I couldn't believe my fortune. A Theory blazer, in pristine condition, just waiting for someone to rescue it from my local Goodwill, and in my size? It was too good to be true. It was a thrifting victory to end all other thrifting victories. It was mine. It was mine so damn fast.
My first high quality wool blazer (purchased for a whopping $15) saw me through both rounds of interviews at my current organization. It traveled all up and down the coast of California, adding just the right touch of polish to otherwise casual looks, and it was present for at least a third of my graduate classes, including most major presentations. It was a go-to; something I always felt confident in, and could trust to get the job done. It served me so very well, and witnessed a great deal of life, and change, and professional (not to mention personal) growth in the process. And so, it is with a heavy heart that I report to you that after 4 long years, my beloved black blazer has finally kicked the bucket in the form of two prominent rips on the front of the left sleeve.
I'll have you know that this is not the first time this blazer has required some TLC. Many a time I have taken it to my local seamstress, asking her to help repair a tear here, or reaffix the lining there. I took great care of the jacket, but alas, something (or some feline whom I live with) finally snagged it to the point of no return. The rips aren't anywhere near a seam. Fixing them would equal two visible 1.5 inch long islands of stitching in the middle of a sea of smooth and shining wool. Not a great look, but hey, use it up and wear it out, amirite?
In the spirit of the capsule, I spent two weeks deciding if I really needed to replace the blazer for spring. I thought that perhaps it could wait until summer, until I actually went out and started making some real purchases. Turns out it couldn't. A black blazer is such an integral part of so many of my capsule outfits that I felt limited without it. I began to get excited, and obsessive even - maybe this was my chance to invest in classic, durable, and entirely expensive blazer!
Like any obsessive online shopper, I started doing my homework. I scoured the usual shops (Nordstrom, J.Crew, Banana) and considered just buying another Theory blazer (for whatever sale price I could find), but then John Oliver's piece about fast fashion aired and I began to examine those retailers through a different lens.
Theory is owned by Fast Retailing, a company with many impressive corporate social responsibility policies, and a handful of glaring independent assessments outlining the massive discrepancies between their policies and practices. This report specifically looks at Uniqlo (also owned by Fast Retailing, as are J.Brand and Helmet Lang), but I learned that high end products are often made in the same factories and under the same conditions as any lower priced goods. Now here is where I say that I'm just starting out on my journey toward conscious consumerism. I try to be smart in my choices, but I also own just about every apple product. It's a slow climb, and one bound to be riddled with "crap! I didn't know X about Y!" moments.
Undeterred, I pressed on in my search for the next perfect blazer, made under good and transparent conditions. I went into SF boutiques and read countless social consciousness statements online, and probably tried on at least 10 well-crafted, so expensive, really unflattering blazers. And that was the thing, nothing looked good. Not one of the incredibly pricey jackets I tried on fit the way I wanted them to, which turned out to be just my luck. After trying on a series of very expensive, beautifully designed, high-end blazers, I found myself back at Goodwill and voila.
The blazer I bought for $8 fits me better than any of the $300 jackets I tried on. I find it so funny that at a time when I was considering shelling out a good amount of dough for a wardrobe staple, there it was waiting for me back at my local Goodwill. It's a lesson in "more expensive doesn't always equal better," which is a mental reframe I still have to remind myself to make. Just because it costs more doesn't always mean it's the best. In my case, it was far better to save my money.
I feel good about the ethical factor - by buying used clothing I'm effectively reducing both the environmental and ethical impact of the textile industry by removing myself from the equation altogether. Maybe when this one wears out I'll get back to hunting for a designer jacket, but at the moment, I feel fantastic in this blazer. And lucky for me, I saved a lot of money on this piece just in time to stumble upon something (an expensive something) that I have been searching for for over a year! Coming up next time: when to splurge!