I am a maker. What I’ve come to realize about being a maker is that it transforms you into a story collector. When I wear my handmade clothes I am writing their story. The story of deciding on the fabric and choosing buttons over a zipper. The story of that miserable hem or the glorious placket detail. The whole story of construction is embedded in the fibers and the story continues to spool out into the world with every time I wear it. It is rich with story.
I am wearing stories.
Five years ago, a year after the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh that killed over a thousand garment workers, the stories of the (mostly) women around the world making my clothes were haunting me. Here I was, asking the world to value my work as a woman, while the story of garment workers and the systematic de-valuing of women’s work was something I didn’t fully recognize. I couldn’t stop thinking about how skilled they are and how, in return, they are poorly paid and set to work in such dangerous conditions. Sewing gives me such deep respect for the stitches that hold my clothes together and an even deeper respect for the talent and hard work of so many women and men around the world who make the clothes we consume at such a rapid pace. It just didn’t sit right.
I decided to stop buying new clothes. I have never looked back. I’m now in my sixth year of avoiding any new clothes.
It is impossible to ignore the story of fast fashion. It is one of complete disregard for so many things I value…our shared planet and our shared humanity. I only sew, thrift or mend all the clothes in my closet.
Since then I have been re-writing the story of what I wear. I am replacing my previous thoughtlessness with something beautiful, unique and slow.
I am creating a mindful wardrobe.
WHAT IS A MINDFUL WARDROBE?
- A mindful wardrobe is slow and deliberate. It values durability and longevity and self-expression and belonging.
- A mindful wardrobe is gentle, cooperative and open-hearted. There is no purity test. Anyone building a mindful wardrobe in big and small ways is casting a vote for Mother Earth. We are all working toward aligning values with action and there is room in this discussion for everyone interested in listening.
- A mindful wardrobe values the power of making. Within our two hands is the power to bring into the world whatever stunning, funky, lush, spare, devoted, or radical vision we might have and in doing so we make the world a richer place. Our humble stitches make magic and comfort, they encourage sustainability, decrease pollution and fight the exploitation of global workers.
- A mindful wardrobe is open to the space wherein beauty, humor and design meet courageous, creative hands.
- A mindful wardrobe rejects the rules written by the fashion world with its designated colors, sizes and shapes. Armed with needles, thread and creative joy there is the potential to bust through into a glorious world of radical love. Love of ourselves, the planet and all the humans.
Clothing is a form of expression. It expresses sensuality, personality; it is intention and identity. Fast fashion provide a roadmap for navigating these complicated waters like a pamphlet of clear, low-commitment options for keeping up with this moment in history. Deciding to create my own mindful wardrobe means deciding to dig into what is a timeless look for me. I’m embracing the liberating feeling of charting this terrain for myself and embracing my shape in the process.
In the book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown talks about the difference between fitting in and belonging. Fitting in means becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted while belonging means being accepted for who you are, just as you are. As I see it, fast fashion is a roadmap for fitting in, it changes constantly and quickly discards the previous seasons styles as “tired” and “overdone”. It’s the mean girl of material goods. I have learned that the fashion world isn’t concerned with hearts and minds. It’s playing on insecurities and doubts. It thrives on uniformity and conformity and restriction because it is all the better for profit.
I want to belong to myself and I want my wardrobe to express that. In my growing years of rejecting fast fashion I have also rejected fashion world’s message about fitting in. Instead, I’m slowly hacking my way through the weeds of belonging to myself.
My wardrobe is not anything wild or crazy, it is just…more me. And, every year it is a little more me and a little more exploratory. I love the joy of making something I love to wear. The process of discovery and learning is a challenge I relish. If the business of fast fashion is an assault on joy and on creativity, then the joy I find every day in making things myself is my stand against this assault.
I’m creating a mindful wardrobe.