What Does Clothing Actually Mean To You?
As Fashion Revolution week approaches and all sorts of amazing events are popping up around the globe, raising awareness on the issues linked with our current fashion status - its practices, accountability, impact towards our environment and the treatment of the workers it is employing.
So, like any good revolutionary about to go to battle (I am French after all and the thought of a good revolution is never taken lightly) I started asking myself this question as I tried to trace back to the point when these issues started becoming an uncontrollable beast for our society. To me it seems so essential to be very aware of the root of the problem in order to treat its consequences.
It has all become clear to me while I am in the middle of reading books, like The Golden Thread by Kassia St Clair and Threads of Life by Clare Hunter, that it all started when we, as individuals, disconnected ourselves emotionally from our clothing, from the purpose of purchasing a new piece of clothing, to the processes involved in the making of it, to even the cultural meaning of an outfit and the etiquette attached to it.
For a society who is suddenly so concerned about the food we eat, where it comes from, how it is gown, harvested, cleaned, and packaged. Whether it is gluten free, lactose free , vegan , organic, and so on. Which new cooking shows or classes are popping up in our media channels so we can relearn the processes we have been too busy to learn from our elders. But very few people seems as concerned about the clothes they are actually covering their skin with on a daily basis. Clothes are something that is meant to protect us, to keep us safe and warm, to express our ethnic or cultural identity. Why are we not so concerned any more about something that comes so close to each of our pores every day.
Since the beginning of times, we have dressed our body with furs to keep us warm or breathable handlooms to protect us from the sun. Traces of looms and weaving tools have been found in the earliest primitive times. Clothing served a purpose.
Culturally, our dress standards have been a way to differentiate ourselves ethnically whether by the gho in Bhutan, the kilt in Scotland, or the dirndl in Austria, to name a few. Our clothing has also been a way to express our status in society. I learnt that the placement of the knot on the apron on the Dirndl will give an idea of marital status. My mother as a young woman had to wear black clothing for a year in France to show her grieving for her parents.
Clothing has also been used as a political stance like Gandhi wearing his khadi cloth as a stand against English oppression and a symbol of an industry that could make India sustainable.
Cloth has been a precious currency for many centuries as a trading valuable through entire continents for example the thriving Silk Road. (Watch Joanna Lumley‘s travels through The Silk Road to learn more and be mesmerised).
So where and when did we go wrong and what do we do now?
Our society‘s culture of social media has not helped. Trends are changing so rapidly, our influences becoming the celebrity of the year, month, or week. So we have created ourselves needs that are supposed to express our relevance in the world.
A simple start to creating change is to ask yourself these simple questions every time you are about to purchase a new item whether new or op-shopped, whether you are about to recycle, repurpose or swap.
“What does this piece mean to me? Do I need it? Will it allow me to express my identity? Will it make me happy or can I achieve this in another way?”
Practise asking these questions with the last piece you purchased and let me know how you go.
This is our first step to get ready for a good revolution!