sustainable fashion

The thing about saris that I’m really into at the moment (other than their inherent gorgeousness) (and the need to wear them like they are clothes and not fragile crystal that you take down once a year) (and their comfortableness) (ok, everything) (but still)…

the thing about saris that I’m really into at the moment is their sustainability.

These are garments that need no alterations (maybe a new blouse) to pass from generation to generation to generation.  They come down from parent to child.  They get shared among friends.  Imagine a Naked Lady Party where everything fits EVERYONE!  Imagine shopping for clothes and every single garment fits.

There is one caveat: If you are big enough you might need to shop for eight and nine yard saris, or saris with the blouse piece “running” (still attached, and at the inside end), or have a piece of cloth sewn to the beginning or to the top edge, or both.  But imagine, even then, you can wear any nine yard sari you want.  Any of them.  It’s like saying you can wear every single blouse in the store, or every pair of pants.  Cut is NEVER an issue.

As someone with an unexpectedly shaped body, this is a godsend.  And when you wear draped clothing often enough you realize how ridiculous it is to design clothing with, like, a one inch tolerance.

And then you realize how unsustainable it is.

And how classist.

And then you realize that the reason those body-skimming dresses probably came into fashion in the 1300s in Europe was that only court women could afford to have clothing that tightly fitted and bias-cut (which, if your fabric is rectangular, makes it much harder not to waste fabric.)

Imagine if all the women in your family could share the same five or ten or twenty dresses.  All of you, no matter how pregnant or ill or fat or skinny or whatever you got.  You only buy new ones when you feel like changing it up, and if you can’t afford it, you’re pretty much ok until they wear out.  You change accessories or dress them up or down with jewelry.  You drape them a bit differently depending on the occasion.  You have some heavier cotton, some lighter cotton, some silk, and some synthetic, realistically.

And they don’t get very sweaty, and they are so thin they dry instantly on the line or on your person.

Imagine how pissed off the fashion industry would get?

Also the luggage people.  If I’m wearing only saris, I can pack twenty outfits in a standard size rollaboard.

I pretty much never need twenty outfits.  But I can, if I want.

I only need a few, so I can afford to spend more on each one, to pay the weavers (and spinners if it’s khadi) properly (that’s still a major issue, with middlemen picking up most of the profit, so if you can manage to be picky about your sourcing, DO).

All that is great, but I keep coming back to this: I can wear this art and pass it on to anyone I want.  Friends, relatives, neighbors.  People at the coffee shop.  Total strangers.  You can always give a sari as a gift.

This is complicated a little by gender, yes. But historically these garments belonged to everyone.  It is complicated by issues of cultural appropriation, yes, but people can find their own heritage draped clothes, too.  Greeks did actually wear togas, the kitenge and the kanga are African draped garments, the sarong/lungi/etc is a size and shape of fabric worn around the world, the Scots have the kilt (yes, a great kilt is six yards of draped fabric…but it’s wool!  I’d love to see someone well-versed in kilts drape a sari as a kilt).

It’s further complicated by what do I wear under it, because there are only a couple of drapes that are full-coverage and not many cultures where exposed breasts are ok.  But we can wear whatever shirts we want, whatever shirts we have, or can make, or tie a bandeau top out of a piece of fabric, which is very very oldschool.

And remember, your friends can borrow your saris.  Traveling to a wedding?  Don’t have anything suitable?  Find a fancy top and borrow a fancy sari.  Done.  Going to a family occasion?  No idea what to bring for the hostess?  A sari is always suitable.  She may regift it if she doesn’t like it or doesn’t need it.

So tell me: why do we insist on stitched clothing?


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