I know in The Rules, that I said we could buy underwear, and I kept meaning to have a trip to good old old M&S to stock up on new pants and bras, but I have somehow never got round to it (the thought of dragging two small bored boys into Bath may have had something to do with this…) and then a couple of months ago I reached the point where I thought I may as well wait now, and get some new bits in September. Which is kind of not the point, but then again, it kind of is.
I have proved to myself, that although my pants and vest tops with the holes in, may not look the most desirable, they do still function, and that it is surprisingly easy to cope with just one bra…
And if we all stretched out the interval in between replacing things, even just by a month, over a lifetime, this adds up to Less Stuff. Which is a Good Thing.
But now September is approaching at speed, and the point where I can legitimately allow myself some new ‘extravagances’, and I have been thinking.
Surely, all the points that apply to new clothes-the intensive nature of cotton farming, the synthetic nature and oil etc involved in cotton alternatives, the sweat shop labour etc etc, still apply to underwear and bras.
I blogged ages ago about this dilemma when BigSmall needed new pants, and I thought I would buy some ethical ones. They were £19 for 3 pairs…
I was saved from this particular dilemma by my mum arriving one day armed with a packet of new pants for BigSmall from the supermarket. Not ideal, and kind of side-stepping the point, but I felt rude saying No, so I took them.
Anyway, ethical pants for grown-ups seem pretty easy to come by. Here are a couple I have found:
I have been following Becky on Twitter for ages now, and was fortunate enough to meet her when we both spoke at TEDxBedford. (You can see Becky’s great talk here)
Who Made Your Pants use end of line material from the big lingerie chains, and then train up local disadvantaged women to make the pants, in their factory in Southampton.
If you follow them on Twitter (@whomadeyour) they regularly have special offers on too.
Use organic, sustainable cotton to make their pants, the factory that makes them is carbon neutral, and pays the workers a “real living wage”. They are also introducing new dyeing methods that reduce the amount of water needed from 100 litres per Kg of fabric, to half a pint-great stuff 🙂
Bras have been somewhat trickier. I posted on Twitter and got some great pointers from @StyleEyes (Ethical Fashion Blog UK) and also on The Good Wardrobe forum (whole blog post to come on the wonderfulness that is The Good Wardrobe) and got a couple of suggestions:
LuvaHuva-uses ethical and sustainable fabrics and all products are handmade in the UK
Peau-ethique– a French company who make their own range of Fairtrade and sustainable lingerie
In Bloom London-I tried to look at their site but the website must be down-will keep checking back
Then I googled Fairtrade underwear, and got:
Greenfibres and By Nature
Both of which are kind of online ethical superstores for not only lingerie, but also cleaning products and clothes and homewares. As far as I can tell, they do not make their own ranges, but try to ensure that the products they source are made using organic and sustainable resources and the people involved in the production, are all paid a genuine living wage.
So, it turns out, I can quite easily get “sustainable” underwear.
Like all things, they come at a price, but I think, given what I have learned about the fashion industry in the course of this year, it is a price I am prepared to pay.
I have coped with only one bra for the best part of a year, and I really feel I should put my money where my mouth is.
So instead of buying 3 or 4 ‘normal’ bras, I will probably only buy 2 more expensive, sustainable bras, and have spent the same amount of money but have a clearer conscience.
BUT the big problem with bras is that until you try them on, you never really know if they are going to fit properly.
What do I do? Order several different sizes and resign myself to having to send some back, along with the associated costs?
Keep scouring the charity shops for suitable ones? (although I am not sure I have fully reconciled myself to secondhand bras), but this is itself is hard work with small people in tow.
Persevere with my one lonely bra until it expires?
Come over all Geramine Greer, and burn my (one remaining) bra and go bra-free (I don’t want to go down this route really)
I have until September to mull this over, but if anyone has any ingenious suggestions, or owns a travelling ethical lingerie company and want to come out and visit me with a suitable selection, that would be fabulous 🙂