Friday, October 7, 2016

A joyful path-- Slow Fashion October week 1

This month I'm going to try-- deep breath!-- to post on the weekly Slow Fashion October topics from Fringe Association. This subject is so rich and interesting and seemingly inexhaustible! It takes me a bit out of my comfort zone as a writer and blogger-- I love to delve into big ideas but I don't always trust in my ability to write about them coherently, which is why I usually stick pretty close to my current projects for fodder. I think it will be good for me to take some time to reflect on what I wear, and what I make, and, most of all, why. This is the first week's prompt:

Who are you, and what does slow fashion mean to you. What got you started thinking about it — people, books, films, etc. Are your concerns environmental, humanitarian, financial? Most important: How does your thinking factor into your life and closet. Also, any special plans or projects for Slotober, and what are you hoping to get out of it?

About me: I have always-- I mean always-- had strong feelings about what I want to wear. Ask my mom, who had to launder the same rainbow-appliqu├ęd t-shirt and brown corduroy skirt every night during my preschool days because I refused to wear anything else. To this day, I feel something akin to an allergic reaction combined with a minor spiritual crisis when I have on something that isn't right for me. At the same time I have a deep streak of ethical frugality in my character that abhors waste, cruelty, mindlessness in all forms. My closet has always been something of a battleground between these two forces-- the aesthetic (and visceral) desire to dress well and the moral imperative for my life choices to align with my conscience. I see slow fashion-- making my own clothes, specifically-- as a way to reconcile and unite them. 

Like so many other people who consider themselves part of this movement, the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster had a huge, permanent effect on my clothing choices. Slow fashion for me is definitely about a different set of choices-- buying secondhand and traceable clothes, handmade, creative reuse and mending-- where ethics and sustainability come first. But it is also part of a bigger conversation I have been having with myself for a long, long time-- what do I really need to be happy? It's not only about what stuff and how much of it, but all the other things that go or don't go into a happy life. These questions are woven through so many of my readings and thoughts on so many different topics, including fashion and making-- the conversation pings off into a thousand directions but at the heart it is about finding a righteous and joyful path through our very complicated world. To that end, the book that has probably helped me the most in recent years is The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up-- reading that book and then choosing what things to keep entirely based on what makes me happy had a profound positive effect in almost all areas of my life, my closet included. Since I tidied my clothes I find that I am much closer to the smaller, better quality, more thoughtful wardrobe that I pursued for so long, through so many cycles of buying and "editing"-- I have added less to my closet and gotten more use and enjoyment out of it. 

I know now that cleaning out my closet was just the first step. I know that no one wants my old clothes-- and that the world's charity shops and landfills are now even more awash with discarded items thanks to Marie Kondo's book and method. I don't have an answer for this-- textile waste is a huge problem and I would like to stop contributing to it. But I think KonMari works as a catalyst to behavior change-- ultimately to more mindful consumer behavior-- because it focuses on joy, on respecting and treasuring the things you love, and I don't think the movement for more ethical and sustainable clothing can survive without joy. For me this is the heart of simplicity and slow fashion-- knowing what you love and need for a happy life and cheerfully leaving the rest alone. I am definitely not all the way there yet-- but I feel that I have found the path. 

I don't have any specific slow fashion projects for the month-- I want to join in the conversation and the community, to get ideas and inspiration. The onset of fall and winter weather is typically a time of wardrobe distress for me, one that in the past has triggered a flurry of clothing purchases. I think this year it will be very blissful to instead focus on appreciating what I already have!


  1. I, too, read The Life-Changing Magic, and my partner and I took loads of clothing out of our closet using her technique. I've used it on my cookbooks as well but have stalled elsewhere. I like that you say you have "an allergic reaction and minor spiritual crisis" when you wear things that isn't right for you. That's a lovely combination of mindfulness (in general) and a sense of who you really are, which is clearly lacking in the way many people dress.

    1. I forget that I can reply to comments here, so it's a little late but thank you for this!