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No more panic shopping
Apr 4, 2024
Season 9

No more panic shopping

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Spending too much on clothes you never wear? Yeah, us too.

Since host Reema Khrais started working remotely, her home closet has become way more comfy sweats than business casual. But when a planned trip to the office sent her on a frenzied shopping spree to find something to wear, she recognized a cycle she’d been caught in before: panic spending on clothes. 

Besides those cozy sweats, most of the clothes left in Reema’s closet didn’t make her feel good. So she left the mall with a pair of on-trend jeans. But they were expensive. And, as she discovered during her day of meetings in the office, not very comfortable. They’ve been collecting dust at the back of her closet ever since. 

Reema’s not alone: Americans wear only about 20% of what’s hanging in their closets. And the average U.S. consumer tosses out a ton of clothes every year. Meanwhile, fast fashion brands like H&M, Zara and Shein are built to get us to buy, buy, buy. 

This week, join Reema as she figures out how to rebuild her wardrobe. Along the way, she chats about price-tags and personal style with Los Angeles-based fashion educator Lakyn Carlton and teams up with producer Alice Wilder for a thrifting adventure in North Carolina in search of clothes that don’t break the bank and that she’ll want to wear again and again. 

If you want to learn more about the environmental footprint of our clothing, check out another Marketplace podcast, “How We Survive.” They did a whole episode on how fast fashion impacts climate change, and it’s full of easy tips for how you can make changes in your own life.

Also, subscribe to our newsletter for more Uncomfortable stories you won’t hear on the podcast and recommendations from our team to make your money — and your life — better. If you missed it, here’s the latest issue.

If you want to tell us what you thought about the episode or anything else, email us at uncomfortable@marketplace.org or fill out the form below.









This is Uncomfortable April 4, 2024 Transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

 

Reema Khrais: Last fall, I had plans to go into the office in New York. I was excited to see some coworkers for the first time in years, plus some I hadn’t met in real life yet. The day before, I was trying to figure out what to wear. And sifting through my closet full of skinny jeans, everything just felt… outdated. Or too small. Or just the wrong shape. Since the pandemic, I’ve been working remotely. I spend most of my days and nights in sweats. And I just don’t shop as often as I used to. 

So I did what I often find myself doing 24 hours before an event: I rushed over to the mall like a frenetic contestant on Supermarket Sweep. I eventually found these loose fitting black jeans that looked in style. The mall was minutes from closing. The jeans were $140. As I handed my card to the cashier, I tried to ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach. 

The next day, when I wore them in the office, I realized they were wildly uncomfortable. Too much excess fabric at the crotch area, stiff, and not even that flattering. I was annoyed and embarrassed I’d spent $140 on something I’d convinced myself I needed because they were in fashion. 

I like to think of myself as someone who’s able to resist trend cycles. But I also know that the fashion industry is designed to influence us. The whole business model of brands like H&M and Zara is to quickly churn out high volumes of clothes to keep up with trends. Every week there’s a new season. 

A while back, I was talking about all of this with our producer Alice Wilder. About how often I find myself in this predicament: spending too much money on clothes I don’t love and that wind up collecting dust in my closet. 

Alice happens to live in North Carolina, which is where I grew up, and so when I was home visiting my family last September, she asked me to meet her outside a small shopping center 

 

Reema: It feels weird to not have my microphone. 

Alice Wilder: I know I’m sorry, have secret questions.

Reema: I know, I’m nervous… I’m like what is she going to ask me? 

 

Reema: That’s of course Alice, interviewing me. 

Alice: so where are we and what’s the mission for today? 

Reema: Okay, so we are in your car right now. We’re in Durham, North Carolina. And we are outside of Rumors, 

 

Reema: Rumors is a trendy used clothes store. It’s pretty popular with college students.

 

Reema: I remember a lot of my friends would go here, but I just never came. 

Alice: Yeah?

Reema: Because I don’t love shopping. Actually, I don’t like shopping by myself. So I’m excited to go with you today.

 

Alice Wilder: This is Alice. I wanted to go on a thrifting mission with Reema. Maybe we could find her new clothes that didn’t cost her 140 dollars, and I also just thought it would be fun to spend the work day shopping. 

 

Alice: So what, what kind of outfit are we searching for today on this thrift    journey? 

