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.