In Defence of the Materialist

So often materialism is dismissed as superficial, shallow and often not worth talking about amongst the truly important issues going on in the world. And when you consider the famine in Yemen, the slaughters in Syria, and the reign of Trump, it can possibly be hard to argue that anxiously and excitedly waiting to see the fashion hits and misses on red carpets somewhat fulfils the stereotype. However, I would suggest that this is the time that fashion, and art in general, is so crucial. Not just for a way of expressing condemnation of regimes and support for minorities, which so many artists have been doing, but important for the ordinary person to find a bit happiness and brightness in our otherwise, what can sometimes be, gloomy world.

A couple of personal experiences within the past year have taken place, causing anger and pain to myself and those closest to me. While material things have by no stretch of the imagination, healed all wounds, at times they have acted as a little plaster to stem the fury and make me a little happier for a brief while. Nearly a year ago, three days before Christmas my family life began imploding and I turned to many sources of comfort. Friends, family, food (and lots of it), but also my other close companions, Asos, Topshop, Zara and Urban Outfitters. While this had a very negative impact on my bank balance (hello overdraft!) it did help to ease some of the pain, perhaps only fleetingly, of my reality. When I showed a pair of outrageous boots bought during this period of time to my mum- which remain only admired and unworn- I expected the usual questions of how I would be able find a successful compromise between the heel height and my clumsiness. But no, instead I got a smile and a story of her killing it on Kensington High street back in the 70s in shoes not too dissimilar. These boots were worth it, not just giving me some amusement and light relief, but reviving memories of my mother’s glamourous past. The power of clothes and fashion, and its relationship with memories, was again shown to me by an aunt during my latest visit to her. After an evening of heated political disagreement (Brexit still causing me grief), we reunited in the morning over her clothes. Both fans of a bit of sparkle and glamour, and luckily being the same size as my aunt at my age, I left her house with a bag full of dresses and a head full of stories, love and memories. Each dress she pulled out of her overflowing wardrobe had a story, mostly good, sometimes sad. But through her dresses, it was as if she had chronicled her life, and it was a true honour to be entrusted with her history.

So when people claim fashion is pointless, you can argue that fashion is a $1.2 trillion global industry, provides innumerable jobs, inspires hundreds of movies and books, and provides a platform for self-expression. Or you can look at the personal stories of fashion, like the recent story of Tess Newall’s lost wedding dress that had been handed down generation to generation since 1870. You can look at the simple happiness and joy that fashion has the ability to create.

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