I keep writing about clothes, because I find clothing to be very intimate. Here’s why.
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘women supporting women’. When I heard it the first time, it referred to how clothing connects people. It referred to how garment workers and people wearing clothes support each other. The phrase is about women, and most garment workers are indeed women. They support others through making clothes for them to wear throughout their lives. When women, and men too, buy clothes, they in turn support the garment workers in their livelihoods. This is, when the garment workers have good working conditions and are paid well.
This phrase, women supporting women, and explanation thereof has stayed with me. Behind every piece of clothing is a series of people, mostly women, who made it possible for you to purchase and wear it. It’s pretty amazing if you think about it. At least, when you think of ethically produced clothes.
But it’s not just the producers and the consumers. Recently I went on the platform Vinted where users can personally sell their used clothes. In the app, users have their own page where they can showcase the clothes they’re offering, their own personal showroom! There they can post pictures of clothes spread out on a bed or hanging from a hanger, but what works better is modelling the clothes yourself! So often users post pictures of themselves wearing the clothes they’re offering.
These users are posing with clothes that they have worn over and over again but are now ready to let go of. Users pose with clothes they once bought but hardly ever wore for one reason or the other. Users may sell clothes that don’t fit anymore because their bodies have changed.
This way, browsing on Vinted you get to peek into people’s lives, you get a glimpse of their personality and identity through their style. Mostly you get to see which items aren’t their style anymore, which items don’t fit the identity any longer.
There’s a modesty in selling your clothes like this. Instead of letting the clothes be untouched in your closet, or anonymously donating them, you very personally put them on an online platform for others to browse on. You assign value to your clothes, the clothes you yourself don’t wear anymore, and give someone else the chance to enjoy them. It asks of you that you are okay with the reasons for you selling the clothes.
I’m writing this because there can be feelings involved in relating to clothes and selling them. One of these feelings is some sort of shame. There can be some sort of shame in owning clothing you don’t wear. There can be shame in having to admit you bought something you hardly used. There can be shame in owning so much clothing and not feeling good about it.
I personally feel weird about this, and I wonder if I should feel bad about owning so much clothing, even though I’m not buying much, I’m mostly just holding on to old items. I’m holding on to items that may have suited my identity and style before, but not so much anymore. I may have outgrown them.
For many of us, how we dress is a way to express our identities. Different clothes can help us express different parts of ourselves, they can help us explore and shape our identities. Clothes can help us to be ourselves in the world.
At the same time, there can also be mixed feelings in relation to your current and past identities, or however you would like to call it. The old clothes we own can be tied to these past selves or memories of the past. Only you know what it means to you, it’s really personal.
That’s why I believe there’s some real intimacy in personally selling your clothes.
Clothes are intimate. We use them to keep ourselves covered, to keep the body warm. Wearing clothes is a way to take care of ourselves. We pick the clothes that we like for one reason or another, we want clothes that we like. We can like clothes for different reasons, like their shape, colors, the fabric, little details. Clothes are a way to decorate our lives.
For me giving my clothes away is a big thing. I like many things and I can like things for many reasons. Even pieces of clothing that don’t look good on me I can appreciate for one reason or another. They are soft, can keep me warm, they make me feel comfortable or cozy, I’ve worn them so many times that they feel like home. Or I remember where I got them from, from a certain place or a friend. Even for clothes that I hardly wear, I remember that when I got them I saw many possibilities of wearing them. Clothes are memories to me.
I am not a big fan of fashion. I can see that people like to shake things up every now and then. Alan Watts said in a lecture that people like to make patterns and that the weaves of fashion are an example of that. I appreciate that. Of course people like renewal from time to time. But fashion is an industry and it’s based on consumerism and capitalism. I don’t want that.
I want to be in relationship with my clothes. I want to cherish them and I want them to last. I want to love my clothes. I want my clothes to be made and brought to me with love and care, for people and the planet. When I’m ready to let go of a piece of clothing, I wish I could give it to someone else who can love it. Preferably even a friend or a friend of a friend, just to know that there’s a good fit.
Right now there are clothes in my closet and and many more clothes in shops and in closets, and in landfill, of which I doubt people will be able to love them. Is it likely for the clothes to find a new person to love them? Are clothes even produced to be loved? Or are they produced to be bought quickly and discarded as soon as the trend is replaced by another?
I like shops and brands that do it differently, that aim to do better and create clothes that you can wear and love for a long time. Also, I find it pretty cool that I sometimes have contact with the people behind (small) shops that sell ethically made clothes. I have received handwritten thank you notes added to my orders. I also know shops-owners that send out quite personal newsletters, signed with their personal names. I like that! It gives me the feeling of doing it together, building a fair and sustainable world.
We are in a relationship with the people who make and sell clothes to us, whether we realize it or not. These people make it possible for us to look and feel good and that is pretty awesome.
Are you interested in clothes too? You can find all my previous writings on clothing here – it’s quite a bunch.