By Reshmi Mehta, Revel In It founder
We all know that the fashion industry is pretty harmful to a lot of people and the planet. Yet somehow, there are little to no readily available avenues to enable us to change our buying and producing behaviors. So, here’s my starter guide to mindfully interact with clothing in Washington, D.C.
Clothes you have
Learning to love what you have is step #1. We all have our own way of getting better at this step. If you have thoughts to share, write them in the comments! Learning to care for what you love is a way to level up.
Caring for your clothes means doing what you can to prolong the life of your clothes. Like washing them only when you absolutely need to, and learning the way they should be cleaned. Understand what those symbols on the care labels of your clothes actually mean here! There’s actually a lot on the internet about keeping your beloved items wearable. Check out some useful articles here, here here, here and here.
But, this list is about accessible resources to us in D.C. So, when you run into tears in your clothing, or find yourself in need of a hem, mending is the way to go! There are some fun and quick ways to mend your clothes in our city. FabLab is a D.C. public library initiative that hosts free mending and sewing 101 workshops in libraries around D.C. Soon it will have a permanent physical space with instructors and sewing machines and more! This will be free and accessible to anyone with a library account. The space is set to open later this year.
Fellow community members take action by hosting their own mending workshops around D.C., like the folks who teach classes through their Sew Queer series. Their workshops are sometimes free and sometimes cost $. Do you know of any other free or low cost mending workshops in D.C.? Share your knowledge in the comments.
Then, there are more in-depth workshops for those who want to invest in yourself a bit more and build-up your skills in mending and sewing from scratch. The Stitch Sew Shop in Alexandria is a beautiful space that holds sewing patterns to purchase, and has an impressive array of classes and workshops, but be ready to spend some $$. Another pricey-but-worth-the-skills workshop is the occasional embroidery and sewing 101 workshops hosted by The Lemon Collective up in Petworth. I bet there are more workshops like these in D.C., and the broader DMV, so feel free to leave information on those in the comments too.
Clothes you don’t want anymore
Knowing that you don’t like a piece of clothing is great! Learning to responsibly get rid of those items is the hard part. One way you can get rid of them, and find something new to you, is to swap! I host seasonal clothing swaps through my community organization called Revel In It. I look for different venues around the city to host in, and I make them free and open to all, like really free – no money or clothing are required to participate. The next one will be at the West End Library on Saturday March 23rd, from 1-4 pm.
Other swaps have been known to take place at Potter’s House and different venues around D.C., as well as through the organization Swap DC. Their swaps require a low up-front cost to participate.
You can also donate your unwanted clothes to organizations that are serving our community. Great examples include Martha’s Table, Dress for Success and Casa Ruby. Each organization has its own needs in terms of types of clothes, so check-out their sites for more information.
Finding new clothes
The best way to shop ethically and sustainably is to thrift. D.C. has some great options, like the Mt. Pleasant boutique Rosalia’s, which has a decent selection, specifically for work wear, winter coats and menswear. Bonus: there is a fabulous seamstress in house! I also swear by Second Story Boutique on Georgia Avenue, which is actually a consignment shop as well, and holds a constant rotation of eclectic feminine wear. Tell me your go to thrift shops in the comments.
As for buying brand new in D.C., the options are slim. There’s some homegrown brands like Mimi Miller that design and produce their garments in the District, as well as some other brands that are showcased at the Steadfast Supply shop. The great thing about locally made items is that you can find the makers’ information and ask more questions about their production processes. Another exciting local venture is Lady Farmer, a brand run by a mother daughter duo who are experimenting with a farm-to-closet business with their farm just outside D.C.
But let’s be real, a lot of us shop online from businesses that are not local, and definitely not ethical in their practices. To help sift through all the noise, I created a Facebook group for my D.C. community, and beyond, to share our ethical and sustainable finds and to learn to mindfully interact with our clothes together. Come join the discussion!
Some more information on what “ethical” and “sustainable” clothing is, resources to help you when buying online, and more, are below.
Reshmi Mehta is an international development and social impact professional currently in DC and leads the community organization, Revel in It, a slow fashion enabler. You can find her at coffee shops around the city, searching the web for more opportunities to advocate for slow fashion and a decent espresso.