Let’s talk about sweat. Or, why I am quitting polyester.

There are a variety of reasons why I am quitting polyester, ethical and otherwise, but right now the one that stands out most in my mind is sweat.

I’ve found myself of late scrambling to pack and re-pack for a last-minute Caribbean island vacation. A quick scan of the Weather Network tells me that I can expect daily thundershowers and temperatures that exceed 40 degrees. 

Two nights ago, as I tore through my closet looking for loose-fitting items, cool resort-wear and assorted hot-weather whimsy,  it occurred to me that at least 80% of my wardrobe is made up of some form of synthetic material.

Polyester, polyester-blend, rayon, and yes – even the dreaded acrylic. These items create a rainbow of pretty blouses, delicate, scalloped-edge camisoles, brilliant sheer kaftans, cheery dresses, and brightly hued capris.

Which brings me back to sweat.

Sweat, which is impossible in polyester. And what I will call “The Synthetic Disadvantage” – or in this case, having tons of clothes, but nothing to wear. 

The only thing this impending vacation and the promise of hot, hot weather leaves me craving is cotton. 100% cotton and linen. Things that breathe.

So yesterday, I decided to go out and buy a few easy-to-wear cotton tops. 

I’m not sure if you’ve done this lately, but it is increasingly difficult to source items that are 100% cotton. Go ahead. Try it.

Thanks in part to the democratization of fashion, we can now buy all sorts of gorgeous printed and embellished blouses, dresses, scarves and easy-care, no-wrinkle pants that mimic designer silks and luxury fabrics. Things that look expensive, but aren’t actually expensive (depending, or course, on how you define “cost“).

There is a dearth, it seems, of easy access 100% cotton, let alone cotton that you can actually source (organic, Made in USA, Made in Canada, etc.).
Synthetic and synthetic blends are available in abundance in any of the fast-fashion Goliaths like H&M, Forever21, Mango, and Zara.

(To be fair, both Zara and the Gap have lines of 100% organic cotton, and H&M has a new “Conscious Collection“, all of which are much easier to find online than in-stores). 

But, we know several of these retailers make their money buy employing low-wage workers in terrible conditions in India, Cambodia and Vietnam. Its not only working conditions that we have to consider. Synthetic fibres are man-made, and very often, they come from chemical sources. 
If you want ethical fashion – if you want natural fibres and good working conditions, you’re going to have to pay.  

And, according to this recent graph compiled by the Globe and Mail most Canadians aren’t very interested in paying more. 

(Via The Globe and Mail – What makes Bangladesh-made clothing so cheap?)


We like our cheap, fast-fashion, thankyouverymuch.

Well, not this gal. Not any more. 

When I was in my early twenties, I couldn’t understand how labels like James PerseSplendidMichael Stars or even American Apparel would charge $30-$55 (and more) for plain and simple cotton shirts, and how people would buy them. Now all I want is plain, simple cotton shirts, and I’m willing to pay. Quality over quantity.


(Via New York Times, Carl Ricard, The Case for Spending a Little More Sometimes)

What is that expression? “There is nothing worse than a reformed whore”.

Yup. That’s me. The reformed clothing whore.

I am not perfect, by any means. And I am sure I make a lot of decisions daily that are not sustainable or environmentally considerate. But we all have to do our part, and my part now includes sticking to natural fibres. That means things that come from plants, animals and minerals. 

The Yes list:
  • Cotton (cotton plant)
  • Linen (flax plant)
  • Wool (sheep)
  • Silk (silkworms)
  • Fur (animals)

The No list: 

  • Viscose/rayon/modal
  • Acrylic
  • Nylon
  • Polyester
  • Acetate

Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts? Comment, and let a sister know. 

Further Reading:

For the sake of balance, take a look at this post from Angie of YouLookFab, who loves polyester and she’s not afraid to show it: http://youlookfab.com/2012/06/06/the-polyester-debate/

If you’d like to know more on the subject of fabrics, here is a great post from The Budget Babe called Quality Control: Know Your Fabrics


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