No one would second guess the colors LuLaRoe puts into their designs- some people love it, some people find many styles too bright (and I have to reassure them that there are also a little less bold colors sometimes).. but colors do tend to scare people. Time magazine recently has published an article “American Fashion Has Gotten More Colorful: Here’s What Changed” by Olivia B Waxman.
I was intrigued by the article because LuLaRoe has brought bright bold colors into daily wear, I even wear bright orange and blue together at work and brighten up the office. And now the company and many consultants are even encouraging a past fashion faux pas: pattern mixing. Who would have ever thought bold, bright, pattern mixing would be the trend?
According to Waxman, all of these colors and florals happened post WW2- companies started developing synthetic fibers that took brighter dyes that helped fabric keep color, fabrics also became more affordable. Previous to WW2, bright colors were only for the rich, and if worn by anyone else it would have been seen as “gaudy” and “immoral.” It began to change in the 1930’s when middle class leisure time was popularized after the institution of the 40-hour work week. Vibrant colors and big floral prints introduced to mass fashion, however due to fabric quality, dyed natural fibers were light sensitive and faded easily. “Early synthetic fibers did not keep color easily” explained Waxman. Before science could make fabric better, WW2 had broken out and all the extra synthetic (such as nylon) fabrics were used for curtains to parachutes, causing what was used by clothing industries to be rationed. Luckily the war had ended and the fashion industry flourished.
Reading National Geographic’s article “Killer Clothing was All the Rage in the 19th Century” by Becky Little explores how bright fashion was even deadly at one point in time. Some of the most fashionable clothing were made with poisonous chemicals, such as arsenic, that are severely toxic to humans. Not only did the wearers of this clothing suffer, but so did those who produced and worked with the dyes daily. Arsenic was used in curtains, wallpapers, and even candles. It is used to dye the color green, which also ended up in dresses and gowns, as well as artificial flowers used to decorate hair and clothing. Arsenic caused rashes to those who wore them. The makers of the garments and accessories had worse deaths- symptoms I will not get into here (but please read the article). After much to do about the deaths from arsenic in dying fabric- many European countries banned the use of it, and synthetic dyes were created.
Today is is not an unfamiliar thing to hear about workplace safety. But in fashion- are there still issues? According to Little, Turkey recently banned sand blasting jeans due to contraction of silicosis from breathing in the sand. This, unfortunately, is still high in demand and such manufacturing is just moved to another country.
Now there are also new initiatives such as the “new Circular Fibres Initiative” that bring clothing retailers together. The companies involved want to “build a circular economy for textiles.” This program will try to change the apparel industry to regenerative and sustaining business model. The fast pace world with an ever growing supply and demand of cotton with the lowest prices possible leads to farmers using and handling toxic pesticides that can harm their health and the environment, and in factories forced labor is still present but stays hidden. Many clothing companies are creating solutions to these problems, including organic cotton, and plant based footwear. “Circular Fibres Initiative has a stated goal of the textile industry using only recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030.”
Although we have come far from toxic dresses, there are still some strides to take. My advice to you my fellow LulaLovers…. donate your clothing! Do not throw it away- whether it be to consignment, Goodwill, a homeless shelter or Salvation Army- there are so many people who will re-use your unwanted clothing. If you are crafty- re-purpose your old attire into purses, wallets, and totes. Many people sell these for a sum on eBay. Pay it forward.
Now that we can wear our bright colored fabulous clothing (and not get arsenic poisoning or worry about fading), lets use them as conversation pieces and show the world how amazing fashion is- and how many amazing companies are striving to do good by us!
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