If you’re a clotheshorse, summer marks a time that’s filled with temptation. Nearly all of the major retailers hold major sales this season. To boot, it’s almost impossible to turn on your television or surf the Web without hearing something about summer fashion trends.
Retailers would have you believe that if you don’t plop down some cash and consume these styles at once, you’ll have to hand in your fashion credentials. I mean, if you’re still rocking last year’s neon hues while everyone else is draped in mint green, what will people say? Will the fashion police turn up?
Enter Elizabeth Cline. She’s the author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, and she’s not only urging the public to stop mindlessly following fashion trends but also to buy fewer clothes period. There’s even a movement of people vowing to kiss clothes shopping goodbye for 30 days, 90 days or even an entire year. Giving up shopping yields economic, environmental and emotional rewards, say advocates of shopping fasts.
Is Shopping Draining Your Bank Account?
How much do you spend each year buying clothes? If you’re an average American, you drop roughly $1,700 of your hard-earned cash on 64 clothing items annually, Cline estimates. What’s worse? Most of the clothes you bought are probably crap. That’s because the average American isn’t buying apparel manufactured in the United States and made of quality materials. Instead, we’re largely buying cheap clothes composed of synthetic fabrics manufactured overseas by low-wage workers.
“You see some products and it’s just garbage,” Simon Collins, dean of fashion at Parsons The New School for Design, recently told NPR. “And you sort of fold it up and you think, yeah, you’re going to wear it Saturday night to your party — and then it’s literally going to fall apart.”
And even if your latest find from Target or H&M or Forever 21 doesn’t come undone after a few washes, when you get bored with it and drop it in the donate pile, it’s unlikely that your local charity will want your used clothing. “We are throwing away 68 pounds of textiles per person per year and donating such a staggering volume of clothes that a majority of our donations to charity have to be sold to textile recyclers,” Cline says.
Shopping Needlessly Hurts the Environment
Because cheap clothes are so often made out of synthetics, there are growing environmental concerns about clothing consumption as well. The clothing company Patagonia launched a campaign in 2011 telling customers not to buy its top selling R2 jacket if they didn’t need to because of the environmental impact of clothing manufacturing. Making the jacket “required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people,” Patagonia stated in an email to customers. “Its journey from its origin as 60 percent recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product. This jacket left behind, on its way to Reno, two-thirds its weight in waste.”
So, if the idea of shopping less to save money doesn’t appeal to you, consider shopping less to reduce the impact on the environment.
The Emotions That Drive You to Shop
Lastly, there’s the emotional aspect of shopping. Do you shop when you’re stressed, lonely or depressed? Or do you just shop compulsively no matter what mood you’re in? Jill Chivers, who runs the site My Year Without Clothes Shopping, used to shop all the time, so much so that she didn’t get around to wearing everything she bought. She soon began to spend entirely too much money and experienced guilt and shame over her shopping habit. Kicking the habit can deliver you from these emotions and allow you to spend more time addressing the painful feelings that drove you to shop compulsively in the first place. If swearing off shopping for a year sounds like cruel and unusual punishment, consider putting a moratorium on shopping for a few months or pledging to buy fewer clothes for the remainder of 2013. Your wallet, your mental health and the environment will thank you.