From Birth to Death, a journey of respect and authenticity through clothing

Being born is about the only instance in which you can completely guarantee nakedness of the human body. That statement could be debated as thoughts of nudist beaches come to mind. However, the thought-provoking idea here is that for the vast majority of human kind there are only a few occasions where we can guarantee complete naked exposure. If that’s the case, then the fabric that adorns our body is with us for the vast majority of experiences and memories formed in our lifetime. Classed as a basic human need, our clothing works very hard to ensure we are protected and supported. Clothing is one of the most over worked yet undervalued material possession we will ever own. 

So why isn’t the life of clothing one of longevity? According to Oxfam who are currently challenging others to purchase second hand clothing for the month of September, the clothes sent to landfill in the UK weigh as much as the empire state building. 

While attempting to answer this question I will not explain the detrimental effects of the fashion industry…mass consumption, pollution, modern day slavery, a throw away culture. Instead I want to focus on personal attributes that I believe hold a key to positively influence clothing longevity within the fashion industry, they are Respect and Authenticity. 

Being authentic means that you act in ways that show your true self. Rather than showing people only one side of yourself, you express your whole self genuinely. To succeed in being authentic, you first have to know who your true self actually is. That brings us to self-respect. Learning to respect one’s self enough to act completely authentically means you naturally acquire the skills to respect others for their authenticity which creates a circular environment for inclusiveness. We can draw an important parallel between these two values and fashion. If your fashion choices were in fact authentic and respectful and the shirt on your back was completely transparent in the way it came to be wouldn’t it be world changing?

Thankfully, we already have a fashion model built on authenticity, respect, transparency, inclusiveness, and a circular environment. The second hand clothing industry. Sustainability consultant Jane Milburn in her book “Slow Clothing, finding meaning in what we wear” refers to Second-hand clothing as the new organic. “When we buy pre-loved clothes, we do not add chemicals or production stress to the environment. Everything else is various shades of greenwashing” 

Second hand, vintage, thrifted and repurposed clothing are obvious choices in today’s climate for people and planet. Personal growth is also achieved when we remove the dictation of current trends by the top fashion houses and marketing. When we are left with a thirty year collection of loved clothes we have to exercise our creativity and find our authentic style to make a choice.  

Purchasing our clothing with respect and authenticity is powerful. Using this same method in loving, caring and ultimately discarding our clothing can help the industry become more circular. Fashion Revolution has an important message that #lovedclotheslast and if we love our clothes, we can allow their story to continue. As they beautifully state in their manifesto; “Fashion never unnecessarily destroys or discards but mindfully redesigns and recuperates in a circular way. Fashion is repaired, reused, recycled, upcycled. Our wardrobes and landfills do not overflow with clothes that are coveted but not cherished, bought but not kept.”  

Spring in New Zealand is a season of new beginnings. A time of birth and growth emerging from the depths of winter and highlighting the beautiful natural circle of life. We may be born naked but in our final journey our family makes the meaningful, heartfelt, and careful decision on what will adorn our bodies as it leaves this earth. Starting as a naked newborn we begin a journey of self-discovery, respect and authenticity and in the end we are buried or cremated in clothing that tells our story. Let’s not forget how powerful and significant clothing actually is.  

Written by Beccy-Ellen Beavis

Beccy-Ellen has a passion for sustainable, vintage, pre-loved & authentic fashion, in love with keeping the ongoing story of each garment and its maker alive. Coming from a long line of seamstresses & milliners Beccy also enjoys sewing for her children & others using vintage and upcycled fabrics.  

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