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Fashion Revolution Week: The Importance of Ethical Fashion and Self-Expression Among Middle Schoolers

Fashion is an essential avenue for self-expression. This past month I asked my students how they express themselves with their clothes and why they think that is important. You can quickly tell how important clothing is for these students. Some of my students use fashion as an avenue for self-actualization, “I don’t have much control over anything, but picking out my clothes is something I can do by myself.” Others create masterpieces with their clothes. “Style is art. I love getting inspired by TikTok and then trying something new.” To middle schoolers, fashion is a vital part of their life that helps them develop as an individual.

Unfortunately, not every child has a pleasant experience with fashion. The clothes that my students take pride in wearing are the same clothes that were stitched together by someone their age or even younger. The demand for many choices that allow self-expression creates more demand for child laborers, “making the textiles and garments to satisfy the demand of consumers in Europe, the US, and beyond” (The Guardian).

Fashion Revolution Week is a commitment to loving fashion but refusing to lower the standards of ethical shopping, “We love fashion. But we don’t want our clothes to exploit people or destroy our planet. We are coming together as a global community to bring our manifesto into reality” (Fashion Revolution). Students have a right to express themselves in a way that makes them feel confident, but they also have a right to shop where they know that their fashion choices aren’t harming others.

When I asked students how they felt about fashion practices, they said similar things. They know there is a problem and want to change it, but they need help figuring out what to do. A lot of them, however, come up with their own solutions. One student said, “Goodwill!! I don’t buy anything new,” Another reported, “I don’t get much money, so my friends share clothes, which keeps us from buying from places where people my age are working.” So, let’s celebrate fashion revolution week by taking a note from my students.

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