Motivations and intentions


Fiftythings2016: For twelve months I am confining my wardrobe to fifty items which as far as practically possible will be composed of natural fibres.

 WHY would you want to do that? So many people have asked me this question since I started my fifythings2016 project. Hence I feel like I have some explaining to do. And yes, sometimes I ask myself this question too. IMG_3804

An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory. EF Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

WHAT is the project? A small wardrobe of natural fibre clothes was chosen to show that even with what would be considered minimal choices by most women living in Australia today, it is possible to be stylish and appropriately dressed across the full range of engagements a professional person has: from exercising to the theatre, from public speaking to funerals. All with just fifty items in the wardrobe…or thereabouts. All of the items have been in my wardrobe prior to the start of 2016, some of them for many years, like my 40 year-old-sarong. About 60% of the items were purchased second hand. I am upfront about a couple of cheats.

Cheat number one: each pair of shoes and socks counts as one item only. Cheat number two: a pair of shorts, one t-shirt, a hoodie, one pair of socks and one long-sleeved gardening shirt are lumped together as one item called active wear. The fifty item count doesn’t include swimmers or rain-jacket.

WHY are you doing that? I am alarmed at how we are encouraged to buy, buy, buy: particularly when it comes to clothing. And this isn’t just the case for women. Men are also in the sights of the marketing gurus. I see the fashion industry as preying on people’s insecurities in a particularly negative way. So much of what I read online, in magazines, in newspapers, and what I see on ‘reality’ television is about personal appearance. The age of the selfie may provide a positive opportunity for people to constantly reinvent themselves but it is also about having to create a narrative in which everyone is an enviable glamorous/funky/street-credible/fash-rev clothes-horse. But what will be the personal, financial, psychological and environmental cost? How much fashion can the planet support?

I chose natural fibres as I prefer how they feel, how they last and I like to think they are more sustainable in the long run. But is this true? Unfortunately even what we consider ‘natural’ textiles are commercially created using processes that are far from environmentally friendly. The O Ecotextile website lists some sixteen different individual chemical processes which are frequently used in the treatment, production and processing of cloth.

More positively I decided on this project after travelling through Europe in winter and subsequently through Argentina and Chile in summer each time for about 40 days with just a small carry-on suitcase. And still there were clothes I carried that never left the suitcase. I loved how having a limited choice made the ‘What will I wear?’ question a so much easier to answer. And I loved how the limited choice freed up my mind, mostly, and my time, to focus on more important things.

Finally, I love op-shopping. Since I was about thirteen I have loitered in second-hand shops. Whenever I go to new place in Australia or travel to a new country it is a bonus to see what treasures can be found in a charity shop. This project is a chance to show how fabulous recycled clothing is. It certainly saves money and it may contribute in a small way to reducing the amount of stuff on the planet. I don’t think that can be a bad thing.

WHAT do you hope to achieve? I hope to show that living small in terms of wardrobe is a positive stylish decision if choices are carefully made about what goes into the wardrobe in the first place.

I want to encourage others to think about the clothing purchases they make. Too many people have spent on impulse and have walk-in wardrobe bulging with things they don’t even like.

Each day I post on my Facebook page a shot of what I am wearing and a brief comment. This is to encourage discussion and thoughtfulness about our clothing choices. Especially ‘Do I need to buy that new thing?’



I hope this project will generate consideration and discussion of the idea of ‘smaller’ living: how your clothes are made and how they get to you, tiny houses, the source and content of our food, food miles, slow food, and sustainable living in all its guises including logistics and transport.IMG_4540

WHO am I?I am a self-employed writer and word wrangler, a full-time student completing a Doctorate of Creative Arts, a public speaker and workshop presenter, cyclist and cook. I love reading, watching birds, people and movies, walking my dog and gardening. I volunteer for several community groups. I live in Brisbane, Australia.


So what are those fifty things?

IMG_4540In the days before Christmas 2015 I rationalised my wardrobe significantly by singling out pretty much all of the items that were not 100% natural fibres.  As someone who has always championed natural fibres for their higher comfort factor, I was surprised by how many items had crept into my cupboards that were  not in this category.  Particularly I notice women’s trousers and suits are often made out fabrics designated ‘European fabric’ with no actual detail of the components.

Then between Christmas and January 1 2016 I selected the items which now comprise my wardrobe for the twelve months from January to December 2016. As you will see from the list below I have allowed myself a couple of cheats. However, choosing the fifty items was quite a challenge Continue reading “So what are those fifty things?”

Covering your legs: a little longer story

by Ms Orange Stocking

As 14% or seven of my #fiftyitems are taken up by tights and socks I wanted to look into the production of this kind of footwear/legwear. When I was choosing what I needed the inclusion of tights, nylon ankle socks and what I’d call ‘normal’ socks presented a bit of dilemma. I love coloured legs.


Did I really have to count them as part of my #fiftyitems, after all they take up so little space in the cupboard? And we all know how easily they get holed, laddered, or start to look worn. Ultimately I decided that if I was to be honest with myself, and there was no point doing this project if I wasn’t, yes, they had to be included in the #fiftyitems.

