Get Changed! The why and how to dress yourself the proper way: sustainably

in Handmade - 9 min read

Philosophical basis to dressing

We are all political agents (politicians) of our personal life philosophy, set of values and ethos, in this world.

If your intention is firmly set on longevity, the true kind, where you return, hold onto and not abate from Mother Nature’s lap, then you have to dress to please her.

Yet, have you ever seen or spoken to a green politician who would have donned a whole attire of sustainable clothes? One outfit, perhaps. And if you were to ask that person of the rest of her/his wardrobe? What would the answer most likely be?

“Ah, yeah, well… I do own multiple pieces of clothing made of organic cotton – have you followed H&M’s recent company policy changes(?), they have a wide selection of organic outfits for all ages, including children….

But I do choose brands that manufacture their products domestically, whenever I can, and no, I don’t own any polar fleece.”

At this point, with a self-satisfied grin on the face, our politician would secretly expect a pat on the shoulder and/or other accolades.

Great, but not good enough! Far from it.

Such measures will not have us in a sustainable world any time soon.

You ought to be not only better, but a good politician. So that, eventually, those with affiliation to a party (governing or in opposition) will take note, follow your lead and bring laws in the right direction.

One thing is for sure: all of us, the individuals comprising the “Grassroots Party”, are our own best inspiration (second only to Nature, of course). We should never wait for any lobbies to sway consciousness upwards.

Addressing dressing youest

That being said, open your mind wide. Put your left (receiving) hand on your heart and with the mightiest courage you can master, grab a pair of scissors.

We are kidding you not! It takes considerable bravery to self-craft your outlook, your genuine avatar, and become the “youest” you can be. And is the youest you worth it? It is up for you to decide.

When you achieve your youest, you are the Earthiest version of your being. Guaranteed. Why? Precisely because our ultimate source of inspiration is eternally Nature or – by extension – the Universe. Obviously, this Earthiest version of one’s being is infinitely more organically complex than the sheer attire one chooses as her/his outer skin.

However, for the purposes of this article let’s stick to clothing alone. It seems to be through this conscious way of clothing that we can best harmonize our vibration with the Earth’s pulses. Our clothing acts as an outer, therefore visible, palpable manifestation of our core values. It enhances the conveyance of our intention, of our auric energy field, and therefore our impression on the other-than-us world.

When this alignment is found, its material expression of any kind will be the most awe-inspiring. A cathartic experience to tear over. Shedding tears of joy, of basking in this cosmic union and unison.

So, let’s get you acquainted with our cosmology.

Principles first

Fit when edible

Wear only materials you could theoretically pass through your digestion free of intoxication. This is extremely important, crucial from a “cosmorality” viewpoint, where benevolence permeates everything. The intimacy and vulnerable character of one’s digestive tract is – in a principle plain – the utmost of tests. Who in the healthy mind wants to self-inflict a gut mayhem, consciously?

So, if you couldn’t eat it, don’t wear it.

Go native

Extend your consciousness to the origin of your materials. For instance if you are looking at silk, you should consider whether those silk worms were harmed in any way in the process.

Going a step even further, if it is an animal fiber or skin (leather) you are after, check into how that animal impacts the land(scape). Question the way it is raised (if not wild), whether it is in harmony with nature’s self-renewing capacity. Ask whether the species is native to the place of origin of your (raw)material.

This latter criterion pretty much rules out sheep and lamb’s wool (fleece and hide alike) in your resourcing from just about anywhere around the world. Except for the center of origin of its wild progenitor, present-day Fertile Crescent: eastern Syria, Iraq, southwestern Iran, Kuwait.

In other words, forget high-prized New Zealand, Australian, Italian or British wools (coarse to super-soft). And don’t buy alpaca, vicuña, llama hair and the like from outside their native Andean regions.

For camel hair you would ethically go to the Saharan and Arabian deserts (Dromedary). Alternatively, to the Central Asian steppe region of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan (Bactrian camel), or forget it altogether.

Ethics, ethics, ethics! We owe this to the Earth in retrospect too, for all our race’s ignorance in introducing species where they did not belong, throughout history.

Trace your fibers

Following the concept of genuine sourcing based on the genetic traceability back to the center of origin, invariably applied to plants too, you will likely bend towards wearing most proudly, if not exclusively, whatever materials have authentic roots at your place. Meaning that they were not introduced by humans. You should be looking at your biome as region of reference.

Before you grab a ball of cotton yarn to turn into baby clothes or thread your needle for stitching fancier garments together, be discerning. Read up. Do your research, taking advantage of the scientific studies out there, separate useful information from chaff and disperse your confusion.

Educate ignorance into conscientious consciousness.

The convoluted case of cotton made straighter

As an insofar frequent user of cotton clothes in Europe, it made me wonder where the origins of this global favorite fiber plant lie. Is it Egypt, India or perhaps elsewhere? It proved to be a bit more difficult case to untangle, but I found the effort worth my while.

The way I’ve come to understand it reading through some scientific research pages, on a prehistoric time scale, cotton originated from one wild progenitor species native to coastal south Africa. This is called Gossypium herbaceum ssp. africanum. Its seed being resistant to prolonged immersion in seawater, by the means of oceanic currants the plant traveled across the Indian and Pacific oceans all the way to Australia and the Americas. In Mesoamerica and South America it eventually formed two distinct species lineages, leading to G. hirsutum and G. barbadense, respectively.

