Three Months, Six Outfits
We are excited to bring you a new series by Marina Starck featuring various sustainable fashion topics she’s interested in! In this kick-off post, she describes her experience living out of a backpack for three months while travelling through Europe. It testifies to the fact that we really don’t need that many pieces, if they are the right pieces!
Post by Contributing Writer Marina Starck.
Hello sustainable fashion supporters! My name is Marina, and I will be helping out at Recloseted for the next couple months! I am a student, a musician, and a major sustainable fashion enthusiast. I am also a typically adventure-seeking, new-experience-craving millennial. It should not be a surprise, therefore, that my youthful self spent last summer on a romp around Europe with nothing but a backpack and my best friend. Flat broke, but driven forward by the thrill of travel and the bizarre satisfaction that comes from “roughing it,” we bussed and hostelled the days away for three months. I learned many lessons of the “school of life” sort, the most valuable of which being that I don’t need a closet of clothes; all I need is what I can carry on my back.
Being a tiny human, the backpack I used was not much larger than a schoolbag. I packed smart, and I shopped smart (so not at all). Clothing became nothing more than weight to me, and excess clothing was an inconvenience. So I got by with six outfits. One sundress, two pairs of shorts, and two different t-shirts. I had two pairs of shoes: a pair of runners and Birkenstocks (I am German-Canadian-they are a part of my DNA). Both could be worn comfortably all day, and would never break as the result of stubbing a toe, as plastic flip-flops often do. I also bought a raincoat out of desperation a week into the trip (apparently west coast rain is inescapable, even when the west coast you’re on is that of France).
Having few clothing choices was a completely new experience for me. Before my trip, I believed that stylishness necessitated constant shopping, that quality fashion was dependent on a fully-stocked closet. This closet, I believed, should be an ever-evolving being that reflects shifting trends. But true style lies in creativity, and the art of combination. There is no art in dropping money on fast fashion pieces every weekend. But there is an art in getting to know your clothes, and discovering the aesthetic range of a single piece. For example, my stock item this past summer was a pair of high waisted mom-style shorts, of the light blue colour that can only be achieved thanks to multiple years worth of fades in the sun. These shorts were my hiking bottoms, my dancing bottoms, and my sightseeing bottoms. I could pair them with a flashy halter-top or a sports bra, and they fit any part I threw at them. These shorts carry a rich miscellany of memories with them now, and will remain my most-worn item for many summers to come.
After wearing the same pieces all day every day, the difference between high and low quality material becomes apparent very quickly. And when your conception of value shifts from “new,” or “different” to “long-lasting,” “versatile,” and “portable,” you quickly understand how few pieces-when they are the right pieces-you truly need. The jean shorts I mentioned above, I actually bought used. And through rain, sweat, and many spillages, they held strong. The tank top that I purchased on impulse before leaving because it was cute and cheap? It now exists in the landfill, as it did not make it through half of the rain, sweat, or spillages it should have.
Travelling is the ultimate test for your clothing. The clothes that make it to the other end of your journey will probably be with you for life, carrying with them a million memories and a the satisfying ability to respond to a compliment by “thanks, I’ve actually had them for over a decade.”
One last lesson I learned: If you’re traveling through Europe with a backpack-not a designer suitcase-then Birks, Tevas, or any such comfortable sandal are appropriate for European restaurants, bars, and clubs. The idea that women must wear stilettos to the average bar or club is a myth. It is also nonsensical dance-wise, unless you have ankles made of steel. I found that a sundress, sandals, and a cross-strung fanny pack was the ideal night time outfit for any student joint on this not-as-uppity-as-you’ve-been-led-to-believe continent.
So pack comfy, pack light, and avoid shopping. Bring complimentary pieces, bring high-quality pieces, and remember that owning fewer pieces is not a limitation-when they are the right pieces, it’s an asset.