A History of Sustainability in Fashion

Authored by: Sasha Rabin Wallinger

Routledge Handbook of Sustainability and Fashion

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  August  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415828598
eBook ISBN: 9780203519943
Adobe ISBN: 9781134082957


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In Gone with the Wind, Scarlet O’Hara’s green velvet dress, made from converted window dressings, is iconic, but not as an early representation of sustainability in fashion (Gable et al., 1993). Yet, its construction from previously used materials, resourceful design and interpretation of then current styles are contributing ideas in ethical and environmental responsibility in fashion today. One could argue that a reason this dress is not frequently mentioned in contemporary sustainability in fashion is that there is not currently a defined area of research where historic moments in fashion would be juxtaposed with similar milestones in environmental history. Although the two areas of study have been well documented independently, there is very little research that has been conducted in the intersections between these two fields. This chapter argues that the ability to strategically connect past behaviors that influence the contemporary movement of sustainability in fashion is one method that empowers action for change in sustainability. I identified the need for this type of approach during my Masters research, where I recognized the potential of uncovering hidden historical connections and practices that are the foundations of what we call sustainability in fashion, to better understand the dynamics of the field.

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