How often do you buy new clothes? What do you do with your old clothes? Do you know what your clothes are made from and who makes them? I bumped into my neighbour, Meg, and she shared with me her new business, Robe & Crown a business where Meg is selling high quality, natural fibre, second hand clothes. In our conversation we got talking about the Slow Clothing movement and Meg lent me her friend Brisbane based entrepreneur and author, Jane Milburn’s, book Slow Clothing. I had seen Jane speak at the 2016 QUT TEDX event and feel quite a lot closer to the ideals she speaks about after I visited India and the garment factories for work with my clients in 2017. This article provides an overview of three lessons I learnt from Milburn to apply to my personal finance journey: repair items, repurpose items and do your research.

1. Repair items

How often Chapter 5 of Milburn’s book provides step by step graphic instructions to teach anyone basic sewing skills. The process of sewing can be quite a relaxing one for the mind as you have to focus your full attention on the task at hand.

Inspired by the different easy sewing tutorials in Milburn’s book I recently repaired holes in two long sleeve winter tops, I fixed a hem on one of my work dresses and I fixed a hole in a pair of my work-out leggings. For the trickier items with invisible sewing I have these in a bag and will pay my best friend’s Mum to try and fix these for me.

Milburn has been organising regular clothing repair cafes in Brisbane, Australia which are part of a bigger international initiative where people are getting together to repair different household items as opposed to throwing them out.

In this short Lateline clip the journalist investigates repairing her clock and meets and interviews upon a new Australian community of people that are learning to repair their household goods. Reference: Lateline. (2017). The “fixer’ generation campaigning for the right to repair. Retrieved April 26, 2018 from

Milburn mused about how many of the skills previous generations had are being lost, she is right. The dress below I bought in Spain last year had an invisible zip on the side, when it broke I literally had no idea on how this could be fixed. The reason I paid a company to repair it was because I loved the dress and also because I had recently returned from India and felt that it was a real waste for me to dispose of it.

The Economiss paid a local clothing repair company to fix her favourite dress after the zip broke

2. Repurpose items

Make another item from the item

If items are made from natural materials there is so much more you can do with the products at the end of their lives. With cotton items you can use them up until they are worn out. For example, you can use old towels as cleaning cloths or rags and when the life on these rags finished composting the rags.

Queensland, Australia, has recently passed a law meaning we will no longer have plastic bags provides in our supermarkets, if you are anything like me you have a number of tops that you do not wear, this short 2 and a half minute video provides a tutorial on how to make a reusable shopping bag from an old top.

If you do not have the time or bandwidth to do this task a new company in Queensland called Boomerang Bags, is happy to take donations of unused clothing items to be transformed into bags. The company brings together volunteers of people in the community that are sewing the bags from unwanted, donated materials and now has produced over 80,000 bags in different communities all around the world.

Bags made by volunteers at a sewing bee at Helena College in Western Australia

The cycling shop that services my bikes, Bike Obsession, sells Boomerang bags and has been collecting old cycling jerseys to be turned into reusable bags for customers in their shop.

Sell your old clothes online, give the item to a friend, give the item to charity or hold a clothes swap

I have been so grateful to friends and family this year for giving me new clothes items, one person’s trash is another’s treasure and because of the kindness of other people I have only spent $25 on clothes in 2018 to date.

You could consider holding your own clothes swap or keep an eye out for the next community one, the Brisbane City Council in my area recently held one on the 15 April.

I held a couple of my own when I was completing my thesis in Wellington, New Zealand back in 2010. Some clothes swaps have specific rules in terms of tokens. I made my ones that you brought a plate of food to share and unwanted clothes items, I as the MC of the event held up and talked about each item with the old owner stating any fun facts and then people put up their hand if they wanted it and if not it was put aside. At the end of the swap people could try on items and have a look and swap or take any more items and the remainder was donated to charity. It proved to be a very fun afternoon catch up with friends.

3. When buying new clothing do your research

How have your clothes been made? How are the people making them being treated? How does the company respect the environment? What international human rights obligations are they meeting?

I went to India for work last year and it was truly eye opening for me to see the labour and environmental practices that would be unacceptable in Australia: hot and unventilated factories, crowded work conditions, people without shoes or proper protective clothing and large amounts of chemicals being disposed of directly into the river. Since this trip I have stopped shopping at big large brands and have carefully investigated my purchasing decisions.

The best source I have found to date in Australia has been a free app called Good on You. You can easily search up any brand and it provides a summary and a rating for how the brand is treating people and the environment and documents the steps and treaties it has signed. The company sends me a regular email newsletter with different tutorials and articles.

Milburn takes this a step further and encourages people to buy natural fibres as opposed to plastic or synthetic based garments. This is because of the pollution caused by washing plastic clothes items and the small plastic fibres that are now present in the water.

Queensland companies, such as Robe & Crown, source second hand, high quality natural fibre products and resell these at markets around Brisbane and the the Gold Coast.

In summary

My main learnings I took from Jane Milburn and her book, Slow Clothing, to apply to my personal finance journey were:

  1. To repair items – take some time out and listen to some music and do some basic repairs on your clothing to make items last a little longer
  2. To repurpose items – to think about how clothing items could be repurposed in other ways such as transforming into another clothing item, using as rags or composting
  3. To do my research on new clothing items that I purchase – I want the Earth to still be around for future generations and through some careful research on my behaviour I can make changes to my consumer behaviour

Want to know more about Jane or join her for a workshop?

  • The book, Slow Clothing, is $28 over at Milburn’s website Textile Beat
  • In conjunction with the Brisbane City Council and her business Jane regularly runs workshops to teach people how to sew, repair and upcycle clothing items. Her next events are listed over on her Facebook page

Women in Wealth

I’ve been searching and speaking to women that have successfully purchased property and achieved things on their own to help inspire my journey as a single female working to purchase my first home on my own. If you are a woman that is succeeding in the area of personal finance or you know of a woman with some insights to share please get in touch.

The Economiss is a single, female, millennial on a mission to buy her first home in Australia. A Kiwi by birth, she jumped over the ditch after she finished her tertiary qualifications in search of employment. The narratives quite often showing up online overshadowed her thoughts of buying a house alone changed in 2017 The Economiss started super charging her finances and saved over 30% of her after tax income towards her house deposit as well as cash flowing four overseas trips. In 2018 The Economiss decided to create a new narrative and share her journey saving 36% of her after tax income for a $60,000 house deposit by December 2018. Do you have some tips to share or want to be featured on the blog, please get in touch!

Book club: Slow Clothing
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