Reema: Okay, [sigh]  I think I need just like one decent work outfit. That is the goal. Like, if we can walk out of this store and I have a work outfit that feels appropriate and comfortable and of my style, I will be a very happy person 

Alice: I feel like going into the office now is so much more pressure because you haven’t, it’s like, you don’t see, yeah, so it’s like, okay, I really better make an impression when I see them in person. I can’t just show up in like my regular clothes. 

Reema: When I was getting ready to go to the office, I spent like an hour in front of the mirror, like trying on different things. And I was like, “Whoa, I feel the same feelings I had before the first day of freshman year of high school.” You know, like, you know, when you would get new clothes that summer and then you try them on and you’d be like, “Which one should I wear? Like, what does it say about me? Like, how am I going to come across?” And I think a part of me, if I’m gonna be honest with myself, like I don’t, I don’t think I’ve ever said this out loud, but like, I do want to come off as like, effortlessly put together….You know what I mean? Like, “she didn’t put too much thought into it, but she put a little thought, and it looks cute….” You know, like, it’s striking this balance…

 

Alice: I know a lot about Reema, but I don’t know what kind of clothes would make her feel effortlessly put together. Most of the time, we only see each other’s upper body on Zoom. 

 

Alice: How would you describe your style, generally?

Reema: So right now, I’m wearing this purple and green flannel shirt. I think I wore it yesterday, too. Um, if I were like a cartoon character, this is the shirt I would be wearing. Like this would be my outfit. I wear this so much that my friends and family want me to like burn this shirt. Like I wear it when I go out to a restaurant. I wear it when I go to the airport. I wear it when I go get my haircut. I wear it… I wore it on my wedding day! Like you know the get ready pictures?

Alice: Down the aisle or…? *laughs*

Reema: Even yesterday I was walking through the house, and I got a text from my mom and she was at work at the hospital. And she was like, “Reema, I cannot believe you wore that shirt again.” And I was like, wait, what? And she like, saw me through the Ring camera.

Alice : No! No! That’s such a mom thing. 

Reema: I was like, I disappointed her that much that she needs to interrupt her work day to tell me that she’s disappointed in what I’m wearing.

 

Alice: So just to review, this was our mission: Find Reema a work outfit – an affordable one – that she feels comfortable and confident in. Break free of that fast fashion panic shopping cycle. And for bonus points, find an outfit that her mom wouldn’t totally hate. With that in mind, we went into Rumors.

 

Reema: Let’s do it!

Alice: Yay!

Reema: Pre loved clothes for everybody. This is a nice store. It’s very cute. [door opens] I feel very overwhelmed…

 

Reema: It’s this small shop filled with bright and bold colors everywhere you look, on the walls and on the racks, it’s got like this retro vibe….down to the playlist. 

 

[MUSIC: Abba’s “Dancing Queen”]

Alice and Reema, singing together: You can dance! You can jive…

Reema: This will always be a bop. 

Alice: I know. 

 

Alice: Reema and I started sifting through the racks and we noticed a lot of vintage pieces, but also some fast fashion.

 

[Ambi of going through the racks]  

Alice: this is Forever 21. Yeah, 

Reema: let’s see.  I feel like I’m seeing a lot. Is that how you pronounce it sheen?

Alice: Sheen? She-in?

Reema: She-in I don’t know. I always feel like I’m saying it wrong. I feel like there’s… Yeah. So it’s a Shein sweater. 

 

Alice: I tried to steer Reema towards clothes that really fit her personal style. Turns out that was a pretty narrow window.

 

Reema: This feels like too officey… I don’t like silk…  It’s not totally my style. It looks too beachy.  I think I’m just anti  crystals and, um, glittery stuff, or just shiny things… I  like the idea of this, I don’t know if I would actually wear it./ I don’t love it. I feel like it’s gonna make me itchy… Not my style, I think. you know how sometimes you come out of a dressing room and you’re like, “Yup, yup, that’s my outfit!” This isn’t it… Wow, this is making me realize I’m very picky. Like, it needs to be plaid flannel shirt, or jean shirt, and then I’ll wear it.

 

Alice: I was starting to understand her mom’s frustration with the plaid shirt.  

 

Reema: I’m starting to feel a little, I don’t know…

Alice: dejected? 

Reema: Dejected. That’s what I was going to say. 

 

Reema: I’m Reema Khrais and you’re listening to This is Uncomfortable. 

Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about our relationship to clothes: they’re intertwined with our identity, how we see ourselves and want others to see us. But they’re also part of a multi-billion dollar industry that feeds off unsustainable production and insecure consumption. 

