Yes it is true that clothing can be used to make a statement, and also that certain items are more appropriate in certain situations. We can agree with this. However, it can be dangerous to let yourself be defined by the clothing you wear. Clothing is a necessity and you are allowed to look nice, but at the end of the day it’s still just clothing.
The glorified position clothing holds is exactly what brought about fast fashion in the first place. People now let their lives be run by a want to consume fashion. They work and make money just so they can buy new clothes… a new top every week… a shopping spree every month. A big portion of their lives revolves around clothing, whether they realise it or not. All because they believe they will be judged on what they wear, that they are indeed defined by their clothing.
Allowing ourselves to be defined by the clothing we wear represents a state of selfishness. I say this because even though clothing doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t define us (the consumers), there are a group of people in which it genuinely does. The sad dark truth is that those people involved in the manufacturing of clothing are very much defined by our purchasing habits and the clothes we wear. It has an impact over their whole lives.
For people in the Western World who just purchase clothing, the main effect clothing has on us is mental; how we let it affect us. However, for those making clothing, the impacts can be both mental and physical. Do you think the harsh chemicals used in conventional cotton farming (the farming method required to pump out fast fashion in a cheap and timely manner) has no impact on the health of the farmers? Or the waterways that poor families in India rely on for cleaning, laundry, or even drinking water; which have been polluted by run-off from fashion manufacturing. I’m sure you can also spare a thought for the seamstresses that work in shocking conditions. Whether you want to face the fact or not, our purchasing habits define how these workers live their lives. Their health, their environment, their income, and their free time.
Clothing doesn’t have to be negative though, you can make a positive difference. Don’t think your simple ethical purchase won’t change anything. Can you make a difference on a worldwide scale? Unlikely. Can you make a difference in the lives of a few people? Of course you can, and that should be enough! The more people who purchase ethical clothing, the more demand there is for it. If consumers want Fairtrade organic cotton, then these organisations can partner with more farmers. More skilled seamstresses can be hired, and actually get paid what they deserve!
When you first read this quote, it reads negatively. I.e. your clothing negatively defines someone else’s life. Yet, the same quote can be flip-turned upside-down and, although written exactly the same, instead be read in a positive light. Clothing doesn’t define you, but when you shop ethically it positively defines the life of the farmer, the family, the seamstress.
So what now then? Our advice is something we continually reinforce – when you purchase something, stop and think for a moment. Will I wear it 30 times and how was it made? If you feel like you need to have a new outfit every week, then you are likely letting what you wear define you as a person. It’s okay to purchase clothing, but we believe it should be clothing that positively defines the life of those manufacturing it. You can be a life changer!