Slow Fashion In A Brown Middle-Class Family

Fast fashion has been one of the biggest culprits behind environmental destruction. Due to this, sustainable fashion, the latest buzzword, has seeped into every ‘it’ brand’s lingo. With customers conforming to environmentally-friendly choices, up-and-coming labels wear this term as a badge of honour. While the extent to which they genuinely align with the larger objective of sustainability remains vague, this claim, nevertheless, ensures customers feel good and keep returning to swipe their credit cards for a dopamine hit. Win-win, you see? I also have been here – guiltily adding (useless) items to my cart when the best choice was, perhaps, to let it go.

Nevertheless, I am taken back to my childhood when we too adopted sustainable practices. These choices, looking different than they do today, did serve the larger goal of slow fashion and recycling fabrics.

I am the only child from an Indian middle-class family. I have inherited countless clothes from my older cousins. For example, after using a garment for some years, my eldest sister would pass it to the middle sister – who diligently repeated the same when that garment would no longer fit her.

Funnily, even after witnessing innumerable washes and myriad memories, these fabrics embraced me on arriving at my doorstep. I vividly remember getting into these garments with zeal as if they were haute couture. However, the practice wasn’t born because we couldn’t afford new clothes or wanted to penny-pinch.

After years of use, when I grew out of it, my mother or grandmother religiously turned them into dust cloth. The precious (or luckier) few, still intact, met a different fate. They were donated or handed down to distant cousins younger than me.

Repurposed pillow cover

Some days my grandmother got her creative juices flowing by repurposing these fabrics. Like, when she snagged an embellished skirt that I intended to do away with. On joking, if she had plans to wear it, she stayed particularly mum. The following day, stepping into her house, I saw the skirt turned into a pillow cover.

Now, I play a game each time somebody new steps into her house. I break the ice by asking them to guess this pillow cover’s role in its previous life. While I rarely get the correct answer, I do get good laughs.

Unbeknownst to me, these sustainable clothing rituals blended with artistic sensibilities had become a norm in our family – thereby prolonging every cloth’s lifespan.

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