Sunday, 28 April 2013

Throwaway fashions

Today, I had a lampworking lesson (of which more in a later post, it was very exciting) and on the way back, I saw that the service station stocked entire Pandora-style bracelets, complete with not one but several lampworked glass beads in co-ordinating colours - for just five pounds per bracelet. How could this possibly have covered the full costs of making the beads, once the silver-coloured metal parts, the packaging and the transport have been accounted for? 

And guess what, the Bangladesh factory fire happened in a factory supplying the cheap "throwaway fashion" sector of the British high street.

What does "throwaway fashion" mean? It means:
  • not made to last: planned obsolescence
  • ephemeral fashions: destined for landfill (but not ephemeral fabrics: polyester will not decompose like cotton, linen or silk)
  • perhaps never worn before being discarded
  • perhaps never even thought about very much: bought on a passing whim
There is something very wrong about all of this.

I think that the very act of making something for yourself can remind you that:
  • the more care and love has been put into the making of something, the greater value it can have
  • things made by people close to us can have great personal meaning
  • things that are unique and irregular can be just as beautiful as machine-made perfection
  • everything is made or produced or processed somehow by someone, somewhere
  • most of us have more stuff than we really need
And if you choose to skip the step of making it yourself, you cannot pretend that it is the same thing to out-source this to someone in the Third World two pence per hour to make your very nice faux-patchwork, folk-style, yet fashion-forward garment.

We should not romanticise what is essentially very hard work, historically been done by women the world over -- except for a tiny minority of affluent women who have paid other women to do it for them. We are now in that tiny minority. Realistically, we can't hand-make everything in our lives, in some kind of pseudo-1950's idyll; not without a return to 1950's values and lifestyles (and I'm talking the British 1950's here, with rationing, drudgery and poverty). Thanks to feminism we have now been liberated from the 24/7 grind of domestic service. We are allowed to go to school, to university and have jobs (without having to get signed permission from our fathers or husbands!). We have washing-machines for the washing, and we are allowed our own bank accounts so we can buy clothes from shops. Without all that, we probably wouldn't have the literacy to blog, let alone the time or inclination.

So, when I make things, I think about the importance of making.

I think about family, friends, care and love.

I remember too how lucky I am to even be able to "play" at making things, when other women in the world risk their lives every day working in exploitative conditions to make stuff that just gets thrown away.

And I think about whether I can make some small changes to my lifestyle, on the basis that if everyone did the same, then we might start to change the culture of throwaway fashion.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. (Original post deleted to fix an error)

    This is one of the best blog posts that I've read in a long time. You've touched on so many important points. Your post highlights just how much we have to educate those around us who still have little appreciation for the plight of workers in sweatshops or the value of handmade objects.

    It really seems like we're waging a losing battle. I know so many women who still buy "throwaway" outfits to go clubbing and toss them after one wearing. And, fashion magazines frequently suggest that readers buy cheap versions of trendy clothes so that they can toss them at the end of a season or as a style is no longer in fashion. I try to avoid the trendier items altogether. I prefer clothes with staying power that are made with quality materials and I have my shoes resoled, as well. It may cost a bit more in the short run but I've saved quite a bit over the years.