There was a time, maybe about three years ago where I was going through what was not far from an ‘existential crisis,’ my ‘existential crisis phase’ was perhaps more accurately, ‘a moral dilemma’ but it felt like total crap and I think it deserves that description.
The inner conflict I experienced spurned, like most things, from the desire to be happy. Fulfilment eluded me for some time, I knew my problem was based on the fact I didn’t have much money and my psychological need to buy new clothes. As a young woman, this just seems like a part of who I am, however, I was also on the road to discover who exactly that was too, which is where we establish a dilemma.
My entire wardrobe is comprised of second-hand clothes I had initially found in op shops. In my opinion they helped define me, it had become my past-time and wearing unique clothes became a form of self-expression. Suddenly, (it really was sudden) the recycled clothes I spent my days hunting for, were regurgitated into to the mass-market; ersatz counter-culture materialised in un-ethically produced, cheaply made nana 90s dresses for $100 in General Pants. As my world crumbled into the cookie-cutter look I so wanted to avoid (ii), a fog cleared before my eyes and I grew in disgust by the modern world. It’s celebrity wannabes, it’s un-ironic use of internet slang, it’s sweatshop made in China imitation jersey, it’s iPhone battery issues, it’s horrible 3D movies, it’s inclusion of a large metallic zipper on the back of everything! Don’t even get me started on music. (i) This culture, apparently of my generation, was sufficiently upsetting enough to cause me to reject my love of clothes, as it had been trampled into the earth by hoards of people that had once called you ‘weird’ or ‘hipster’ (actually worse) and are now most likely teasing their beard for fullness. I spitefully disengaged from consumerism to the extreme that I took to dressing like a dag, because I was ‘more than trendy clothes’. It was a rather dark period.
This unleashed a whole other set of issues, where I was faced with the scorn and judgement of others, my own feelings of not wanting to judge others and the societal pressure to conform. Above all, to love clothes means and other fashion lovers would know, that dressing is a thing to look forward to and I was depriving myself of one of life’s little pleasures.
Upon realising this, I was eventually able to wear my clothes again, save up and buy some made-to-last new ones and celebrate and relish in, the democratisation of fashion; the idea of ‘style over trends’ (i).
This entire sordid experience, I have since discovered, is called the ‘bubble up’ effect and is the inverse of the ‘trickle down’ system in the fashion industry; where inspiration for trends are taken from the lower echelon to develop new designs (ii). Apparently, this is developed on the idea of ‘cultural capital’ where something is seen as ‘cool’, by the nature of a certain sub-culture and transformed into something ‘trendy’ and ‘mainstream.’ It is cyclic, forever changing and is always moving onto the next thing. Which is lucky for me, I guess. Though there is certainly irony in the whole debacle, a fast-fashion trend, based on a sub-culture challenging it’s very fundamentals, is pretty funny.
General Pants, 2010, Faux 90s print dress <https://img1.etsystatic.com/032/0/5543772/il_340x270.624781535_h13c.jpg>
(i) Berry, J, 2014. Week 5: Contemporary Fashion, Street Style & Subcultures– an overview, accessed 24 August 2014, https://bblearn.griffith.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-1010412-dt-content-rid-2625166_1/courses/2432QCA_3145_SB/Course%20Content/Week%205%20Street%20Style%20%26%20Subcultures/fashion%205%20street%20style%20lecture.pdf
(ii) Welters, Linda & Lillethun, Abby 2007. The fashion reader. New York: Berg. Ch. 45. Polhemus, Ted. Trickle down, bubble up, pp.327-331