This Old Thing: The Aftermath

This Old Thing is a challenge of my devising where I’ll be wearing only charity shop formal dresses for two weeks. This is my diary, where I’ll be documenting how that goes…

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So here we are, at the end of This Old Thing. And what have I learned?

  • 99% of people on the street absolutely do not care what you’re wearing, the other 1% are a little creepy
  • Sequins and human flesh are just not a winning combination
  • The more pretty dresses you have, the more versatile your bras need to be
  • Lipstick all day, chapstick all night

It’s been weird today, having to pick something to wear. I’ve gone for jeans and a t-shirt, and it feels liberating. That feeling is helped along by the fact that the final dress was a full sequin number which scraped my under arms and knees raw. I have really mixed feelings about the dresses as a whole. I enjoyed being in most of them, but really did feel constrained in what I could do, and where I could go. Physically and mentally. I worried more about what people thought of my appearance.

All that said, this is not intended to be an attack on how women choose to dress. Whether you’re hyper feminine, gender neutral, or embracing butch, I take no issue. But even a butch woman might be addicted to fast fashion, and a new pair of jeans are worse for the planet than any second hand ball gown.

What’s interesting to me is our fleeting adoration for items of clothing. In my mind, the story of each of these dresses is of being loved for a few weeks, worn once or twice, and then discarded as useless. That they can bought cheap and then be revived and lauded on social media often without a single stitch being altered is interesting to me. This sleight of hand gives the lie to us that the joy that clothes give is never about the material itself, but who we believe we’ll be once wrapped in it. Some may call that vanity, but I think there’s an element of that feeling in a lot of human endeavour. Maybe all of it. If I have a message I think it’s that we can temper our self expression with a thought for the garment workers of the world, and the planet. Our enjoyment of these items is currently coming at an unacceptably steep cost.

If you want to read more about sustainability and fashion, or just see where I pulled my quotes from, here are a few handy links:

A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future, compiled and published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Fixing Fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability, House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee

The True Cost

Lucy Siegle in The Observer, Fashion “Influencers can combat fast fashion’s toxic trend”

Nadia Khomami in The Guardian, “Burberry destroys £28m of stock to guard against counterfeits”

The Guardian, “Rana Plaza, five years on: safety of workers hangs in balance in Bangladesh”

I still need to figure out what I’m doing with the dresses. You can follow along with me as I attempt to rehome them on the social media accounts.

Thank you!

You can catch up on the photo diary and accompanying climate change stats on instagram and facebook.

This Old Thing: Day Nine

This Old Thing is a challenge of my devising where I’ll be wearing only charity shop formal dresses for two weeks. This is my diary, where I’ll be documenting how that goes…

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The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity, with very little time for blogging. I’m pleased to say that I’ve kept up my posting schedule on social media, and with taking the photos. I’m still wearing the dresses as planned.

The really great news has been the response to the project over at the OCA blog (https://weareoca.com/students/student-work/this-old-thing). I’ve been studying for a Creative Arts degree in my spare time for just over a year now and it’s really expanded my way of thinking about creativity and the paths it can flow down. The comments from fellow students and tutors have been really encouraging as well, which is lovely.

Interesting engagements have been happening on a couple of the Facebook posts as well. A friend who hadn’t necessarily engaged with these issues before wrote a lovely long comment around the pressure that women especially experience under capitalism, where they will be tacitly or overtly criticised in order to create a “problem” they must solve, then offered a solution at a price. She also brought up the Met Gala, and we agreed that fashion as a form of art can survive and thrive while we also condemn fast fashion as a separate entity and process.

Another friend commented asking what I’ll do with the dresses when the project ends. This has always been a question in the back of my mind, and I’d been waiting really to see the responses the work generated before deciding. Right now I’m leaning towards auctioning the dresses one-by-one through the social media accounts, and giving the proceeds to charity. Of course some dresses may not sell, and with them I think I’d like to try and organise a community clothes-swap. Could be a fun way to meet like-minded folk!

I’ve also really been struck by the lack of reaction from members of the public. I initially thought that a big part of this diary would be discussing the reactions of people I meet out-and-about, but now I’m realising that people genuinely don’t care what others are wearing. I kind of love that though. It’s very liberating if you think about it, and goes to show that the pressure we feel to wear the “right” thing is really not necessary.

