What is a Slow Fashion retreat and why should you come to it....?
Have you heard this term in your travels? Seen it on Social Media? Read about it in the newspaper? Heard celebrities talking about it? If you you are curious why I am running a retreat around Slow Fashion, and want to know what it will entail, please read on!
The term Slow Fashion came about as response to the intense commodification and extreme pace of modern mainstream fashion. It borrows the concept from Slow Food, a movement started in the 80's by an Italian activist as a reaction to the opening of a fast food outlet of McDonald's in Rome, a city with a long storied culinary tradition. Slow Food celebrates the food of a place by supporting local and regional agricultural traditions. If these ideas are intriguing, I encourage you to do some research about the topic. There is a ton of information out there to be found. It has ripples that extend into our daily lives.
In this context, Slow Fashion arose as a reaction to the flood of fast fashion that has overtaken our shopping in the past decades. In the bid to make ever increasingly fickle consumers shop more, manufacturers and stores began speeding up the cycle of new garment lines, while also lowering the cost, and quality, of what is available. If you think a T shirt costing $2, or a pair of jeans for $5 is wrong, you are right! There is no way to produce either of those garments for those prices without abusing the chain of production, including the sourcing and treatment raw materials, the labor to assemble the garment, and the transportation to the store, not to mention the necessary profit margin to keep the store open. It's just not sustainable for a shirt to cost $2, unless it was on drastic sale... Again, if you are interested in any of the details around these issues I would point you to the ever growing body of study, beginning with the film The True Cost and Elizabeth Cline's book Overdressed. Either of those sources will give you ALL sorts of information to start with, and give you avenues to learn more.
What does this have to do with my retreat? And why would it be of interest to you? Let me explain. If you come to this forum often, you have heard and seen me talk about my handmade wardrobe. Scroll backwards in this blog and you will find many entries about making clothing and why I think it is important. Slowly (!) over the period of about five years I have come to have an almost entirely self-made wardrobe. I didn't set out to do this for political reasons. I gained weight, I got older, I couldn't find anything (I mean ANYTHING) in the stores that fit either my body or my sense of style. So I set about applying my skills of sewing and knitting, to make myself clothes that reflected who I am. I am finding these days that this is an ever evolving process. I am honing and culling, and my wardrobe is actually shrinking, but I am coming closer to loving everything in there. Getting dressed each day gets easier and easier. It has become a delicious challenge to pick the next item to be made. What do I actually need?
But I digress... I find myself speaking with anyone who will listen (smile) about sustainability in our systems whether it be food or fashion or energy or politics. I have no children, but still worry about how heavy my footprint is on the environment around me. Sometimes I am met with a blank stare, but more times than not my thoughts fall on fertile ground. Out of these conversations came a desire to make this issue something applicable to others in an educational setting, but with a big dose of fun thrown in! Building on the idea of my Slow Stitching retreat, which is a highlight for each of my past three years, I borrowed the structure and shifted the focus to garment making. And so last year the Slow Fashion Retreat was born.
It is my distinct pleasure to work with Katrina Rodabaugh, Cal Patch, and Jessica Lewis Stevens to share this world of Slow Fashion. These three women, each in their own ways, live such thoughtful, engaged, and creative lives, filled with color and pattern, texture and dimension. I find them to each embody so much of what is beautiful and expressive about the Slow Fashion movement, even if they might not use that term as readily. Katrina is steeped in the Slow Fashion world, bringing her inquisitive and curious mind to the issue, exploring ways to mend, preserve, and prolong the life of what we already own, while also celebrating the search for second-hand and ethically produced items. All while exploring the beauty and joy that are inherent in clothing ourselves, living, foraging, dyeing, and mothering in the Hudson valley. Cal has been gently and lovingly introducing people to the world of drafting and designing your own clothes for years. She has the most marvelous spirit and encouraging nature as she unfolds the basic tenets of creating clothing to fit your own body. Her smiling persona moves slowly and joyfully through the worlds of crochet, embroidery, garment drafting, and sewing, all with a generous joy of sharing. Jessica is the quiet alchemist in the wilds of Vermont, equally comfortable with sourdough and mordant alike, exploring all the diverse and abundant ways to make color on cloth with materials from nature, while raising two beautiful boys, and making delicious quilts. These three women each have something very special to offer anyone interested in expanding their view of how to create an ethical, sustainable, and beautiful wardrobe. This year I have invited Amy DuFault, activist and journalist to join us to share her vast knowledge of the commercial and political elements of the Slow Fashion universe. This retreat rolls together all the boundless delight of Summer camp of years past, with practical skills useful in forging an ethical modern wardrobe.
