Fashion & Work


Since I travel so much for work, I just tried on some new fall clothes.

In July.

The first thing I tried on? A new pair of jeans. Hippie flared jeans, no less. The kind of jeans that are tight in the thigh and flare out below the knee. They are “in” for the fall according to just about every magazine I’ve read over the summer.

And the experience was insane.

And I was reminded that the world doesn’t look like it used to.

Bodies don’t look like they used to.

And yet fashion keeps coming back in weird & mysterious ways.

Back in the 70s, we didn’t have a corporatist food policy in America. We were eating fewer whole grains and vegetables, sure, but we didn’t have the same level of food subsidies in our economy. You could eat a banana and buy some oatmeal without breaking the bank. That changed in the 80s and 90s. We started eating more sugar and corn, which is why I hailed the arrival of cargo pants. Let’s face it: your ass is big. When you wear cargo pants, I can’t see your butt and your thighs. And you can’t really see mine. We all look heavy.

It’s awesome.

Now we have a national food policy (more sugar, fewer veggies) that is incompatible with a global, corporatist fashion industry. And our clothes are cheaper and poorly made, they aren’t built to last, and our bodies no longer fit in the trendy clothes that the fashion industry barfs out at us.

Anyone catch that recent trend of jeggings?  I wanted to shake every woman I saw and yell, “They are laughing at you while taking your money!”

So back to my jeans story: I tried them on and couldn’t get them over my thighs. I am five feet tall. I weigh no more than 120 lbs on any given day. I exercise 4-5 times/week. If I can’t walk into a Walmart or an Old Nvay and find a pair of pants that fit over my thighs without going two sizes up, who the hell can wear these clothes?

I know it’s naive to encourage you to opt out of the fashion industry. You have to wear something. But I would like you to think about your work wardrobe as a uniform. Buy simple. Buy consistently. And buy clothes that are constructed with integrity. Seams. Stitching. Wash & wear. If you can’t dry it in the dyer and have the clothing retain its shape and color, you shouldn’t but it.

And one more thing: you can costume yourself and assume a more interesting identity on your own time. But the more you spend on sub-par clothing for work that makes you look like an oompah loompah, the more you lock yourself into a cycle of having to earn the money to buy more & more of these ugly clothes on the racks at TJ Maxx and Target.

Who cares if you wear the same thing to work on a regular basis? Who cares if you’re not expressing your individuality through fashion? I don’t know about you, but I don’t work to keep myself locked in polyester and luxury-knock-off chains of bondage.

If I am going to buy anything, it is going to be beautiful and well made. Or it’s going to be cargo pants.

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