Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Happy Integrity of Getting Dressed (Charlotte Mason and Fashion Revolution Week)

Apologies: this is Wednesday's post, coming to you a little early.

"Honesty.––'My duty towards my neighbour is––to keep my hands from picking and stealing'; so says the Church Catechism, and this is the common acceptation of the word honesty. We should, of course, all scorn to take what belongs to another person, and feel ourselves safe so far, anyway, as this charge goes....[But] one caution we must bear in mind.––we may not spend what we have not got...The schoolboy who gets 'tick' [credit] or borrows from his schoolmates grows into the man who is behind-hand with his accounts, and that means, not only an injury to the persons who have supplied him with their goods, but a grave injury to himself. He becomes so harassed and worried with the pressure of debts here and debts there, that he has no room in his mind for thoughts that are worth while. His loss of integrity is a leak which sinks his whole character...That beautiful whole which we call integrity is marred by sins of negligence." Charlotte Mason, Ourselves, pp. 174-176
There's no free lunch...or free t-shirt. The earth pays, in water consumption, factory pollution, and eventual disposal. Fabric makers and clothing sewists pay, especially if they are very young, in missed opportunities for education, and by entrapment in an economic system that does not pay them fairly or respect them as persons. Consumers pay, probably not the true cost, but just enough to keep them anxious about credit card bills and guilty about the mess in their closets. They pay by staying just as trapped by the same system of too much but never enough: as Charlotte Mason says, harassed, worried, and pressured. This is not a happy scenario.

But what is enough? As Cal Newport says in Digital Minimalism, it can be hard to get a clear picture of what you need (in any part of life) until you've tried living with only the essentials. Courtney Carver's Project 333 is one strategy for a clothing rethink, as is going on a buying fast like Lee Simpson. The point of both is not so much to save money as to increase gratitude, spur creativity, and bring us back to what used to be normal life. (Not shopping as entertainment, and not having a new outfit for every occasion.)

How can we keep from being, morally and literally, "behind-hand with our accounts?" How can we shop and dress in a way that creates more happiness? I don't think there is just one answer. The principle might be integrity, but the practice is going to look different for everybody.

For me this week, happy shopping looked like an off-white cotton-ramie sweater from the thrift store. The sweater appears to be hand-crocheted, but it has a commercial care label in it (the brand label has been cut out), which says Made in China. It seems unfathomable that a single crocheter would put that much time and skill into hand-making a sweater like this--and then, probably, another one, and another one. My hands would hurt after making just one sleeve (I hate crocheting with thread). If someone out there knows more about commercial needlework, please enlighten me. (Do robots crochet?) As it is, though, it makes me want to hold up a #FashionRevolution sign asking "Who Made My Clothes?" 

The sweater was not a bare necessity, but it was bought with a purpose: I needed a neutral top to go with a recently-thrifted summer skirt which appears to have been home-sewn. (The person either forgot to sew the skirt hem or it came out afterwards: I have to fix that before I can wear it.)

The bonus: it will go with a lot of other things, like this shirt jacket.
And scarves (of course).
I feel happy about giving a second life to what appears to be somebody's hard work. I'm happy that it fits in well with my other clothes. I'm happy that I could buy it at a thrift-store price and support M.C.C.  And I'm very happy that now I have more "room in my mind for thoughts that are worth while." I need all of that I can get.

This series will continue tomorrow.

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