Tuesday 27 September 2016

Katie Byrne: Worse for wear - Why I'm embracing a 'whole clothes' lifestyle

Published 10/07/2016 | 02:30

Features writer Katie Byrne
Features writer Katie Byrne

I spent the best part of last month's wages on silk.

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Purchases included a pale pink silk dressing robe that Ava Gardner would have been proud to call her own; a cream embellished silk kaftan and a pair of silk football shorts (because, as we all know, every woman needs a pair of silk football shorts...).

The fact that I now can't afford to go anywhere to wear these pieces isn't the point. The point, rather, is that I have given up buying anything made from polyester - and I'm willing to give up a few fancy meals in order to eliminate it entirely from my wardrobe.

I hate polyester in the same way that I hate Taylor Swift, lukewarm showers and people who say 'choccy'.

It's a visceral, skin-crawling hatred that is compounded every time this synthetic fibre comes close to my body.

It feels like the hug at the end of a bad date, or a limp, clammy handshake or an air kiss with somebody wearing Celine Dion perfume.

In fact, I'm convinced that the body, sensible as it is, rejects polyester. Why? Because it makes you perspire. Worse, it holds on to odour. That's not a fibre - that's a cruel joke.

Before I start to sound like a pashmina-wearing prig, I ought to add that I've bought plenty of polyester garments in my time.

Without '100pc polyester' garments (and the small matter of slave labour), there simply wouldn't be a fast fashion industry... or the inclination to buy a dress for Saturday night on your Monday lunch break.

Still, there comes a point when you have to wonder if fast fashion is pulling a fast one. This buy-now-think-later culture may allow us to acquire Marni-esque jackets for next-to-nothing, but what good are they if they are sitting in a black bin bag six months later? And what use are they when they have been crafted out of the same material that is used to coat mouse mats? You may as well sleep in a cheesecloth blanket or take a dip in a woollen swimsuit...

Polyester is an imitation fibre that only ticks two parts of the Good, Fast, Cheap triangle. Admittedly, it serves a purpose for people who can only afford cheap clothes, but it should be noted that not all '100pc polyester' clothes are cheap.

Take a moment to check out the care labels the next time you go shopping in a top-tier high-street outlet. Many of the so-called 'luxury' brands that try to distinguish themselves from the mass-market are peddling '100pc polyester' clothing. I've even noticed a few high-end fashion designers using it too.

This is tantamount to buying a canteen of cutlery by Georg Jensen and discovering that it's made from electro-plated nickle silver, or investing in Riedel glassware and noticing that a glass bounces rather than breaks when it falls to the ground.

In short, it's a swindle - and shoppers should be more vigilant about the brands that are capitalising on their apparent indifference.

It's not too much to ask that luxury goods be made from luxury fibres and fabrics - or, at the very least, natural ones. Likewise, when spending a couple of hundred euro on a top, we should expect more than polyester, nylon and rayon, in the same way that we expect the best cut of beef when fine-dining.

We've all become very food-aware in recent years, swapping processed foods for what we call 'whole foods'. I'd like to see a return to 'whole clothes', or at least a renewed respect for cut and craftsmanship.

We don't respect fast fashion. On the contrary, it has all the gravitas of a Tinder hook-up. It's disposable, replaceable and sometimes a shade remorseful. This? Oh, it's just Penneys. Don't mind me... I'm only an auld eejit...

Why buy clothing that cultivates an attitude of self-effacement when you could be wearing pieces that breed self-respect? This? It's by Carven and it's made of crêpe de chine. I worked my arse off to afford it. Thank you for noticing.

Luxury fibres, like red lipstick and big blowsy peonies, are good for morale. Besides, why buy a piece that provokes your skin when you could be wearing a silk skirt that feels like a summer breeze when it swirls around your legs? (It rolls up quite nicely in suitcases too.)

Granted, you can't go shopping as often as you may like, but that's part of the appeal. When you start to buy less but better, you also start to develop your own sense of style. Purchases are carefully considered just as cost-per-wear is calculated.

Instead of leaving a shop with a haul of eight sales items, you leave a boutique empty-handed so that you can contemplate the possibility of spending €200 on a shirt. (I have COYBIG fever to blame on the silk football shorts fiasco…)

Those who have swapped processed foods for whole foods often talk about how much better this diet makes them feel. Whole clothes have the very same effect.

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