My Dress Is Your Dross

And vice versa. So glad we do not share a wardrobe, eh?

Modern people generally do not make their garments from scratch. Few of us cultivate reed swamps, cotton fields, or flocks of sheep. Oh, there are enthusiasts who do, and we appreciate they industry in shearing, carding, spinning, and weaving. Bless them – whatever they clothe themselves in is right. They have earned the right to wear what they like, and it is not for others to criticise.

Primitive societies are also in this position, and do the same from necessity – not sport. Kudos to them.

However, down our street sheep and cotton fields are non-existent. We grow our clothes at Big W or Target. As a consequence, we are a people dressed to the taste and fancy of others. The designers and makers of the manufacturing world have dictated to us what we will look like – the shops that retail these garments merely flog what arrives in big boxes. If hair shirts arrived from China we would be scratching the next day…

The designers decide what we will look like – their factories put it together, and in some cases the garment workers are kept in virtual slavery to produce it. No Miriam Karlin to organise them – it is work or starve – silence or jail. At least when we had an in-country Australian garment industry there were sweatshops without armed guards.

Now in the haute couture world, the decisions of the designers are not required to be economical or sensible. The works for hoi polloi may be dull and inconsistently-sized, but they never approach the outright lunacy of the fashion catwalk. It would appear to be a game, but played with the wrong ball on the wrong field.

The choice of garment in a primitive society is governed by two factors; what they could make and where it was to be worn. The areas of the world that were warm and comfortable saw small clothing or none at all, and did not worry. The cold, wet, rough places developed basic designs that really were only one style. It might be decorated for swank, but underneath that it kept in warmth and kept out water. And no-one worried if everyone looked alike – alike was what the rulers wanted.

Nowadays we get what advertising and imagination can provide – from simple and utilitarian to complex and useless. The fact of modern materials means you can make clothing do almost anything, even if it is a bad idea. The fact of modern money and sales means you can pay nearly any price for clothing…as long as it is a higher one than the goods sold at the chain stores. There is a Paris end of town in every town.

The fashion wars also have guerillas – the old and the young. The latter are more easily swayed by the siren song of fashion but the latter have long since gone deaf. We have plenty of old clothes that fit old bodies, and comfortably. Our minds are also comfortable with the occasional bulge or tear, and most of us have accumulated stocks of ugly garments to last our remaining years. We rarely need to shop for more. As we do not worry about how we look, nor how you do, we can walk unheeding past a clothing store on the way to the pub or the tea shop.

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