And it’s not just me: most of us wear just a fraction of what’s in our closet and the average American throws away about 80 pounds of clothes a year. 80 pounds, that’s the size of a baby rhino. So I’ve been wondering, how do I shop more mindfully? How do I get out of this panic buying cycle that leaves me feeling wasteful and guilty? 

This week on the show, Alice and I look for clothes – and price tags – that I actually like. And I talk with a fashion expert on what it takes to become a more intentional consumer. 

 

I’ll get back to thrifting with Alice later, cause first I want to introduce you to a woman whose story inspired this episode in the first place 

 

Lakyn: My name is Lakyn Carlton, I’m a personal stylist and sustainable fashion educator currently based in Los Angeles.

 

Reema: Years ago, Lakyn went on the same journey I’m taking up now. Trying to figure out your personal style, while getting off the fast fashion hamster wheel…

Ever since Lakyn was a kid, growing up in Texas, she loved fashion. In middle school, she was fearless with her choices. This was the era where Baby Phat and Apple Bottoms were the hottest brands to wear to school. 

Lakyn’s family couldn’t afford those clothes, so she got creative. 

 

Lakyn: I remember the first day of seventh grade, I had these old beaded curtains that my mom, like, ripped down angrily once, and I kind of saved them and I put them in, like, this plastic lunchbox, and on the first day of seventh grade, I realized that I could wear them as jewelry, like, if I just, like, twisted them together. So I like had a green beaded belt to go with my green striped t-shirt and like these light-wash jeans and like some pink shoes, like.

Reema: Oh, wow. You were fashionable.

Lakyn:  I mean the kids didn’t appreciate it but they knew that like I was, I was putting that [BLEEP] on! Like, I was doing it!

 

Reema: Lakyn’s childhood wasn’t easy. She had a tumultuous relationship with her mom, and money was always very tight. Expressing herself through fashion became an outlet. 

 

Lakyn: It was my first, the first thing that I was ever really able to control. It was, it was my freedom.

 

Reema: To take her creations to the next level, Lakyn learned how to sew. She got so good that she got custom sewing gigs via MySpace. (This was back in the early 2000s.) And then after high school, she left home. And got a job at a coffee shop in a local mall. For the first time in her life, she had money of her own.

 

Lakyn: we would have like 70 to 80 dollars in tips.  And I’m 18, and my rent’s 400 bucks. So I’m making $8 an hour, but I feel like I’m on top of the world. I go to the mall, and I buy. 

 

Reema: Suddenly all the stores that her mom had deemed too expensive were at her disposal. 

 

Lakyn: I was like, “What? These aren’t expensive! I’m gonna buy this, I’m gonna buy this, I can get like eight shirts for $20…” Very, very quickly got out of hand.

 

Reema: About half of her paycheck went towards buying clothes, which began spilling out of the closet in her small studio apartment. Each purchase made her feel mature, like an adult.

Like me, Lakyn did her fair share of panic shopping. Like, she told me about this time she had a big date right after work and wanted to find the perfect outfit. Without much thought, she bought this red, backless dress from her favorite store, didn’t even try it on. It wasn’t until she got home that she realized it was a size too small. 

 

Lakyn: I’m not going to return it. I’m not going to like, get my money back. It’s just money that I just literally threw away.

Reema: And do you, did you ever wear that dress again or?

Lakyn: No. 

Reema: What do you think you were trying to convey with your clothes around this time?

Lakyn: I was like, oh, I’m imagining this person that I’m absolutely not. You know, she’s got a smaller butt. She’s got a smaller… she’s got smaller boobs. She’s a little, she’s a little taller. She’s a little richer looking. She can walk in heels better. 

 

Reema: I think so many of us do this, buying things for an aspirational version of ourselves…even if that leads to a closet full of untouched stuff. Meanwhile, Lakyn poured her creative energy into Tumblr, where she’d write and think about fashion. She started getting interested in styling as a career. She built a website, made some business cards, but didn’t have a ton of clients. So she decided to move to a city where stylists are forever in demand: Los Angeles. 

 

Reema: And what was your financial situation like at the time?

Lakyn: Oh, I was broke as hell. I was just going to move with like, first month’s rent in my bank account.

 

Reema: Lakyn sold a bunch of her clothes online to help build up that financial cushion. 

