The Sustainable and Storied Past of Vintage Clothing

Rebecca Lerner
Release Date: 

Getup Vintage Storefront

Vintage clothes are back in style, and not just for the aesthetic appeal. By wearing and buying vintage or reused clothes, we can combat 14.3 millions tons of textile waste per year. Because the average American throws away approximately sixty-five pounds of clothing and bedding, almost six percent of all municipal waste is made up of textiles.

The attitudes of the owners and customers of vintage stores mitigate this waste. The Graham Sustainability Institute talked to Kaylan Mitchell, an owner of the Ann Arbor store, The GetUp Vintage. Mitchell and her colleagues prioritize the importance of sustainability in clothing, which led to the development of their State Street store.

“The environment played a huge role in the creation of The GetUp,” Mitchell said. “In addition to saving all the cutest clothes from decades past from landfills, we wanted to create a space where these clothes could be celebrated and used again. We are committed to providing customers with unique, interesting, vintage clothing and helping the environment while we do it.”

When asked about the way the store maintains environmental operations, Mitchell cited cleaning and mending of clothes as places of progress.

“We do a lot of laundry! In terms of sustainability, having environmentally conscious ways to launder our clothing was one of the biggest ways we have become more sustainable,” Mitchell said. “We now make our own laundry soap instead of buying from the store, which saves cost per load and all the ingredients are natural. This way, we can also guarantee that a customer won't react to various soaps or smells from store-bought soaps.”

Mitchell discussed the durable nature of vintage clothing, which is in direct juxtaposition to the “fast fashion” clothing of today that more quickly ends up in landfills.

“Vintage is made to last. If one invests in quality vintage pieces, they may have that item often times for decades. It also holds its resale value quite well, and the majority of pieces appreciate over time. Vintage is an investment in your wardrobe and the environment,” Mitchell continued. “In terms of the environment, the impact of reusing clothing is huge. Every piece that we save from a landfill is a small victory won for us. There is tons of clothing waste every day... we are just doing our small part to reduce that waste. We are all guilty of consuming too much clothing, but one vintage blouse will outlast three, five, maybe even ten or more new ones.”

Besides the long-lasting benefits of vintage clothing, the customers at stores such as The GetUp Vintage also value the storied style of the pieces. Mitchell said, “I think they are drawn to vintage because of style and quality. Vintage clothing is not that much more expensive than mall stores, and often times can be cheaper, but these pieces have been made to last. If a piece has already lasted fifty years, one can reasonably assume it will be around for another fifty! You are not just buying clothing, you are buying a piece of history.”

See: The Getup Vintage

About the Author: Rebecca Lerner is a Planet Blue Ambassador and assists with efforts to promote sustainability. She is a U-M student studying English and Screen Arts and Culture and is working as a writer with the Graham Sustainability Institute.

Sustainability Series & Guide: This series is designed to demonstrate how local businesses and organizations highlighted in the University of Michigan (U-M) Sustainability Guide contribute to sustainability in the Ann Arbor area. The Getup Vintage and other organizations were selected as examples of how the broader Ann Arbor community contributes toward sustainability efforts.