I've been thinking a lot about clothing lately, as you know. I took the Seam Allowance pledge to make 25% of my clothing (which I'm already hitting, surprisingly). It's been really satisfying, paring my wardrobe down to just the items I love and wear, and then supplementing them with items I make myself. Here's the truth: We take clothes for granted and buy them at prices at which they are not sustainable. If you pay ten bucks for a dress, chances are good that the workers (all along the line of production and transport) weren't paid a fair wage. Hell, I can't say I haven't bought lots of ten dollar dresses. And I can't say I'm not tempted now. But I'm thinking about it more. A lot more.
It's like eating. Yep, organic is more expensive. I can pay less for produce that's grown with the help of chemicals and pesticides, but then I'm buying those chemicals. I'm keeping that pesticide company in business by my own choice. It's less about eating healthily than it is eating right.
Same with clothes. The ten-buck dress at Target is tempting, but how do I know what I'm purchasing? Whose hands did the fabric pass through to get to me? I'm getting a lot more satisfaction out of buying fabric (especially at thrift stores, where I know I'm a direct part of the recycling circle) and making my own pretty awesome clothes and knowing that my own two hands made the objects with attention and care. (I haven't missed the fact that most fabric, at its base, isn't sustainably made. One step at a time. I'm not up to weaving my own cloth, friends. I'm not completely aboard the crazy train. Yet.)
Sonya Philip is someone you should be watching. She a complete inspiration to me. At the beginning of the year, she didn't sew much, if at all. She took a class and learned how to make a dress to fit. She made her first dress. It was awesome. So she made another one. And another one. They were tumbling out of her, and as an artist, it struck her: she was sewing an art installation that was not only useful and wearable, but meant something more than just handmade clothing.
So she set a goal: 100 dresses in a year. Some she keeps, some she trades, some she gives away (I'm the EXTREMELY lucky recipient of one, and I can honestly say it's my favorite dress I own, hands down). The goal is to make us more conscious of how we live and how we choose to clothe ourselves.
I love that she says, "When we know how to sew with our own hands, we can make and remake and make well." Today I wore for most of the day a little black dress I made out of an inexpensive knit. I made it for a cocktail party, and I wore it there a few weeks ago with pride. Today, I cleaned the house in it. You know why? It's my pattern. It took an hour to make. When it wears out, I can make another one if I want to. I can make it better next time, or just different. I come from a long line of people who changed into play clothes when they got home, saving the best for special occasions. I don't have to do that anymore, and I love that.
I'm only posting one photo of hers here because I think you should click over to her site and spend some time wandering around. Check out her artist's statement and the clothing. I hope you'll be as inspired as I've become by her. (If you follow her on Twitter, she always posts the new dresses.)