Is it just ‘clothes’ or is it something with seasons, that changes? Are there rules you need to follow? What does that mean if you love a bootleg when skinny is in? Do you care? Mind? Notice? Do you get excited about what’s coming next, look back at old pictures wondering why the hell you wore *that* or do you wear the same kinds of things over and over? We’d love to know – please tell us!*
We’re musing on this at the moment. Musing, too, over the idea that it so often seems that there’s a view that what we wear is *for* someone else. I remember some man telling me – telling me – that I must have wanted men to look at my breasts as I was wearing a vest top. Now I’ve been above a C cup since I was 14 and there’s nothing I can do about that – I don’t decide what size boobs to wear in the morning when I choose my Pants. And there wasn’t a bit of me thinking about him or any other man when I got dressed that day. It was summer. I was hot. Vest top. Simple. Do you think about other people when you’re getting dressed? It’s interesting stuff, this.
We wear all kinds of clothes here. Catherine used to run a vintage shop and so has a wardrobe bursting with everything from Roxane Gay’s ‘Bad Feminist’ T shirt to designer labels and she loves and revels in putting outfits together. I’ve been wearing black since I was 14, and almost everything I own is rescued from a charity shop and worn with DM boots or DM shoes and is loved, loved loved – I don’t have many things but the things I have I wear time and again. Our colleagues wear all kinds of colours, and a mix of traditional and western clothes. We’ve also learned about traditions whereby after marriage, in some cultures, the bride is bought an entirely new wardrobe by her in laws. Those clothes really mean something.
The people we notice in the street are the ones with their own style, not the ones that look like they’ve walked out of a shop window. Is this the difference between fashion and style? Who knows. But what we do know is that fast fashion is a thing and that there are people for whom it is important to buy now, wear today, replace tomorrow. I know the ‘buy fewer better things’ idea isn’t accessible to everyone- Terry Pratchett puts it beautifully, ‘
“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”
― Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
Either which way, there’s another end to fashion. In just over a month, it will be two years since Rana Plaza, an eight storey building, collapsed claiming over 1100 lives and injuring over 2500 more people. Clothes were being made in that building for brands including (among others) Benetton, Bonmarché, Monsoon Accessorize, Mango, Matalan, Primark, and Walmart.
The building had been extended without permits, made taller. It had generators on high floors in case of power cuts. It was also being used for manufacturing when it had been designed as office and residential. Even in our tiny factory, sewing machines make a heck of a lot of vibration. Imagine what the vibration of one, two, three thousand machines would do to hastily built walls. It’s terrifying.
None of us here think that we should wear sackcloth and guilt. We are allowed to love clothes, and we are allowed to love different ones on different days. We’re allowed to want to express ourselves through our clothes and we’re also allowed to just wear clothes because we like them and it not be a statement to anyone else.
What do you think about this? We’ll be talking about this in the month leading up to the Rana Plaza anniversary and we’d genuinely love to know what you think. *
*Please note that this blog was written in the past and scheduled to is go live while I am on holiday so any comments will be answered when I’m back. Much obliged!
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