Slow Fashion October: Slow Whenever, Loving Change, and Uniform Goals
I think something in my last post flipped a switch inside me that made me reconsider blogging. This is something that you always think is going to happen but never does. And in all honestly, I'd imagine my newfound enthusiasm will probably be short lived. But who knows? Let's go for it.
A few years ago, Karen Templer (of Fringe Supply Co.) started up an 'event'* called Slow Fashion October. It's easy to get wrapped up into an entire paradigm shift in terms of your wardrobe for the sake of participation, but I also know that in general my process is slow and calculated, sometimes too slow for even a slow fashion month. I think I live a slow fashion life. However, I think having an opportunity to highlight my slow fashion pursuits for a month is a good opportunity to share my experiences (and challenges!) with others.
* while the verdict's out for me on these social media based 'events', I do love a collective call to action. It creates a sense of community in a realm (the digital one) where it's easy to feel alone or isolated.
My Slow Fashion October 2017
I've been a slow fashion (and a slow most things, really) advocate for many years. From conversations about the issues within manufacturing supply chains to the psychology of the American fashion consumer, it's rare that my mind isn't contemplating a more thoughtful, meaningful way of interacting with soft goods.
So in many ways, every time 'Slow Fashion October' comes around, I get a rush of excitement and concern that I should reign back in my business pursuits and focus on these greater issues.
I don't know about you guys, but I'm a deep thinker. I love to analyze and evaluate and think about the why and how of our current situation. When it comes to slow fashion, I feel like my mind is always asking, "how can I sew more thoughtfully, have a wardrobe that works better, and find the answers to big questions about fast fashion."
I've come to realize that for me, it's sort of Slow Fashion whenever. The idea of pushing aside projects to dig my heels feels weird when my mind is always steadily pushing in this direction. My slow fashion project for last year is still not finished (though I made some good progress!) but I've decided that's okay. It's all part of a life that revolves around clothing and fiber. So instead, I'm going to declare two big, continuous goals for whenever.
The ever evolving practice of evaluating and curating my clothing collection.
Being a champion of, creator of, or facilitator of thoughtful fashion in whatever shape and form it has and will continue to take.
In this blog post, I'm going to focus on the first goal. Can you tell I love making lists and setting intentions? I'll save part II for a later blog post.
I wish I could pinpoint a specific turning point or 'wardrobe epiphany' over the last few months, but the reality is less glamorous. I feel like I've been considering and re-considering and evaluating and troubleshooting my wardrobe for years.
One thing that really strikes me after all this thinking is that I still periodically have trouble getting dressed in the morning and putting together outfits. And, though I've spent a lot of time thinking about it, I haven't quite figured out why. I'm still searching for the formula that will give me a magical pantry of wardrobe staples that allow me to effortlessly throw outfits together with panache and sophistication. Does it exist? I don't know, but I enjoy trying to find it.
Part of the equation that makes this a never ending pursuit is that humans are always changing, myself included. I've heard tales of women who come up with the perfect 'uniform' which satisfies them for the rest of their life. I think this is something I could achieve, or at least approximate in my own way. I think the recipe has two main ingredients that take time to source:
1. You have to not get bored easily.
2. You have to have a certain level of life experience that has either crystallized your visual identity via presentation and/or made you give less fucks about how you look.
While I feel like I'm slowly getting closer to the later (Hi houseplant earrings!), the former is the issue. I go through phases with clothing. I also love to sew and that itself presents a problem for the 'capsule uniform'.
On having a uniform
Even though I'm perhaps not a good candidate for the 'uniform' approach, I do have the knowledge and ability to make my wardrobe (evolving as it is) as thoughtful, low impact, and effective as possible. But the allure of the uniform still lingers. Efficiency is so wildly appealing to me, but so is looking fab on a regular basis and sewing for pleasure. The three often seem at odds, especially when you throw a politically minded aversion to waste, excess, and consumption into the mix.
So far, I've figured out a lot of things that form the basis of a uniform, like the fact that I love wearing earth tones, that I have specific shapes that I like. I also know that generally, I go through phases of loving particular garments and wearing them over and over. I also have found that, though having a sewing business cuts into my personal sewing time to an unpleasant degree, there is something to gain from having to wait.
Time is a great editor.
Doing sewing and design for work is a blessing and a curse. While it leaves me with very little time to actually sew for myself, it provides TONS of time for wardrobe additions to ripen and percolate and age. What starts out as an epic dress project turns into a simple (more wearable) shift. What starts out as an impulse fabric purchase becomes a practical brown bottom weight fabric for a skirt I know I'll wear all the time and will make me happier in the long run. It's less sexy, but it's practical and comforting (I'll avoid the relationship analogies, though the comparison is spot on)
I've started to notice that either having a smaller wardrobe or cycling out items makes for a clearer vision for me in terms of how I want to dress and feel good. Many people put this same idea into practice very successful, including Karen herself as part her Slow Fashion October project this year.
How to deal with change and turnover in an equally thoughtful way.
So, if we've come to terms with the fact that our style WILL change and, as a result, necessitate the relinquishment of unworn items, we can start to approach the issue of 'what to do with what you don't want' in a thoughtful manner. You all know my love for clothing swaps. That's one option. I've also realized that, since I only wear natural fibers, I can compost my old & damaged clothing or scraps! (Clothing company Elizabeth Suzann did a field test, composting scraps from their garment production, and was quite successful!) There are also many more impactful places to donate your clothing than your usual thrift store, like groups who provide free professional clothing to folks applying for jobs or relief organizations who need clothing (because our climate is in a crisis and many have lost everything to natural disasters). I outline some other uses for discarded clothes and fabric in my post about clothing swaps too, if you're interested.
If I can cultivate a sustainable clothing practice, it will allow me to sew to my hearts content, follow the winds of my changing style, and not feel like I'm having a negative impact on the world around me.
Next time, more on bringing thoughtfulness outside of your personal sewing/dressing practices and into your community!