How does all this come together, and why would it be useful to you? I would guess that if you are reading this you are curious about making clothing to begin with, and maybe even further interested in being a thoughtful executor, and consumer, of a wardrobe that reflects your values. Perhaps you are not yet a garment sewist. Are you a quilter? Do you make bags or stuffed toys? Have you attempted sewing clothing but without sufficient success? Are you curious about the world of garment sewing, but unsure where to start? I encourage you to consider Slow Fashion as your launching pad. Do not be put off by the idea of pattern drafting! I know it sounds like a big concept, a scary term, something used only by professionals. But in truth most of us who sew our own clothing use pattern drafting in some form or another on a regular basis. To lower a neckline, adjust a dart, taper a sleeve. As taught by Cal, drafting and sewing up a tunic or top that fits your own personal measurements is totally accessible to the beginner sewist! As long as you know how to use a sewing machine, can do basic math, are eager to learn a new skill, and willing to stumble occasionally, you can draft your own top! Learning involves making mistakes, absorbing the new information, and trying again until you understand in a meaningful way. This week at the beach, with these people, is a really good way to learn this process in a safe and encouraging environment. This retreat is a great place to start your garment sewing journey. I promise you will leave the week with a handmade top!
If you have already made a few garments, this week is even more useful for you. Even if you never intend to draft your own patterns, knowing how your measurements affect the fit of a garment is an extremely useful piece of information for fitting other patterns. Having drafted something for your body, made to your own individual measurements, is information that can be used in the future to compare to other patterns for fit. Once you have completed a self-drafted top you will forever be able to adjust the fit of future items.
Learning the skills to mend, and otherwise prolong the life of garments you already own is an incredibly useful skill. Understanding the basic techniques to apply fabric and thread to fix holes in beloved garments opens up a world of possibilities. You can continue to wear items that previously you might have stored, unable to part with them, but also unable to wear them, feeling badly about their fate. Think about how many pieces might be salvaged, re-born, given new life, by exploring mending?
Color is such an important part of all our lives. Think how much you respond to the explosion of green in the spring? The blue of a lover's eyes. The warm red, yellows, and oranges of falling leaves in the Fall. Having the skills to harness some part of the unending rainbow of color in the world, and without polluting the environment or worrying about danger to yourself or your loved ones, while using commonly sourced ingredients, maybe even from the roadside? Can you begin to fathom the possibilities? Again, there could be items in your closet that need love, stained perhaps, faded, or even just the wrong color to begin with. What joy to be able to revisit them, and revive them with a pot on your stove.
Amy DuFault, activist and journalist, who has dedicated her attention to the issues involved in Slow Fashion, will join us at the beach. Amy will be our sustainable fashion Speaker-in-Residence for the week, sharing her wealth of knowledge about production, resources, impact, materials, systems, politics, and anything else you can think of related to Slow Fashion! Such an amazing resource to have at our disposal...!
So you see there are many things to be learned at the Slow Fashion Retreat! For all out there who have declaimed their inability to sew garments I say, here is your chance to change that direction! If you are hovering on the fence, please, come down and join us! All this knowledge and experience you can gain while at the beach in July with Cal, Katrina, Jessica, and I, will be tied up in the most delightfully sweet fun! Give yourself the opportunity to play like a kid! Explore ideas and expressions you dream about. I produce retreats as a human being, not a company, for the experience of them, not for a bottom line. I truly do this because I love it. I love sewing my own wardrobe so much I want to share this skill with others. Learning is growing is experiencing is living! Don't hesitate about something new, if you are interested, dive right in! I have consciously chosen a location for Slow Fashion that allows for a number of different housing options, making it the most affordable of my retreats. Ferry Beach Park has rooms that house up to 3-4 people, but they charge by the room not the bed. Which means if you share, your housing costs can be a low as $185! For those on a budget, the total cost of the week isn't cheap, but it's not beyond possible. I hope that there are some among the younger part of this community who will find this week affordable, and come join us! We seek to include all who are curious about this subject!
One last note about fashion. The word has undesirable connotations for some, being attached so firmly to antiquated and outdated ideas, often generated and directed by companies and designers detached from our reality. In addition to 'the prevailing style (as in dress) during a particular time' fashion also means 'the make or form of something'. When I use fashion in this place I am referring to the option or opportunity for each of us to fashion a wardrobe that reflects our values and serves to begin a conversation about who we are. I recently found much inspiration from a new series by the designer Elizabeth Suzann, 'Clothing is_____'. Give it a read. What we wear is so much more than just 'fashion', and we have agency in it! We do not have to look to the mainstream world as reference for our fashion. We can look to our personalities, our dreams, our values, and our feelings to find new and authentic ways to show ourselves to the world.
I hope you will join us this coming July, it's going to be so much fun.... You can read more at the full retreat description here.