Clothing beyond the practical: why our style means something.
Fashion and clothing are often portrayed as meaningless or unimportant. People who care about the way they look and the way they dress are treated as superficial. But clothes can have a significant impact on the way we view ourselves and how we feel. An individual’s style extends to the way they decorate their homes, the way they cut their hair or the music they listen to. And most of these things require the time and money to explore options: something lots of people simply do not have.
It is easy to see why people find engaging with the fashion industry toxic: environmental damage, the lack of body positivity and absence of political awareness can put socially conscious citizens off the fashion world altogether. And while these industries can cause a variety of problems – socially and environmentally - we all inevitably must buy and wear clothes. We can therefore recognise how style has become part of our individuality.
It is important to remember that there are people living in situations of extreme poverty or homelessness, which prevent them from having the means to buy their own clothes. Often, donations can be mismatched in size or style, and clothing they receive does not fit them, let alone reflect who they are. Of course, stylish clothing is a luxury compared to food or shelter but having the means to express our individuality gives us a sense of dignity: something that should be provided to us all wherever possible.
Items of clothing can be filled with memories of positive experiences and happy times in our lives. They can remind us of how we felt, where we went, and how we have changed over time. As we grow and change, our style often changes with us. We use fashion as a means of artistic expression, whether we realise it or not. Certain outfits can make us feel self-assured and can affect how we present ourselves to others. While wearing uncomfortable shoes can be physically awkward or painful, wearing clothes that we feel relaxed in has a psychological impact.
While practicality is vital – dressing warmly in the winter, having waterproof clothes for the rain – this is not where the issue of access to clothing ends. Wearing clothes that fit well and make us feel comfortable is important. Clothing Collective’s method of giving vouchers to those in need allows the recipients to retain some choice in how they dress and how they express themselves. Feeling uncomfortable in your clothes can lead to feelings of discomfort within yourself. When you wear something that makes you feel good, it can improve your mental well-being and confidence. Having the means to choose how to express yourself through clothing should not be taken for granted.