The Dharma of Fashion: A Buddhist Approach to Our Life with Clothes – Book Review
Author: Otto Von Busch
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Release Date: 28th February, 2020 by Schiffer Publishing
Format: Kindle ebook
What did I think?
It seems I don’t have too much of a problem or addiction to fashion. To be honest, I knew that going in. So why did I put my name down to read this book, then? Well, because in the past I’ve read a lot of Buddhist philosophy (I can’t even remember most of the books so I’ve only added a few to Goodreads) but also because I think though my relationship to fashion is tenuous, my relationship to my clothes/fashion is moderate. Does that make sense? If not, hopefully I’ll explain it better below.
I remember I was nineteen and out late one night when someone I’d known for a while said to me, ‘Why do you always wear that jacket? It looks like it belongs to a suit.’ I did often wear it, and there is a 99.999% chance that jacket had originally been part of a suit. I had bought it from an op-shop in the men’s section. I can’t tell you all the reasons why I liked it The only thing I can remember is that I liked it and it had lots of pockets, including inside in the lining, which seemed darned handy to me.
I was mortified because in that moment I realised that I wasn’t getting ‘it’ right. Not even right enough to avoid being called out. Worse was that it had happened publicly, drawing attention to me in a larger setting, something I didn’t really care for. Of course, I was too sensitive! Why should I care?! I’m sure those of you who are or who have been self-conscious will understand, though. It was a shock, too. I hadn’t really thought too much about it until someone spelled it out for me.
Anyhoo, I don’t worry as much anymore, yet…I still have a way I like to dress. Or a few ways perhaps, that I rotate. I occasionally change up and I think it’s for reasons that the book well-described as being mixed in with our ideas of who we want to be, or who we could be. Sure, I fall for that. Once a year, I think maybe I want to be ‘sophisticated’. Some years I even took a couple of tentative steps towards that end. Then I remember that I’m a homebody who likes solitary pursuits and lives with four indoor pets! It’s quite the fur-covered reality check, I can tell you.
I’m not the most needy person in relation to this book—I don’t have that many clothes (you might even notice the same clothes and patterns in my pics for The Long Hot Spell). But, I have times when I get excited about getting some new things—and suffer from the Diderot effect (which I learned about in Less Stuff but he gets a mention in this book, too) which can happen when you buy shiny new stuff that causes your other things to look like crap and therefore spurs you on to replace items which probably didn’t need replacement. So I thought the book might help me in those areas where I could use a little advice, and to be honest I was drawn to it because it was a Buddhist take.
Now, on to the book. The great part of the book for me was that it was very much a Buddhist philosophy book. If you’re not Buddhist or not interested in their views, then this is not for you. It was meandering, though it was a good refresher of impermanence and attachment and the other ways Buddhists see and translate life, thoughts and emotions.
– That even if we are not fashion conscious, many around us will be.
– That if we continue to wear similar styled clothes, then we will be attached to varying degrees to a past time. I think that is true – though some things I’ve modernised some of my clothes do still have a basis in past decades. Actually, there is something about that that I like.
– I loved the hungry ghost analogy, comparing them, with their tiny necks but hungry bloated stomachs, never able to get enough to those who can’t get enough of fashion and buying.
– Much was written about addiction. It can relate to fashion, but addiction is more than drug and alcohol abuse and gambling. It can affect the way we do things in so many areas of our lives from exercise, to work, to shopping. The book was helpful for more than just fashion in relation to the way we can let addictions drive us and the underlying needs that drive that.
– There were things for readers to try out, to get in touch with their thinking and emotions surrounding choices about fashion.
– I almost don’t want to write this because I have met too many people who, if you bring up trauma or bad experiences from someones childhood, will say ‘It’s in the past, though,’ or ‘You can’t blame everything on their childhood.’ Thereby missing the truly valid point that things that happen then can drive adult behaviour in ways that we might not always be aware of – or want! Having said that (though not wanting to encourage those types :P) I felt that the focus on addiction drivers in this book may have been too much placed on childhood issues. I mean stuff happens to hurt people in adult life, too.
– The formatting for the Kindle version was a bit iffy, perhaps made worse because the book contained many drawings.
– The drawings I have to say something about because other reviewers have mentioned them too. I liked the drawings a lot BUT I didn’t see how they related to the text. At all.
– The final chapter stood out as having a different tone.
The writer uses philosophy, psychology and views of consumerism and capitalism to explain how we can investigate our own relationship to clothing and fashion, and how we can disrupt it, aiming for something healthier. There is some great advice in this book and I’m super-glad I had the chance to read it.
Big thanks to Schiffer Publishing, Net Galley, and the author, Otto Von Busch, for my copy of the book. It was given in return for an honest review.