Climate Change Fashion

I don’t often check the weather. I walk outside based off of the way the sun is shining or the temperature I feel when I am getting dressed. In ten years living in New York City I have owned one down jacket. Shameful.

In my defense, years after not owning the proper clothing for the weather, it has become apparent to me that the fault is not in my choice of clothes, but the evolution of fashion. I can’t dress for a 0 degree night on a 50 degree day. In mid-January there was a heavy snowstorm that lasted for 30 minutes exactly. The city has been spraying salt on the streets for a month when there has been no snow. Pedestrians and cars barely need ice to be broken up, but for a few areas that have trickled into the streets from car washes. Predicting the weather seems to become more and more difficult due to changing weather. So as the climate shifts, so too should our shifts.

According to Kendra Pierre-Louis, with The New York Times, climate change will bring more extremes in high temperatures. While the cold snaps will occur less often, they will remain intense. The string of record low periods known as “Polar Vortexes” are, in fact, an outcome of the ice caps heating. With the rising heat in the arctic the cold air there breaks up. The frigid arctic air is then pushed south with the Gulf Stream to, for example, Chicago, leading to the -30 degree days and so on. The movement of these streams explains the dramatic shifts in weather that take place over short periods of time. Due to these new weather patterns, New York City recently experienced several dramatic swings. Most recently a shift of 60 degrees in a period of two days. If this is to be the norm, we are going to have to do more than “layer-up” to go through the day. We can’t stay inside for days at a time. We are earthbound. We need vitamin D. We need to be able to go outside.

I, for one, will not hear this bitching about how it’s cold outside when, for most of the winter, it’s been hopping around 40 degree and 50 degrees. I speak to New Yorkers when I say, you have seen worse, my dears. The cold is not the problem. You’re clothes are, you have no idea what’s going on. It’s ok, none of us do. But we have to get a grip.

While consumers learn to live their lives without complaining and learning to act, I include myself in this process, the grip starts with the fashion designers, and then the companies. Fast fashion has long been known to be an unsustainable model with regard to environment. Processing raw materials takes thousands of liters of water per shirt, for example. There are harmful chemicals used in the clothing that we, and the people assembling the clothing, are exposed to...

There is enough in the labor issue for an entire article that I am not going to get into right now. But I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the existence of sweatshops, globally, people living in poverty, working around the clock in dangerous spaces to make large box store clothing - this is unsustainable, this needs to change.

While there are many brands that have begun to use recycled materials for their clothing with a more conscientious manufacturing plan, these brands are very high-end and not spread widely enough to make a difference. This is why the movement begins with designers who have the platform to reconsider the uses of clothing.

.       . ..       . .. .        .. . .. .        .. . .. . ..       . ..       . ..       . ..       . ..       .

To fuel my inner designer, I would like to offer suggestions to designers to reconsider the uses and materials of clothing. The business model must be completely turned upside down to create inclusive fashion, with safe environments for workers, while also being affordable for communities that cannot afford the current standard that this kind of clothing would be priced at.

Here are some concepts for climate change fashion.


Snowpants and snowsuits should definitely come back. Everyone knows they’re better than the hefty overalls that need to be broken into anyway. Overalls are more like wearing tubes than pants. Here are some sleek snowpants or a snowsuit! To lean towards a vintage look, as well as airing on the side of safety, it will be important to wear bright colors so that your neighbors can see you in 30 minute to hour long blinding snowstorms.


During cold snaps, it will be important to keep the head and chest warm, as well as the nose, feet, and hands - extremities, if you will. Shawls will become more and more important as the temperatures change. The shawl will be used as a cocoon on cold days, to keep the hands and arms close to the body. As for the warm swings. The shawl will become a loose dress and, if necessary, rain gear. It will be a structural material that can be manipulated to the wearer’s needs, such as a hood or a face mask during sand storms (think of the movement of tinfoil). The fabric must also be breathable.


Boots with shorts to walk through melting snow. The shorts will roll down to pants when it gets cold and the boots will have an inner section that will roll up as thermals for the pants.


Waterproof everything. On land wetsuit for when your sidewalk falls into the ocean or river and you have to swim across the street


Boat shoes: shoes that are literally boats for people who can’t swim… Everyone should learn how to swim. But this is an issue for the schools.  


Sand faring vehicle/backpack for quickly moving across the Missouri deserts with large tires.

Large sun hats that will cast shade over the whole body. There will be a tasteful chin strap beneath the hat because on windy days the wearer will experience a gliding effect as the wind comes up beneath the hat.

Navigational sunglasses. So when you lose your way in a snowstorm or sandstorm the directions will be labeled in the glasses so that you will easily be able to find your way.

These pieces will only last so long because materials are in short supply!

Get them while you can!