 

Lakyn: but I still ended up with two 40-pound boxes worth of clothes that I put in an Uber and I took to FedEx and I shipped ahead. Got on the plane, got to LA… the boxes were supposed to be there about two days after. 

 

Reema: These clothes were going to kickstart her new career as a stylist. She waited for the boxes to arrive, and then waited some more…

 

Lakyn: and they never showed up.

Reema: Oh my god.

Lakyn: So I ended up with just a suitcase

Reema: Wait, they never showed up. Ever?

Lakyn: Never. 

Reema: Oh my god, that sucks. How much do you think those boxes were worth? 

Lakyn: Got probably at least 5,000 each, if not more

Reema: Whoa…

 

Reema: Ten thousand dollars worth of clothes. All of them were gone. 

Lakyn had a good cry. And then she had a realization: 

 

Lakyn: I was kind of thinking, okay, If i’m starting from scratch, what do I need now? I was trying to inventory and I couldn’t really… I couldn’t think of anything like specific.

 

Reema: Those outfits Lakyn created for herself in middle school? She can describe every inch of them. But the fast fashion she’d accumulated as an adult was pretty forgettable. It was a reality check. She couldn’t replace the thousands of dollars of Zara and H&M that she’d bought over the years, and more importantly, she didn’t want to. But there was still the pressing issue of how to make it in L.A. as a stylist with a few suitcases worth of clothes and not much money. 

 

Lakyn: Once I got there, it was like, “Oh these, these girls are so much sexier, they’re so much cooler, their clothes are so much more expensive.” And it kind of pushed me back into where I was in middle school, where it was like, “Okay, well if I can’t join them, I’ll beat them.” 

 

Reema: Lakyn started to be more intentional with her shopping, she focused less on trends and more on buying basics and taking good care of them. Like she’d air dry her clothes, which apparently dramatically reduces the overall wear and tear, and she’d avoid hanging any of her knitted or crocheted tops so they wouldn’t warp. 

Also at the time, she was working as a seamstress, and so she got creative with her sewing machine, making her own designs, mixing and matching fabrics. 

 

Lakyn: Anything I bought I was altering in some way. I mean it was very much like I was in middle school. I think middle school was kind of the most purest form of me, just with all the added baggage of being a teenager. 

 

Reema: She began gravitating towards styles that felt most authentic to her, which made her feel less self-conscious. She discovered she loved vintage looks from the 50s and 70s, bold colors, and oversized button-down shirts.

And it’s around this time that Lakyn started reading and learning more about the less glamorous parts of the fashion industry, and all the ways it exploits labor and the environment. 

 

Lakyn: I remember it just kind of clicking. 

 

Reema: Lakyn, who at the time was in her early 20s, learned how the fast fashion industry is designed to keep us buying, and the toll that takes on the environment. Like how it can take 2700 liters of water to make just one cotton t-shirt. Or how the industry contributes more to climate change than all the international flights and maritime shipping combined.

And Lakyn considered the toll on garment workers, especially as it related to her own side hustle as a seamstress.

 

Lakyn: I know how to make clothes. I charge people to sew. It takes a lot for me to make a living. That’s the labor that they do when they make clothes. They’re obviously not making a living because what I’m spending is way different from what I would ever charge. Eureka. 

 

Reema: It all came together: these clothes were bad for the environment, workers were definitely underpaid, and the clothes themselves weren’t made to last. Something had to change. 

 

Reema: I’m curious, like when you hear people make the argument that fast fashion is all that’s accessible to poor people,//what kinds of thoughts run through your head? 

Lakyn: Well, first I say which poor people?

Reema: Hmm.

Lakyn: The poor people making the clothes? Because they can’t afford them. These companies aren’t selling cheap clothes out of the kindness of their heart so that poor people can have clothes. They’re selling them cheaply so that the people with means will buy more and more and more and keep coming back, while the people that are making the clothes are suffering more and more and getting paid less and less.

Reema: I’ve just started really dipping my toes into this world and thinking more deeply about my own relationship with clothes. And so I don’t think it fully occurred to me until recently that like, Oh, sustainability doesn’t just have to be going out and buying eco friendly clothes and that it can really just be a mindset that starts with what’s in your closet already.

