Thursday, April 23, 2020

Fashion Revolution Week 2020: Essential?

"Essential" is very much a buzzword these days. Essential services. Essential travel. Being asked everywhere, verbally and through signs, "Is your business here essential, is this package you're mailing essential?" Biting your tongue to keep from replying, "No, I just like lining up for fun." Shopping in person these days (even at "essential" stores) has all the entertainment value of going through airport security lines the day before a holiday. Shopping by mail has its risks as well, especially if you have to return something (besides the demands to know if this package is essential, there are shipping delays). Shopping local by delivery seems to work out well if it's a small business, but those depending on it for groceries can't count on getting exactly what they asked for: sometimes not even the "essentials."

(Yet at the same time we're being encouraged to support takeout food and similar businesses that have managed to keep going. So far, at least, nobody in the A&W drive-through is asking us if those fries are "essential.")

So "essential," tiresome as it is getting to be, is at the front of our collective consciousness right now. When you apply it to clothing, what comes to mind? Magazine articles and videos listing "Fall Fashion Essentials?" "Things Every Woman Should Have in Her Closet?" "The One Piece of Clothing You Will Want to Spend Lots of Money On This Year?" Janice at The Vivienne Files pointed out some time ago that there is not one piece of clothing (including shoes) that can be called "essential" for everyone in the world. Typical or useful or common, maybe, but not essential.

Still, having that word so much in our faces allows us to muse not only on our lists of closet must-haves, but on the deeper-meaning-essential nature of our relationship with stuff, clothing, and the long and tangled supply chain that gets it to us. "Not essential," some large companies have chirped, leaving their suppliers holding the bag and the labourers employed by those suppliers out of work as well. If you want a television metaphor, we just watched an old episode of Jeeves and Wooster, where Bertie convinced several people at a house party not to eat their dinners, because each of them had someone they were trying to impress with how sad or unable to eat they were. None of the impressees noticed what was going on, but the cook quit in fury.

More tomorrow.

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