I have three nearly complete blogs in Drafts, but each time I think of writing, the world has changed again and all the words are wrong.
I haven't had the perseverance nor inspiration to maintain a sewing & knitting blog in the last year, but I've put a lot of energy into Instagram. I've become weary of the marketing factor, the algorithm. Everything is selling and influencing now. It's hard for makers and hobby accounts to find each other and connect.
I recently decided to make my IG account private for a while. For the last few years, as I participated more in the IG craft communities, I also had a small stream of random guys follow me and send a generic "hi beautiful" type message to me from across the void. I usually just ignored until they disappeared from my DM requests... but recently a random guy liked a ton of my outfit photos and started to get a bit demanding of my attention in comments and DM requests. It felt intrusive. I felt vulnerable and exposed to something unwelcome, however innocuously G-rated or generic the overtures were. It's one thing to send a clueless ping out into sea of fish and see what pings back, but to keep at it consistently for several days, that was too much for me. I had to take some time away from having a public account. Which also means I haven't been able to connect very well with style folks who I mostly interacted with by doing the same style challenges together and following a lot of the same hashtags. (Check out #listen2urlizard for the best outfit pictures from across IG, not all cookie-cutter influencer outfits!) And that's made me feel a little more lonelier than usual.
So I figured I would come to a place where I am simultaneously more exposed than Instagram and much less likely to be seen at all. Only 6 people looked at by blog last week and I think they were all robots! Hi robots! :)
Right now I'm doing a lovely challenge called #cheerycloset and it's just about wearing things from your closet that make you happy. It's a 5 day challenge and there are gentle prompts but also the option to just wear/post what you like from your closet too. At the new year I'd proclaimed I'd participate in a new year's 10x10, a little shop-your-closet challenge, and a #nobuyjanuary On 6th January, fashion challenges lost meaning and I abandoned the daily outfit pictures, but stuck with the no buy.
I actually loved the no buy month and plan to do more. I organized, stored some things I wasn't using, and fell more in love with what I have. I felt so energized going into February... but by the end of the day on 1st February... I had bid on two things in eBay & today I got an offer on one thing I favorited last night and snapped it up. What the hell? I couldn't even last a day of no shopping without the vow of the no-buy.
But that's not why I need or like the no-buy experience. It's not an austerity measure or a punishment. I really liked it because it gave me quality time with what I already have... and that felt surprisingly great. I honestly think the answer to a lot of the fast fashion overconsumption might not to be less attached to stuff, but rather more attached to our things. To love and appreciate what we have and want to keep it and wear it until it falls apart. And then mend it and wear it some more.
I get a funny feeling when shop eBay or buy something fast fashion - it's a mixture of curiosity and anxiety, combined with the fact that, as a library person, I find searching for things to be weirdly comforting. After searching exhaustively and maybe accidentally buying a couple iterations of a thing (like that time i bid on and actually won 4 rose quartz chip necklaces when I only needed one, which proved to be too cold and heavy for my taste, so actually i don't use any of them!) - the item arrives in the mail! If it's something good, FOMO may arise - I need to find more of this marvelous thing! Search skills mobilize! If it's not good, I might need to go back to the drawing board and start the search process all over again... yikes! When is the time to actually stop searching and start enjoying the treasures I've already found?
That's the beauty of the no-buy! The no-buy is the time to stop and smell the roses in your own closet. If you notice anything that isn't smelling like a rose, remove it from the closet to donate, resell, or simple squirrel away in a basement, garage, or spare closet for later consideration. By working through this process gradually over a whole month, I found ample time to play dress up with my collection of garments and curate them to keep the ones I'm most of fond of front and center. Having only things you love, well-organized and not overcrowded is the utmost luxury. I feel like I finally unlocked the secret within the capsule wardrobe concept during the no-buy.
I also ruminated a lot about what to do with things I don't like as much, don't fit correctly, or are wearing out and aren't really candidates for mending. (I'm looking at you undies and threadbare tee shirts). Where I live, thrift stores are currently prohibited from receiving donations due to the pandemic, so even good stuff I might want to pass on is stuck with me at the moment.
