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Can Your Outfit Change the World?

by Erinne Paisley

Victoria-born activist Erinne Paisley made headlines in 2015 when she used her high school prom dress – handcrafted out of old math homework – to make some incisive statements about the lack of access to education for girls in many other parts of the world and the troubling nature of prom culture at home.

The dress earned her a healthy online following and gave her a taste for activism. It also led to a three-book series with Orca. This second title in the PopActivism series (after Can Your Smartphone Change the World?) teaches kids how to make better, more conscious choices when it comes to their apparel. For those new to the issue, Paisley’s instruction – broken into eight chapters – is engaging and fun, with images, quotes from famous figures (“Buy less, choose well, make it last,” says Vivienne Westwood), and pop-quiz activities interspersed throughout. She also encourages readers to become “fashion detectives” – inspired by #whomademyclothes and #DetoxFashion – pushing them to understand the full story behind their clothing, find environmentally friendly alternatives, and to search out organic and fair trade labels.

Paisley’s main point is easy to get behind: kids should ask more questions about an item before purchasing. Where is it made? Who made it and under what conditions? What is the potential environmental impact of the garment and/or the company? Is the purchase really necessary?

For youth in their early teens, who are often concerned about what is cool and trendy, this message about conscious consumerism is essential, especially in a world where fast, cheap fashion dominates, often at the cost of individuals and the environment. Can Your Outfit Change the World? does the topic justice, approaching it in a simple, informative way that has the potential to make anyone feel like they really do have the power to invoke positive change.