Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Confessions of a Fashion Failure

Fashion sense has always eluded me.
I've gone through seasons where I make more effort than others, but always it eludes me.

I very distinctly remember a school picture in, I believe, 5th grade (clearly old enough to know better) for which I put together my very "best" ensemble, which consisted of my "nice" sweat pants and a "fancy" t-shirt that had some portion of the design that was the same color as the main color of my sweat pants.  Oh, and a headband, though I am not 100% sure if the color of it matched anything.

I hit a phase in middle school where I felt odd in just about every way and sought to remedy at least some of those areas.  I tried really hard to be girly and do my hair like the other girls and wear at least a few of the clothes that seemed popular.  I got a few items of B.U.M. Equipment and Umbro (yes, I'm also old).  I could never pull off Hypercolor because I was also a very sweaty girl!  At several points in that, though, I can remember thinking, take away that labels, and I just have a striped t-shirt and slick shorts--this is dumb!  Thankfully, that phase didn't last long, and I abandoned the labels.

Most of high school was spent in flannel shirts and jeans (though that was actually a bit popular at the least I think it was!).

I actually hit a phase in college and soon after in which I had some style.  Mind you, it was never what was "in style," and I can't say that it even "worked," but it was some sort of style.  One of the problems, though, in addition to my utter lack of fashion sense, is that I've always been very frugal (ahem, cheap) and pragmatic.  Especially once I started teaching and then became a mom, things that weren't comfortable or didn't last just didn't make the cut.  Thus, slipping back into my hopeless lack of fashion.

I actually had students in the inner city offer to buy me new shoes because they pitied mine!

And, at another job, I actually had a co-worker say to me once, "I was watching an episode of 'What Not to Wear' last night, and it made me think of you."

Mix my fashion failures with my frugality, introversion, and indecisiveness, and shopping is just downright horrifying most of the time.

I have, in recent seasons, become more aware of the many, many injustices in the fashion industry and what actually is involved in producing a lot of the clothes we wear.  Being fully aware of my failings at being fashionable, I think it most likely seems easy for me to say that clothes-buying habits need to change.  I don't buy many, and looking stylish is not a priority to me.  So, it might come across as very preachy to point out the flaws with most American fashion consumption habits.  Truly, though, friends, I have failed as a consumer as well.  Do you remember me mentioning being cheap?  I have a hard time paying more when I know there is a cheaper option.  And, given that I hate shopping, I often go for the easiest option available, and adding more factors to complicate something that already thoroughly overwhelm me is daunting, to say the least.

However, the point isn't to prove that it's hard for me to make different choices, too.  Whether something is hard or not is not the measure of whether it's worth doing.  I don't need to make different choices about the clothes I purchase because it is easy or in order to make it into some sort of noble sacrifices because it is hard.  Good choices are good choices, regardless of the cost.

So, yes, I--the total fashion failure--is encouraging, URGING, others to think about the choices they are making for what they buy and wear.
The good news is you don't have to look like me!  Go ahead, you can breathe a sigh of relief.  I know my reality.
I have friends who are artistic and creative and have a true gift for putting things together in ways that are stylish and beautiful who are leading the way in not only making better choices but CREATING better options and working within the industry to bring justice and dignity to those producing the fashion that people wear.  Look to them, not to me.  They get it--fashion sense with a heart for justice and plan for sustainability!

I've done a bit of reading and been encouraged by these friends.  There are tons of people who write on this much more eloquently than I do and have done far more research.  Check out some links below, but on a very basic level, how do you even go about making better choices?
Well, being informed is a good start.
Buying less and knowing where your clothing comes from are huge!
Being willing to spend a bit more (welp!) on things that are produced fairly and with sustainability in mind is important.  (Probably naturally leads back to also buying less.)

So, first some links to some friends who are doing great work:
My friends at purnaa are super inspiring!  They do great work, both in a fashion sense and in the realm of social justice!  They are primarily wholesale, but you can group together with friends and place an order that meets the minimum ($500) and order when one of their catalogs is out.  And, if you know of boutiques or designers or other potential buyers/contracts, give them a referral!

Trade for Freedom
Their main products are jewelry, but they also have a few accessories like handbags or scarves, at times, and they work in partnership with another fantastic group we know and love here called Beauty for Ashes.

Then, some links for resources to help in decision-making:
Fashion Revolution
I just discovered this group last night, actually, after my friends at Purnaa posted about an upcoming Fashion Revolution Day.  It's April 24, so what a great opportunity coming up to connect to a new way of choosing fashion!  The link above is their "education" section.  They have even have resource packs designed for kids!  There is also a quiz to help you discover what you know about the industry and learn more about it.

This is a GREAT resource for not only the fashion industry but for other industries as well, as they have done thorough reports, evaluating multiple criteria for various companies and reports about trends in trouble industries (toy, chocolate, coffee, clothing, tech, etc.).

And, just a couple other articles to help gather information and plan:
5 Tips for Keeping a Sweatshop-Free Closet
5 Truths the Fashion Industry Doesn't Want You to Know
The Incredibly High Human Cost of Fast Fashion
Sweatship: Deadly Fashion  (This was linked in the post above but is the direct link to the documentary mini-series.)

Maybe this April 24 (Fashion Revolution) can be a start of something new for you?  It probably won't improve my fashion sense, but I know it is changing what's involved in my choices.  My hope is that change will come, not only to the fashion industry, but also to cultures and individual hearts to be more concerned with what our choices cost someone else than what they cost us!


Aimee said...

I laughed at your link because I knew this was going somewhere --besides fashion-- and that is what makes you beautiful. You are deeper than the surface and even when you could care less about outward appearance you are committed to soulful growth in yourself & desire it for others. That my dear friend is always lovely to look upon. Shine on.

Liz Van Valin said...

You have always been quite beautiful to me. Your love shines forth in everything you do. Love, Liz.

Unknown said...

Hey -- Thank you so much for this!!