When I used to have a critical mass of good clothes that I wanted to rehome, I'd organize a clothes swap - inviting all the cool women I knew and telling them to extend the invite to their friends. We'd get together, bringing snacks & wine, along with our piles of clothes, jewelry, makeup/toiletries etc and play dress up, nibble & drink, talk, and bring home new treasures. Any unclaimed things could be left in a big pile for the host to donate, or taken back home to resell or keep.
I miss the possibility of such an even so much right now. I miss having friends near me to hang out with casually. And I miss the joy on someone's face as they fall in love with a garment that no longer suits me and the happy feeling I have, knowing that I can release it back into the world and know it will live a good next chapter of life instead of ending up in a rag bag or landfill or washed up on the coast of Ghana. I miss connection. I miss seeing and being seen - not for the spectacle of it all, but for the unspoken connections that form in unstructured moments of spending time in the proximity of other humans.
At first, when the pandemic hit, things didn't really feel too different because I was living in a little rural forest bubble already. But as time wore on without periodic weekends back in my home town to see family and friends... it got a bit lonely, even for my reclusive taste. That's when the fashion community on IG started to feel more special to me and I started participating in more style challenges. I go in waves, where IG feels really cozy and connected, and then where it feels hopeless and pathetic... just watching strangers' lives & outfits pass by my little virtual window to world, half-pretending they're my friends, when in reality a lot of them don't even follow me back. Sometimes I have start connecting and then feel nervous or super-shy and unworthy or weird. It feels like the deep loneliness I grew up with as a nerdy only child. When I played alone, I used to have pretend conversations in my head with kids that I wanted to be friends with when I felt lonely - I had a good imagination and lots of hobbies. I usually didn't feel lonely. But sometimes I did. Right now I do again. And I think that's why I so easily fell back into shopping as soon as my vow was up, even though I loved not shopping during the whole month of January.
I think the searching of shopping online is just something I do when I am lonely or stressed. It's soothing. And I often find quality things for very good prices that I do enjoy. I don't overspend or get into debt to shop. But sometimes I end up with 4 rose quartz necklaces when it turns out I don't want any. Seriously, though, does anyone want a rose quartz necklace? I should have a giveaway!
I walked away from this no-buy month feeling more aware of why/when I shop & what I end up with. Would I rather splurge on one thing a month or spread out the same budget on lots of little things spread across the month? How does my love of the hunt relate to the state of my closet and dresser? When is less more?
I think as long as I love textiles and fibers, I will have to keep asking these questions. But I noticed something last month that I think is a big piece of the puzzle. Fashion requires a certain amount of experimentation to find what you love. And sometimes, what you love changes - either gradually from season to season or suddenly with a complete shift all at once. In periods of flux, people need to change wardrobes to express themselves, be comfortable, be confident, or be prepared. Naturally, that could result in a higher turnover of your closet at different peak points of flux in your life. Eventually, you may find yourself for long periods of time, relatively static in your tastes, your size, your needs... and there are the times to just keep what you have until it wears out and make gradual changes only when you replace worn garments. In those periods, I think it's important to think critically about what you bring in that duplicates what you already like. What things will you always buy if the price is right, and what will you pass on in times of stasis? Does this relative stasis free up resources to be able to make a larger purchase from time to time? Are there choices you can make when replacing items that will make even less replacement necessary?
I've decided to try a low-buy year to learn more about this and continue a path of self-examination in relation to shopping for, making, and wearing clothes. No hard & fast rules, but I definitely want to fit a few more no-buy months into 2021 and to be mindful about what I buy and why for the rest of the year and to make at least one blog post per month about how it's going.
A bit about me:
My grandmothers grew up in the Great Depression and their stories, skills, and resourcefulness made a beautiful mark on my heart. I am always making something, usually with fiber or textiles. I love scraps and reusing things and rescuing overlooked treasures. I think about a lot of things while I am making. Here is a record and, hopefully, a connection to the thread of my story.