A Bettr Series

Wear is Seeking ContentmentImage credit: Weiqi Yap

 

‘Wear is...’ is a concept birthed from my increasing frustration and helplessness towards the harmful systems and biased language that the fashion industry continues to perpetuate despite consistent effort put in by activists to reduce overconsumption and production. Too often, we become preoccupied with describing new clothes through fleeting first impressions. Over time, it has become normal to relate to clothing counterintuitively, ignoring the very fact that we have yet to develop a relationship with these garments.

So, instead of fixating on the overused buzzwords that depict fashion’s unhealthy obsession with newness and novelty; and my constantly feeling like it is an uphill battle to change the system from outside in, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

‘Wear is…’ is encouraged by the many good work put out by activists, fashion academics and brands. ‘Craft of Use: Post-Growth Fashion’, authored by Kate Fletcher in 2016, heavily influenced the conception of this series. It’s no secret by now, that I am a huge fan of the ‘Clothing is Political’ series by Elizabeth Suzann. It inspired the personalisation of each profile that you will read about in the upcoming weeks. Through this, I hope to amplify the real and true stories of wear and use — of ordinary folks forging relationships with their clothes over time.

I have known Weiqi since 2017, when we were both living abroad in London. It feels like forever ago when we were still pursuing our degrees in respective fields of fashion studies. She has always been and is still very much a dear friend who also happens to be an amazing wordsmith. I thought she would be the best person to kick off the first profile of ‘Wear is...’.

For Weiqi, wear is seeking contentment.

 

Please tell me a little more about yourself. It can be anything under the sun from how you see yourself, what you do for a living, how you are feeling right now…

I’m a fashion writer and curator with a love for houseplants, thrifting and museums. My research mainly focuses on how fashion can occupy spaces and hold cultural significance in museums, galleries, exhibitions and beyond. You can find me waxing lyrical about these things over on @fashionondisplay!

 

What are some thoughts that come to your mind when you think about the clothes you wear and adorn?

I think a lot about the way my clothes make me feel and the sort of personas I want to channel temporarily when I wear them. The way I get dressed each day is very much dependent on my mood and how I’m feeling that day. I find that I see clothes as portals to hypothetical personalities I want to emulate, or sometimes even brands I wished I could afford, but can’t.

Given its current state, it is sometimes difficult to reconcile with the fashion industry being nourishing and additive to our lives. But that aside, I believe that our clothes do provide us with joy and comfort through the process of ongoing use. Does this remind you of any instances/encounters with clothing and how so?

My clothes are definitely a huge part of my identity, especially during my teen years when I was, like everyone else, trying to figure out who I was and what I stood for. My relationship with clothing has always been intimately intertwined with my sense of self, body image and self-esteem. It’s almost bizarre how I went from wearing strictly t-shirts (that couldn’t cling too close to my body, couldn’t have too wide a neckline, or sleeves that went above my biceps) and cargo shorts as a preteen because I refused to come off as “too girly”, and I think a large part of me was self-conscious about showing skin too.  

Then I did a complete 180 by the time I was 15 or 16 when I discovered thrift stores and affordable fast fashion outlets like Cotton On, but I would always hide my purchases at the back of my closet and hand wash them discreetly when my mom wasn’t around. I remember also leaving the house wearing my ‘normal’ clothes, but with an extra set of clothes that I deemed more adventurous, more ‘fashionable’ and more me. I think I had a lot of fear and anxiety around being seen as the most authentic version of myself at that age because I was scared of being seen as strange, or weirder than I already felt in most of my social circles. The turning point came when I decided I didn’t feel like compromising my main outlet of self-expression for the approval of others anymore, but this also came at the expense of my own comfort at times.

 

The psychology of our time is crucial, more so now, in a world where nothing we know stands against the test of reality. Part of me believes that this translates into what we choose to keep wearing. How do you think this has affected the way you view your wardrobe?

I think I’m finally at a stage where I’m content with what I own in my wardrobe — everything reflects who I am (or at least, who I’d like to be) and fits me well, and I feel comfortable in everything I own. Spelling this out made me realise just how much my priorities have shifted from when I was much younger. I definitely didn’t prioritise fit and comfort as much as I do now — I used to squeeze myself into things that were way too tiny for me because I was somehow convinced that a size 4 H&M faux suede skirt would accurately channel whoever I was following on Instagram or watching on YouTube at the time.

