‘A Suit, of His Own Earning’

Fashion supremacy and sustainable fashion activism

Authored by: Otto von Busch

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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It is no coincidence that Henry David Thoreau starts off his Walden (1992 [1854]) experiments on independence, self-determination and autonomy with a critique of what he sees as people’s everyday relation to fashion, a relation that affects us all, whether we want it or not. Thoreau draws parallels between our obedience to fashion, our submission before fate, and our surrender to power, as we uncritically adhere to the authority of trends:

When I ask for a garment of a particular form, my tailoress tells me gravely, ‘They do not make them so now’, not emphasizing the ‘They’ at all, as if she quoted an authority as impersonal as the Fates […] We worship not the Graces, nor the Parc«, but Fashion. She spins and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveller’s cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.

( Thoreau, 1992 [1849/1854]: 16f.)

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