Living More-with-Less

Clothes & Bodies

Family swap.

Melinda Weaver of Baltimore, Md., enjoys family reunions not only because of reconnecting with family while enjoying good food, but also because of the souvenirs, of sorts, that she acquires.

"It's a tradition within our extended family that if you have something you're not using or wearing, to bring it to family gatherings and we have a big clothing exchange!" says Melinda. This allows everyone to switch his or her wardrobe, save money, and see other people's clothes. "You rarely find two of the same thing," Melinda adds.

Submitted by Karina Kreider, Akron, Pa.

Stamping shirts, saving shirts.

"Everyone has them, everyone wears them, everyone gets stuff on them," remarks Melodie Wenger of Pilot, Va. What is "them"? T-shirts of course. After observing the ease with which many people discard their old but still wearable shirts, Wenger began collecting those that people would otherwise have thrown away. She then spices them up using recycled print blocks, patches any holes or frays, and then places them in a gallery of "new" shirts.

"I believe that human beings as a species have made a lot of unfortunate choices, but it is still within our grasp to make choices that make life more wonderful for all of us," says Wenger. "It's a win-win situation for me because I get to be creative with an easily available source, and I can easily pass my creativity on to other people in a way that costs me very little."

Submitted by Karina Kreider, Akron, Pa.

Cheap frills.

In the back corner of an old, redbrick warehouse in Lancaster, Pa., is a treasure trove of sorts. Here, Kristina Roth Martin and her business partner have created Cheap Frills, a clothing thrift store. They travel throughout New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania buying clothing from other secondhand stores that they then salvage, mend, and sell. As well as being an excellent recycling program and a sustainable method of dressing oneself, Cheap Frills provides designer clothing at an affordable cost.

"We like that we can have people of all walks of life shopping for beautiful things," says Kristina. "We don't want to be just an exclusive shop. We want to have it be accessible to everyone."

Submitted by Karina Kreider, Akron, Pa.

Shed the uniform.

Not only do we get to create beautiful clothes and adornment as we sell our handmade earrings and dresses through our online shop, we enjoy the process of imagination and collaboration. For me (Morgan), KathleenMeetsMorgan is more than a fun business partnership with a long-time friend and mentor; it creates balance and health in my life as a social worker in Pittsburgh.

For me (Kathleen), focusing passion on dress design culminates decades of social and political engagement as a former college teacher and pastor. We both find beauty in the mundane around us, using items from our daily life. A pair of train-flattened coins might become a pair of dangly earrings. Or a long-mothballed piece of polished cotton looks like a potential party dress.

We make more with less, yes, spending little on our supplies, always with an eye to what is good and just. Yet we also find that our more with less becomes more and more. We love to help our friends, family, and customers shed the "uniform" of mass-produced garments produced by an industry that too often exploits its workers. Attire is, to us, a chance to affirm life, peace, and beauty!

Kathleen Temple and Morgan Kraybil, Harrisonburg, Va., and Pittsburgh, Pa.

For more information

Behind the Label: Offers suggestions for consumers on how to buy sweatshop-free apparel.

The Thrift Shopper: Offers a national thrift store directory for the United States.

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