Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Alternative Outfit Inspiration Part 1: The Personal (Style) Is Political

I've just come to the end of my  Six Items Challenge raising money for Labour Behind the Label, and over the Easter weekend I've gone from only being allowed six different items of clothing (five dresses, one cardigan) to having the entire contents of my wardrobe available to me again. The possibilities are endless! Except.... sometimes they feel like they aren't, and it would be all too easy fall back into wearing the same comfortable, familiar combinations of clothing, and the things I told myself I absolutely would make an effort to wear continue to languish at the back of the wardrobe. 

There are plenty of ways to get the most out of your wardrobe: regular tidying and sorting so you remember what's in there, swapping unwanted items with friends or taking them to a charity shop, trying to stop the endless cycle of buying new things that look a lot like a lot of the old things. One of the things I've always found brings out my most creative and thoughtful side is some sort of clothing challenge, whether it's to raise money for charity (like the Six Items Challenge) or just for my own amusement, to make me think about the contents of my wardrobe and how I can put them together in new and exciting ways. 

The 'Suffragette' themed outfit from 2015 I shared on Instagram as part of the Eco Fashion Challenge

I am currently participating in the #ecofashionchallenge on  Instagram , and Facebook started reminding me of a challenge I set myself in 2015; to wear outfits inspired by aspects of the British political system in the run up to the General Election. I joked that I was "cosplaying the election", but apart from putting together a 'femme' version of the eerily similar outfit all the party leaders wore to look 'casual', I didn't dress as any specific person. Instead my outfits (accompanied by a little bit of fairly impartial commentary when I put up photos on Facebook) were inspired by campaign talking points (the NHS, the Welfare State, the EU) and the idiosyncrasies of our political system, right down to the physical structure of Parliament itself (did you know they have falcons to keep the pigeons off the roof?). Some of the outfits worked better than others, some were a bit too silly ('Mer-people of the Firth of Clyde Against Trident' sadly didn't make it out of the house), but I wore and enjoyed some clothes that hadn't seen the light of day in a while, and having to write the captions helped me to consolidate my thoughts about certain political issues. 

Too much activism? Or too much glittery tail? 

At this point in the original draft of this post, I headed away from politics and started writing about the style inspiration I take from my favourite fictional heroes. But the day before I was planning to post this, a General Election was suddenly called, and a re-write was needed. I'll be singing the praises of 'closet cosplay' in part 2 of this series of posts, because right now I need to talk about rights, and how ours are more closely linked to those of the garment workers I have been raising money for over the last six weeks than perhaps we would like to think.

In the past I have tried to keep my posts and social media activity politically neutral, for fear of offending anyone who held different opinions, but the time for that is long gone. Our complacency over the rights and privileges we have (the right to vote, free healthcare, employment rights, paid holidays and sick pay for employees, beautiful countryside to enjoy on our days off) has led us to devalue them and take them for granted, assuming they will always be  here. The rights we enjoy now were hard-fought, hard-won and the things we value will only continue to exist if we fight for them. Politics affects everything in my life, worrying about it having an effect on my wellbeing is not overreacting. We have a Prime Minister, intent on increasing her majority in parliament, who doesn't care about employment rights, access to healthcare or the environment.

For someone who is passionately concerned about reducing my impact on the world by making choices that might not be the easiest but will benefit the world in the long run, politicians playing selfish, costly games for short-term gains is  horrifying to me. I truly believe we can find a balance where we can all learn to tread lightly on the face of the earth while dismantling the damaging dichotomy of "strivers vs skivers" that keep us divided and fighting amongst ourselves.

So I'll carry on fighting for eco-friendly, sustainable fashion. I'll fight alongside anyone who shares my values. But I might also be adding some new political-themed outfits to my Instagram feed, and this time, I'll say what I really think.

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