I got it on sale for less than half the price. This is SO worth it! Has this or a variation of this left your mouth? Are you the fashionista on a budget sticking it to the big corporations? Are you subscribed to all the emails at your favourite stores so you can get everything at a discount? Is retail therapy your thing?
Buying new clothes can be therapeutic. I have felt better after spending an afternoon at the mall. The better deal I got the better I felt about whatever situation I was facing. I also did not want to pay full price for things when I knew it would be on discount soon enough. I had developed a mindset that meant a bargain was what I searched for. This was especially obvious during the time I worked retail. I got a 40% employee discount and used that as a license to get anything I liked. 😉
The value of the clothes I bought for a long time was tied to how it looked and its price. I cannot remember a time when I thought about who made it. Who made my clothes? Were they treated well? I did not think about materials and definitely not about environmental impact. I did not ask any questions because for the most part buying new clothes was as simple as buying coffee or getting something to eat. The cost was not prohibitive enough for me to do any research. If the shirt turned out to be something I did not like I could just give it away. I did not invest enough in it to care. The only exceptions were shoes and handbags.
In the book Overdressed, the author talks about how buying clothes has changed from being a defining purchase to discretionary spending. We now spend less than 5% of our income on the clothes we buy in America even though we have more than we had before. For example, in 1901, the average American spent about 14% of their income on clothing. Clothes were loved and made to last. They were mended and reused and taken care of. However, when the industry changes to the point where you get to choose between an expensive latte and a t-shirt this perspective changes. (Cline, 2012)
To be honest, clothes are not the most important thing. I doubt they even make it in the top 10 for most of us. Our lives are not the clothes we wear or the way we look. Life is too big and filled with a ton of adventures for that to determine our worth. However, I think the people who make our clothes matter. I think their lives, their hopes and dreams are as important as yours or mine. I would like to live in a world where the fashion industry takes this into account. AND I believe in order for that to happen we have to do something about it. I think we have power as consumers. To choose what matters most to us.
This is not an article meant to guilt trip anyone. We are all in different places and our pace is different. I cannot say I believe in instantaneous lifestyle changes. I do believe in SMALL ones though. I believe in it with regards to staying healthy, reading more or praying often. I also believe in that for the way we shop. It might be challenging yourself not to buy any clothes for the next three months. It could be watching a documentary on the fashion industry or reading a book. Then finding a slow fashion brand you can support and curb those impulsive retail therapy type of purchases.
I think what matters most is people. That the dignity and value of workers are not sacrificed so that I may have a cute outfit. AND trust me I love a cute outfit and I get it. I don’t know what matters most to you. I can’t tell you what should. BUT I am encouraging you to dig a little deeper into the stories of who made your clothes. Then find out if that aligns with your values. Ask questions and I’ll be happy to help with that. 🙂
Cline, E. (2012). Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. NYC, NY: Penguin Random House