Fast fashion stores have become the country’s other favorite obsession. Places like H&M and Forever21 continue to spring up everywhere, and only continue to rise in popularity. Like fast food restaurants, these companies release new products at a low cost, many times per season, on the promise of giving us greater access to fashion.
But what if that actually is a lie? What if fast fashion doesn’t do us any good, and instead just makes us addicted to cheap, badly made products?
Well, if you ask the Rational Dress Society (RDS) – a collective comprised of two artist based in Chicago and Los Angeles – this is exactly what is happening. And the only way you can break the habit is to opt to wear only one thing: a jumpsuit.
“JUMPSUIT offers a new way of thinking about clothes,” said Maura Brewer one recent afternoon at the Hyde Park Art Center on the south side of Chicago. She and her partner in RDS, Maura Glaum-Lathbury, were there to make the case for “ungendered mono-garment to replace all clothes in perpetuity”.
Their somewhat controversial project aims to challenge our current buying practices by pushing everyone to only wear one outfit made specifically for them.
“[It] started off as a response to a need: what do we want to wear every day?”, Glaum-Lathbury added when describing how the project began . “But it immediately became broader, and connected to ideas about consumption and choice – and how we wanted to live in the world.”
The idea came from conversations about how fashion has become widely reduced to buying garments that didn’t last, and forced us to buy with no regard to the social issues that arise.
“The fast-fashion business model is predicated on rapid turn around and cheap labor,” Brewer said. The industry has become the second “dirtiest” industry behind oil, and has countless accounts of labor abuse around the globe. If the two artists knew they couldn’t singularly topple one of the largest industries in the world, they knew they could at least begin to push people to think about it.
But why jumpsuits?
“We’ve always been a fan of jumpsuits,” Glaum-Lathbury explained, pointing out that the garment can be traced to the feminist movement that helped women engage in job sector outside their homes. Both artists also found it to be quite wearable.
“For us, it was important to design a garment that could be effectively worn by the largest number of people and would be appropriate for a wide variety of settings and activities,” she continued.
JUMPSUIT only comes in two colors – black and white – and can be made in over 200 sizes customized to a person’s individual body type. Glaum-Lathbury developed a system with Nasa body size data that’s used to construct military grade clothing for the US government that to ensure the jumpsuit is individualized and fits.
Through this process, she was able to not only create a size system that fit all types of bodies, but also didn’t rely on gendered measurements we see in almost every clothing store.
“Most of our available clothing options offer a shockingly poor fit as companies attempt to fit as many individuals into as few sizes as possible to maximize profits,” Glaum-Lathbury said. “The result is that most clothing does not actually fit our bodies,” she continued.
Every time a jumpsuit is sold, a percentage is taken and put aside so that one day, the duo can buy a full-page ad in the highly-anticipated September issue of Vogue. (Vogue did not respond to repeated requests for comment on whether or not they’d allow for RDS to place the ad – the magazine reserves the right to not run any advertisement).
While the artists don’t think they will single-handedly force the world to throw away their own fast fashions, they are excited to help make people reconsider their own buying practices on a small scale.
Recently, they held their fourth public workshop and showed attendees how to make their own suit using their patterns – you can download the patterns for their jumpsuit online if you don’t want to purchase the item from them directly.
As their two-day workshop began, participant Chantelle Driggers stood at the back of the workshop space cautiously measuring her black fabric and placing the pattern for her jumpsuit neatly across the space before cutting.
Driggers, who had little experience in sewing, looked excited and nervous before she began to make her cuts. When asked if she would wear her jumpsuit everyday, she laughed: “I guess it depends on how it comes out.”
“As long as [my clothes are] clean it doesn’t really matter,” she said as she began cutting her fabric.