 So here’s what comes up in the count:

  • one pair of socks included as one item in my sports/workslothes outfit (shorts, tshirt, longseleeved cotton shirt for keeping the sun off and a cotton hoodie for when it gets chilly, plus one pair of socks)
  • four pairs of tights for winter adding variety
  • two pairs nylon ankle socks: one beige, one black
  • one pair of green flouro cotton socks

 Stockings have been worn for centuries, even having been found in Egyptian tombs. Originally they consisted of ‘upper-stocks’ (later knee breeches for men) and ‘nether-stocks’ and were made of cotton, wool, silk and linen.

Screenshot 2016-01-25 15.48.18In the 1900s as women’s hemlines changed, and horror of titillating horrors, their ankles and then their actual legs could be seen, decorum demanded that women’s legs be covered by stockings. In the 1940s Dupont chemical company began dupont nylonsproducing ‘nylons. ’ Dupont retooled during WW11 to produce parachutes, rope & cord and the shortage created a black market for stockings.

Pantyhose emerged in the late 1950s and rapidly replaced stockings in the market. Today there is still an unspoken rule that women’s legs must be smooth and shiny. Generally for professional women, polished presentation means pantyhose, particularly for evening and formal gatherings.

InThe Coloured Heart our humid climate this just makes no sense in the summer. But tights and pantyhose can make cool winter mornings and evenings bearable, especially if you choose zany bright colours. A good friend and former colleagues named me Ms Orange Stocking because I brightened up the winter workplace with my coloured tights. My favourites here, which I call the colourful heart, I purchased at Craft Victoria about fifteen years ago so these are well-loved and well cared for.

IMG_4179 (1)Nylon ankle socks or footlets certainly make boots and shoes easier to wear. But if I had my time over again I’d only buy footwear that enabled me to wear socks on my feet as they keep your toes warmer and are more comfy.

 Tights and pantyhose generally have annoyingly short lifespans, if we are not super careful with them in the putting on, the wearing and the washing. Nothing worse than arriving at an all- important engagement and finding you have a visible snag or hole. But enough of the whys & wherefores, what are the concerns about how these fashion items are produced?

 Here’s a wild generalisation: no one mends pantyhose any more. Today they are often sold packaged in twos or fives implying they are throw-away items. If they are laddered or holed on the first wear, that’s the end for most of us. They might be the most intrinsically environmentally unfriendly items of clothing there is.

Almost 2 billion pairs of pantyhose are manufactured each year and demand is growing.

Pantyhose are usually made from a nylon-based blend of synthetic fibres including nylon (most commonly Nylon 6,6 – adipic acid, an organic acid, and hexamethylene diamine), an organic base. All pantyhose are dyed generating even more toxic waste and potentially exposing workers to health risks. Higher deniers (the smaller the number, the finer) often include blended microfibres which do not break down when released into our waterways. Their long-term impacts have not been widely documented, nor have their potential impacts on the workers in the industry. Pantyhose also contribute large amounts of plastic and cardboard packing waste to our landfill; they have to be packaged, to be protected before purchase. 32014nylon-bikini-full

Unfortunately there do not appear to be too many uses for recycled stockings but they certainly come in handy for gardening ties. My grandma made some bathmats by crocheting stockings in a circle and I have found one crazy bikini made from recycled hose. It would certainly have the advantage of being quick dry.

It is most definitely time to make the leap to tights made from natural fibres. Please get in touch if you know of any good ones.

#legs #footwear #nylons #pantyhose #winterchoices #fiftyitems2016 #lessismore #industrialpollutants


Second-hand ethics

IMG_3965What are the ethical questions around second hand clothes? When recently I culled my wardrobe of unnatural textiles, shedding everything not 100% cotton, pure wool, linen or silk, some said I was being wasteful and challenged my ‘dumping’ unwanted things.

Those comments made me ask was it acceptable for me to pass on my unwanted items of clothing to others? Was I merely indulging a personal whim? ‘First–world’ whirled in my head. As I grew up surrounded by values reflecting frugality, this caused me to stop and think. Am I wasteful?IMG_3970

Having made my decision to go the natural fibre route, these clothes would just have been clogging up my cupboard, surely far better for them to be donated, then sold to benefit a charity. Could they become new treasures for someone else, my decision actually creating an opportunity for someone to get themselves a bargain pair of hardly worn Cue work pants, or a fabulous vintage Betty Barclay jacket, a favourite of mine for over 20 years? Continue reading “Second-hand ethics”

fiftythings2016: the beginning


What do your clothes say about you, about what you care about, or perhaps about what you don’t care so much about?

I’m not sure I can claim to be passionate about clothing, but I have always loved textiles. I grew up in a family where, until I learned to make my own, and later had money to buy my own, all my clothes – including undies & school uniforms, but not singlets, swimmers, socks and shoes – were made by my mother. So I was strongly aware of what my clothes told the world about me.

I have always preferred natural fibres because of how they feel but in the last ten years or so there seems to be more and more conversations in different spheres about sustainability. This has made me think about the planetary costs of things, the personal and social burden of our consumeristic way of life and has made me consider more deeply the costs of the choices we make about various aspects of how we live: what we eat, how we live, and what we wear. Continue reading “fiftythings2016: the beginning”