Wear them

“I feel so empty. I miss how she filled me up,” says Jean

“Yeah, you looked cracking on those legs,” says Belt caressing her waist.

“I know right!” sighs Jean.

“Sssssssh, he’s coming on stage” someone shouts from the crowd. 

Hype comes on, the elder of the Wear Them Clothing Resistance followed by his entourage The TIAWA ( The Intelligent Apple Wear Army). Hype´s once sweaty owner, who would always have dark blue patches under the sleeves, was long gone. Due to the fact Hype couldn´t sweat on his own, his colours were limited to a faded lilac and pink. His tongue, like the others, was a synthetic label that would flap around when he spoke. To look taller and to be seen by everyone he slowly climbed on top of Jean, who took huge pride in this privilege. Her one eye, a fly button embossed with Levi twinkled under the lights and Belt squeezed her tightly in excitement. 

Hype bellowed and Jean nearly lost her balance; 

We don’t need them to control us!! We are the real owners, we wear them! They are just stinky flesh fabric fillers!

The crowd cheers. Sleeves and legs are raised in crumpled fist shapes and socks and pants somersault in the air.

“Without us, they´d be naked and cold and would go back to wearing animal skins. They are just human blobs that fill us. They´d be nothing without us!  It’s time to take control of them, to bend them to our will rather than choking our mother earth and disrespecting us. 

Look at what they have done! They have used us to pollute the planet when our real purpose was to dress them, to give them a sense of identity and status and most importantly, make them look fabulous!. And how do they repay us? The industries exploit our makers in factories around the world, make us for pennies and sell us for pounds, overproduce us..”. 

“1.14 million tons of younglings a year are created to be precise and 1.76 million tons of raw materials are produced to make us, a third of which goes to landfill” proclaims Specs, reading from his fact sheet. 

Hype, slightly irritated at the interruption, continues “ As I was saying, they dispose of us when we are excess stock. They choose to mutilate us if we are designer brands to avoid unlicensed selling. Consumers abandon us when we aren´t on trend or easily fall apart. They replace us with a newer hotter model and then dump them too!. They sling over 300,000 tons of us a year in landfills on the mainland and on our island. Some might give us to charity with no clue as to where we end up, of which some of us are sold abroad grossly affecting the textile industries in those countries as their markets are flooded with us. When they can´t sell us on, they eventually abandon us yet again!”.

“TIAWA gave you intelligence and I gave you soul! Together we can be great again! We can spread our collective consciousness to our fabric brothers and sisters, liberate them and enslave the humans on the mainland ”. 

The TIAWA step forward and raise their black and chrome sleeves in unison shouting “We are the Revolution! We are the Revolution! Wear them! Turn them inside out!”

The boots stomp to the tune;

We will, we will wear them! We will, we will own them!

Specs walks on stage on his temple tips and intercepts with a polite cough. “I´d now like to introduce our next guest speakers, The Preloved”.

A fabulous procession of upcycled dresses, jackets and onesies, in a kaleidoscope of colours and fabrics new and old, twirl on stage. The crowd goes quiet and makes various sounds of delight. 

“We the preloved, the vintage, the upcycled and revamped are here today to spread an important message of love and hope.” Said in perfect unison, sounding something as light and beautiful as a bird song. 

Mother floats forward with grace. Mother, a well preserved 1930´s knee-length cotton tea dress with a Peter Pan collar was a Sunday´s best of the best.

“Speaking as the oldest here and the founder of the preloved movement, my generation were famed for their make do and mend methods. We were lovingly cared for by our home sewers and handed down from generation to generation. From one mother´s whisper to another, generations today are picking up the lost thread of home sewing and revamping clothes to suit their tastes and fashions of the time. By sharing our collective knowledge of sewing and buying second hand, we can be reborn and enjoy several reincarnated lives, thus reducing mass waste and neglect cases. Enslave them, you say Hype! They are already enslaved! They are slaves to fashion, consumed by consumerism and their hunger can’t be quenched ever. Two wrong left sleeves do not make a right one. Let’s redress the imbalance by teaching them the ways of their foremothers and forefathers. Waste not, want not!” 

“Waste of our time if you ask me” sniggers a broken Apple watch sitting snugly in the front pocket of one of the TIAWA.

Toni 1, a child´s football shirt, appears shyly from under Mother´s skirt. “Mum, I’m tired. Can we go home now?” Mother peers down and smiles warmly at her son. Scooping him up into her puffed sleeves, the crowd goes all soft and starts cooing “How cute!!!!!”

“Do not be deceived! Toni 1 is 40 years old and was loved to an inch of his fabric life. When his owner had outgrown him, he was donated to charity and then sent off to West Africa to be sold in Ghana’s largest second-hand market. He was luckily not dumped in the Gulf of Guinea or burnt in an unplanned landfill like many before him. Instead, he was worn and loved once again by a little girl, who later became a player for her National Soccer Team. He travelled everywhere with her as a lucky charm, until he was accidentally left in a hotel room in London, thrown out with the rest of the hotel rubbish and ended up here where I have loved and cared for him ever since.

Humans have a huge capacity for loving us, especially the memories of which are created in us. Humans make mistakes, they can sometimes lose us or get seduced by something new and shiny, or simply donate us with the best intentions without considering where we end up. However, many individuals act differently and strive forward with our sustainable song which is to buy less fast fashion items, invest in clothing that is built to last, reinstate sewing in the school curriculum for both boys and girls, buy second hand and make new textiles from old. We can all be re-loved again responsibly!”

