Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

What does ‘fashion’ mean to you?

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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10 Responses

  1. Lisa says:

    Love this pondering. Fashion to me at 31 means a very different thing to what it meant when I was 18. I wear clothes I feel comfortable in, clothes that express who I am, I rarely think about whether or not the clothes I’m wearing are “in fashion”. I make my own clothes and the rest of them I rescue from charity shops or second hand designer shops, or ebay or as hand me downs from family and friends who thought I might like them. I’m very glad I have been able to give up chasing trends as I never really felt like “me” when I was wearing them! As far as I’m concerned clothes should be an extension of your personality and being able to wear ethically made clothes is even better 🙂

    • beckypants says:

      Oh how interesting to hear that you’re aware of that shift! I wonder if anyone else has had the same realisation? I definitely think you’ve hit on something there about chasing trends and never really feeling like you in them – I think that rings true for a lot of people. Thanks Lisa!

  2. naomi farr says:

    This is sooooo inspiring. Am currently awaiting and am very excited. Naomi

  3. naomi farr says:

    This is so interesting. Have been considering women’s fashion and generally the provenance of what I buy for some time. I am 70 years old and had have a chronic neuro-muscular disorder so also have to find things that are comfortable. Clothes shopping has been a bit of a nightmare

    Colours and fabric are such delights for me. I have been sourcing fabric and dying it and having clothes made by adapting favourite garments l already own. At last I have clothes that fit in styles that are comfortable for me at a price I would normally pay for ready made garments. I know who makes my cothes and as far as possible the fabrics are ecologically sourced.

    I am inspired by the story of ‘who made your pants? ‘ I’m hoping it will start an epidemic in the garment industry.
    Naomi

    • beckypants says:

      What a lovely response – thank you Naomi! We are with you in the delight of colour and fabric (and we’re fans of home dying too (Dylon, by any chance?) I get such a thrill from seeing orange and pink together – every time, it just makes me smile. We have some orange and pink laces next to each other on the shelf at the moment and it’s just joyour to look at them. And thanks for your very kind words of support – wouldn’t that be a good thing 🙂 Thank you Naomi.

  4. Robyn Parker says:

    A wonderful post. There’s so many big questions around fashion and it’s place in the world. I was once asked by someone if I liked fashion. I didn’t really know what to say, it’s such a broad term. I concluded that no, I don’t like fashion, which surprised him even more when I said that I’m a designer. I love playing dress up, I adore designing fabric and using it to make my own clothes. What I don’t like is being told by ‘fashion’ what I should and shouldn’t and wear- more to the point what I should spend my money on. For me fashion is a set of rules put in place by organisations who want to tap into our insecurities and make us part with our money in an attempt to be cool and fit in. Its transient nature is what makes it profitable. Oh dear I’ve ranted! Such an important topic! looking forward to hearing more 🙂 x

    • beckypants says:

      Rants welcome 🙂 What a lovely thoughtful response, thank you for sharing that with us. Love what you say about the fun of designing and the hidebound feeling of fashion ‘rules’. We’ll be musing more on this – thanks for joining in!

  5. Don’t like fashion. Tolerated it better when I was a tall, skinny young woman who didn’t look quite as stupid in each year’s fashion as I do at 70-not-skinny, but was done with it after a few years anyway. Too much trouble for the payoff, which was zilch. Hate fashion shoes (don’t wear heels at all now.) Still love color–intense, saturated colors (emerald green, true reds, cobalt to Prussian blue, royal purple, hot pink, turquoise.) Pastels make me look sick and I don’t like them much anyway.

    Up through the early ’80s, my mother (who could design and make anything with her sewing machine) designed and made a lot of my pants. I’m a total dud with sewing (I knit my own socks, but years of her trying to teach me sewing didn’t pan out–I’m not good at it and it’s frustrating to make crappy stuff after many hours of struggle, sweat, and cussing. Besides, sewing clothes does not fit into 5-15 minute gaps in the day, like knitting does, nor can it be taken along to work on while waiting somewhere. My knitting tote goes along every time.)

    She bought only union-made garments when she bought them at all. Unfortunately the clothing manufacture here pretty much died out. I’m now down to 1-2 pairs of jeans at a time and try to check the source, but it’s hard enough to find them made of useful sturdy denim not contaminated with spandex. To find shorts I’d like to wear on the bicycle, I have to buy men’s to get them long enough, loose enough, and made of sturdy fabric. (If I were my mother, I’d pull off the waistband and pleat the excess at the waist, but remembering past “adventures” in sewing–that’s not happening.)

    Practicality rules my clothing choices, except for the good clothes I need for appearances, and for that I choose classics: plain black slacks, plain black flats, black knit top, and a jacket with some color, or for casual, a colored knit top and an old multi-colored patchwork jacket. Everyday it’s jeans (not fashion jeans, either) or the long “cargo” type shorts and T-shirts or long-sleeved shirts if it’s cold. Hiking shoes or sandals, worn with the wool socks I knit.

    • beckypants says:

      What a fantastic comment Elizabeth, thank you! Your mother sounds like a wonderful, principled woman and so do you – thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We love the sounds of your colours. Bright is beautiful 🙂

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