Awhile back, BlueGal sent me an article by a woman who proposes the idea of adopting a ‘slow clothing’ movement in which every household would endeavor “to create a single outfit for every man, woman and child that is entirely homemade.”
Sound crazy? For most of us, the practical aspects of “entirely homemade” – raising sheep, shearing wool, cleaning, carding, spinning, etc. – present obstacles that can’t realistically be overcome. Still, just because we can’t raise our own livestock, grow our own cotton plants or weave our own bolts of cloth, doesn’t mean the argument for a ‘slow clothing’ movement should be rejected.
At present, clothingis a powerful, multibillion dollar industry that encourages the exploitation of poor people, many of them women and children worldwide. It supports industrial agriculture, toxic pesticide use and the inhumane treatment of animals (industrial wool production is extremely problematic). It absorbs millions of barrels of oil every year for things like the creation of polyester cloth, the running of industrial machinery, and the transport of clothingmade in Vietnam to stores in New Jersey. And it is an industry that is the lifeblood of places like Walmart and other mega-corporations, who make an enormous part of their profits off of our insatiable desire for more and different clothing.
The author, Sharon Astyk, makes a fairly ineluctable argument for making do with less and why the need to do so is a moral imperative.
The principles of a slow clothing movement include: developing an aesthetic that finds the beauty of “homemade” more desirable than store-bought industrial goods, striving to involve oneself in at least one aspect of clothing construction, learning to knit and sew, reducing the size of our wardrobes, mending distressed clothes and making use of hand-me-downs and thrift shop purchases, and purchasing new clothing only from manufacturers (preferably local) that do not engage in sweat shop practices.
Laudable? Yes. And for those of us with time (to knit, sew, mend and scour resale shops) and money (to purchase organic goods manufactured locally) a slow clothing movement makes moral, political sense.
The problem is that this is a class issue and there are too many women in our Western culture who have neither the time, the money, nor the skills to participate in this movement. Women and children enslaved by modern industrial cloth production in third world countries are forced to serve their American sisters enslaved by economic policies that force them to hold multiple jobs, scramble for basic health care, piece together child care services, run their households and try to avoid becoming a domestic abuse statistic.
Cheap t-shirts at Wal-Mart? Why the hell not?
And when the author of “Slow Clothing” writes this:
If I had the power to do so, I would call for a national day of celebration of the homemade, a day when everyone stands up and shows off the beauty of their own handmade clothing – one where little boys and girls go to school dressed in the clothingthey’ve made in home ec classes and while working with their parents and grandparents.
it sounds positively quaint. I mean, really, home ec classes? The urban schools where I live haven’t been able to afford a home ec class in over two decades. And the image of young boys and girls learning home crafts at the knee of their parents and grandparents? A sweet postcard from the Agrarian Age.
To the extent that some of us can recreate this idyll, my sensibilities tell me we should. In the process, we should take care not to feel too self-congratulatory about our efforts.