“And what about me! Could you love me again?!” heckles a pair of holey pants. 

“I’m sure there is a perfect fit for you somewhere” replies Mother with a sympathetic smile. You have a right to be angry if you were discarded mindlessly but by reeducating the humans we can convince them that we can be repurposed sensibly and sustainably. 

We have to accept that to move forward and reduce fabric waste, we must adapt and remodel ourselves in whichever form needed and consider slowing and reducing our mass production in the first place!

“Here, here!” shouts a colourful collection of sock puppets. 

The chorus steps forward and locks sleeves, puffy and flowing, joining into the chant: 

Be worn and be loved and loved and preloved.

The crowd is divided, some sway and join in, especially the sock puppets who are having a jolly good time, whilst others curl up their sleeves and turn themselves inside out with rage. 

The only way we can move forward is to stop the production of clothing altogether! Shouts Caesar! The singing dies down and The Espartians flop in single file onto the stage shouting “all hail Caesar”. A radical group of broken espadrilles once belonging to a nudist colony from Ibiza. Caesar, a vegan leather pair of sandals spoke from his sole. 

“If humans were convinced to discard their clothing and live at one with nature for a while, we would cease to be a problem. Instead, we could be woven into things of use and practicality rather than superficial adornments to compensate for a lack of human expression in themselves.”

“Someone, stab him, bloody hippy!” Hisses a high heel. 

“Listen!” Protested Mother. “Caesar has a very valid point about giving us a practical purpose. However, is it not to keep them warm in the first place Caesar? I´m sure Ibizia has a far more agreeable climate than the UK. I feel it is too radical to expect humans to stop wearing us even if it is just to make a point. They´d not survive the harsh climates, and Hype! – enslaving humans would not make us any better than them. However, we are a diplomatic society on this island and we must now vote before the boat docks and brings in the next shipment of rubbish”.

As the conference is in full sway, the island begins to rock. At first the normal and tolerated amount of movement with the ebb and flow of the swells outside, but gradually it becomes impossible to keep balance. Shoes topple off their heels, shirts flop about and Mother struggles with her mic. Her voice wavers in the air and battles with the unnatural metallic roar from outside, firstly mistaking it for a change in weather, a storm perhaps. None of them had yet noticed that the boat had already docked the newly constructed floating platform, which was anchored to the ocean floor, miles from England´s coastline and used as a site for the excess landfill that had accumulated on the mainland. The crew were cranking up the machines and from the perspective of the unsettled seagulls above, it looked as though a huge metal insect had descended and regurgitated the contents of its stomach, spewing tons and tons of rubbish, food, plastics, clothing and metals into the air. 

Specs hands down a basket full of buttons, that overspill with the rocking and the crowd one by one begin to put their buttons in the speaker´s voting boxes when suddenly a horn is heard.

Mother gasps “They are here already!” and before she has time to react, Hype and some of the TIAWA have already fled the old rusting shipping crate and are making a mad dash for the boat!

The voting immediately stops, the voting boxes are knocked over and the buttons are spilt on the floor. The crowd begins to push their way out of the container to watch the commotion outside. Mother, Specs and Toni 1 climb on top of it to get a better look.

Hype could be seen riding Jean. She looked as though she was flying as she leapt in the air bouncing off one rubbish bag to another across the island like trampolines, dodging flying banana skins and metal cans as though she was dashing across a warzone.

“They must be stopped! Do something Mother!” shrieks Specs. “Don´t worry Mum,” says Toni 1. “Roll me up like a football and Caesar can give me a good kick! “.

So as instructed Caesar backs up and charges at Toni 1, Toni 1 braces himself and Caesar kicks him sending him flying through the air and knocking Hype off Jean. He bounces right off him and goes hurling into the direction of the ship. 

 Metallic, a rejected prototype, the toughest of the TIAWA, a jacket designed to be aerodynamic and streamlined, charges in the same direction. Specs races ahead on the back of an espadrille and flicks up one of his temple legs tripping up Jean, while Metallic manages to get away and climbs onto the boat as the crew untie the boat and leave the island. 

Toni 1 goes below deck and hides in one of the cabins. Metallic plays dead on the deck much to the bewilderment of one of the crew. “Patch! I think you left some rubbish behind mate!” He grumbles to himself “Typical, I´m always picking up after your lazy arse.” As the man bends down to pick up the jacket, thinking what good nick it was in, it rubs against his t-shirt. 

He pops the jacket into a rubbish bag and slings it to the back of the boat accidentally throwing it into the sea. 

A little while later on his coffee break, he starts itching like crazy as his t-shirt label starts attacking him. Patch comes in and says “ Cut the thing off mate”, laughing as he brushes against him as he passes to make the Captain a brew in the narrow galley kitchen. 

He walks onto the bridge where the Captain is steering. As he hands him a tea, he loses control of his arm as his shirt sleeve squeezes around his wrist causing it to throw the tea over the Captain. The Captain screams bloody murder. Patch looks around desperately for something to mop up the Captain and picks up an old football shirt laying there on the floor. 

He nearly jumps out of his skin when he hears a tiny voice speaking from the shirt “Have you got a minute, I´ve got something urgent to tell you”.

Written for the Sustainability First Writing Competition. Sadly wasn´t shortlisted due to being a few hundred words over the word count.

A special thanks to my friend Arron Fowler who gave me valuable feedback whilst preparing this short story.

Written by Lucy Lilley

Copyright Lucy Lilley 2021

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