Join the Resistance: The Politics of T-Shirt Design (video)

With COVID19 raging just outside our doors and with temperatures well over 100 degrees, sheltering in place is the best place for us — particularly for those of us who are over 60, like my husband and me. Staying home, working from home, and attending meetings online make the need for comfortable lounge wear more important than ever.

But shopping choices are limited.

And, I’m not sure that I’m ready to jump back into being an obedient little consumer … just yet.

The premature reopening of Arizona’s economy in advance of a visit by President Donald Trump in May has had deadly consequences.  Opening too soon and too broadly when the state didn’t even meet Trump’s criteria for a safe open has led to Arizona being worst in the world — not just worst in the US — for a few weeks.  As of July 2, Arizona’s infection rate stands at 25%. Hundreds of nurses are coming to Arizona to help in crowded hospitals. We had a healthcare provider shortage before COVID19, and now the system is at capacity. We are living in the midst of a disaster created by Trump and Governor Doug Ducey, at the urging of the business community.  So, I’m not feeling like shopping for anything but food and essentials.

I already had a lounge wear shortage before COVID19. Back in December 2019, I bought some over-priced 100% cotton lounge wear online. I waited four weeks for my order (since it was Christmas time). Although I used the size charts, the drawstring pants were 8″ too long, and the sleeves of the super soft 100% cotton shirt were baggy and also long. I sent it all back and waited another four weeks for the return of my $80 + tax!

Everything Old Is New Again

Fast forward to July 2020, rather that order online or venture to a store to buy lounge wear, I have turned to my collection of 100% cotton political, cause, and alma mater t-shirts. I hate men’s cut t-shirts. The collars are tight, the sleeves are long and baggy, and the length is often that of a mini-dress on someone my height. If you identify as a woman — and particularly if you have a curvy shape — standardized, tubular cotton bags with generically sized holes for the arms, head, and torso don’t fit you.

First, a la Marie Kondo, I eliminated the shirts that I no longer wanted and put them in a donation bag. Next, I separated the ones that I like and that fit, including several men’s shirts that I restyled into enlarged unisex neckline shirts in late 2018. This left me with a pile of men’s cut shirts and unisex shirts (only slightly better than men’s cut). Although I support these causes, I wasn’t wearing their shirts because I don’t like the fit, particularly the necklines. Last weekend, I created a restyled scoop neckline design and restyled four of those shirts. I’m ecstatic at my new-found wardrobe of 100% cotton, politically woke lounge wear.

Be Well

Since the death rate from COVID19 is so much higher for seniors and since Arizona hospitals are at capacity, it is imperative that seniors protect themselves by staying home, limiting trips, and wearing face masks when in public. Those precautions will help you physically. I hope you have some practice to help you mentally and emotionally. I’ve found that sewing, jewelry making, gardening, playing music, yoga, cooking, cycling, and walking keep me focused in the moment and take me away from the craziness of social media and the news. It’s important to have activities that calm our nerves and sooth our souls, as the pandemic spirals out of control in Arizona and the United States.

If you’re sheltering in place with a sewing machine and men’s cut t-shirts (or any clothes you don’t like), try your hand at restyling. There are many YouTube videos out there. You may find a new hobby, a new wardrobe, or even a new business in it.

The T-shirt Resistance

Furthermore, reusing and restyling our old clothes can be seen as an act of resistance. We can tell corporate America to keep their over-priced, one-size-fits-all clothes, and shoddy customer service. We’ll go back to consumerism when we’re ready, when we feel financially secure, and when we feel safe.

Restyling men’s cut t-shirts embodies a second political statement. It’s about settling. For her presidential campaign, Senator Elizabeth Warren had a t-shirt with the slogan “Enough Is Never Enough.” Women are asked to settle all the time.

“Here’s a men’s cut t-shirt. That’s good enough for you.”

“No, it’s not.”

Among the long list of things women want — like ratification of the Equal Right Amendment, equal pay for equal work, quality education for our children, and affordable healthcare (including reproductive health coverage) — is a t-shirt that fits.

I have designed two ways to restyle men’s cut t-shirts to make them more wearable: the enlarged unisex neckline design (similar to a women’s cut shirt) and a scoop neck design. The first video is an introduction to these projects and to the politics of t-shirts. The other two are step-by-step, how-to videos.

If you’re sheltering in place with a sewing machine and lots of t-shirts (or other clothes) that don’t fit, try these restyling designs.

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