You can follow along with the photo diary and accompanying climate change stats on instagram and facebook.

This Old Thing: Day Four

This Old Thing is a challenge of my devising where I’ll be wearing only charity shop formal dresses for two weeks. This is my diary, where I’ll be documenting how that goes…

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I skipped my diary yesterday, which isn’t great so early in the project! I’ve been working hard, though, putting my posts together and trying to get the word out. A big zero waste group I’m in on Facebook declined a post I wrote linking to the project, which is a shame. It’s knocked my confidence a little, if I’m honest. But I’ve started the thing, so I’m going to finish it!

Reception so far has been interesting. I’ve been doing two posts a day. In the morning I do a dress reveal, where I share the code name I’ve given a dress as well as its original and second hand price, along with some notes and a picture of me wearing it. In the afternoon or evening I share diary photo: an image of me doing something mundane in the dress (making tea, taking out the bins, eating a burrito), along with a quote from my research into fast fashion and climate change. I’ve been concerned over whether the intended contrast in the diary photos comes across – maybe the dresses aren’t glamorous enough to look jarring in their prosaic surroundings? I’m unsurprised to find that the dress reveal posts I’ve been doing have performed better. People seem to be enjoying the fashion parade aspect more than the learning. But, I suppose if all that comes of this is that a few more people consider buying their next occasion dress second-hand that won’t be such a bad thing.

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Today has been a slow day, filling out my tax return, catching up on life admin. The weather is still awful but I did catch a sly moment of sunshine to take the bins out and snap my favourite shots of the project so far. These are the closest to what I intended at the original project inception to date.

I also found time to write a blog post for OCA, where I’m studying creative arts in my spare time. Hopefully they’ll put it up before the project ends and it can get a bit of a signal boost! Fingers and toes crossed.

You can follow along with the photo diary and accompanying climate change stats on instagram and facebook.

This Old Thing: Day Two

This Old Thing is a challenge of my devising where I’ll be wearing only charity shop formal dresses for two weeks. This is my diary, where I’ll be documenting how that goes…

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Today has been a tough one for various reasons outside of the challenge, and this dress has not helped. It’s a size too large and an inch or two too long, so I’ve been sweeping around with my skirts hitched up in my hands like something out of a costume drama.

Outing of the day was down to the polling booths to vote in the local elections. Unfortunately they don’t allow cameras. Also the weather continues to disappoint, so I have to confess I have been wearing a coat out of doors. This obviously reduces the chances of the kind of public reactions/interactions I was interested in gauging. I have answered the door to a couple of delivery people, but they barely flinched. I guess you see all sorts in their line of work!

You can follow along with the photo diary and accompanying climate change stats on instagram and facebook.

This Old Thing: Day One

This Old Thing is a challenge of my devising where I’ll be wearing only charity shop formal dresses for two weeks. This is my diary, where I’ll be documenting how that goes…

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I woke up really early (for me), but then it took me a long time to convince myself to get out of bed. It was grey outside, and I wished I’d chosen my dress for the day last night. I checked the weather forecast – 13 degrees at its peak. Ugh.

Choosing a dress was a process. I wanted to start off with a bang, so nothing too plain. I also knew that I was going for curry at lunch, though, and the urge to dull it down was strong. Also none of the showier dresses were going to keep me warm. In the end I picked Jazz, a short, silky dress with a wild pattern and a beaded collar. Not the comfortable choice, but comfort isn’t the order of the day.

The second I put it on I felt like today was a special occasion. I felt aggrieved at having to do mundane things like clear up tea cups or tie back curtains. I had become too fancy. 

At lunch we went for curry at This and That, a canteen-style rice and three place in the Northern Quarter in Manchester (highly recommend if you’re in the area), and my other half, Stefan, had his first assignment. I tasked him with getting a shot of me in line for food, but due to technical difficulties he missed the shot. By which I mean that someone (me) had left the camera on timer mode. Ahh well, I have this picture of me shovelling curry into my mouth to post on the socials as punishment for my oversight.

In general day one has gone smoothly. However, now that it’s getting dark I do keep wanting to revert to my comfy clothes. I’ve decided on a new rule: comfies only when at home, and only after 10pm.

You can follow along with the photo diary and accompanying climate change stats on instagram and facebook.