How dressing for work hurts us and the planet and what can we do about it?
Working in Corporate America, I learned quickly that fashion was not only a "pass" into the inner corporate sanctum and promotion track, but was an absolutely essential part of identity and therefore acceptance both personally and professionally as a young, single, professional, living and working in the US. On many occasions, while reviewing my bank account, I reflected not only was I not "working to live," but more I was "living to work," and further to this, I seemed to be "living to work to buy work clothes." This included staple items, such as suits and shoes and also, increasingly, items considered "fast fashion" - cheaper as well as lower quality. Necessary to keep up with colleagues who looked polished and appropriate at every turn. What I didn't realize was what this practice of intense consumerism was doing to me - and to the planet.
My wardrobe became a source of pride as well as a living, breathing, organism that not only required it's own room in my apartment, but that also required many hours of special care and extra cost for item-specific wash/polishing/cleaning/storage. The precious 48 hours of "living" time I had every weekend, became occupied with searching for specifically curated pieces, as well as hours spent sorting, cleaning, organizing, folding, hanging, delivering and picking up, contemplating, styling, packing, and unpacking various items from the previous week and preparing for the week ahead.
Being an "immigrant" to America (and as a Canadian, this became much more apparent than I had imagined) I made a careful study of wardrobe appropriateness and the subtleties that either made or broke a professional fashion image. Specific brands, styles, colors, textures, and combinations specific to season and occasion slotted one in as either a "pass", "fail" on integration into corporate culture, as well as a key factor in highlighting rank. It may seem superficial, but as my TN visa depended on success at work, corporate appropriateness and acceptance became an issue of actual survival after moving to the US.
All this to say, that during six years working as a traveling management consultant, I accumulated A LOT of clothes. And by clothes I mean suits, dresses, sweaters, jackets, shoes, scarves, boots, bags, accessories, you name it. Each item carefully selected to contribute to a wardrobe that would demonstrate my success and highlight a place in the corporate mealie that was my life. It was impressive. It was expensive. It was taking over my life, wasting precious time for living, and at the same time, supporting an industry of staggering waste.