Thursday, 27 July 2017

Gold Boots, Conversations & Circles of Influence.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash
I had a lovely chance encounter yesterday. I was on my way to the station and a Daddy and young child were walking towards me. As we came close the Dad remarked that I had set him a task as his young daughter was very impressed by my gold boots and wanted a pair of her own. I stopped to chat and shared my thoughts. Now, this isn’t unusual for me, my footwear often instigates conversation; I encounter daily micro-moments of connectivity based on comments around how I dress. This little girl was looking longingly at my shiny boots and I wondered if her dad would consider letting her paint her Wellington boots – she had them on – and make her own gold boots without having to buy new ones.
I was imagining a lovely afternoon of messy-play, luckily this dad also thought it was a good idea, we discussed whether gold acrylic would be suitable, and he commented how excited Mummy would be when she came home from work. I went on my way and hopefully, there is a happy little girl splashing in puddles today in gold-wellies.

This dialogue got me thinking about how we introduce children to the concept of sustainable fashion, how we make it relevant to them in a way that is fun, and how we can encourage creativity and play into dressing that is good for children’s well-being.
At a presentation of my research into the possible benefits of everyday dress the Q and A turned to uniforms and the fragile identity formation of teenagers; I believe that we should be encouraging children to develop identities based on self-knowledge and expressing who they are, or want to be, with a creative approach to dress rather than being channelled into consuming and conforming. In the break a woman came over and shared that she had just spoken to her teenage daughter and apologised to her for being so rigid about how she dressed; this mother had made a decision that it was better for her daughter’s well-being to experiment with who she was becoming via her clothes than needing to comply with who she wanted her daughter to be.

When I was a teenager it was the tail end of Punk and the beginning of New Romantic, as an art student it was expected that I wear my ‘difference’; a motley collection of charity shops, hand-me-downs, hand-made and an occasional trip to the Kings Road. I didn’t have friends who bought their identity off the peg. We created unique looks from cheap-stuff and chopped and changed who we were on a weekly rotation. I remember wanting a pair of gold ankle boots I had seen on someone on Top of the Pops, I had a boring grey pair which I spray painted and wore that same night, with an old shirt of my Dads and a skirt I had made from vintage fabric found in my boyfriend’s loft.  Of course, there were times when I bought clothes – I worked in a boutique so had too - but those items were mixed with the ragbag collection that I loved, and held onto for as long as I could!
I still have much that same attitude to my clothes, so do my daughters. And when they were little girls a favourite summer holiday outing was charity shopping with a limited budget and the instruction to purchase as a gift for each other as well as something to wear personally. As a family we now have a ten pound limit on Christmas gifts for each other which forces everyone to be creative when trawling charity shops and turn present buying into an adventure.
Later in the afternoon yesterday I had coffee with a new acquaintance who had also connected with me over a chat about shoes. She told me how she had made a choice not to buy any new clothes since hearing my research; she now dresses mindfully and is really enjoying the renewed relationship she is having with her existing wardrobe. She questioned why she felt compelled to shop, what need was she attempting to meet and how unfulfilling that had become. It is so rewarding to know that on a micro-scale the impact of my research is trickling out into the real world.

So if you are thinking about how you – or your children – can dress in a sustainable- flourishing-fashion where can you start?

Photo by Brandon Morgan on Unsplash

  •  Go shopping in your own wardrobe – play with what you already have without a preconceived idea as to what goes with what.
  •  When you get dressed pay attention to how something makes you feel rather than how it makes you look.
  •  Give yourself the freedom and permission to try on a different version of you – even if it’s only to be at home in.
  •     Don’t save something that makes you feel amazing for special occasions.
  •   Allow your children the same license to explore who they are and experiment with putting their look together.
  •   Make shopping for clothes an opportunity to get creative, charity shops are a goldmine for clothes which can be played around with by adding bits and pieces to customise. You don’t have to be particularly crafty to change a shirt into a child’s dress or stick glitter on a second-hand bag. And children love the challenge of hunting for stuff to modify.
  •  And of course all old wellies are so much better for us when they are gold, or indeed shiny pink and sparkly and you transformed them yourself. Perhaps you could have your very own festival in your garden or local park this weekend and get your friends and children to come in their customised flourishing fashion creations.
I would love to hear your ideas for how you flourish with fashion and how you might encourage children to get creative with their clothes.

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