February 25, 2024

I Learned About Fashion for a Week

Close up of a patterned Hawaiian shirt

I’d say prior to this week, about 70% of my thoughts about fashion were negative. After this week's research, observations, and personal reflection, we may be approaching a heartwarming 50%.

What YouTube and TikTok Had to Say

My journey began on YouTube. I was able to find some people talking about recent clothes they bought, and others reviewing or predicting fashion trends, but these types of videos were actually less popular than I expected. Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places, but these types of videos usually maxed out at 100k-200k views, which is nothing compared to what I’ve seen for the very adjacent topic of makeup. I did see plenty of these videos on TikTok, although since it’s shorter-form content they’d usually focus on 1-5 outfits max. To me, these quick videos showing what are essentially products made the videos feel more like advertisements. TikTok bad.

Digging a little deeper into YouTube, the videos that broke 1 million views were actually the videos pointing out the problems with fashion. This was exciting for me, because it meant I could confirm my preexisting negative bias. The most popular topic was the idea of “fast fashion” - clothing that’s produced quickly to follow trends at the cost of poor quality, worker exploitation, and needless CO2 emissions. I normally prefer to blame corporations over consumers, but from what I saw in the YouTube and Reddit comments it’s not uncommon for people to buy at least one new outfit per month. I’d have to guess that this is mostly shallow consumption and not calculated style, so this feels like an area where consumers have room for some spiritual growth. I only buy 2-4 outfits per year because I am very wise.

The YouTube rabbit hole I particularly enjoyed involved people mending and creating their own clothes. It inspired me enough that I even sloppily darned a hole in my own sock. Then I learned about “pattern papers”, which are guides that help you trace out fabrics and tell you how to stitch them together. That makes the idea of making my own garments a lot less scary. On the other hand, I learned that making your own clothes is often more expensive than just buying them from the store. That just shows how crazy those sweatshops go!

A Visit to the Library

While I saw some positive or inspiring fashion ideas scattered throughout the internet, I still came out with a mostly negative image. My ideas weren’t really challenged until I read the book Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life by George Brescia. To be honest, there weren’t many revolutionary ideas in here that haven't been said before. I think the magic came from encountering all these ideas in a book format where they could be continously repeated in slightly different ways and I gave myself the time to mull them over.

My main takeaway was that whether we like it or not, the way we dress has an affect on ourselves and those we interact with. Even if I think we should strive towards a world where a dork with zero drip faces no judgment, that's not the world we live in today. By being more mindful of how others are affected by my style, how their style affects me, and how I feel about my own style, there’s suddenly a new layer to social interactions I can play around with.

During this week, I was already being more mindful of other people’s fashion to see what was up. But after reading this book, instead of being interested in what people were wearing, I became interested in how their outfits made me feel. I saw an old man wearing plain tennis shoes and cargo shorts, but then a goofy highlighter yellow-green shirt and hat. I got the feeling he’d be friendly and easy to talk to. I saw a teenager wearing a black band hoodie and jeans when it was 80°F outside. I initially thought “Woah, cool” in a snarky little tone, but then realized I did the same thing in high school because I rarely got to enjoy my winter clothes in perma-hot Florida. There’s a whole sea of opinions I didn’t even know I had waiting to be observed.

My Past, Present, and Future Fashion

I’ve had periods in middle and high school where I cared more about fashion. Let's try to psychoanalyze why for a moment. There was for sure an ego boost, where I could sense people looking at me and I’d feel confident that they would have a positive opinion about me. Then if they didn’t have a positive opinion, sharing it would make them a dbag, so it’s a win-win. But really in my teenage brain it wasn’t more complicated than wearing cool clothes makes me feel good. Ultimately the source of positive emotion came from others’ reaction to me, or what I anticipated their reaction would be, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If someone has a truly positive reaction to my outfit, which then makes me feel positive, we both WIN.

The new wacky style I tried this week was to tuck my gym shirt into my gym shorts while working out. I do think it looked better, but as soon as I tried doing pull ups it came undone, and I felt stupid trying to tuck it back in so I gave up. Not worth it.

Some new things I came across that I’d like to experiment with are striped and contrast collar rugby shirts, and solid-color socks. I’ve been saying it for years, but I’d also like to take most of my shirts to a tailor so I can tuck them in without a cloud of fabric at my waist. Other than that my plan is to be mindful about fashion while remaining grounded enough to remember I don't need swag to be content with life. They’re still just clothes 😹

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