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What to Wear [publisher's letter]

Publisher Tracy Patterson with her dog sitting in the desert resting up from a hike

Tracy Patterson

The article on page 26 in this month’s edition got me thinking about how I’ve shopped over the years for my clothes, and what I could do to be more eco-friendly. I’ve always loved natural fabrics―cotton, merino wool, linen, silk―mostly because they breathe and I don’t feel like I’m wearing a plastic bag. To me, it really does feel more “natural” to wear natural fabrics!

Up until recent years, I hadn’t thought too much about the quality or sustainability in the production of those fabrics, until I bought a pair of jeans from one of the bargain stores. They were cotton with some spandex for stretch, and I brought them home thinking I’d gotten a really good deal, which I had money-wise. I washed them and wore them and could smell a strong chemical odor. I couldn’t pinpoint at first where it was coming from, and then realized the smell was coming from the pants! I washed them again, and again, and again, and they still reeked of chemicals. Of course, whatever was on them (or in them) was also going down the drain…

I didn’t know what to do with the jeans, and ultimately decided that I didn’t need that on my skin and neither did anyone else, so it wasn’t a good idea to rehome them. The only alternative was to throw them out, which, unfortunately, I ended up doing to get the smell out of my closet (and room), but it made me wonder if they’d ever biodegrade. So much for those “cotton” jeans! This experience made me realize that all cotton and/or the processing of cotton is not created equal. I’ve since had some organic cotton that was fabulous and very long-wearing. That was a lesson learned!

Over the years, I’ve shopped at consignment and thrift stores and often found unique items that I couldn’t find in the regular shops. Sometimes, I was lucky enough to find a shop that someone my size and with my taste would keep bringing clothing to—it was fabulous! I remember buying a fancy white cotton dress that cost me next to nothing, and yet I got so many compliments. One woman even asked me if I’d gotten the dress at an overseas boutique!

The bottom line is that moving forward, I plan to look for sustainable, organic cotton and other natural fabrics when buying new, and will continue my secondhand shopping. It makes sense to do so, as reusing is one of the best environmental choices.