If we are being honest (and I hope we are), I have always had a really complicated relationship with fashion. In my late teens, early twenties, the industry paid for many of my vodkas, my taxis and sometimes in a good month, my rent (when my extra eyebrows and chest were on trend).
I mean, I never really knew what I was doing.
I didn’t know what fashion was ‘good’, or what was ‘bad’. I would say things like “Wow, oh my goodness, I LOVE IT”. Then get super excited about lunch.
When it came to the suave sort of 'je ne sais quoi' modelly, all fashiony knowy vibe, I really looked to the other girls in the room (the ‘real’ girls) to tell me if I was supposed to approve of this scratchy, silky or strange attire.
Funnily enough. As I got older, getting dressed everyday in my normal Australian life, started to follow a similar pattern.
I would always try to take note of the goings on. What was in, what was out. I would try to push back my enthusiasm for mad colours, crazy recycled leathers, denim, head pieces and boots. I’d instead take a peek on the ‘gram, or around the house party, to see what I was supposed to like now.
Internally, it felt like this glaringly obvious secret, that highlighted the difference between 'them' and me. Them, the 'real Australian girls'. And me, the sneaky migrant hidden in plain white sight. Who when left to her devices, would choose jeans with a homemade flair, a baseball cap and 20 thousand rings. Not so slick rick.
I am from a place where cultural conformity looks different.
Not better, not worse, just different.
Uniformity takes place at certain times and in certain traditions. There is a time to wear the attire of your people. And oh you will know about it. But otherwise, how and when you want to align yourself with the modern world, is sort of up to you. Clothes are a bit more fun.
Have a ball. Don’t go skimpy. Don’t make a big thing of it. There are no wrong colours. Or trends. Wear millions of pieces of jewellery, wear denim shorts, wear pink, purple or blue, wear tall shoes, or no shoes, or your father’s kathmandu, no worries. Let’s go get a drink and laugh about something hilarious.
I personally haven't heard or witnessed anyone being mocked for the what they wear in the islands.* I'm sure it happens in different settings. It was just not a topic of conversation that was raised around.
However, I found in Australia, the stakes were a little higher and for young-me it was nerve-wracking.
I figured that a lot of people dressed to define themselves. Defend themselves. Design themselves. It really was entwined with their 'WHO'.
And once again, this quite possibly could have just been my particular circles. And more likely, exacerbated in my particular head. (Like most fumbles with identity, the ‘self’ part tends to show up, up front and centre.)
But never-the-less, getting dressed everyday felt like a never-ending exhausting uniform construction and ticket request into some elusive community. That I wasn't even sure I could be bothered with.
I noted that you could be ‘Bondi, but travelling’. ‘Bondi, but affluent’. ‘Bondi, but should be in Byron’. ‘Private School, but open-minded’. ‘Private School, and you’re not invited’.
It was subtle. But I could see it. And even better, I could be it.
Of course, only if I focussed. Which I didn't.
The life of vintage tees and randomness and eclectic jewels, got me good! So even when I thought I was trying so so so so hard, I really wasn't. I could have done a lot better to blend in. But thank mother fairy I didn't.
I wrote in a blog recently that when I was 23, someone broke up with me because of the way I dressed. (If this was the real reason, we will never know but I have my suspicions it was indeed a contributing factor ha). I was told, “you’re not meeting your potential” or something like that.
On my blog I made a joke of it, because, well, I’m very funny. But again in all honesty, that really broke my baby girl heart. I remember clearly. Not just because I was in that deep kind of young, scary and dependant “love”, but because I felt like I have been really seen and totally discarded. Based on the fact I didn’t know how to (or want to) fit a mould.
I mean, how could I?
I didn't ever feel like one mould fit.
And I reckon, I was spot on. (Genius)
I daresay, there’s no mould for you either, you pretty, perfect and extraordinary thing! No matter what you wear. Even if you love the stripes, and the muted tones and adore the ups and downs, rounds and rounds of the trending world. If that's you, go you. I'm all for it.
But don't buy it as a disguise. Don't but into it because you feel like you are being told you need it, 'to reach your full potential'. You are already full beautiful one.
In my case, that tiny bout of rejection (had to happen sometime right? kidding) was really good for my lost little soul.
I found my love of colour again. I owned my enthusiasm for all things worldly, and I stopped trying to wear what other people liked.
And just to be bold and maybe a bit (more) obnoxious, I never had to morph myself into a cheaper, faster, carbon copy, yawnyyawnfest to be wanted again. (Had to be done kids. Moving on)
Getting dressed without asking for permission, or endorsement or even opinion, can be incredibly liberating.
I only saw and felt the tiny tiny edges of it. This is something that many cultures and religions have struggled with in extremes. It is something women have fought for, for centuries. My story, the hippy island girl who was raised with full freedoms, meets the capitalist global system of selling stamps of superiority, hardly warrants a sob story. But still, while I was trying it all on for size, it was wildly constricting.
Ironically, once I forgot my self-imposed longing to ‘fit in’, I realised, I already did.
To those who mattered, my friends and family, well anyone really, I was fine just as I was. Or more to the point, no one really thought about my appearance as much as I thought they did. Tragic right?
My pals love me in my fluffy pink jumper and sparkly eyeshadow on the days I have been channelling a mermaid, and on the days I’ve been watching Madam Secretary and feel like resembling a diplomat.
My community isn’t those I dress like. Or even those I look like. They are those I think like, love like and laugh with.
I love clothes. I love expressing myself. I love mad colours, crazy recycled leathers, head pieces and boots. I love getting dressed for a Nashville road-trip, even if I am just going to the beach. I love wearing clanking silver upon silver and imagining they are from the bottom of the ocean from a large treasure chest. I love getting dressed up. I really do love clothes.
But I don’t really like fashion. Or seasons. Country Road knows nothing about what I need to feel today. So I don’t let them try and tell me.
I’m totally enough as I am.
And we have enough clothes between us, in our global cupboard, to be free, happy and loved. We shouldn't be manipulated into believing we need more.
If we keep allowing our hearts to believe in the empty, eternal chase, we are going to lose everything we really have in the process. A healthy planet, healthy minds and each other.
The fashion industry is the second largest carbon emitter. It really is gross.
It threatens the freedom and sovereignty the very same islands, that know and teach the deep value of both those things. It threatens my home.
In order for fashion to limit its emissions, we need to drastically change the way we BUY clothes but ultimately, the way we PRODUCE them.
Production of new materials is the main part of the issue.
It’s estimated that around two-thirds of the harmful climate impact over the lifetime of a garment comes at the raw materials stage.
We don’t need new.
Stand with me in 2020 and join the #REUSEOLUTION. A commitment to only recycled and upcycled fashion. It will be FUN. Awesome. And right.
We don’t need new. We just need you to be you. Xxx