of the discussions I've had, as well as from books I've been reading, and my own world view, the three main types of value we all should consider are: monetary or economic value, emotional value, and material value.


Scissors and a seam ripper sit on top of light green, white, and dark green fabric.
  1. Monetary/Economic Value (of course...): It defines itself. To what extent does something still hold monetary value? Can you get money back from reselling it? Is it damaged? What's the cost to resale ratio? There are a ton of questions we can ask ourselves and consider them all. However, that may not always be the goal or reason why something is so highly valued. For example, (and this may cross over into the next point) a well known luxury brand name and label has a high price value and high value due to the name its built for itself. It's easily identified by a logo or one word. No matter the age of the item, that it carries that brand identifier and was made by the brand (we're not talking about counterfeits and knock-offs here, we don't condone that), holds value.



  1. Emotional Value: How does something make you feel? How do you relate to it, whether animate or inanimate? Do you have memories embedded into the item or person you don't want to lose? Looking at emotional value can be all of these things and more. Some items can be heirloom gifts and handed down from generation to generation. That's an emotional bond, sharing the stories from the past to the present and hopeful future worth holding onto. Or, it could be an item you just recently bought and love the fit, texture, etc. that's usually hard to find. We are emotional creatures, and that's okay! Because it allows us to make bonds with one another and share our stories through the items we love.

  2. Material Value: When discussing materials, the value not only relates to what items are used but their life cycle, i.e. if they can be repaired, how long can they be used/reused, etc. At this stage, we're also looking at how the materials are sourced and their components. In a linear system, materials, whether natural or synthetic, are used and disposed of. Whereas, in a circular system, they are reintegrated back into the system as many times as possible using either a biological cycle or technical. In the end, the value is placed on the ecosystem used to create the materials we source and use in our clothing and other items we use daily by "reducing the negative impacts of existing materials" (Blum).


After taking a look at these three values, we can start to examine how we define value itself, redefine the value of our clothing, and what memories, as well as, impacts we hope to make.


So back to why in the world this has been rolling around in my head and why I wanted to present it to you. As I mentioned earlier, I hold onto a lot of my clothing and wear it seasonally for the most part. Eventually, there have been times where I've found something that, is no longer my style or I have just let it sit in my closet for so long, I end up giving it away or donating it. (Not because there are tears so badly, or I didn't pay attention to the care label [some rules can be broken, just be careful with drying].) Luckily, over the last few years that hasn't been the case and I still have my favorite items and then some. Now, as I embark on this journey and look at my clothes differently, I'm looking for ways to repair the pair of jeans I love that have a hole in them instead of buying a new pair; or, I'm considering other options to just donating and finding a third party that will send them to a recycler; or, being inspired by something to redesign and reuse the materials of another garment  given to me by a family member I don't fit into one that I do.


All of this is to say that there are so many ways to redefine the value of our clothing; and, there are also many ways to explore and define "value". My question to you is, where can you find further value in your clothing? How do you define your style? What would your style look like if you were to reevaluate what's in your closet and where it goes when it's no longer something you love?


Just some food for thought! I'd love to hear them, so don't be shy.






Resources:

Circular Fashion: Making the Fashion Industry Sustainable by Peggy Blum, p. 46-47

Serena Bonomi, Sustainability an Circular Expert

Material Circularity Indicator, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Music on Instagram - "Fever" by J. Cole

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