A Wardrobe Transforming Adventure for a Better Life and a Better World
In putting together our earth warrior’s wardrobe, we can take direct action for a richer, more joyful life, and a better world.
If we want to transform the world, it needs to be more than an intellectual exercise of arguing about ethics and principles on the internet. We need to take ACTION. And if we’re taking ourselves seriously, that action has to be targeted, strategic, and proven to have a high impact. That is the Transformative Adventures strategy.
For example, the clothing industry is often called “the world’s most destructive industry,” for its contributions to climate change, biodiversity, ocean dead zones, harm to coral reefs, and sweatshop labor that in many cases is indisputable literal captive slavery.
- In 1960, the average American bought less than 25 pieces of clothing per year. 98% was made by well-paid American workers.
- Today, the average American buys more than 75 pieces of clothing per year, 98% of which is imported, and almost all of that is made by sweatshop labor, frequently children, often as captive slaves.
- Americans are about 4% of the world’s population, but we buy 1/3rds of the world’s clothes. Many Westerners now have similar consumption patterns to Americans.
- Discarded American clothes have become an environmental disaster in the global south. An estimated 68% of donated American clothes end up in landfills in developing nations, and 40% just goes straight to landfills.
The problem is the solution, and transforming our wardrobes is not only a targeted high-impact strategy for changing the world, it is a great way to enrich our lives with fun, beauty, and meaning. Celebrating our lives by adorning our bodies has been a human tradition for as long as there have been humans, and our most sustainable societies have always made a high art of it. Adorning our bodies as the bodies of the gods is old, powerful magic.
Most of us today have only the shallowest relationship to our clothes, often thinking of little more than conformity. We have an opportunity to transform our relationship to our clothing to one that is more mindful, fulfilling, and joyous. Just as many shamans create their own ceremonial robes by mindfully collecting powerful, sacred items, we can create our own adventurer’s wardrobe.
Many of us are driven from the concept of “fashion” by consumer culture excess, declaring “I don’t care about fashion!” Some even make a fashion statement out of their apathy. But this is a choice only available to the most privileged in society, who will not be ostracized, judged, or even harassed for dressing “carelessly.” This carelessness then reinforces social inequality, creating a culture of “anti-fashion” fashion unavailable to all. Many simply cannot or will not abandon caring about their clothing, and expecting them to is some oppressive BS.
Instead, by becoming more mindful, joyful and deliberate about how we dress–and getting really good at it–we have the opportunity to create viral change, modeling a more joyful and just way of being that is more accessible to all. Instead of creating a new layer of oppressive norms, we can mindfully loosen them up for all.
SOME PATTERNS FOR A CLOTHING ADVENTURE
The first thing we can keep in mind is our TA Principle for Transformative Action, or the Uber Principle: INVEST in creating connection to nature and community.
By investing in locally hand-made clothing, we are building rich connections to our community. Clothes enriched by the hands of local artisans are truly sacred. We can invest in a rich local arts culture by supporting clothes hand printed by local artists, and we get truly unique clothes with rich connection to our place.
We can invest in connection to nature by finding those rare clothes actually grown locally in our bioregion. These are the most powerful objects we can adorn our bodies with, as they have been imbued with spirit by our local genii loci. Jewelry made from the relics of local flora and fauna convey a purity of connection you cannot give through stolen gold and blood diamonds.
Used and vintage clothes are awesome. Many of these pieces come with ghosts that will dance around celebrating you throughout your day, subconsciously impressing your coworkers and beguiling would-be lovers. Upcycled clothes contain layers of spirit and connection.
What do you wish to be in this world? What values do you wish to communicate? How can your clothes make this statement for you? What special, beautiful work of art are you making of your life, and what is the costume for that piece? Permaculturist Geoff Lawton is iconic for his patented blue shirts and jeans. Less is more when it comes to communicating a vision clearly. I don’t care if your goal is to be a modern wildman or a crusty Irish farmer from the 1850s, own it, do it with joy, and without exploitation.
Fewer, higher quality pieces of clothing is the way to get there. Reducing the amount of new clothes we buy is also powerful activism.
The “5 Outfit French Wardrobe” is a good pattern. That means a few basic well-made durable outfits with accessories to allow things to stay fresh and expressive. One non-profit professional I know told me there was an expectation that he not be seen twice in the same outfit by his organization’s wealthy philanthropists. That’s some oppressive BS. That kind of fashion expectation is a real barrier to lower income people entering professional careers. Fight that shit with what you put on your body.
For me, a sexy wardrobe will be one that celebrates and promotes a more just and sustainable world. Sexy. Substituting money for self expression is dull and unsexy. A wardrobe that’s accessible to those around us builds connection to people, and connection is sexy.
I would never desecrate my body with clothes intended to make me seem higher status, better, or wealthier than those around me. That creates a barrier to our connection. Such clothes create an impermeable membrane that prevents the exchange of energy between us and those around us.
Instead of buying more expensive conspicuous consumption clothes, try buying gifts of locally hand-made pieces and giving them to those who don’t have the privilege to buy such things. This will make you look sexier than a $10,000 Gucci power suit. If you gift it anonymously, it will make you radiate a confident joy that will make both the receiver and you look even sexier.
Our clothing can be a powerful “grounding object” that we wear with us every day. These sacred objects are things that bring us joy and connect us with the present moment, with the sacredness of life, and with our values. If you buy a piece of clothing with the intention that it is your wardrobe for being an earth warrior, then when you wear it, you are putting on your fierceness, you are putting on your intention, you are putting on armor. It is powerful everyday magic.
Don’t worry about your starting point or what your wardrobe looks like now! That’s more oppressive BS. Just start being mindful of each new purchase you make. That’s where the adventure is. The magic is letting that adventure transform you over time and seeing what you become.
Transforming our relationship with our clothes can be a life enriching adventure, add daily fun, and can also be powerful direct action against some of the world’s worst industries and most socially destructive, class-reinforcing norms.(This post was inspired by Koreen Brennan recent post on a 1960s budget, and by discussion with Rebecca Stockert, who makes unique hand-printed art out of upcycled and sweatshop free t-shirts for #CatPeoplePress.)