One way to support the circular fashion economy is to wear the clothes that you already have in your closet, and take care of them so they last a long time. What is a long time in this day and age? I’m not sure, but let’s look at our closets and see what we got.
What is the oldest item of clothing in your closet?
I present to you my L.L. Bean Norwegian sweater, forty years old and counting.
Here is 9th grade me. The sweater is paired with Forenza jeans that have a white tag across the zipper (looked like toilet paper!).
Susan had one too!
Susan with the sweater and an old-school "three season" L.L. Bean jacket. Ah, the origins of the navy and green Second Serve colors!
I received my Norwegian sweater in 1982, when I was in eighth grade. My brother Chris gave it to me for Christmas, and I gave him one as well. It was the first time we exchanged any gifts of any kind (I remember an awkward hug). The sweater cost $40, which was expensive for a gift for your sibling, but I had a paper route and was flush with cash in those days. Chris had one, too.
This sweater is synonymous in my mind with L.L. Bean, and was a staple there forever (although kind of hard to come by now, except on resale sites). It was actually made in Norway, by fisherpeople weavers there. Here is a blurb from L.L. Bean’s 1965 catalog, where the sweater was listed for $12.85 (postpaid).
“Long used by Norwegian fishermen who require unusual durability and warmth in a sweater, heavyweight yarns of 80% unscoured wool for water repellency and 20% rayon for strength. Hand washable in lukewarm suds. Well proportioned and comfortably fitting for hunting, camping, and winter sports.”
In 1982 I was not interested in hunting or camping or Norway’s fjord country fishing in any way. I was, however, smitten by the prep persona and this sweater kind of epitomized that. Or maybe it still does. At any rate it was featured a couple times in Lisa Birnbach’s The Preppy Handbook which is for better or worse a seminal work in the life and times of one Amy Hebb.
“L.L. Bean Norwegian pullover: The nearest thing to a prep membership card. Outdoorsy types in general often have similar sweaters, but the L.L. Bean model is the real thing…the collar will stretch out of shape, allowing plenty of room for layering. Very nice with a pink oxford cloth button-down shirt."
I don’t have a pink oxford now. (No, I did not save the one from my sixth grade picture in the Second Serve Manifesto post) But here is the sweater over a soft plaid shirt.
It still works!
Cutting down on consumption and the waste that goes with it is the desired result of maintaining the wardrobe you already have. If I continue to wear this sweater I will not need to buy another one. Does this solve the problem of consumption? It helps. But what if I want another one?
I do like this sweater, but truth be told, I don’t wear it all the time. It is heavy and kind of boxy, and sometimes I’d like to wear something that is less “scoured wool”. The arms also have a kind of ballooned cut, like Popeye arms. If you are looking for sleek, look elsewhere.
As you consider your own closet, what can you wear that you already own? What can you mend so you can wear it again? What can you wear differently? If you want a change or need a different size, try swapping clothes with your friends to see if you can score something there. No luck? Then start shopping resale. Can’t find what you want on Second Serve or your favorite resale site? Then that is when you may want to start researching sustainable brands and practices for your new purchase. But more on that later.
For now, let me know what is old in your closet and what can be resurrected for a new wearing life. The record right now is this forty year old sweater.
What do you have?