Lakyn: I think a lot of times when people hear  fast fashion bad, Be more sustainable. Because that’s what it boils down to, right? Everything I say is pretty much: “Fast fashion bad, sustainability good.” They think, “Oh well now I have to buy everything from all these sustainable brands? Well, it’s so much more expensive and it’s this and this!” And it’s like, well if you’re thinking of a one-to-one replacement of everything you were buying from fast fashion to buying everything from sustainable brands, no, you’re still missing the point. We can’t lose sight of the fact that we would probably be a lot happier with less things.

Reema: Dude. You feel lighter.  When you have less things, too…

Lakyn: It’s it’s not, I wouldn’t say like freeing, but it is kind of, in a way, 

 

Reema: Talking with Lakyn made me realize that sustainable fashion is an oxymoron. It doesn’t exist. Under capitalism, the fashion industry is designed to keep growing…and it accomplishes that by creating more, faster and cheaper…even if it produces massive amounts of waste. Many brands have been known to trash or burn the clothes they don’t sell… and 85 percent of the stuff we get rid of, including the clothes we donate, also end up in landfills or are burned.  

And Lakyn says many of these fast fashion brands claim that they’re doing better, like using recycled and sustainably-sourced materials in their clothes, but those claims can be misleading, which is called “greenwashing.” Like a couple years ago multiple reports showed that H&M shared environmental scorecards that were flat-out deceptive. The company said many of its clothes were better for the environment, when that just wasn’t true, and in some cases they were actually worse.

And Lakyn says even if the companies do marginally better, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re still producing an enormous amount of waste. 

 

Lakyn: Ultimately, at the end of the day, do I think fashion  will ever really fully be  the most sustainable business industry in the world? No, I don’t think any industry will ever be. I think we can do so much better than we’re doing now, and that’s what it’s about: doing what you can.

 

Reema: I like the way Lakyn describes her approach to shopping these days, which all comes down to learning what it is that you want, and asking yourself basic questions before each purchase like, “Can I still see myself wearing this in a few years?” Or “does this actually fill a need in my wardrobe?” Cause she says too often we’ll rush to get something we’ll only wear once. She says we saw that, for example, last summer when people bought special outfits to see Taylor Swift, Beyonce or even the Barbie movie…

 

Lakyn: They’re, they’re wearing this for this night, for this sense of community, for this moment, because they’ve been told to. And after that, they’re gonna go back to whatever they wear. They’re not gonna wear that again. 

Reema: Mm-hmm. 

Lakyn: And you just expand that, you know? How much of what we buy is because somebody said, “Well, you’re 30, you need to stop wearing skinny jeans.”

How much of this waste is because we think it’s what we’re supposed to do? Whether that’s a trend, whether it’s some fashion magazine, whether it’s some  rule that we heard a million years ago from our mom and we haven’t let go of it yet. How much of that contributes to us buying stuff and never wearing them again? 

 

Reema: To me, this point feels really important. As I move through my 30s, I’m trying to lean into what actually feels authentic, so I can be less wasteful but also spend my money on the things I value more, like trips home to see my family or on crafty hobbies. But at the same, I do still need something to wear to the office…which brings me back to my thrifting quest to find clothes that I can feel good about, and good in. That’s after the break. 

 

<<BREAK>>

 

Reema: Alright I’m back in North Carolina with our producer Alice, and our next stop in my shopping journey was to New Nearly New Thrift Shop, which is right by a Chick-fil-A, a Biscuitville and a BBQ joint. Very North Carolina. But before we got out of the car, Alice had a little surprise: thrifting advice from Lakyn, delivered via voice memo.

 

Alice: so she sent me a voice memo with three pieces of advice slash rules for thrifting. 

Reema: Amazing! Oh my god, we need this…

Lakyn: When it comes to a thrift store, especially the big ones, you kind of want to have an idea of what you’re looking for, what you like, even what you don’t like. Otherwise, you’re just going to be, I mean, it’s going to be aimless.

Reema: True, that is very relatable.

Alice: I feel like at Rumors we learned a little bit more about like what, what you want and don’t want. 

Reema: Yeah, I do feel like I have a better idea of what I’m looking for.

Lkayn: Two is, be realistic. If you are not the type to DIY things or your skill level is not quite at the level that you need to fix certain things, I would honestly just skip it. And just you know, be real with yourself.

Reema: I appreciate that advice. Last week I was gonna buy these pants and they’re like super long but I love them, and I was FaceTiming my friend and she’s like, “Reema, put them back. You’re never gonna tailor them. Like, you’re not gonna wear them.”

