What to Wear to Save the Planet?

The unbearable heaviness of indecision at Paris Climate Summit

Fashion Statement: Climate activists in Paris on November 29, instead of marching, have piled up thousands of pairs of shoes in the Place de la Republique — one way to rally regardless of the ban on public gatherings in place since the terror attacks on the city. (AFP Photo/Miguel Medina)

If you think global warming has nothing to do with you, think again: Forget the ice-starved polar bears; what going’s on with your new fall wardrobe!

Seriously, have you even pulled on a pair of tights more than once or twice? Meanwhile, all those newly purchased scarves and sweaters just sit in your closet waiting for the much anticipated layered looks that exist now only in your imagination.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirms that this past month was the world’s warmest October on record. Wow! No wonder you’re still wearing those strappy heels and summer-white skinnies. Moreover, the October average temperature across global land surfaces was 2.39 degrees above the 20th Century average, the highest for any October on record. Double Wow!! Maybe it’s time to forget about clothes entirely, and run around bare-breasted like those Femen protesters in Europe.

In fact, I had been hoping to join tens of thousands of other protesters on the streets of Paris as the United Nations Climate Conference (COP21) gets underway next month. But for security reasons, those environmental activists’ demonstrations have now been cancelled — sadly, but understandably so.

Still, I’m going to Paris! To prove I’m not letting the “terrorists win.” I’m not worried about my safety — but, instead, I’m worrying about that which I’ve always worried and obsessed about: What to wear; what to pack?

In this instance, I’m less intimidated by Paris’s haute couture image than what’s environmentally correct. Must I calculate the carbon footprint of every item of clothing? From the cotton bikini underwear shipped from somewhere in Southeast Asia to my Wolford Merino Ribbed Leggings, whose luxuriously snug feel surely signals a plastic derivative.

So I find myself doing some research — as I always do, Googling my life away. Worrying about the consumerist, disposable, carbon-rich lifestyle that Western women’s wardrobes represent.

So wasteful: an estimated 21% of annual clothing purchases stay in the home, never worn. And did you know that Americans, according to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year? These represent about 4% of municipal solid waste.

Moreover, the resultant guilt must be a burden that you and I uniquely bear: We women typically buy, in sheer poundage, seven times more clothing than men! That we wash our clothes more often doesn’t help: About 60% of the energy used in the life cycle of a typical garment is related to post-purchase washing and drying at high temperatures.

Beyond the question of environmental correctness, however, I find myself wondering about the power of clothes to provoke and to persuade — more eloquent sometimes than words themselves. Should I wear distressed jeans and baggy sweater? No, that signals just another student protester, not to be taken seriously. What about those silly message t-shirts?

“Global Warming Isn’t Just a Better Tan.”
“Only YOU can Prevent Global Warming!” pictured with a line drawing of “Smoky” the POLAR Bear.
“Warm My Boobs, Not the Planet.”

I might as well don a Che Guevara beret and Mao jacket. The people who need convincing about the need for global action to combat climate change will dismiss me and “my kind” out of hand. Dressing like a stereotypical activist or revolutionary becomes the visual hook on which they hang their horror.

I’ve got to look like them! Masquerade, if I must, as climate-change denier!!

Tailored and classic, neither slutty nor frilly, like the ladies who lunch at the country club. That “soft power look,” it’s sometimes called. But peep-toe or T-strap stilettos are perfectly okay to accent a pinstripe, wool Gucci bustier, black knit bolero, black Max Mara pencil skirt (maybe with a skinny metallic belt to break up the dark color).

And don’t forget my makeup and hair: eyes rimmed in dark liner, lips colored with fuchsia gloss, and hair blow-dried into voluminous curls.

I’ll be Megyn Kelly! She and her Fox News sisters provide the perfect fashion template. If clothes indicate membership in a cohesive group, what better way to signal that we’re all — I mean ALL — in this together!

J’suis Planet Earth.

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