I love fashion, but I hate the industry. There are so many problems with fast fashion. Alongside being one of the most polluting industries in the world, it’s also responsible for the exploitation of children and other ethically dubious practices.
The more I learn about fast fashion, the more I know I should be buying from ethical brands; brands that are committed to the planet, and improving the lives of the people and animals who inhabit it.
Quality clothing costs more because it’s designed and made with care. So, when you buy from these brands, you’re making a long-term investment in something you love. But the issue is, as a student and a casual worker, I rarely have enough funds in my bank account to make those investments. So when I have an event to go to, and I want to look nice, but I also want to have money for food and rent, those cheap chain store dresses start to look mighty tempting.
What’s a girl to do? Here are a few mind tricks that I use to encourage myself to steer clear of those low-cost impulse buys and rekindle my love for the beautiful clothes I already own.
1. Mentally remove the ‘packaging’
There are scientific reasons why buying new clothes makes us happy. But if the clothes you buy are poorly made, then it’s likely that your happiness will fade as quickly as a cheap t-shirt loses its shape in the wash.
Slick marketing campaigns and shop displays do a good job of distracting us from this kind of rational thinking. Packaging isn’t just the single-use plastic that chain stores put your purchases in — it’s also a way of establishing an image designed to make clothing look more desirable than it should do.
A good way to avoid this trap is to ask yourself — would I buy it if I found it elsewhere?
Would you even look twice at those faux-vintage, cheap plastic sunnies if they were sitting on a rack at a petrol station? What about those flimsy floral shorts? Sure, the colours look cute in this lighting, but would you pick them up and take them home if you found them in the bin?
2. Fashion versus style
“Fashion fades, style is eternal” — Yves Saint Laurent.
Did you know there are no longer just four seasons every year? Well, not for the fashion industry anyway.
Trends come and go so fast now that clothing barely has time to get from the catwalk to the shelves before consumers are moving onto new looks.
There’s truth to the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to forget about clothes when you don’t see them every day.
While we all might wish that our closets were like Hermione Granger’s charmed expandable bag, the fact of the matter is that now, when we run out of room in our wardrobes, a lot of clothing will end up in landfill, even if it’s donated to charity.
As somebody who cares about the environment, I really don’t like knowing that something I’ve bought could go to waste a few months down the track. The best way to avoid this trap is to ask yourself whether you would have worn it three or four years ago. If the answer is no, then it probably doesn’t actually align with your personal style. You might only like the garment because it’s ‘in season’.
I also like to consider whether an item of clothing can be paired with at least four other things I own before I buy it. That means I’ll be getting four new outfits for the price of one!
3. Take a holiday from your clothes
I have never loved my clothing more than when I’ve returned home from months abroad. Living out of a suitcase means you have to pack light, and it’s certainly a good way to starve yourself of variety.
When I get home from holidays, t-shirts, shorts, dresses and jackets that I’ve owned for years suddenly feel as exciting as when they were new.
Obviously, we can’t all just jump on a plane every time we have that ‘nothing-to-wear’ dilemma, but you can still take a break from your clothes. A good way to do this is to pack your seasonal clothing away. When it starts to heat up, pull those jeans, long sleeves and winter woollies out of your wardrobe and tuck them away where you won’t see them. Do the same with your summer outfits as it starts to cool down.
There’s truth to the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to forget about clothes when you don’t see them every day. Then, in six month’s time, there’s a whole box of exciting fashion you’ll get to re-experiment with. You might even like to write a postcard to yourself, as a reminder of why you chose to farewell your beloved garments for a few months, and pack it away with your clothes!
A strong commitment to ethical fashion can seem daunting, especially if you’re on a budget. But these tricks, along with our nine money-saving hacks have helped me foster a more mindful approach to the way I buy clothes, which has been a blessing for both my conscience and my wallet.