Friday, September 13, 2013
In which I Take The Pledge
I have decided to go without new clothes for a year. I am not the only one to have done this. There are some fashion bloggers who have done it. I am not a fashion blogger. Clothes have never really been good to me. My mother made almost everything I wore as a child, based on patterns she made to her own designs. Some of these were eccentric, but not in a good way. Although she carefully measured me, to my chagrin, she thought of me as shorter and fatter than I actually was. All my trousers were thus too long in the body and too short in the legs. I had to be at least in my thirties before I appreciated this. I wore what are now called 'vintage' clothes in my teens and only occasionally was brave enough to shop. The look on the shop assistant's face as she hauled back the curtain to reveal me standing in pants that dragged half way across the floor. Her eyes flicked down my length. The colour suits you, she announced, a last ditch effort at tact. I bought the damned pants. Bra fittings were even more traumatic. Back then all girls were fitted for their first bras at Mrs Pope's. The name sounds medieval and so were the techniques. The women there were sour and vicious and had hands like bejewelled claws. I'm sure they drew blood at times. They were only one step away from the cackling and the children in the oven. You were taught to bend over and tip yourself into the bra. Then you straightened up and they pummelled you and pinched you. It's a wonder I don't have flashbacks. It was a peculiarly feminine form of cruelty. Like the Disney version of Cinderella. In more recent times I have had money to buy new clothes, from new clothes shops. Weight loss has meant I have also been able to take on the challenge of buying clothes in normal person shops. Now I have a full wardrobe. Clothes shopping has been almost pleasurable. There are some other others who have made the choice to buy no new clothes for a year for their own reasons - to be more creative with what they already have, to simplify their lives, to practise a simpler aesthetic. Here are some examples: becomingminimalist the wardrobe reimagined Both are well known blogs. I have been thinking about this for a while and have made a move towards it by buying clothes only from op shops for a while. My most local op shop, the Cats' Protection League, is a good source of books and china as well. Cats' Protection Leaguers are sweet, and eccentric, in a good way. And I appreciate that it is a small sacrifice and as such can only be symbolic. It would be much more political if I lived in a cardboard box for a year, but it would also be a stunt, and this isn't really a stunt. What tipped it for me was going to K Mart to buy my husband some jeans. They cost $18 each. Well, I did splash out and bought a flasher pair for $25. There were passable t shirts there for $5. So cheap. I was appalled. In the past I have figured that if I am going to buy something made in a sweatshop by a 12 year old I might as well pay $29 for it rather than $239. I have at times tried to buy New Zealand made - not that we make stuff in New Zealand much. But do you know how much stuff actually costs to make? It takes 1,800 gallons of water just to grow the cotton to make that pair of jeans. And the cotton t shirt I nearly bought for $5 - it takes 400 gallons of water to grow the cotton for it. That is just the water - just water, something we don't even consider, and yet it is our most precious resource. Then there is all the cost of the manufacturing including the labour, and the transport costs and so on. If I pay $19 for the jeans, who pays the rest of the costs?* So my reason for not buying clothes is a way of acknowledging privilege, and a cause to think about our global interconnectedness and the worsening inequalities in the world today. I must admit that before I 'took the pledge' I went out and bought three bras, because without a good bra I can look down while jumping, hit myself in the face and get whiplash. But they will see me out the year. In September 2014 I might let you know how I do. * If you really want to know, I recommend Annie Leonard's awesome The Story of Stuff video online. It takes about 16 minutes and is in cartoon form. There is also a book. Prepare to be depressed for a while, though.