Emma Watson, Livia Firth, Stella McCartney. Those are some of the names you might reel off when asked to list a sustainable style icons. You’d be right, of course, but you’d be missing off one woman who’s been flying that particular flag for the last 27 years. That woman is Marge Simpson. Fine, she’s more a selection of lines approximating some form of a woman than an actual woman but nevertheless we can learn a lot from the Simpson matriarch. Stay with me, I promise I’m going somewhere with this.
The first full episode of The Simpsons aired on the day I was born, 17th December 1989 (you will find me claiming this like it’s somehow my own achievement from time to time). Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and remember just a few of the trends that have come and gone during that time. In no particular order: floral waistcoats, pink velour tracksuits, dungarees, skinny jeans, bandanna tops, tartan mini skirts, cargo trousers, Von Dutch hats, scrunchies, leggings, crop tops, ruffle blouses, culottes, mullet skirts… I could go on forever but the point is that fashion is an ever shifting landscape of one questionable trend after another with a few gems thrown in. It repeats, diverges and stews in its own self-referential juices at points but it never stays still; there’s always something new to tempt us in the direction of the till.
Did Marge succumb to any of the aforementioned trends? Did she ever wear leggings under denim shorts? Did she ever wear a mini skirt with clunky black shoes? No she did not. She saw every must-have piece and essential silhouette the fashion industry proffered and raised them her signature combo of a green strapless dress, red shoes and red pearl necklace. Aside from a few practical substitutions here and there (police uniform, gym leotard or dungarees for example), she has stuck steadfastly to her own aesthetic. No matter how covetable the trend, Marge Simpson cannot be sartorially swayed.
“Calm down, Sophie”, you’re probably saying, “it’s a cartoon and they just draw her in the same outfit because it’s easy. They do it on literally every animated TV show and film.” Ok, I hear you. Allow me to present the main evidence, then: the pink Chanel suit.
Picked up for a tiny fraction of the RRP, she doesn’t just wear it once and banish it to her wardrobe, like so many do with outfits bought specifically for an occasion. Instead, she takes to her sewing machine and transforms it into an ultra chic shorts and waistcoat set that I still want to this day. And she doesn’t leave it there. In need of another outfit, she’s soon whipping up a strappy, double-breasted shift dress.
Our default setting is to buy something new for every big event or even every minor event. Bank holidays, sunny days, even Fridays are all thrown at us in magazines and newsletters as reasons to buy more, more, more. But Marge doesn’t follow the consumer pattern that we’re expected to follow to the letter. She gets creative and works with what she has.
Sure, the dress gets ravaged by her sewing machine and she panics and splurges on an expensive gown but she only does it under the weight of expectation the haughty country club-goers have laden her with. Those country club-goers are a metaphor for every fashion editor who has ever proclaimed our wardrobe favourites are ‘out’. They declare, as the fashion calendar dictates, that the dress they recommended 3 months ago is now old news and that we must replace it with the latest, acceptable iteration. With a simple double page spread they have the ability to make us feel outdated and obsolete; the only remedy being to spend some money and buy some more stuff.
Luckily, Marge comes to her senses and realises that those women have no real hold over her. She doesn’t have to bend to their whims or overhaul herself at their behest. She has the autonomy to be herself, completely and authentically.
This all got a lot less fluffy and a lot more serious than I expected but fuck it, you have to take life lessons wherever you can find them. So here’s what we’ve learned from unsung sustainable style icon, Marge Simpson:
– Hone your own aesthetic and don’t be afraid to stick to it
– Be an outfit repeater. It’s cool
– Work with what you have
– Basic sewing skills can go along way
– Don’t throw it, repurpose it
– It’s OK to make mistakes along the way
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