Guest post: consciously clothed

This guest post on fashion, among other things, comes to us from Jessi Arrington, a designer, creative philanthropist, and as our mutual friend Chris described her, an “outfit scientist.” Her full bio is after the jump.

Raise your hand if you think what you wear matters! I’d like to make the case that it does, and perhaps in ways we’re not really paying attention to.

We can probably all agree that what we put on our bodies on a daily basis impacts the way we perceive each other and ourselves. (Deny this if you like, but listen to Courtney Martin tell the story of how she realized feminism might be for her before you dismiss the idea.) What is undeniable, but in my experience rarely discussed, is that there is measurable physical impact to our wardrobes. Lately, I’ve been obsessing over it.

What do I mean by physical impact? Well, these thoughts are still being mixed around in my head, but I’ve broken it into four categories so far.

1. SPACE: That’s the down-and-dirty amount of cubic footage your shirts, pants, coats, undies, socks, shoes, bags, hats and whatever else you use to separate your body from the environment actually take up. I grew up in the South with closets (plural). Now I live in a Brooklyn studio with one closet that I share with another human being. To say this is a challenge is the understatement of the year. We sometimes end up living surrounded by piles of clothes, piles awaiting laundering and piles awaiting a harsh shove back into the closet. That’s the reality of my wardrobe’s SPACE coupled with a teensy lack of the next item on the list…

2. TIME: Oh, the beautiful, fleeting, precious resource of which I don’t ever seem to have enough! There’s time associated with a wardrobe, and not just in the hours it takes to procure. For me, shopping time is the fun time! But then there’s the washing, drying, folding, hanging and putting away time. And heaven forbid something needs to go to the dry-cleaners or a tailor. That means you’ve got to add travel time into your wardrobe’s impact. Then there’s the deciding time. Does “what am I going to wear today” sound familiar? Over time, it can all add up to a significant amount of, well, time. And you know what they say about TIME and this next one…

3. MONEY: I guess this one is obvious; clothes and their upkeep cost us. This one is also extremely easy to ignore given how easily credit cards allow us to live beyond our means. I guess this is where I’ll share an important detail about myself: I buy all my clothes, shoes and accessories second-hand. In this way I’m able to load up on style without spending too much. It also ejects me from the game of what’s “this season’s” style. I can save MONEY by just addressing what’s “my style.” I also love how second-hand shopping ties into the last, but opposite of least, item on the list…

4. EXTERNAL IMPACT: How did your clothes get to you? Where did they come from and who did they impact before they made it into your closet? And what will be their story when they leave? The answers to these questions have huge implications for the environment, the economy and your local community. It can justifiably seem overwhelming; rather than feeling overwhelmed, I choose to acknowledge the impact and take measurable albeit tiny steps towards addressing it.

So what do you think; have I made a case it’s only sensible to pay attention to what you wear? It’s fair to assert that perhaps I’m simply attempting to validate myself. I started blogging less than a year ago, and it quickly became apparent that one of my favorite things to post about is “outfits.” Initially I felt like this was a frivolous way to spend my time, but the more feedback I received, and the more I gave my wardrobe analytical thought, the more I realize it’s not frivolous at all. Deciding to examine what you wear, its impact on you and the world at large makes for a conscious consumer. And I might even go a step further as to propose that ignoring what you wear is to leave a key aspect of of life unexamined. (Perhaps you and I share the same view on the unexamined life.)

So doubts about legitimacy be damned. I’m going to keep thinking and writing about what I wear. And I’m going to continue to push some social experiments on myself to explore the issue. I tried the first when I traveled to California for a week with only a week’s worth of undies. (Don’t worry; I didn’t go around naked. I bought everything second-hand once I got there.) The next will be called Hole Sale in which I’ll sell almost my whole wardrobe, in a bridge hole in DUMBO Brooklyn, for charity. If you’re interested in joining me, please get involved! You can donate items you no longer need and get some new styles for a steal, all while raising money to send young women to Rock Camp.

I’m a thinker, maker, doer and liver of design. I’m a lover of all things color, vintage, handmade and rock-n-roll. I do my best for the planet. I co-founded of the design studio WORKSHOP. I throw one hell of a Kentucky Derby Party. I serve on the board of AIGA/NY. I’m crazy about my Studiomates. I’m one Lucky So And So.

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