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!

11 comments:

didyoumakethat said...

That is an extremely inspiring blog post, Zoe. I'm not sure I can quite take the pledge, but it gives me lots of food for thought. I am dreadful at feeding the addiction of new clothes purchases, justifying it to myself because I am also an itinerant bargain hunter. I think that in my case it is partly family culture, partly insecurity, partly the thrill of a purchase, partly - of late - fashion blogs that tempt me. Only this month I have been saying to my boyfriend, 'If you see me bring any more clothes home, tell me off.' Crazy!

Anonymous said...

Hi Zoe!
My name is Isabel, I'am a spanish girl living in Berlin and just discovered your blog (I think through Burdastyle). I recently started sewing, I'm an absolute beginner, but trying to learn, and find you very inspiring. I love your style! My motivations are, being able to make something with my own hands that is actually wearable (more like a creative hobby) but also not to contribute to the big chains of clothing shops's policies. Not to mention wearing unique pieces, of course. So, I just wanted to tell you you rock, and I'll be following your blog.
Keep up the good work!
By the way, as someone living in a foreing country, I find very interesting when someone describes mine from a foreigner's point of view, so I enjoy when you talk about Barcelona as well (I'm from the south, but still).

piccola samurai said...

That's really what I felt in my first two weeks of the pledge. I can picture myself in the Pretty Girl... but once you start you just can't stop! Thanks for this really inspiring post!

Zoe said...

Many thanks ladies for your comments. I am really pleased that you enjoyed my post and found it thought provoking, that was the aim I guess!

Isabel, how comes you live in Germany yet your English is so awesome?! As someone who also lives in a foreign country, I know how damned difficult it can be understand what is being communicated, and to make yourself understood in return, yet you have managed to achieve such a high level and you're not even living in an English-speaking country?! I'm in MASSIVE awe or you. Tell me your mother is American or something.....

naughty little pony said...

Wow congrats on the article! Plus you have inspired me to take a break from sewing non-wearable things and resist the urge to hit the shops. xx Michelle

Anonymous said...

Hello again,

you make me blush! I am a freelance translator, from English and German into Spanish, that's how I speak English, I studied it for a few years. But I like your language specially. I couldn't tell you why, but I love it, I could listen to british people talk for hours, lovely accents there :D
I am loosing my conversational skills, though, so I'll make sure I'll let you know if I go to Barcelona anytime, so that I can practice, hehe. Don't forget to make the same if you come to Berlin!
Take care!

isabel

quality control in china said...

Yeah its very good article. thanks for sharing with us.

sparkledonkey said...

Your Me-Made-March posts have been really inspiring thus far, but this article may have finally lit the fire under my bum to truly commit to handmade/re-made clothing.

I've stopped lusting after new pants and have instead begun to research tutorials on alterations. Now all I need is time to sew!

Thank you, Zoe!

Zoe said...

Isabel, definately let me know if you plan to come to bcn. I LOVE Berln, but can't see the opportunity for visiting will come by any time soon. Do you do any sewing yourself in Berlin?

sanjeet said...

I just wanted to tell you you rock, and I'll be following your blog.
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Julietta said...

Great post, you express exactly how I feel! I've been taking the pledge for 2 months several times with breaks in between. Still too scared to take the plunge and commit for a longer time. But I notice that my attitude towards shopping is changing as the excitement about something new wears of quickly and I'm really sick of seeing everybody wearing what I just bought. It also makes me feel a little guilty as I know about all the negative sides of mass production. Thrift shopping on the other hand makes me only feel good. Very inspiring blog, keep up the good work!

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