I have always loved men’s dress shirts. My Dad’s wardrobe consisted of suits and oxford cotton shirts, which became soft and well-worn over time. When they became too well-worn for his taste, my Dad’s shirts found other purposes: Smocks for our art projects; beach cover ups to protect our skin from the sun. When a pile of his old Brooks Bros shirts were stacked to be sent to Goodwill I snagged them. How could I resist that soft cotton, the tug of childhood memories?
That’s when the wheels started turning and A Shirt Story was born.
I’m a lifelong fashion editor. Working for magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Glamour, I would cherry pick the best pieces from Prada, or Gucci, or Armani (Milan was my territory) for editorials and celebrity covers.
All of the shirts you’ll find here have been carefully hand-picked from Goodwill, scored on ebay, rescued from dollar racks. I look for 100 percent cotton (avoiding the non-iron variety), left over right buttons (ideally), free of holes or stains (though I have been known to go a little Lady Macbeth if I deemed a particular shirt worth salvaging).
All of these shirts have a story. Washing them, cutting off collars, fraying cuffs and replacing old buttons takes time and patience. So I get to know the shirts well. It always crosses my mind who originally bought this shirt? And why? Was it for one occasion or was the shirt in the weekly rotation. Whose drawer will end up in next, and how will it be worn? What’s this shirt’s next chapter? As Orsola De Castro writes in Loved Clothes Last, “Mending doesn’t mean we can’t afford something new; it means we can’t afford something being thrown away.”
My big picture mission is to help get surplus clothing inventory integrated into the existing supply chain, either through recycling or better yet upcycling. Overproduction is a huge problem in the fashion industry and so much perfectly good clothing is discounted, discarded, or destroyed. Thrift stores generally only sell about 30% of their inventory. So where do you think that other 70% ends up? (Exactly.)
I like solving problems. Listening and reading about the current state of the fashion industry and its massive effect on climate change is overwhelming. However I feel I am part of not a trend but a movement. And now you are part of it too.