I can’t remember the last time when I wore a pair of jeans. It was perhaps a few months before the pandemic struck. Since then, my three pairs have hung forlornly in my closet (aired occasionally), waiting to be worn on an appropriate occasion—namely, a trip to cooler climes, where I don’t mind being squeezed into thick and sturdy denim to keep my pins warm.
With the pandemic, not only has the way we live changed, but also what we wear. Living in a hot, humid environment in the tropics, I’ve always veered towards comfortable clothing. In India, we’ve had the pleasure of wearing beautiful handloom sarees in elegant drapes, the salwar (the comfortable drawstring pants which are so easily adjustable after a heavy carb-laden meal) and cushy kameez (loose-fitting upper body garment), and even now contemporary ethical fashion that combines traditional comfort and modern chicness.
For the pandemic I dug out all my clothes which are billowy, adjustable (with minimal effort), and made from breathable, natural fabrics, such as hand-woven and block-printed cotton, linen, and hemp. Out came the kaftans, the kurtas, the harem pants, the pajamas, the salwar kameezes, sarees, and dresses. For over a year, I’ve lived in clothes that are essentially buttonless, adjustable, and lightweight, effectively ending any residual pinching, scrimping, and sweatiness that I would, on occasion, quietly tolerate. It’s an idea worth embracing, simply for the following reasons:
Buy What You Love and Make It Last Longer
One of my favorite pieces of clothing is a kaftan I bought in Cambodia over a decade ago. It has fallen apart at the seams many times, but each time I mend it in a jiffy. It’s my lazy Sunday-at-home staple dress. I don’t wear it in public too often, but when I do it draws in compliments. The advent of fast fashion, however, has seen a decline in the number of times clothing is worn. Globally, the number of times a garment is worn before it is discarded has decreased 36% as compared to what it was over 15 years ago, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. In fact, in the U.S. clothes are worn only for a quarter of the global average.
To quote British Designer Vivienne Westwood, “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.” By choosing great quality comfortable clothing that you really love, you will be able to wear it for many years (despite any inches gained or lost) and more often, while keeping it out of the landfill and helping to build a closet of clothes that you love.
Dress for the Climate
Living in a coastal metropolis, the weather forecast through the year is either hot or humid or wet, with a few cool days in winter when I excitedly take out my cashmere shawls. Natural breathable materials such as organic cotton or rain-fed indigenous cotton, linen, and now hemp comprise wardrobe staples, which keep me cool and dry. The occasional silk and wool are stored away for travel to the cooler parts of the country during winters. The world has become hotter thanks to human activity, says the Sixth Assessment Report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, with 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900. And we need to dress accordingly.
Lastly, Dress for Yourself
It took me nearly four decades on Earth to be completely confident in the way I dress. Comfort clothing is precisely that—it keeps you calm, cool, and comfortable in your skin. It’s not easy to break up with fast fashion (and ethical fashion has also been labeled “boring.”) But you can make these beautiful floaty garments work for you. I spice them up by pairing them with beautiful accessories. I buy ethical fabrics and get them stitched in my favorite styles. And some clever styling can work wonders. A droopy waist can be cinched with a belt. A dull neckline can be brightened up with the right necklace.
For just that extra inch of comfort on my trouser’s waist, I’m willing to go several miles.