apples, saddle shoes, & ideological purity

appII

Yes, I have more than one apple dress. This one’s from Hell Bunny. I got it during July’s Amazon sale, along with my cherry dress. I’ve been buying a lot more “vintage-inspired” – a.k.a. non-vintage – clothes than I used to. I still adore true vintage and prefer it, but I’m getting frustrated with how fast it wears out. My oldest dresses are unraveling under the arms and at the hems, and it’s getting expensive. I’ve been trying to invest in some really well-made “retro style” dresses.

But, even more than that, I think I’ve gotten burned out on trying to make my life a political statement.

appVI appIV

Let me be quite clear: I still think reusing and recycling clothing is objectively better! I still think fast fashion is destroying the planet! I still want to maintain a wardrobe that’s at least 75% vintage/thrifted! But I also think boycotting things is kinda…hypocritical. Because I still eat meat. I still – though I don’t drive – make use of others’ cars. I still love novelty Halloween crap. I am fully complicit in all that a Western lifestyle entails, and unless I’m prepared to fully overhaul it – which, let’s be real, I’m not – I have no business looking down my nose at others’ consumption.

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The perfect really is the enemy of the good. I think a lot of people who might otherwise want to cut down on meat or gas or cheap Chinese clothes are scared off by the intensity of some of the hard-liners: “if you’re not a thrifting non-driving vegan, you’re a terrible worthless person!” It becomes impossible to make small changes of any kind, because it becomes all or nothing. And I don’t want to be that hard-liner. I’d rather be approachable than strident.

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Dress: Hell Bunny

Hat: old & beloved

Everything else: thrifted

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And, frankly, I’m not really sold on the idea that individual efforts are terribly powerful to begin with. I really like this post on the subject:

Power rested not in what you did as one person, but what you did as many people, as one part of a large, organized, and focused movement. For him, this meant organizing workers to go on strike for better conditions, and eventually it meant winning the right to unionize. What you ate for lunch or happened to be wearing was of absolutely no concern whatsoever.

This was striking to me, because it was the mirror opposite of my culture back home in Canada. Where I came from, you expressed your political beliefs—firstly and very often lastly—through personal lifestyle choices. By loudly proclaiming your vegetarianism. By shopping fair trade and local and boycotting big, evil brands.

So I’m done preaching (mostly to the choir) the merits of vintage clothing. I’d rather donate to a garment workers’ union. Symbolic empowerment only does so much.

The bottom line: don’t worry so much about whether all your clothes are ethical or all your relationships sufficiently feminist or all your tastes in media un-problematic. Agitate for the changes you want to see, but you don’t have to internalize purity in everything you do.

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2 Comments

  1. This is a tough one for me. I see the wisdom in what you’re saying and in what Naomi Klein points out about the illusion of individual power. I think she is right on that collective action is the only meaningful way to address these huge issues.

    But at the same time I feel like there is some value in challenging myself to avoid fast fashion, etc. Maybe not because it does a lot of “good” — but maybe because it’s worth being thoughtful about what we consume, which fast fashion, fast food, etc., discourages. I think there’s no point in worrying about being a “hypocrite” — it doesn’t really help anything or anyone. But I don’t mind being challenged, or challenging others, about eating meat, shopping at Walmart, etc.

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