Nov 15, 2023
Fashion rolls off my tongue like a dirty word. I know, I know. That's harsh. I make and sell clothes! What the dizzy? Honestly, I've tried to talk myself down from that position for what feels like forever, but it's just how I feel. So in recent years, I've been open to just… exploring it. This newsletter is part of that exploration.
What is (capital F) Fashion, if not the marketing arm of the clothing production industry?
I heard it described recently as an artistic solution to a practical problem (i.e. needing clothes) gone awry, and so separated from its function that it has lost utility. Broken.
At any rate, by now it's an industry saturated with fast-to-market, resource-extractive, quantity-over-quality expectations. Even Fashion that isn’t officially “fast fashion” is in the thrall of these standards! To paraphrase Amanda Lee McCarty on her exhaustively researched podcast, Clotheshorse,* all fashion is basically fast fashion now. It all works the same way.
Fashion (the culture, not necessarily the brands or people working for them) tells us we need these over-produced things, and we need more of them faster and cheaper. Love and respect are crucial to your survival, so the coded message, of course, is that you need these things to gain love and respect. This message, naturally, is BS.
Fashion creates the market for the industry. It enlists us in our own exploitation.
It’s an evil witch selling poisoned lace to someone—you, my love—who is already beautiful.
What about clothes just fit? And make sense? And do what they're supposed to do?
Cool, address all these things if you make your own clothes! But what if you don’t? (…And maybe don’t want to start?)
If that’s you, you’re left hanging without much cultural support because there are so few options.
Your clothes should work.
Abbie, my lovely model here, was one of my first made-to-measure customers.
When I first met Abbie, she told me about the synthetic clothing she was tired of buying.
They pill, they stain, and they hold odors. She wasn’t imagining this. You’ve probably noticed it too: these are hallmarks of plastic-based fabrics.
(Blends with polyester, acrylic, nylon, and elastane are almost all you can find in most stores these days: in fast fashion, sure—but also in so-called “legacy” brands.)
Finding clothes that fit the way she wanted could be a hassle, too. And so we made some things to-measure.
She was my inspiration to start offering made-to-measure clothing to everyone.
I mean, why mess with a slew of graded sizes—which still might not extend far enough, or still might not fit the way the wearer wants them too (hello, different bust sizes and waist lengths!)—when you could just grab some measurements and go from there?
It just makes so much sense.
BUT THERE'S MORE.
Unless you’re a nudist, in which case you probably aren’t reading this newsletter, you spend most of your life in your clothes. Your clothes: literally pressed up against your body, all the time. Shouldn’t they be pretty good??
At minimum, you shouldn’t have to wage a continual low-grade war against your wardrobe: wondering when it’s going to fail you, or worse, harm you. Pinching elastic, stuck zippers, scratchy labels, gaping button plackets, hazardous additives in the cloth, micro-plastics shedding into your food… I could go on. It’s exhausting.
For me personally, a turning point was when I bought a shirt from (the now defunct) American Apparel, and one of the sleeves felt weirdly scratchy inside. I finally took a close look at it, and the reason it was scratchy is that it was partially HEAT-GLUED TOGETHER. There was a ridge of hard melted plastic along the haphazardly sewn inside seam. I couldn't figure out how to remove the melted plastic, and I didn't want to wear it: it was so distractingly uncomfortable! I’m pretty sure I gave the shirt to Goodwill, where it became someone else’s problem.
I’m done buying problems to pass on to other people. And I certainly don't want to make those problems.
The Chore Dress is a Raff Co. essential because it has such high marks in versatility, scalability, comfort, style, maternity-friendliness, gender-neutralness, non-restriction, and of course big and highly functional pockets. After all… your clothes should work, hashtag #yourclothesshouldwork.
I finally read Shrill (by Lindy West)* at the beginning of this year, and way back then(!) I saved this passage to share with you:
“Women matter. Women are half of us. When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time, that moves the rudder of the world. It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women's safety and humanity are secondary to men's pleasure and convenience.
I watched my friends become slender and beautiful, I watched them get picked and wear J.Crew and step into small boats without fear, but I also watched them starve and harm themselves, get lost and sink. They were picked by bad people, people who hurt them on purpose, eroded their confidence, and kept them trapped in an endless chase. The real scam is that being bones isn't enough either. The game is rigged. There is no perfection.”
That sums up my "beauty philosophy" pretty well!
Wherever women are (self-defined or societally-defined), and wherever the fashion/beauty industry finds us and gets its claws into us—in the isle, or gazing into the screen, planning a brands's new collection, or in a factory somewhere, making the stuff—it's true: that game is rigged. And in whatever capacity we have, we need to all be in on de-rigging it together.
*=FYI, I do not have any connection to these people, personal or financial. I'm only mentioning them because I like their work (at least, the work I mentioned!).