“Consider how the wild-flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” Luke 12:27-28
I started to change my relationship with clothes 12 years ago when the great problems of mass-producing cheap throwaway clothes was brought to my attention. Previous to this revelation I would go shopping for a new outfit for each night out or party. My wardrobe was overflowing with unworn and discarded clothes, some I had never tried on, but it didn’t really matter, they only cost a couple of pounds.
This revelation around the problem of fast fashion started me on a journey of reckoning. Jesus, in this short passage, helps me to remember a few things, first: it causes me to realise how much beauty God has woven into nature. I should notice it, marvel at it and thank God for that Beauty. Secondly, I do not labour or spin, yet I am clothed. Unlike the lilies of the field it is not the natural way of things. When Jesus said this, he expected the people listening to know how much work went into making their clothes as they were involved in the process. Thirdly Jesus has promised us that God will provide for and clothe us.
Like so many things today we are so far removed from the process of making our clothes that many of us don’t even know what materials we are wearing.
This is something that has forced me to consider who labours, who spins, who is working hard on my behalf to make my clothes? Where did the raw materials come from to make them? Where do clothes go when they are thrown away? Furthermore, am I responsible for ensuring the companies I buy from are treating the environment and their employees well? What is the environmental cost to this excessive consumption? What can I do to step out of this system?
As a student I could not afford to buy only ethically made clothing, but I could afford to buy second-hand clothing. Rummaging in charity shops my eyes were opened to how much we all throw away that is in perfectly good condition, that somebody else could use. My revelation and change of practice around buying clothing has continued to open my eyes to how much I consume in other areas of my life.
Today I continue to restrict what I buy. I carefully consider what I need and want and then if I, my husband or our children decide that we do actually really want or need something we either buy once , as ethically as possible, or we buy second hand. For example, for my son’s birthday this year, my husband and I are eagerly watching a Playmobil castle on Ebay. It is a toy we know he will love and treasure for years and a toy that has already been loved and treasured by another child. Good quality goods that have been looked after and loved are easy to buy second hand and the sense of achievement when you win the hoped for item at auction or find exactly what you needed in the charity shop is a much bigger endorphin rush than strolling around shops filled with items I might only use a couple of times.
I still don’t spin, but I do labour for the items I know I will treasure. Let’s continue reflecting on how our clothes can bring us closer to our neighbour and have a lesser impact on nature.
This reflection was written by Emily Swinerd, for the Wild Christian email, ‘Nature and Consumption.’
Emily is a disciple, mum, wife, friend and is curate at St Michael’s church in Highworth.