Just how slow can you go?

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      In the opening scene of the 1988 movie Dangerous Liaisons, Glenn Close, playing an 18th-century marquise, dresses up, layer on layer, for an evening out. Had she been born a peasant, she would still have put on numerous undergarments before topping it off with a gown. Even as recently as the 1950s, women wore--count 'em--girdle, full-length or waist slip, good sturdy bra, and garter belt. Now, it's a skimpy bra and a thong. Getting dressed, and undressed, used to take longer, and was definitely more sensual. It still can be. A fashionable friend owns a red Le Chíƒ ¢teau top with 31 hooks and eyes down the front and 19 on each sleeve. That's 69 in total. No, she doesn't undo them all each time, only what's necessary to get in or out. But it can still promise a slow, pleasurable process, unlike the putting-on of underwear, skirt, pants or shorts, tank top, and flip-flops, which takes, what, three minutes total?

      In his provocative new book In Praise of Slow (Alfred A. Knopf, $36), Canadian journalist Carl Honoré explores, as his subtitle suggests, How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed. Sharing meals around a table, the importance of leisure time and neighbourhoods--Honoré ranges far and wide. But nowhere does he touch on the appeal of Slow Clothes, which got me thinking, first frivolously and then more seriously, about not just the sensual pleasures to be found in dressing and undressing slowly but how following the guiding principles of the Slow Food movement can have a positive effect on our wardrobes.

      Dressing seasonally, like eating ripe juicy Okanagan peaches in summer, is just plain common sense. We Slow Fooders also like to shop at the U-pick source or at farmers markets not just because that's where we find the freshest possible produce but because we can be sure where it comes from. We usually meet the person or people responsible, and we get the glow that comes from knowing we're actively supporting the local economy by paying our money to nearby producers rather than large transglobal corporations. It's exactly the same with clothes.

      Take the freshness issue. There's no question that when you buy Vancouver-grown, you're getting concepts and ideas hot off the drawing board, designed last night and stitched up this morning. The new crop of designers just emerging from the schools is not just in lockstep with what's happening, it's ahead. This is design still with the dew on it, and, as with those Okanagan peaches, you know where it comes from. Buying mass-produced labels means you have no way of being sure that that T-shirt or pair of jeans wasn't made by preschoolers in a Third World country. I'm not saying that there isn't sweatshop labour in Canada--there is--but seeking out locally produced fashion does up the odds that the person who stitched that lapel or pocket (often the designers themselves) wasn't working for peanuts.

      Slow Clothes is also about taking time to shop. Rather than haring along Robson Street for the look of the moment (so you look like everyone else on Robson Street), it's spending a mellow Saturday afternoon browsing along Main (fast becoming the most interesting shopping strip in the city) and discovering places like Twigg and Hottie (3671), where you'll see either Glencora Twigg or Christine Hotton behind the counter. The ultimate in Slow Clothes--ing is tracking down a local designer and working specifically with him or her to get something custom-made. No, usually it won't cost you a fortune; all it takes is a few phone calls and a bigger investment in time than grabbing something at Winners. But the payoff is a look that's uniquely yours. Don't stop at locally stitched dresses and jackets. Why would you buy mass-produced costume jewellery with all that B.C. talent out there? Browse around Object Design Gallery (Granville Island and 2072 West 4th Avenue) for inspiration.

      You might even want to do the Slow Clothes equivalent of growing your own organic vegetables. "Crafts are a perfect expression of the Slow philosophy," Honoré writes in his book, referring to "the knitting boom sweeping across North America....Hailed by trend spotters as 'the new yoga,' knitting is now officially cool." And, as he points out, it "is by nature Slow". Stringing beads together is a gently meditative act that lets you create something lovely at the end of it. So is knitting a lacy sweater that you watch grow stitch by stitch. Maybe it's time to get political and lobby for public fashion markets like they have in London and Sydney, where new designers can sell their wares. Our fashion-design community is the equivalent of the folks making artisanal cheese and growing heritage apples and, like them, they need our support if they're to thrive. Let's get this Slow Clothes movement happening.