Lakyn: Lastly is check everything: Is there a stain that might be of questionable origin that you’re not sure you’ll be able to remove? Is there, you know, a button missing? Is there split seams that you don’t necessarily think you’ll be able to fix? Um, just make sure that what you’re getting is pretty much wearable right now. Honorary rule number 4: wash everything that you buy from the thrift store, because let me tell you, if you saw the way that people treat their things before they donate them, you’d run away screaming. I won’t get into that, but yeah, just some helpful things to keep in mind, and happy thrifting. 

Reema: But doesn’t the thrift store wash the clothes? 

Alice: No. 

Reema: Yeah, they do. 

Alice: They don’t. [long pause] Sorry! [laughing]

Reema: I definitely don’t always wash the clothes from the thrift store, because I just assume that they wash it. I don’t know. Okay.

Alice: Well. We learned something new. 

Reema: Alright, good to know! 

 

Alice: Alice here. After that horrifying realization, we began shopping. 

 

Reema: Oh yeah,there are so many options here. Jean shirt!

[Ambi sound of browsing the racks]

Reema: Oh, I want this so badly. Oh my god. 

Alice: Reema…say what it is

Reema: It’s a jean shirt. Dude, I have this exact same jean shirt that I got from a thrift store, but it’s a darker color, but it’s the same style where it like stretches like this. Honestly, I would 100% buy this if it weren’t stained. There’s a stain right here. 

Alice: You literally just said you already own this shirt!

Reema: But not with this shade of jean!

Alice: Oh my god

Reema: Wait, should I actually get this?

Alice: It has like multiple stains on it.

Reema: But maybe I could get them out, do you think I could get this out? 

ALICE: There’s a stain there and there’s a stain there. I’m not going to stop you from buying something you want to buy, but I’m not counting it towards the challenge. 

Reema: Yeah, maybe. I I Yeah. I think the stains are a problem, you’re right.

 

Alice: No stains, that was Lakyn’s third rule! I should also say, this trip taught me that Reema really loves denim. 

 

Reema: Oh, this is a jean dress. This is different. 

Alice: Do you own any jean dresses? 

Reema: [pause] Two… [laughter] I do own two jean dresses

 

Alice: I was getting worried we’d leave with nothing. Or nothing but denim. But then, in the dress section: 

 

Reema: I kind of love this. 

Alice: Let’s try. I really like it. I think it would look great on you, too.

 

Reema: We were looking at this green, kind of bohemian flowery dress.

 

Reema: Wait, isn’t this so cute? Yeah. I could see myself walking out of the store with this. 

Alice: Yay!

Reema: Like, still on my body, kind of thing.

 

Reema: And this 80’s dress with long sleeves and a funky print.

 

REEMA: This is really cute. Not for work though, it’s a little too short, I think.

 

Alice: I ended up buying that dress. It was $8, how could I not? Before long, our shopping cart was full. 

 

Alice: Okay, let’s go check out

Reema: Let’s go check out! How many things do I even have? So, 1, 2, 3, 4 stuff. Um, and you can’t see this, but I am wearing one of the shirts that I tried on. I’m going to wear it outside of the store. 

Alice: Yay!

Reema: Which I’m very excited about!

Alice: The flannel is off.

Reema: The flannel is off. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to wear this flannel shirt, but I’m just not going to wear it three times a week. 

 

Reema: Back when I was panic shopping for my visit to the office, I spent about $250. This trip was very different.

 

Cashier: 33.86 is your total. 

Reema: Dude, that is not bad. 

Alice: Not at all. 

Reema: Four outfits, $33? That’s amazing. I would easily spend more than that just for one of those.

 

Alice: I’m pretty sure nothing we bought was over $10. I was so relieved that we left with some new outfits, I was convinced Reema wasn’t going to like anything we found that day. It would be a bust. We were giddy leaving the store. 

 

Alice: Yay! 

Reema: I’m so excited! Dude, and now the next time I go to the New York office, like, I’m not gonna be stressed. I feel like I could even wear this. Amazing! 

Alice: yayy

 

Reema: I started this journey with a bunch of questions. Questions about myself, like who is early 30’s Reema and how does she dress? And how do I stop buying things I regret when I’m feeling anxious? 

I’m still not sure what I want my wardrobe to look like these days, but I do have a better idea of the things I like. I know I like to be comfortable, I like earthy tones…I still really love denim and flannel. And I don’t feel as much of an urge to throw down $140 on pants, just because they’re in style. 

