manifesto on fashion

“There’s this idea that somehow you’ve got to keep changing things, and as often as possible. Maybe if people just decided not to buy anything for a while, they’d get a chance to think about what they wanted; what they really liked.” – Vivienne Westwood

I just read the article linked to above yesterday, days after my decision to take a break from shopping. It nice to see that my thinking is close to that of my favorite designer. My non-shopping vow is the following: for the next 5 months I will not ‘go shopping’ for clothing, I will not purchase any item of clothing on ebay, I will not buy anything (clothing or otherwise) that I do not need, if I receive an item of clothing as a gift or in a swap I will rid myself of something in exchange, if i feel the desire for something new I will make it myself out of things I already own.

It’s a hard vow, already I hear the sirens call of vintage on ebay. But it’s one that I know will be good for my soul, my closet and my pocketbook. I hope that as the 5 months go on I won’t find that there are items I need. I hope instead I will find that there still are things I own that I don’t wear and don’t need. I hope that come spring I will have cleared out my closet to just the pieces I love, to the necessities for my style.

In the article Vivienne says that over-shopping leads to the lack of style in the world today. It’s so easy to buy into trends that “Everyone looks the same. Everyone wants to look neutral.” Well, I have never wanted to look neutral. And I realize more and more that paying attention to every item is important, that getting dressed is more that just putting on whatever, it’s a display of creativity, a display of pride and a display of personal choice.

I know that some people reading this are wondering why I put so much thought into clothing. Why isn’t it just about covering the body? Why is there are ritual to dressing? Why does it matter? A recent article in the New York Times talks about the intellectual snobbery against fashion:

“There is this suggestion that fashion is not an art form or a cultural form, but a form of vanity and consumerism,” said Elaine Showalter, the feminist literary critic and a professor emeritus at Princeton. And those, Ms. Showalter added, are dimensions of culture that “intelligent and serious” people are expected to scorn…Particularly in academia, where bodies are just carts for hauling around brains, the thrill and social play and complex masquerade of fashion is “very much denigrated,”

But the thing is fashion goes much deeper than people know.  Fashion is art, it’s impossible to look at shots from any of the recent fashion weeks and think differently, it is a symbol of personal expression, again just look at the influx of streetwear blogs and the success of wardrobe_remix,   and it effects how we think about people, the article speaks about Hillary Clinton as an example.

But there is something negative about the business of fashion. There are certainly huge issues with marketing  fashion. Things that are not necessities are being sold as if they are, making things status symbols that really mean nothing. Fashion magazines appeal to imagination and fantasy, leading to body image issues and debt. And mass produced trend shops, such as H&M, Forever 21, Urban, etc., create disposable items for people to continually buy. A system that misuses workers and takes money away from skilled workers who are no longer being paid to make quality garments

I do not want to be a part of a culture of cheap desire without thought. I long for the days of quality over quantity. The days of smart simple items that last. So this is what I hope for, to break my own cycle of mindless spending. So that when I do return to the racks I buy only because I know that there is a need. Ideally, I would like to spend only when I know a new item’s history (that it’s a crafted item not mass produced) or that a garments history cannot be traced (used and vintage).  It’s very difficult, all of my favorite jeans are H&M, but I want to feel good about what I wear. I want my style to reflect who I am and what I believe in not reflect that I know the latest trends and want to look like everyone else.

 

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