View profile

ecophilia - fasting, fungi & fractals #3, why one dress?

Jessica Böhme
Jessica Böhme
Day 5 of 108 of fasting, fungi, and fractals. 

Why one dress?
one dress?
one dress?
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 
me in the black dress I have worn for a year.
me in the black dress I have worn for a year.
I have always been fascinated by fashion. Even when I was in kindergarten, I would make sure to wear dresses only and that my pink and purple sandals matched the dress I wore. I never grew out of this fascination. I am sad and secretly glad that I don’t have an overview of how much time and money I have spent on clothes (that I hardly wore). 
I once researched how much time the average person spends shopping. I can’t remember where I found those numbers, but what I found was that we spend an average of 1 year of our lives deciding what to wear—and spending another eight years of our lives shopping. This includes deciding what to buy, buying it, and making money to buy the clothes. That’s a total of 9 years (for me, probably more like 11) that is literally wasted on consumption. 
So for the past six years, I have tried to reduce the time I spend on anything clothes. I have had multiple periods where I wore one dress only. For example, from my birthday onwards in 2016, I wore the same dress for a year. I wore it to weddings, interviews, presentations, hiking, on the couch, fetish parties, birthdays, walks, meeting friends and colleagues, on Sundays and Wednesdays. Since then, I have been wearing only one dress on and off again. 
Through this project, the story of black dress and I continues… 
If you would like to join the project, I invite you to wear the same clothes for a while and get in touch with me. 
*I am choosing to refer to material as they / their instead of it to recalibrate my idea of subject-object.  
Did you enjoy this issue? Yes No
Jessica Böhme
Jessica Böhme @eco_philia

Ecophilia is an in(tra)dependent, journal-like newsletter exploring ecophilia - a lived philosophy for the Ecocene. It is rooted in the intersection of ecology, spirituality, and science. I share the best things I learn, science & experienced based.

In order to unsubscribe, click here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Created with Revue by Twitter.
Jessica Böhme, Weserstr. 48, 12045 Berlin