Something I took away from this whole thing is that we’re allowed to be picky about our clothes, and we probably should be, so we don’t end up with stuff that makes us feel bad, financially… physically… or emotionally…especially when we think about the harmful impacts of the fashion industry, like how it’s built to maximize profits at the expense of workers. 

After working on this episode, Alice and I had more questions. We wanted to take a closer look at what actually goes into making these clothes, and how workers are organizing to change things…like a garment worker who we’re calling Lorena…

 

Lorena: Un día junté con los compañeros ahí: “Tú crees que está bien, lo que no está pagando el patrón, verdad no?” [One day I gathered the employees and asked them, “Do you think it’s fair what the owner pays us?”]

 

Reema: Lorena told us about the day that she decided enough was enough, and started to fight for a livable wage. That’s next week, in the second part of our mini series on fast fashion. 

 

[MUSIC]

 

Reema: Okay, so you know how every time I see you, you’re like: “Reema, it’s time to upgrade your wardrobe.” 

Mom: Uh huh. 

Reema: “Reema, why do you still dress like that?”

Mom: Yep.

 

Reema: That is my mom.

 

Reema: Like, you know the purple and green shirt? 

Mom: Mm hmm?

Reema: that I always wear. 

Mom: Yeah, did you burn it yet? 

Reema: No, I didn’t burn it

 

Reema: After the thrifting adventure, I brought my bag of new clothes to my parents house to show her. 

 

Reema: I did get new clothes this week.

Mom: No, you didn’t. 

RK: Yeah, I did!  

Mom: I’m so excited to see what you bought.  

 

Reema: I did a little fashion show for her. Showed off my new flowery blouse 

 

Reema: what would you rate it out of ten? 

Mom: Uh, maybe a six.

 

Reema: Not a fan. Next up was a stretchy, cropped blue shirt. 

 

Mom: This is like a teenager! 

Reema: Ha! Because it’s cropped? 

Mom: Yes! 

Reema: But it’s cute! 

Mom: No, it’s not! 

Reema: But I can wear a shirt underneath it! 

Mom: No, uh uh. 

Reema: Wow, that’s a tough critic. Alright, got one more outfit…

 

Reema: Next up, a fitted, green floral dress with a notable slit. 

 

Mom: Ooh I love this one. 

Reema: Yeah? 

Mom: This is more your style. I love the color. I love the style 

Reema: Yeah?? So out of ten? 

Mom: If it didn’t have the slit, I would say probably 9 out of 10.

Reema: Wow. 

Mom: Because of this, maybe 6 out of 10.

Reema: Okay, but do you like these outfits at least more than the plaid shirt? 

Mom: [long pause} Somewhat. 

 

Reema: You know what, I’ll still take it as a win.

 

CREDITS

 

Alright, if you have any thoughts about this story, or just wanna shoot us a note, you can always email  me and the team at uncomfortable@marketplace.org, we love hearing from you all 

 

And I should say, if you’re interested in the environmental impacts of fast fashion, you should check out another Marketplace podcast, How We Survive.They did a whole episode on how fast fashion impacts climate change, and it’s full of easy tips for how you can make changes in your own life. Definitely recommend checking it out. We’ll include a link in the show notes.

 

Also don’t forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter if you haven’t already. There’s always great recommendations in there for things to cook or listen to or watch. And this week, Alice writes her behind-the-scenes take on our thrifting journey, as well as her own experiences with secondhand shopping, clothing swaps, and sustainable fashion. You can sign up for that at marketplace.org/comfort  

 

And very, very last thing: if you’ve liked this podcast, please share it with your friends, leave a review, rate us on whatever app you’re using. That stuff really does help us out, and it helps new listeners find our show. 

 

Drew Jostad: This episode was produced by Alice Wilder and hosted by Reema Khrais. They wrote the script together. The episode got additional support from producer Hannah Harris Green and our intern, Marika Proctor. Zoë Saunders is our senior producer.

Our editor is Jasmine Romero. Sound design and audio engineering is by me, Drew Jostad.   Bridget Bodnar is Marketplace’s Director of Podcasts. Francesca Levy is the Executive Director of Digital. Neal Scarbrough is Vice President and General Manager of Marketplace.And our theme music is by Wonderly.

 

Reema: my mom does not like always like the, the fashion choices I make, but also… 

Lakyn: What’s she gonna do, ground you?

[both laughing] 

Reema: yeah. What does she, yeah why does that matter?

 

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