The dress that makes a difference

(A social commentary piece on the impact of clothing.)

My sister calls. She’s excited and chatty! She’s getting married!

Will you be my maid of honor? She asks.

I start to say yes. Then I hesitate.

There is a catch.

To be maid of honor, I need to wear The Dress.

The Maid of Honor Dress my sister has chosen for me.

To her, The Dress is an ecstatic purple, representing love and butterflies.

To me, The Dress is something else. The Dress is a horrid black, representing pain and suffering.

Why?

Because I’m thinking about the 20,000 gallons of water the cotton for The Dress will suck up just to stay alive. I’m thinking about the badly depleted soil this cotton will grow in, soil that is craving a break and time to recover from our constant pillage.

Of the toxic synthetic chemical fertilizer drip IV that will sustain the cotton in this damaged and devoid soil. Chemical fertilizer, which will run off the depleted soil to poison local water sources because despite being such an advanced species, we humans have no way of controlling the path these chemicals take after we release them on our fields.

I’m thinking of the fossil fuels farmers will use to power the slow, heavy machinery that will harvest the little cotton balls. Of the beautiful, wild lands and animal habitats. The ones that gas and oil companies destroyed to obtain these fossil fuels. Of the energy used to transport the cotton and process it into fabric.

Of the lethargic, overworked, and underpaid garment factory workers who will attempt to cover up The Dress’s dark past by dying the cotton fabric a jubilant purple color my sister chose, using dyes that char their eyes and lungs. Of the runoff from these dyes, which will slowly steep into local rivers, poisoning the villager’s fish and drinking water.

I’m thinking about the $200 that I will pay for The Dress. The desolate nights I spent away from my loved one and fur babies traveling for work so I could earn the $200 to buy The Dress. $200 of which the garment workers will only get $10. If they are lucky. Despite sacrificing their health.

I’m thinking, This Dress, I will only wear it for a few hours during the wedding. I’m thinking of all the chemicals that will off gas from The Dress. They will off gas right next to my skin, which will do what all skin does and unassumingly absorb all the chemicals that This Dress offers me.

I’m thinking, I will wear The Dress only once. Then I will get rid of it. I will donate it to a thrift store. But the thrift store is already brimming full with lifeless bridesmaids dresses that will never see daylight again. I’m thinking, the thrift store will send The Dress to the landfill. There it will join the 10.5 million pounds of discarded textiles and seep up landfill chemical leachate before landfill operators seal it away, making it inaccessible as a resource or as a dress until we deplete our planet and future generations have no choice but to dig through the landfills.

I’m thinking, will me wearing The Dress guarantee a lasting marriage for my sister? Will perfect wedding photos with splendidly matching purple dresses guarantee abiding matrimony? Is one person’s happiness for a few terse hours more important than a viable planet and quality life for future generations? Am I being selfish? Is she?

I’m thinking, is The Dress really worth it?

I tell my sister. She’s no longer excited and chatty. She is angry. Hurt. This is her special day. She deserves this. What will people think if I don’t do this? It’s just one dress. It won’t make a difference.

I research. 2.5 million weddings every year. So now, The Dress isn’t just one dress. It’s one dress that helps make up the 2.5 million dress statistic.

Does that make a difference?