Clothing Stories: Skirt
Our clothes have a story, a life cycle - from raw material to product, from workers to consumers. Some clothes become famous with a fancy label, while others become a bargain deal. Some pieces are worked and loved, becoming one-of-a-kind, while others are multiplied into inconceivable amounts - but all are touched by human hands and leave a footprint on our earth. In Clothing Stories, I am a character in my clothes’ story and am here to share my role in its life cycle. To me, storytelling is used time and time again to teach lessons, connect people, and show complexities that enervate our need to define good and bad. It is my hope that this convoluted industry will be enlightened as we become more transparent about what we wear.
I picked up Skirt in 2011 in a small shop in Sri Lanka. I had spent the previous three months in Pondicherry, India, and was on a short holiday in Hikkadduwa, Sri Lanka, a beach town. In Sri Lanka, it is more acceptable to show your legs and shoulders and to even wear a bathing suit without being hassled by men. In hopes of working on my tan, I went shopping for some less mumu like clothes. I found Skirt.
I love that it has bright colors and the print is organic. It is short but not formfitting or tight - and it has pockets! I have worn it every summer since 2011 and it has even traveled to SE Asia, Florida, and the Bahamas with me. Throughout its years with me, Skirt has been very low maintenance. It’s been washed and dried in varying machines and detergents, and I am sure Skirt has even had a run-in with a dryer, too. Its fabric tag is cut out, but I am guessing that because of its durability and softness it is probably a semi-synthetic like viscose or rayon. Skirt does let me in on a secret though: the country of origin listed on its tag is India.
With little Indian flare, I wonder if it was originally made for a Western company. It was the only one of its kind at the Sri Lankan store. Sri Lanka, unlike India, is much less traditional in its dress. This means that t-shirts, slacks, shorts, and skirts are the everyday wears. In contrast, at lease where I was in India, people wore salwar kameez and sarhis. Did it “fall off the truck” or was its store destination always Sri Lanka?
I did notice two holes that have been sewn into a dart. This makes me wonder if the pattern was strategically placed so that the dart concealed the holes and the fabric would not go to waste. There are moments of sloppy seam work and I wonder if the individual who made it was new, tired, frustrated with the machine, or indifferent to repetitive, mundane work. Or perhaps the machine needed to be serviced or oiled. If you have ever dealt with tension issues on a sewing machine then you know the frustrations that I am talking about.
I will continue to wear Skirt because I feel like myself while wearing it and it brings back memories of Sri Lanka. One of the first times I wore Skirt was out one evening to a beach bar in Hikkaduwa. A travel mate and I befriended a group of people that turned out to be professional Sri Lankan Latin Dancers. I got to practice my salsa moves in the sand on a beautiful beach half way across the world, all the while working on my tan. As I consider who made my skirt, what it’s made of, how it got to Sri Lanka, and why there are two holes sewed into the dart, I know all I can do is guess its past. But I know that I can tell part of its story and that brings me joy.