Whilst Britain battles scorching temperatures and the nation dons its summer wear, I find myself contemplating the nature of women’s clothing more than ever. One of my first days starting at sixth form college, a girl walked into class wearing a beautiful summer dress. When someone piped up to say they liked it, she exclaimed, ‘It has pockets!’. All the girls in the classroom jumped around to look in amazement. This led me to conclude that women’s clothing really is not made for women if finding pockets is something exciting.
How has the industry been allowed to filter high fashion down to such a poor quality range of clothing? I am certain no woman is a stranger to clothing being see-through, impractical, and uncomfortable to move in (I’m looking at you long-sleeved tops!). Even when undressing, I am sure most of us can relate to seeing red imprints from seams, waistbands and straps: and having to rip them off just to feel at ease.
I vividly remember as an adolescent endlessly searching for a dress without a ridiculously high hem that allowed you to, you know, move. Needless to say, this small endeavour took years. Of course, now that the internet has revolutionised the way we shop, unlimited styles and price ranges are available. How you dress is essential in carving out your sense of identity: from making good first impressions to expressing your state of mind. It is almost unsurprising that high street stores are now endangered; perhaps in part due to the restricting range of clothing in-store compared to the expanse online. However, with this rise in fast fashion, clothing is becoming cheaper and, in turn, of less quality. This high turnover of replacing clothes perhaps, in part, contributes to the gender stereotype that women ‘constantly shop’. Naturally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with shopping. It can often be a therapeutic and liberating past time. However, there seems to be an inequality between male and female lines that presets the stereotype.
Furthermore, women’s clothing too often lacks pockets. Appallingly, this is reportedly due to production lines wishing to save material and labour on a basic component you can easily learn to make on YouTube. This means women have to carry a bag. For anyone who knows me, I blatantly refuse to carry a purse or a handbag, simply because I cannot abide by them: they are uncomfortable, a nuisance, and too easy to leave behind somewhere. With far too many jeans having only two functioning back pockets, sometimes with the mocking parody of fake front pockets (who’s idea was that?!), personal security is a major concern. After all, the most common damage to phones is through dropping them down toilets…
The devastatingly tragic quality of clothing means, from my own experience, that clothes rarely ever last a year. Regardless of retailer or price, I have the same issue: longevity never seems to be a consideration. Discussing this with my significant other, he was so surprised at this information and said all his clothes survive up to 3 to 5 years. Of course, this is totally individualistic, but the very fact that male clothing has the ability to last so long shocks me. Comparing my clothes to his (which included ‘borrowing’ shirts and jumpers!), women’s garments are thinner, much less durable, and more prone to visible wearing such as pilling and running thin after a few runs in the wash. Therefore, this leads to a genuine gap in the average expense women have to budget for clothing. And there is often no compensation for this. Women’s clothing is no cheaper than men’s. In fact, it is often more expensive, especially when you consider components of womenswear. Bikinis are sold as two pieces, not as a set of the top and bottom as you would rationally expect: which alone are the cost of a swimsuit. All this for much, much less material, practicality and technology of fabric.
With Extinction Rebellion taking headlines by storm, the idea of grossly ‘single-wear’ impractical clothing has to be scrutinised more closely. Even looking back at our parents and grandparents’ wardrobes, they still have decades-old clothing hanging up as if bought yesterday: The oldest thing I own is a pair of 5-year-old socks with holes in! In the face of vast environmental efforts to reduce global warming, fast fashion needs change. Fast.