Leandra Medine is my spirit animal.
A long-long time ago a much-less-well-versed-in-the-World-of-blogging version of myself stumbled across a site called ‘Man Repeller‘. Intrigued by the title and the goofy woman dancing on my screen in GIF format, I sat down for a perusal with a cup of tea. One cup of tea turned into ‘all the tea in China’ (ok… slight exaggeration but you get the drift) as I went through the entire backlog of blog fonder Leandra Medine’s musings on the world of fashion and the art of dressing in a way that looks generally repulsive to most folks other than yourself. I knew in this moment (the very moment that I glanced down at my drop-crotch pants) that Medine was my sister from another mister. My fringes-of-the-fashion-world spirit animal. I was hooked.
Fast forward to 2016 and the moment where I shamefully admit to reading the 2013 published Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls for the first time (and only because I found it at a bargain book stall on the way to buy potatoes). Fat freaking good I am as a die-hard MR fan. So first up, my apologies to Medine for my crappy three years too late to be relevant, tight-assed book review. You deserve more from me than that. Nethertheless, here goes my little look into this captivating and honest read. Extracting some of the bits that related to sustainability, style, and my own failed attempts at translating and interpreting trends.
What is Man Repelling?
Medine and her gal pal Rachel were out and about (circa 2009-10) indulging in some retail therapy when Rachel took a look at the bigger picture. Eyeing off Medines arm-haul that consisted of;
- a sequin blazer,
- Tencel harem shorts,
- acid wash harem jeans,
- a white muscle tee that said ‘Mom’ across the chest,
- a beaded knee length high-waist skirt,
- a floral print denim vest,
- and one ivory, long sleeve, ankle length dress, entirely crocheted,
and announced based on her selection ‘You are a man repeller, a bona fide man repeller’. And from there, the blogging platform that most of us now know and love was born. And with it the term, Man Repeller became immortalised in our ever-day fashion language.
–nounshe who outfits herself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include but are not limited to harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls, shoulder pads, full length jumpsuits, jewelry that resembles violent weaponry and clogs.–verb (used without object),-pell·ing, -pell·ed.
Why this seemingly irrelevant book is so relevant to sustainability within the Fashion industry.
While it might seem that repelling men and sustainability really aren’t all that related there are a few links that need to be highlighted here. The first is the most extreme (and to be taken tongue in cheek). The more men we repel with our fashion choices the less likely we are to have illegitimate children. Man repelling fashion could be a form of contraception that will combat the main issue we are facing as a Global society, population growth. Obviously there are some flaws in this plan (the MR herself, Medine couldn’t keep the men away forever and is now married…as seen above in the image from here), and it should not be relied upon as the sole way to save the planet from climate change, habitat loss, degradation of environmental flows, and food and water shortages. However, there is a possibility that clothing could work as a contraceptive method in some cases. The second (more serious) sustainability angle for the sassy, literary brilliance that is Seeking Love. Finding Overalls, is the relationships that Medine shares with her apparel. Framing each chapter of her life story around an item of clothing or a look that shaped her man-repelling story.
Relationships with clothes will often outlast our romantic ones.
Despite the fashion industries best efforts to get us into something new each season, most of us will have at least one items in our closets that means so much more to us than something than clad our naked butts, or puts us in a certain ‘social’ category or nods in the direction of the current trends. These sentimental pieces tell the story of who we are, who we want(ed) to be, and where we have been. Between their woven threads is the story of our lives. Our connection with our clothes is the MOST important aspect of building our sustainable closets. When we have feelings for our belongings they are suddenly part of our lives, as opposed to being disposable or throwaway ‘necessities’. Once we develop a relationship with fashion it’s necessary to go through a painful divorce with it before we move on. Medine shares the story of an eating disorder through the tale of ‘a certain pair of pink and white seersucker Bermuda shorts’, religion via maxi skirts, and lessons in life and love courtesy of harem pants (the ones above play a key part in the story of her happily-ever-after). I believe that Medines narrative via inanimate objects makes this book a must-read for the sustainable fashionista. As, if we could all think of our fashion items as being part of our life story, or a friend that accompanies you on your daily adventures, as opposed to just ‘stuff you have to buy to look good and not be nude’ then we would ultimately look after our clothing longer, buy things that we really love, and think about what will happen to our items when we no longer can wear them.
Seeking Love. Finding Overalls is a ridiculously well written look at one fashion-bloggers life (to-date as of three+ years ago) through her closet. If you haven’t ever checked out Medines writing style head on over to the Man Repeller for a squizz. If it appeals try to get your hands on a copy of this book because you will likely enjoy it. It’s not a tough sustainable fashion read so it would be best consumed on holidays, public transport, or with a cocktail or juice by the beach. What I found most endearing was Medines honest account of her fashion fails, and how, at the time, they seemed like the BEST IDEA EVER. This is something I can personally relate to. Over the years my closet has been full of dubious ideas that seemed good at the time. Most of which have been thrifted or home-made. Probably one of the most notable ones (if I were to write a top 100 of outfit fails) would have been my 1999 Big Day Out festival fashion DIY. This epic ensemble involved pink vintage cotton home-made flares with winking emoji (before emoji’s existed) pockets on my butt cheeks. This was paired with a cropped tee, day-glow beaded necklace and a tie-dyed hat. My BFF made a matching outfit to go with mine. We were seriously rocking our festival style. Sadly, this was a time long before outlandish festival fashion was appreciated, and although we thought we were serious social-norm-rule-breakers we mostly just looked like ravers who got lost in a St. Vinnies store. My friends boyfriend (bless his heart for being seen in public with us… however he did sport a multicoloured mowhalk and a serious collection of safety pins…possibly to divert attention away from his girlfriends outfit) took around forty out-of-focus photos of a single bands set (in that time of film photography) so we managed to escape the festival mostly-photo free. However, the ONE photo of the two of us together managed to serendipitously capture our mortal enemy high school ‘mean girl’ walking behind us and sneering at out outfits. A pretty odd capture seeing as the Big Day Out was hosted three hours from my small country high school. Needless to say our wild style choices, and incessant need to protest pretty much everything, didn’t make us the most mainstream of school students.
While Medine spends a serious amount of Seeking Love. Finding Overalls discussing her failing in love via her fashion choices, she also talks about how, after much heartache, she found that special someone. That one guy who really appreciated a drop crotch pant. The good thing about dressing for yourself in what appeals to you is that you somehow still manage to attract love, even if you are wearing a pillow case with sesame street characters on it up-cycled into a skirt (which, in-my-personal-experience, is apparently very appealing attire if you want to meet the lead singer of a heavy metal band ). Poor Medine copped a lot of flack from her followers for having met a man. Apparently those who dress to repel are supposed to live happily ever after with 25 cats and a collection of hot pink faux fur handbags. The good thing is that in these moments of change and personal growth, we learn about ourselves and change accordingly. Medine continues to write today as a married Man Repeller. A testament to the fact that being yourself is ALWAYS the right decision.
Are you a Man Repeller fan? Perhaps you have never heard of the term before but somehow identify? Let us know your thoughts on all things fashionably unfashionable below.