A question that arises from thinking about sustainable clothing is the issue of fashion. Can we have sustainable fashion? With all of these long-lasting natural materials, does it make sense to change our wardrobe every season? On the positive side, having natural materials as the base of a fashion industry would be better for us and the environment than a fashion industry based on synthetic fibers. Fashion is very important to some people and, in my opinion, it is a personal choice to follow the latest fashion, or not. On the negative side, it seems wasteful to throw out clothing that could last many years or even a lifetime because of a whim in the fashion industry.
If we really want sustainable fashion we will have to move away from tightly tailored clothing and move towards more flexible designs that can adjust for weight loss and gain. A movement away from tightly tailored clothing would be difficult in our modern world. Traditionally, only the very wealthy and powerful could have tailored clothing. Tailored clothing is still a sign of status and wealth. Tailored clothing has long been a class issue. When Mohandas Gandhi put aside his Western-styled tailored clothing and dressed in the homespun cloth of India called khadi, he started a revolution. Never think clothing is not political. In fact, all our household decisions are.
There are many traditional cultures with clothing that can adjust for changes in body size and can have different functions. The great kilt, airsaid, and poncho can be worn as an overcoat or used as a sleeping blanket. The traditional sari, sarong, dhoti, and lungi is a piece of fabric, wrapped around the body in different ways. With these ideas in mind, sustainable fashion would be made from local, natural materials and designed to adjust for changes in body size. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our clothing was designed to be healthy for us, good for the environment, simple to make, having multiple uses, and easy to recycle?