Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Slow Fashion October

Once upon a time, I thought I would start a blog, because that seems to be the thing to do. But I never got around to it because, realistically, it's not the kind of thing I make time for. Since the start of Slow Fashion October (check it out at Karen Templar's blog: Fringe Association), I've found that I have more to say than can be said in an instagram post. I think about clothes a lot and I make things a lot and I have a lot of questions and tensions and things I ponder about all of this stuff. If it important? Is it vain? Is it ethical? Can it be ethical? Is it possible to feel justified in spending this much time (making, pondering) on what I wear? Is it possible to feel justified in spending this much money on what I wear? Is it possible to justify spending any less money and time on it, especially when we compromise our world's resources and the bodies of thousands (millions?) of people? How does my religion lead me to engage with what I wear and how it is made? Is it possible to do any of this as a middle class or poor person, or is this lifestyle only available to the wealthy? How can we we afford to clothe children in a sustainable and ethical way? What about teenagers?

I don't have answers to these questions, but I want to think about them this month. Please join me. I would love to hear how others answer these questions.

Let's jump off with my introduction:
 My name is Kirsten and I live with my partner and son in the mountains of Western North Carolina. I started making my own clothing in high school, where a thriving technical vocation program allowed me to "major" in clothing construction during the four years I was there. I fancied myself much "too cool" for something as vapid and mainstream as "fashion design", so while my classmates prepared portfolios to go to design school, I made dresses out of quilting cotton, sewed Righteous Babe Records patches to my handmade tote bags, and knit scarves with acrylic yarn. "Too cool" mostly meant I made things that no one else would wear! I abandoned these skills when I went off to college to do More Important Things, like go to parties and maybe major in Spanish.
Well, neither of those things lasted very long, and a few years later, a new-found passion for birthwork and supporting new families threw me into nannying young children whose parents wanted me to learn about Waldorf and Montessori and attachment parenting. This led me into the rabbit hole of Mama Bloggers, where I discovered a world of people that really resonated with me, despite being in a completely different stage of life (late teens/early 20s, childless, urban, low income, queer) than most of the people writing these blogs. Still, their commitment to making, creating, cooking, raising children at home, off the land, it appealed to my anti-establishment, anti-capitalist agenda. Sewing, cooking, raising our own children... the young queer feminist in me thought I had to abandon these joys and desires for More Important Things, but here I was being drawn back to them in a way I had not considered before. I started sewing and knitting for the children in my life, mostly my charges and for friends' children. This developed my skills enough to be able to venture into making clothes for myself.
It has only been the past couple of years, though, that I am beginning to see through the facade I sold myself. Making my own clothing justifies the cost of it, I considered, because it is both entertainment and a living requirement. But, I started to wonder, buying new cloth off the rack and new superwash wool, was that really more ethical than buying new clothes from the store? I was not participating in the labor market (and abuse of bodies) that constructed my garments, but what about how the material is produced? These questions led me to others in this "making community" who are asking similar questions. I am learning a lot from them, and learning a lot means more questions. This brings me to the beginning of this post and those list of questions that I still turn over in my mind as I knit my stitches and sit at my humming machine. I hope this month will allow me time to reflect on these things with others and maybe find ways of creating answers together.


  1. I followed you over here from Instagram, where I really enjoy your feed. Congratulations on (re)starting your blog! I liked both your introductory SFO post and the old one about baptism, which is full of beautiful thoughts. It's so lovely how Slow Fashion October is having a bloggy effect on lots of people - my friend and I finally got ours going ( and another person I follow on Insta also did ( I'll be sure to check back to see what else you have to say!

    1. Thanks, Hanna! I look forward to readings around all these blogs and reading other people's perspectives.