There are some psychological needs for human survival, and clothing is one of those few significant needs. America’s famous essayist, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, a leading transcendentalist as well, demonstrates in his famous book Walden; or, Life in the Woods regarding the type of clothing and to what extent people should be fashionable with dresses. He also argues whether the fashion houses that make new dresses for people want our benefit or their own benefit since every year they come up with new clothes and motivate people to avoid wearing the old ones and buy the new ones. In his book, David Thoreau criticizes this sort of activity and tries to demonstrate the original purpose of clothing.
People’s illusion towards new clothes
David Thoreau tells that for couple of reasons people buy new clothes, one is, people’s intense infatuation towards new things thinking that whatever is new is lovable and the other one is, people wear clothes with a view to expecting others to tell him or her that he/she is looking fantastic, not in order that he/she likes it personally. People are buying dresses not for what it is for rather, they are buying dresses so that they can satisfy their love for novelty and satisfying others. That is the point where David Thoreau is criticizing people’s way of procurement of the dresses as they get dresses not with the purpose to fulfill their basic needs but to satisfy others.
People’s deviation from the actual purpose of life
Thoreau shows a couple of reasons behind wearing garments: saving oneself from rough weather and covering nakedness. But surprisingly, these days say the dress has become one of the best or worst instruments of showing nakedness. Thoreau wondered that people are obsessed with novelty and opinions of others than by a true utility.
We worship not the Graces nor the Parcae, but Fashion. She spins and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveler’s cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.(Walden 22)
Is Hester’s Sin and Public Shaming Related to Thoreau’s Concept of Clothing in The Scarlet Letter?
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, the reasons for leaders’ desire hester’s confession are intertwined with Thoreau’s concept of clothing. Hester’s sin, the embodiment of her transgressions, is publicly displayed through the embroidered scarlet letter she wears. This public shaming serves as a constant reminder of her wrongdoing, just as clothing can symbolize our identity or act as a societal tool for conformity. The leaders’ desire for Hester’s confession is fueled by their need to maintain control and impose their moral standards on her.
Clothing Manufacturers’ hypocrisy
David Thoreau warns us to be cautious about buying new clothes and suggests us to find out the new wearers of those new clothes and if people do not find new wearers of clothes then ask the reason behind making new clothes. He also shares another thing that, when he went to a tailoring house where he could not be able to get a dress of his own choice. The tailor told him that they do not make them so now, which means those enterprises are making new clothes to make more money rather than thinking of people’s benefit.
People who work for the fashion houses do not work for the purpose of making designs on which people will look beautiful rather, they work there so that those corporations can be able to make a huge bank balance.
David Thoreau suggests all the people that rather than aiming to get and wear new fashionable clothes, they should aim at something bigger that will bring goodness for humanity. Robert Browning said in his “Grammarian’s Funeral“
Others mistrust and say, But time escapes
Live nor or never
He said, “What’s time? Leave now for dogs and apes
Actual purpose of wearing clothes
David Thoreau claims that in wearing old torn clothes, nobody should feel bad. It is because what is important is wearing a clean and beautiful dress rather than wearing new clothes. Thoreau wants people to understand the actual utility of clothes that they have to wear winter dresses in the winter season and summer dress in the summer season.
Thoreau asserts that noble people do not worry about wearing new clothes because they have more important works to do. In Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the readers can find a clothing-related incident that Gulliver in his journey to the Land of Houyhnhnms, where the rulers are horses and the ruled are humans by the name of Yahoos who are filthy. Seeing that Gulliver is not like them and wearing clothes, they ask the purpose of wearing clothes, and Gulliver says it is a great shame for them to be remaining without clothes. Hearing that they reply that it should be shameful to be adulterous, filthy, and dirty. So, hearing Swift fuses the same notion as Thoreau is trying to convey in his book, which is rather than wasting time behind clothes, more important things are there to be cared about, which can enlighten mankind.
To conclude, after seeing the arguments that David Thoreau put in his book regarding clothing, it does make sense that people barely understand the true utility in the procurement of dresses. People drag this simple matter into something extraordinary and significant, which can be observed, especially before all sorts of festivals. People do not even ascertain the matter that they are exaggerating in dealing with the simple matter of clothing, which two hundred years ago a man named Henry David Thoreau realized and refuted the matter to all and told everyone about what to think and do rather than getting obsessed in the silly matter like clothing.