Let me play Mystic Meg with your closet for a moment. I am looking into my crystal ball and I see it is overflowing with clothes in a multitude of sizes. Smaller sizes for when you lose that weight you’ve always said you would, bigger sizes from an overindulgent period and a handful of clothes that actually fit you. I can see dresses you love, but never find an occasion to wear. A pair of shorts with the tags still on, and about 10 pieces you wear all the time. Oh look! There’s a blouse you completely forgot you had. Not to worry, you’ll wear that next week – if you remember!
Ok, so I am not psychic… I am just describing almost every woman who has ever lived in the fast fashion era of today’s industry.
We are victims of fast, disposable fashion.
Playing Dress Up
When I was a little girl, my favorite pastime was to play dress up in my mother’s closet. I was a 90s baby, so peering into her closet full of 80s sequined waist coats, 70s fur bomber jackets and 60s shift dresses was like finding the door to Narnia for an 8-year-old!
Now in the prime of my late twenties, I can’t help but look into my own closet and feel disappointment for my potential future daughter.
The best thing she will have to marvel at is a form-fitting maxi dress I can’t stop wearing even though it has a hole in it, and possibly some interesting shoes. The rest is made up of one color staple garments that lose their shape after 10 washes and therefore constantly need replacing. None qualify as a timeless piece. Sophisticated and simple perhaps, but wonder and excitement they do not incite.
I constantly have the feeling of having nothing to wear and so regularly embark on a bulk buy shopping spree. Yet somehow, one month post-spree (if I’m lucky) I am back to square one, staring into the abyss with nothing to wear, surrounded by a mountain of discarded and unloved clothes. I am not alone in this cycle and it’s a tough habit to break.
We are constantly buying clothes with short-lived satisfaction. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that we can walk into a high street shop and buy two full outfits, with accessories and shoes to boot, and still have change from €100. But at what cost? Apart from environmental and ethical issues (which is another point altogether) clothes have become disposable in a way that is only beneficial to the brand. We fall into this trap because clothes are so easily replaced and, unfortunately, they need to be.
Fast fashion is made to fall apart as its namesake suggests; it is not intended to be worn once it goes out of fashion one month later. I cannot count how many times I bought a dress for an event, wore it once and then pushed it to the back of the closet. Perhaps it was an impulse buy, it wasn’t really my style, it didn’t quite fit properly or the foil print started to peel after one wear. Whatever the reason, it was money wasted and it wasn’t just once!
As a designer myself, I am constantly flinging this topic around my brain. In order to make a living, am I contributing to this disposable fashion phenomenon?
To me, fashion is about creativity. It can be about the trends but they shouldn’t supersede your own style and expression.
It is definitely not about constantly adding impulse buys to your closet in order to conform to those trends.
Gone are the days when we took clothes regularly to the tailors to fix broken zips, mended the soles of our shoes and let out waistbands when needed. Even with good condition hand-me-downs, there is a certain stigma that the product is not new and is therefore somehow tarnished.
Avoid The Fashion Graveyard
Paying attention to what you bring into the fitting room can save you money, time and energy. Part of the rut comes down to consumer’s expectation of price. Why would you pay 300€ for a dress when you can find one at a fraction of the cost?
But buying a dress for 15€ is only a bargain in the short term. The long term reality is that the low quality jersey it’s made from will lose its shape or form holes after 10 washes, then end up in landfill long before its time. A 300€ dress is not something most people will buy impulsively; and therefore more care is taken before parting with that larger sum of money. The majority of products we buy on impulse automatically become disposable as the decision was not thought through.
Of course, not all of us have the disposable income to buy expensive clothing all year round. But what if instead of buying 100 pieces of fast fashion each year, we just bought four quality pieces? Pieces with impeccable fit, that lie within our own style boundaries and are well-considered purchases.
We maintain the same budget for fashion but each piece would last. We would find the time to replace that button, and we would be proud to wear it more often. It would end the shameless, wasteful toss away of clothes and divert our energy to better activities.
If that sounds like a hard feat for certain die-hard shoppers, how about spending an extra five minutes considering your next purchase? Think about your current clothes. If you can match up three different pieces you already own, it’s much less likely to end up in the fashion graveyard.
Ultimately, the goal is to let your sensible mind stay at the forefront in the fitting room and to push your impulsive mind to the back.
Resist those mediocre pieces you wish you hadn’t bought, and be proud of the curated fashion collection you’re creating.