Every now and then we experience magical moments when consuming clothing. Especially when buying secondhand clothing or when one succeeds while treasure hunting during the closing sale of a particular season. In that case, due to the limited choice and availability, a discovery of some sort is extra exciting. The result is the ownership of a limited edition or just a very good bargain. But, since I have restricted myself to only four pieces of clothing a year, the moments that I allow myself such ‘happiness’ has become restricted all the more reason for me to go shopping with/for friends and/or relatives.
Consumption is about how people use things and how cultural beliefs and practices shape their appropriation of such things. A telling example is my Kantamanto visits when I was living in Accra, Ghana. Kantamanto is the secondhand clothing market in Accra. Since I am the biggest fan of secondhand clothing, I went there every two weeks. Each time I received a compliment, I told my friends that the piece of clothing came from Kantamanto. People were flabbergasted since it is a ‘no-go’ to go to Kantamanto as the market is associated with the ‘dead man’s clothing’. As a result, my consumption behaviour slightly changed the view on secondhand clothing of my Ghanaian friends, every two weeks another friend was joining me.
In other words, consumption could be considered the means by which people define themselves and the world around them. According to Appadurai (1986) commodities are socially constructed and things have social lives. People shape and create conceptions about themselves and their world through their involvement with objects. So, as people have social lives, also garments go through a process of ‘socialisation’. “Until well after the beginning of ready-made garment production, clothes went through many lives, passed down, resold or exchanged for other goods, altered or mended, and resewn before they reached the final phase of their journey and were recycled as rags into paper” (Hansen 2000: 7).
What about you? How do you give meaning to your clothing?
Images: my secondhand favorites for the Winter season.