As I described in the introduction
, the threat of fasting for me is a way to balance overconsumption and exploitation. Apart from the physical fast, which is near abstinence from food and which I will talk about at another point, I will wear one and the same dress for the project’s duration.
When I changed my career to sustainability research, it took me some time - longer than seems reasonable - to understand the connection between sustainability and my shopping habits. When I finally thought I got it, it took me even more time to take action. In the beginning, the action was limited to not buying clothes in particular shops that I considered “evil.” Soon, I noticed, though, that it wasn’t just about WHERE and WHAT I buy. Shopping second-hand or at sustainable brands is excellent. But this didn’t change the WHY; what didn’t change was that I kept consuming. I became fascinated with finding out.
I found the case of fashion and consumption exciting for four reasons.
Firstly, fashion has a significant impact on the environment. The production of fashion makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. Additionally, 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year, and washing some types of clothes sends a significant amount of microplastics into the ocean.
Second, fashion is culturally loaded. It can be used as art, an expression of worldviews and political inclinations, and to signify belonging to a particular group and status. And it can be used to enhance our psychological constructs, such as our self-esteem and well-being. It might be a bit overstated, but I sense that what the fashion psychologist Carolyn Mair describes is somewhat true.
“Fashion matters beyond what our clothes say about us. Fashion affects how we view ourselves and others, our self and identity, and how we navigate our worlds.”
If it is only half true, it still has a significant impact on us as individuals and society. If I follow the idea that we become-with the material, fashion makes me into the person I am.
And this brings me to the third reason. By already having worn one dress for some time, I made the experience that the dress became more and more valuable to me. I began to treat it like a living being with their* own habitus. I began to develop a relationship with this dress that I haven’t before with my clothes or possessions. I hope to explore this relationship between humans and material further during the 108 days. Am I choosing the clothes I wear, or do they choose me? Where do I - as an identity - end, at my skin or clothes? How does my sense of care change through building a relationship with the material?
And lastly, I find wearing one dress as a “fasting practice” beneficial to raise awareness and increase my understanding of overconsumption. When I live well by wearing one piece of clothes, how can I ever think that having 103 clothes (the average amount of clothes a woman in the US owns) is a good idea? It recalibrates my baseline of what is normal and ripples through other areas of my life: is it normal to live in a 100m2 apartment with two people? Is it normal that one family owns two cars? Is it normal to fly on vacation three times a year? Is it normal that I can buy lunch for 3Euro in 5min wrapped in half a pound of plastic? The Ecocene will need a lot of recalibrating of what we consider normal.
The black dress’ story