The way I view my wardrobe now is much more versatility and value-driven — by that I mean that what and how I choose to consume clothing should ideally reflect my views on fashion as much as possible. My love for fashion stems first and foremost from its cultural relevance and ability to speak volumes about the wearer.

I often describe my relationship with fashion as one of fascination and frustration. I’m much more interested in finding out how I can love clothes in ways that don’t exploit the people who are involved in making what we wear, and come at the cost of our environment. I’m by no means a sustainability expert, but as I continue to learn more about the human and environmental cost of trend-driven consumption, I find myself being less and less okay with supporting the fashion industry’s patterns of exploitation and overconsumption.

 

It’s a bit like trying to locate a new love language. Where previously I loved through quantity, variety and accumulation, now it’s a lot more about versatility and sentimentality.

Could you describe an outfit that you are loving right now and explain why are you drawn to it?

Weiqi Yap in thrifted brown glittery top and high-waisted denim from Lucy and Yak

It’s this brown glittery top with long sheer sleeves, and I thrifted it during my first time back at my local charity shop a while back. The wide-legged jeans are from Lucy and Yak, an independent ethical brand a dear friend introduced to me when we were in London. For shoes I plan on wearing this outfit with these cream wavy strappy mules I found on Carousell. I haven’t worn this outfit out yet, but I’m excited to wear it sometime this week to a fun dinner or something. I think I’m drawn to it because it’s exactly the silhouette I know I feel good in — any sort of wide-legged bottom with a slightly fitted top. And fun sleeves because why not! It might also be because I haven’t worn them out together, I always find myself most excited to wear not just newly thrifted stuff, but new combinations with my favourite pieces.

If possible, could you narrow down to one piece of garment in your wardrobe that you wear the most often?

Weiqi Yap in white oversized shirt and cream linen shorts from The Fashion Pulpit

These linen shorts I swapped at The Fashion Pulpit! I’ve been wearing them almost every single day since we started WFH. They’re just so easy to throw on, super roomy and comfy, but not an elastic waistband which to me marks the difference between rest mode and work mode.

As cliche as it sounds, could you describe your personal style and explain how it has evolved with time?

I feel like my style can be personified into three characters — and I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. But I think it can be broken down into the following: the design gal, the vintage gal and the fun gal (HAHAHA please don’t laugh). I won’t go into detail into each of them but I would say that my style now is largely driven by practicality and comfort — Singapore’s humidity but also the overcompensating air-con we get indoors don’t make these things very easy to figure out!

I read somewhere that personal style can serve as “a quicker way to get to know me”, and I fully relate to that, especially as someone who’s more reserved and introverted. I don’t necessarily dress to impress as much as I did when I was a teenager, but I still enjoy putting in thought into what I wear.

I dress much in a much more understated way now but my style remains a tool of self-expression. The biggest shift, I think, lies in the way my style now encompasses the attitudes and qualities I wished were more prevalent in our industry — mindfulness, considered consumption and a reframing of fashion as more than commodity.

Perhaps, my helpless resignation with the flawed fashion system has resulted in me pursuing the simplest form of observing and appreciating fashion. Stories of wear and use interestingly juxtapose the need to consume, against the practice of paying attention to the clothes we already own. Through wear, the wearer defies and rebels against the constant need for more. Each time a person chooses to associate themselves with the clothing they wear, they choose to value emotional durability over the pursuit of novelty. This habitual process of wear reiterates that the on-going use of fashion matters.

As just another fellow human riding through waves of ambiguity and apprehension during this time of absolute uncertainty, starting this series brought about a strange mix of assurance and hope. On nights when I feel paralysed by my own thoughts and trapped in a prison of my own mind, I look back on these stories that embody the relationship between wearers and their garments. For me, ‘Wear is…’ symbolises a liberating breath of fresh air, like a sweet escape from the reality of the state of fashion.

 

About Xingyun

Xingyun Shen

Xingyun is a fashion business graduate who advocates for a more humane fashion system. Seeking to address the importance of intersectionality when analysing fashion sustainability, she runs @noordinaryprotest as a platform to call for a shift in mindset. Her favourite time of the day is 5 pm, and her go-to fashion activity is swapping.