Author - Olivia Young
I entered into the sustainability scene with the force of a comet tearing through the universe, hurtling towards it at 10,000 miles per hour. I declared myself a vegan overnight, cut my shower time back to five minutes, tackled single-use plastic, then all plastic, and started carrying mesh bags and glass jars into the supermarket—all without an ounce of hesitation—but my newfound enthusiasm for major eco-lifestyle changes did not immediately translate to clothes.
My initial opinion on ethical fashion—as a person whose closet was (is) teeming with unethically sourced synthetics and fast-fashion labels—is that it simply didn't exist. Clothes, like animal products, are not scientifically proven to be essential to human health and survival, which made me wonder: Should I just throw in the towel now and revert to cavewoman attire? I vowed, instead, to wear what I already had to the bone.
And so for years, I lived in the same old clothes until they began to resemble used napkins. What wasn't shrunken or riddled with snags and stains didn't fit me anyway (hence why it remained in such decent shape). And despite the countless brands who I knew could have given my wardrobe the overhaul it deserved, I remained steadfast in my refusal to buy anything new, whether it was labelled as sustainable or not.
In the early days of the pandemic, I noticed that fashion was unexpectedly trending. People started recreating runway looks out of bed sheets, tissue paper, and other household items; a belted pillow became the new couture. Then, in early May, the #MetGalaChallenge was born. Vogue and Billy Porter tasked everyday folks with posting their best renditions of iconic Met Gala looks on Instagram in lieu of this year's event and the people delivered with celeb-inspired creations made of newspaper and bin liners.
The sudden exodus of all unessential outings has had a surprising-yet-pleasant influence on the way we approach clothes. The ones who were able to work from home—me included, fortunately—eventually arrived at the realisation that they could wear whatever they bloody well wanted. With the exception of occasional virtual work gatherings, no office dress code applied. The deep-rooted norms, rules, and expectations that have long governed our individual fashion choices are on indefinite leave, and their absence has given way to two opposing camps: one that rinsed ASOS of its tonal sweatsuits and #WFH lounge-wear sets almost instantly and another that churns tissue paper into outfits.
Now, before I get any undeserved credit, I must confess that I'm not the one who walks around the house dressed in newspaper scraps. But I haven't exactly subscribed to Instagram's tracksuit of the week, either. Rather, the eruption of creativity on my feed every day has given me the motivation to confront my wardrobe woes at once. I'm not making organza gowns and newspaper masterpieces, no, but I am finally making alterations to that 20 percent of my closet that has long been neglected because it has never fit, and I'm doing it with my mother's old Singer sewing machine, which I learned how to operate via YouTube tutorials.
I'm cutting skirts into trousers, cropping tops to more desirable lengths, shortening long sleeves, tweaking necklines. I'm spicing up pieces that bore me with basic embroidery skills—it doesn't take a gaggle of supplies or rocket science to stitch a rainbow on a piece of cotton, you know? And I've found that altering, re-purposing, and refashioning what I already own has made me feel more connected to my clothes, ultimately compelling me to play around with the styling of them more.
These days, it wouldn't be entirely implausible to find me working from home in a dress I whipped up the night before or some otherwise quirky ensemble that possibly wouldn't have stood a chance with me a few months ago. You'll often catch me in ratty jumpers and yoga bottoms, too, of course, because not every day can be brimming with inspiration and creativity. Most of mine admittedly are not. But soon enough, the time will come to finally put on an outfit and debut my post-quarantine self to the world, and I'm determined to have something to wear for it.