Since the democratisation of the clothing industry in the early 19th century, buyers have become increasingly disconnected from the creative and human aspects of the production of clothing. Arguably clothing is now valued less for its aesthetic qualities or because of the hours spent in its making, but more for the extent to which it serves current 'fashion'.
In a climate of increasing anxiety about the environmental and social impact of the contemporary global fashion industry, Rachel Worth suggests that, rather than seeking solutions only in the present, looking to history can assist in understanding better the challenges consumers face today in making decisions about the contents of their wardrobes, which, in turn, will impact on the nature of the future global fashion industry. She does not seek to offer simplistic historical solutions to contemporary problems, but explores ways in which it might be possible to bridge divides between knowledge of the past, current individual choice, and possible directions for future action.
The more we know about our clothes, the less likely it is that we will wear an item of clothing only a few times before replenishing it with newer purchases that are 'on trend'. By taking ownership of our personal clothing choices rather than feeling pressurised to respond to sophisticated marketing and to 'influencers', this book suggests how we might rethink our wardrobes in philosophical and practical ways in order to create a sense of order and beauty in our lives and to wrest control back from the increasing chaos of seemingly endless choice that perpetuates unsustainable, impersonal and fast fashion.
List of Illustrations
1. The Hidden Language of Clothing
- Nursery Rhymes, Fabric and Clothing
- Rhymes about Clothing and Class
- Rhymes with an Advisory or Cautionary (Clothing) Theme
- Rhymes about Clothing Poverty
2. From Democratisation to Fast Fashion
- Technological Change and the Cotton Industry
- Developments in the Making and Retailing of Ready-made Clothing
- Adoption of the Sewing Machine
- Retailing Revolution (I)
- The Democratisation of Shoe Production
- Retailing Revolution (II)
- Democratising Colour
3. Sustainability and Clothing in Context
- The Emergence of Fashion
- The Road to Fast Fashion
- The Backlash Against Fast Fashion
- The Fabric of Fashion Conundrum
- Transparency on the Label
- The Use of Fur and Feathers
4. The Human Factor: Clothing, Growth and Alternative Economic Paradigms
- 'Sweating' and the Fight for a Minimum Wage
- The Move to Outsourcing
- The 'Economics' of Fast Fashion
5. Clothing, Nature and the Environment
- Clothing in Pastoral Narratives
- Nature Fights Back
- Nature and the Arts and Crafts Movement
6. Philosophies of Dress
- Oscar Wilde: The Philosophy of Dress
- Mary Eliza Haweis; The Art of Dress
- Eric Gill: Clothes
Rachel Worth is Professor of History of Dress and Fashion at the Arts University Bournemouth, UK. She is the author of Dress and Textiles (2002), Fashion for the People: A History of Clothing at Marks and Spencer (2006), Clothing and Landscape (2018) and Fashion and Class (2020).
"The social, cultural and physical entanglement of attire with status, aspiration and livelihood is vividly articulated in this rich discourse. Drawing on the work of great poets and writers including Clare and Hardy, the reader is drawn into a reflection on the relational aspects of being human in a more than human world."
– Dilys Williams, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, UK