Unfashionably Green

Fashion depends on the idea that we throw things away as soon as they are out of fashion and replace them with newer, trendier things. It particularly applies to clothes and accessories, but the logic of it permeates our lives – how our homes look, what’s in our kitchens, our gardens, and all the rest of it. If you can buy something, then you can buy it newer and more fashionable.

Pre-industrial revolution, fashion was mostly the concern of the wealthy. Most of us made do with what we could cobble together and kept it going for as long as it would last. Mass production introduced the idea of fashion to the population as a whole. Mass media exposes us to images of what the wealthy are doing and wearing and seeds in the rest of us the desire to have what they have, live as they live. This is part of the mechanism that helps keep the poor driving the economy, helps keep us in debt and always running to keep up.

Imagine how different the world would be if we didn’t celebrate consumerism in this way. What if the media routinely critiqued the unsustainable excesses of the rich? Would we be so keen to emulate them if they weren’t celebrated so much? Fashion doesn’t reliably give us beautiful things, or for that matter useful things. What would happen if we sought beauty and utility rather than a sense of being on trend? What would happen if we were more interested in durability and sustainable sourcing? Everything would change.

I think some of what we have at the moment is the cultural backlash that came after the rationing and the aftermath of the Second World War. A cultural desire for easy good things and not having to make do and mend. Perhaps understandable, but not liveable with.

In recent weeks I’ve seen some media acknowledgement of how grossly wasteful the fashion industry itself is. We throw away an obscene amount of clothing each year. It doesn’t help that cheap mass produced fashion isn’t made to last – it wears out and falls apart at depressing speed. Being in a position to compare the longevity of modern clothes with older clothes, I notice a vast difference. Items I’ve had twenty years and more endure while things bought recently fall apart. As someone inclined to make do and mend, I find modern fabrics are very hard to keep going.

Fashion is a story we have told ourselves about what’s desirable. We could have other stories. We could value originality more than keeping up with the crowd. We could value use and durability more than this year’s must have look. We could buy things that are better able to last and not be afraid to keep wearing them for years afterwards. We could be more creative.

One of the things I’ve noticed while pondering this blog is how bland most people look. Supermarket clothes, in fading fabrics and banal styles certainly have a ‘timeless’ quality in that they always look boring and always will. I see my nearest supermarket suggesting we freshen up our wardrobes for Christmas, while offering the same bland sort of shit, plus ridiculous jumpers. I think we’ve got to the point that what we’re being told is the new look isn’t even that, it is as old and tired as anything we bought last year. If what the people around me are wearing is anything to go buy, fashion is an idea that has already past its sell by date anyway.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

10 responses to “Unfashionably Green

  • Eliza Ayres

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    Recently I visited a Japanese museum show of Japanese fabrics. Using only natural fibers, cotton, linen and hemp, the Japanese used and re-used their fabrics, making old clothes into useful household items like quilts and thick coats and jackets. You would not be able to do the same thing with modern fabrics that shrink the first time you wash them. I’ve never been a follower of fashion and don’t think I will start now.

  • Ann Beirne

    I do so agree with what you have said, as someone that wear their clothes till they finally fall to pieces I still find ways to make them into something else, I get a lot of my clothes from charity shops but these are getting more expensive and buying in stuff to sell, which to me has lost the ethos they used to have, I don’t mind second had furniture or stuff like that my husband and I love doing things up repurposing I think it is called. Fashion and all this rubbish about must haves perpetrated by adverts and media, pray on peoples easily fooled minds, they are brainwashing everyone, to get them into debt as you said, if I can see the lies and yourself why can’t others?

    I also love your pages in Pagan Dawn too

    Best wishes

    Ann ________________________________

  • Christopher Blackwell

    My mom always chose clothing that looked good on her and that she could mix and match to create new outfits. Occasionally she might add new trim. Some of her clothes were twenty years old, but never looked it.

    I have not really changed my style most of my life. The last change came about a few years ago when changed from white tee shirts to bright orange tee shirts. I bought twenty four of them. I just had to wait until the extra cost of color was no longer important. Otherwise it is Wangler denim jeans, and the same in work shirts.

    My boots are over ten years old, I often joke that only the polish holds them together. I really have been thinking of replacing them as they have a couple of small holes in the leather tops, and one slight tear in the upper part. But still they are comfortable and I don’t walk that far any more.

    Outside of that only occasionally do I buy wind breaker and I did spend bit for a really warm Winter coat.

    I do have a hat that I have worn often enough on cold days, and it is a few years old, so some day I may get another.

    But I am afraid the fashion industry would go out of business if they depended on me. Not that that worries me much.

  • BART Station Bard

    You completely rock. I like to think that we’re the future, that make and mend will once again become, dare I say it, fashionable. It has a following, it’s called repurposing and upcycling, but it isn’t something generally acceptable except on the fringes. Patched clothes haven’t been socially acceptable since the 1970s… I’m currently having a hard time finding a trustworthy shoe repair place. I have a few pairs of boots that are perfectly good, but the soles are shot. I will pay more to fix them than to buy another pair, but as you say, the new shoes won’t be of the same quality.

  • lornasmithers

    I can’t remember the last time I read a fashion magazine and have no idea what’s ‘in’. I notice a lot of young girls putting their hair on the top of their heads… I still wear coats and jumpers I wore at college and a lot of my wardrobe dates back to when I was in my early twenties. When things break or go saggy or wear out beyond repair I shop in charity shops. I don’t think I have a concept of fashion whatsoever!

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