Closing in in time to human scale history and all its implications with cotton on a whole, turns out (focus on chapter 5. Domestication of the Cultivated Cottons in the study) that thanks to ancient trade routes paralleling the east coast of Africa northward, across the Arabian Peninsula and into the west coast of India, very early on, a fourth big player of the later cotton might have broken off G. herbaceum, forming the G. arboreum lineage.

These four more distinct genetic lineages, within or around their centers of diversity, underwent an extremely drawn out domestication process, nearly simultaneously and independently, in four far-apart corners of the world. In the case of each of these, 4000-5500-year-old archeobotanical remains have been found in forms of seeds and cloth or netting fragments.

But where does cotton we now use really originate from?

As a result of age-old domestication processes, the way cotton production looks today, is that the two New World species and their cultivars overwhelmingly dominate the market. Between the two of them, G. hirsutum or “Upland” cotton, with its four major modern cultivars (Acala, Delta, Plains and Eastern) has a share of over 90%. G. barbadense, having extra-long staple fibers but lower yield, fills in the remainder of roughly 10% on the market. Some of these cultivars are called “Pima”, others (confusingly enough) “Egyptian” cotton cultivars.

If Egypt is your nearest cotton producer, at least make sure that what you are getting is one of the Old World cottons. G. herbaceum is still cultivated on small scale in several regions of Africa (and Asia). G. arboreum on the other hand is a significant crop plant in India and Pakistan. When buying Indian or Pakistani cotton, choose this species, rather than any of the New World cottons. And vice versa, pick barbadense, if you live in South America and especially if you are located in Peru, but opt for hirsutum if you call Mexico or Guatemala your home, in Mesoamerica.

By all means, steer clear from genetically modified cotton fibers! Which brings up the next major point of principles.

Be organic

Youest will always choose organic (bio, eco) products, that’s for certain – ask it!

Seek out naturally tanned leather, hemp cordage and get busy designing, making your very own earthing footwear. Literally ground yourself in those organics.

Primal in processing

Stop at primary processing, by which we mean to only benefit yourself, youest, with something you could have made or some other artisan made with the simplest tools and techniques.

A good example to the exact opposite on the clothing market, are the hard-to-guess (sometimes even hard-to-pronounce) material component names, some of which claim to be natural in origin. It may be so, but that pure origin is lost in the lengthy and complex lab metamorphosis the initial fibers are subjected to.

For the same reason avoid bamboo as knitting yarn or fabric and stick to bamboo knitting needles instead.

Simple or nothing!

Handmade

Support handmade whenever possible.

The best being handmade by you (for youest), but this should not prevent you from purchasing something factory made, if only that is available.

Closest to you

When the previous principles are followed through in earnest, it should only come as second nature to you to prioritize between sources that are the closest to your location and expand your search outward from there. Yet, there lies a caveat here, which leads us to the next principle.

So, consider your doorstep the origo, the point of reference.

Heirloom quality

Quality – in an artisanal and ecological sense – trumps origin. Respect youest as you would the Earth – with the utmost distinguishment. Thus, be aware and respectful of species’ origin (in our neo-Darwinian sense), but beyond that, honor ethical craftsmanship over national or ethnic pride.

None of us is born into this carnate life indebted with undue loyalty to a culture. We are all conceived thanks to the Universe’s granting of our wish to be reborn. Think about that.

Before you settle for an inferior product with ties to your pedigree, express kinship with the perhaps more remote, but also more genuine crafts person of that trade, first.

Youest wears heirloom – hands down. Do not be satisfied with anything short of heirloom. Regardless of the intended use of that wear or accessory.

Youest will likely have, or already has, at least one heir who is going to be eager to dress like youest. Like mom, dad, grandma or grandad… Be ready to generously pass clothes down to them, so they can inherit quality principles.

Logics and logistics

Here, you can take inspiration from these principles and the additional ones you come up with, personalizing those to your own needs. This is what we refer to as ecological customization.

Another great source of inspiration is what you perceive, condense and distill from all the good and bad news out there, which news leave a motivating imprint on your soul and psyche.

Then, depending on your sensibility and level of readiness, you start acting on all those emotions and thoughts.

Step in front of the mirror and begin looking at your image from bottom up. Feel yourself growing up to the task of matching your new paradigm with a palpable and novel self-emanation into the world.

Live up to your congenial feelings toward all that is Earthly and let those feelings be expressed accordingly. In material, style and craftsmanship.

Self-help

Depart from the concept of empoweredness, ability and capability.

You understood a calling from the Earth at the right time, and it is personal: you yourself felt addressed to be the sustainable change, the changemaker. This is your quest to bring to success.

While such a grand makeover is not necessary for you to go it alone, approach it that way and try to seek as little help as reasonable. Stick to a self-made image. This will ultimately leave you with a great sense of invulnerability and independence. Self-reliance is the way to go.

Prevent being overwhelmed and make a list of priorities.

See what clothing item you would be the most excited to begin with, and acquire the necessary skills and materials inherent to that project.

Make it fun for yourself.

Take a course or two, in person or online, to seek out the basic and the slightly more advanced tasks, motions, holds, tricks you need to master. Find out what hand tools are necessary and get the best of them, even if you have to spend more money and wait out for their availability. Have a keen eye on what those artisans use that you look up to the most.

Think holistically and make the quality of hand tools an integral part of your sustainable wardrobe project.

Avoid plastic content on/in them at all costs. Collect heirloom tools as you wish your ready-made clothes to be.

All of the above considerations will be lasting marks of your mindful life and presence. The Earth will thank you for this and will shine brightly through you in return.

Roland Magyar

Passionate rewilder, who lives outside of the world of compromises.

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