By Elena Ender, Guest Writer
Like many moderately hip young people, I go thrifting for parts of my wardrobe. It’s a great way to find pieces no one else has at a great price. During one of my excursions, I came across a like-new T-shirt that I couldn’t resist getting: black with a simple white star pattern and a green alien head with the words “We out here” on the breast pocket.
“Sick as frick,” I whispered to myself gently, profoundly, enthusiastically as I paid a measly two dollars for it.
It wasn’t until I took it home and flipped it inside out to throw in the laundry did I notice the shirt’s tag. It read: “If washing becomes completely necessary give to momma or gf then go skate.”
I was stunned by the lack of necessary commas and capitalization as well as the sexist values this company possessed. I wondered if I could wear this shirt with a clear conscience, if my values as a feminist and my values as a Christian would be compromised by wearing this silly shirt, or rather, if my image as those would be compromised by this. If someone saw my shirt, liked it and decided to do further research on how to obtain one of their own, would I be okay representing what they found?
In the simplest of concepts, I wonder if what we consume should matter to us or to others. There are so many deep layers to ethics in consuming certain products, but with clothing it is far more blatant who and what you like, and what you want to say through your image.
We all speak through our clothing, even if that statement is: “I’m cheap, lazy and bad at fashion so I got this at Target and am hoping for the best.” The most Christian thing to do might be to buy free-trade textiles and make your own shapeless clothing with your mom. The most practical thing to do is see an item that fits and buy it.
The common APU conversation is: Buy local and support brands that have mission statements you wholeheartedly believe in. This is ideal, but seemingly unrealistic.
Psychology major senior Sarah Brackbill, director of communications within the Student Government Association (SGA), decided to, as “@helpsarahsimplify,” her Instagram page’s bio says, “Reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ [she has] and focus on supporting brands that benefit those in need.” She created the page this summer to sell the clothing she owns that have no true significance to her.
“I do stay away from brands that I know do not treat their employees fairly,” Brackbill said. “I am more willing to pay a higher price for something that I like if it supports a cause I am passionate about… I think that it is important to be conscious of where you invest your time and money.”
It is noble to give up a trendy wardrobe and go through the hassle for a more simple, guilt-free one. “I definitely see clothing and fashion as a way to express who you are,” Brackbill added. “I would say that who I am is in some way represented by the clothing that I wear. I tend to clothe myself in ‘simple’ but quality clothing.” Her personal representation in her style is reflected in the fact that it is as respectable and respectful to others as her clothing is.
However, as it is a gray area for those who don’t see it to be a passion point, I don’t think it’s necessary for us as Christians to swear off less-than-Christian brands. Kezziah Costello, senior communication studies major student leader, shared her fashion philosophy.
“I think clothing acts as a visual representation of your personality,” Costello said. “It’s often your first chance to communicate to others who you are, and people can learn a lot about you simply from looking at how you dress. In a way, your clothing speaks for you before you ever have a chance to open your mouth.” Her idea is honest and empowering. “I place a lot of value in clothing that makes me feel happy and confident,” Costello added.
This is the mindset I believe we all should have:
Dress to be the best version of yourself. Style is an art and form of expression. So if you love a bit of art that isn’t blessed by the Pope, you should feel free to enjoy it regardless.
After a mental moral debate, I wore the alien shirt. I wore it, not only because I still found it to be an amusing shirt, but because I didn’t want my choices to be made for me by this company or by the society around me. I wore it to empower myself in a simple way and to say a polite: “Screw it, screw them, I bought it and washed it, I get to wear it.”
It was ironic, feminist and even slightly punk, the way I chose to represent myself in it, so I don’t regret not burning it or returning it. Other people could have come to another conclusion and that’s fine, but the fact that I put in the thought and felt comfortable in my own outcome was enough to settle my debate.
Above all, I’d advise you to follow your convictions.
If you do feel convicted to sell your meaningless clothes to make room for an ethical wardrobe, do it. It would be a rewarding journey to help a plethora of people. But if you feel convicted to express yourself in whatever clothes you like and feel confident in, without regards to societal pressures to do the former, then do that. Ignore the judgement of peers or the marketing of companies and feel comfortable in your own fabric. Other people should not be the reason you aren’t representing yourself authentically. It should be that simple.
Elena Ender is a junior English major with a writing concentration. Her hobbies include: busting out spontaneous haikus, building IKEA furniture, screaming Fall Out Boy lyrics in the dead of night, drinking an abundance of coffee with sugar, and pondering the science of how glow-in-the-dark stars work.