This Black Friday, make the most of what you have
Andrea Pecora’s 2016 short film Desula pays an hommage to an almost extinct Sardinian dress tradition. When the women in the village of Desulo reached their teenage years, they would make one dress that they would then wear all their life.
Pecora’s poetic narrative captures the story of roughly ten women who keep the tradition up to this day. As he explains , although richer women may have had two dresses, one for everyday life and another for special occasions, poorer women would use simply one double-faced dress that was plainer on one side and more decorated on the other. To reflect their life events, such as marriage or a birth of a child, the dresses were dyed and re-dyed. Some colours could be reversed from darker to lighter tones by natural dyeing processes, but the black dye that marked the death of a husband remained the final colour. “In every dress I see a life, in every life a story”, Pecora’s narrator says.
The dresses of Desulo women were mirrors of their lives. The mundane and the extraordinary, the happy and the sad, and everything in between, all unfolded through repeated cycles of making, tending, repairs, additions, and natural dyeing processes. Contrary to the current imperative of newness and constant replacement, these dresses acquired value and meaning through the intimacy of iterative appropriation. Skill, care, and resourcefulness enabled their continuity throughout women’s lives.
This Black Friday, let’s take an inspiration from the women of Desulo. Forget all about shopping. And before buying anything new in the future, let’s first think how we can make the most of what we already have.
Last week, my colleague Professor Kate Fletcher invited us all to mark this Black Friday by the beginning of a new obsession – an obsession with care for Earth. Read Kate's blog Earth Logic: New Hope for Black Friday. Pecora’s Desula captures the sensibilities that can help us translate this new obsession into our wardrobes. In our homes, and in our wardrobes, the care for Earth can start by abandoning the obsession with newness, learning instead to draw satisfaction and pleasure from what we already have.
This Black Friday, and in the weeks, months, and years to come, let’s give our clothes the chance to mirror our lives, allow them the time to tell our life stories.
Images by Andrea Pecora.
I would like to thank Andrea Pecora for his generous permission to use his short film and images from the Desula project in this blog.
This blog draws on Mila’s paper ‘One Dress: Shaping fashion futures through utopian thinking.’ Fashion Practice: The Journal of Design, Creative Process & the fashion industry, 11 (3), pp. 328-345. Doi: 10.1080/17569370.2019.1662593.
 National Geographic. (2016, April 19). Imagine Making One Dress You’ll Wear Every Day for Life [Short Film Showcase Filmmaker Q&A].