Saturday, 20 March 2010
Pledge Your Allegiance!
Issue 12 of the Aussie produced Mixtape zine has been on sale for a while now, but due to postal interference, it took sometime to get my hands on my copy. Now that I have it, I can confirm that I do indeed have a small article featured in this issue. Obviously I'd urge you to get a copy, either by finding a bricks-and-mortar stockist if you live in Oz, or by ordering a copy to be sent by post, OR by waiting a while until they turn it into a pdf and sell it to you that way. However, all of methods are going to take time, and I'm sure you're desparate to read what I have to say in the article, so here it is:
Many of the (no doubt amazing) people who read this zine will already be aware of the Wardrobe Refashion blog and, dare I say it, movement. WR is underpinned by a pledge to abstain from purchasing mass-manufactured garments (excluding underwear and footwear). Well, if you were considering diving in yourself, have got to the brink but feel there is something or other holding you back, permit me to say a few words.
Some time ago, I was the organiser of a sewing group in London. The meetings’ attendees, almost without fail, consisted of a handful of hardcore regulars and a smattering of generally nervous new faces. The Hardcore would always engage the Nervous Newbies in friendly conversation and they would visibly relax. At one meeting a very sweet and beautiful young girl joined us, but she had been so nervous (god knows what she was expecting!) that she had dragged along her poor boyfriend, who had absolutely no interest in sewing whatsoever. When she had established that we weren’t going to eat her, he was released to his own devices and allowed to escape our fold. In time, the conversation turned itself to the topic of the WR pledge which, at that point, I had been participating in for about a year. This fact shocked Pretty New Girl and she exclaimed something along the lines of ‘But how do you manage? You can’t make all the clothes that you need, surely?’ Well, no. My first reaction was to state ‘Just because you sign up to the Wardrobe Refashion pledge, doesn’t mean all the clothes you already own magically disappear!’ Maybe my explanation had left her with the impression that the pledge entailed clearing out everything you own and being forced to start from scratch (I’d imagine that being pretty chilly at the beginning!). But maybe, and I think more likely, she was caught up in the popular mindset of ‘needing’ certain new items at certain times. How often have you heard your friends, colleagues or even yourself say something like ‘I need some new black jeans’, or ‘I need to get a new summer skirt to take on holiday’? Do you, though? Do you really need them? Is there really no way you can wear something else, refashion the offending existing item, or even make yourself a close approximation?
I’ve been committed to the pledge for something like two and a half years now, and the most important lesson I’ve been forced in that time to learn hasn’t been how to blind-hem, or tackle stretch fabric; it’s been that I don’t need new garments, like I thought I did. In fact, it’s possible that it actually felt more like I had a right to new clothes. First whilst being a student, and throughout the trail of low-paid jobs I have since left in my wake, there has never been much spare cash left for all the new clothes I desired, which often left me feeling somehow cheated. Accepting the challenge of the pledge released me from these feelings. I’ll be honest, initially it was a massive shock to the system, possibly similar to going cold turkey. I had to force myself to avoid even looking in the stores which sold cheap mass-produced clothing, whose practices I had always abhorred but whose prices I previously enjoyed.
It forced a new relationship with my existing clothes. I own garments which have now been with me for ten years. Previously I would have found an excuse to replace and discard them, simply because I had fallen out of lust with them and fancied the hunter-gather high achieved by a purchase. Over the period of these relationships I have loved them, felt indifference towards them, hated them, buried them, rediscovered them, and loved them anew. I have also learnt that that ‘quick-fix-new-purchase’ buzz is equalled, if not surpassed, by a charity shop (op shop/thrift store) score. And the feeling you get when a hand-made garment receives a compliment? Unparalleled!
But what was it that made me feel I needed new garments? After thinking long and hard, I came up two answers: main-stream society and the power of marketing. ARGH! The two things I had always prided myself on thinking I was impervious to. DAMN IT! ‘That’s it!’ I thought, ‘I’m going to show everyone, I’m going to make a success of this pledge’. I hope that’s what I have been doing ever since. It’s difficult to un-tangle yourself from subliminal pressures, but I found it can feel amazing when you do. Liberating times!