Fashion Is the Latest “Victim” of Climate Change—And That’s Okay

The New York Times Style section explains why fall fashion is falling victim to warming temperatures. Don’t roll your eyes—get on board.

As I walked from the subway to my office today in a light jacket and scarf, I was sweating. Which is weird, because it’s almost Thanksgiving and I work in New York City.

Then I sat down at my desk to (reluctantly) drink a cup of hot coffee and skim the news. This headline, slotted into the Fashion Section of the New York Times, jumped out: Fall Fashion: Too Warm to Be Cool. Like all the best style trend pieces, this one feels like it’s been percolating for a while, and the unusually warm fall we’ve had has simply meant this was the perfect time for it to land. Miranda Purves attacks the subject with a flair and prose not uncharacteristic of the style section, but certainly a bit foreign to the world of climate change reporting.

I strongly recommend that you go read the story in its entirety. It has everything that makes style section stories irresistible—a hilarious, absurd, and possibly completely false premise, usually written a few months (or years) too late, coupled with plenty of overly privileged sources making ridiculous claims about what constitutes a problem.

Some choice gems:

This has been the warmest fall quarter in 25 years. And while many people are concerned with global catastrophe — contemplating harrowing images of Greenland melting away and scorched earth in Los Angeles — others are just spinning wildly, like the confused leaves, to figure out what autumn in New York means for their wardrobes.

Purves goes on to detail the crazy situation many high-end department stores have suffered this fall—mittens left on the shelves while sunglass sales are strong.

“Heaven knows that you cannot control Mother Nature, and so every season it seems that we buy ‘seasonless’ more,” an owner of a Soho boutique laments.

It just gets better from there:

We can ascribe the faddishness of one “fall” favorite, the toeless boot, to the Givenchy designer, Riccardo Tisci, and his muse and Instagramanuensis, Kim Kardashian — but we must give reluctant credit to global warming for making this functionally oxymoronic invention look positively pragmatic.

And later:

Good fences make good neighbors, and distinct seasons make good dressers.

For anyone used to considering the other catastrophic effects climate change will have on the world and its inhabitants, it’s hard to get through this piece without an eyeroll, or at least an internal groan. As I read it, my heart sort of sank. This is why climate change is a problem, because people can’t comfortably wear fur-lined boots while they drink their pumpkin spice lattes?

But then I took a step back. There’s a perspective from which the subject’s invasion into the style section is actually incredibly promising—as we’ve seen (particularly this week), people react more viscerally to things that are personally meaningful to them. Right or wrong, that’s human nature. And when it comes to a massive problem like climate change—one that is particularly suited to tickle the human brain—we need some personal motivation to take action.

So if, for some people, the need to obsessively reorder their wardrobes to be more layer-friendly is what finally makes climate change feel like a real, tangible issue, who cares? Everyone needs a #ClimateThing. It’s fine if fashion is yours.

Welcome to the club, and here’s one easy way to get involved.