Fashion and Mental Health

Giving Fashion The Finger

Fast fashion is making us want more, spend more and waste more. Accessibility through low costs and an abundance of styles has boosted our need for newness and we’re topping up on our wardrobes at an expedient rate. It taps into our need for conformity and our desire for self-expression, but at what cost to our mental health?

Who am I? Who are you? How do you show the world who you are through the medium of fashion, whilst at the same time being compliant to current and ever-changing trends?

I have tonnes of clothes – I don’t NEED any more, but I find myself every couple of months or so standing at the till in Primark, barely visible under bundles of attire. To be fair, I do buy clothes for work (which in my mind don’t really count), but I can’t resist buying more clothes for the reason of ‘because it’s cute’. Clothing, shoes, handbags, and accessories are all so readily available and reasonably priced it is borderline treason to leave a shop empty handed.

The thing is, I don’t sit at home clawing at the walls and screaming because I simply MUST have that mohair 80’s style drop shoulder jumper; deep down I don’t, but because I stumbled onto a retail park four days previously and I now know of its existence I’ve convinced myself that it’s vastly important to my life and people will think I’m behind the times if I don’t buy it this very second!

I can’t be seen to be wearing the same old clothes over and over; people will start putting bets on which tired-ass outfit I shall be exhibiting each weekend.

I must have something new to show off on Instagram

People say we should embrace individuality and we should each strive to be our own version of Iris Apfel. But there is always the fear of being judged. You can throw on a combination of clothes that you love and you feel express who you are, you’ll be filled with all the confidence in the world, but the second you step outside your door you immediately start to fill up with regret. You can see people looking, they’re judging you, they think you’re a weirdo, why on earth did you think that wearing a baseball cap with a maxi dress, trench coat, and New Rock boots was ever a good idea?!?!!

Confidence shaken, we simply go back to the safe confines of wearing leggings and a nice top from the mainstream fashion shops and just pray to god that you don’t bump into nine other people wearing the same outfit every time you leave the house.

So many of us find that desperately trying to conform to current fashion trends while at the same time retaining a shred of who you are can be exhausting. Fashion and mixing trends doesn’t come easily to some of us and it makes the art of ‘remaining current’ difficult, but cheap fashion does at least make you feel that if it doesn’t work out as well as you thought it would it’s ok because it only cost a few quid – we’ve all said it, don’t deny it!!

Fashion can be so cheap these days and because of this and its fleeting styles and changes we can literally sell ourselves to the lowest bidder, selling our personality and character away for £12.

We now live in a strange period in time where we have moved on from the fashion movements of the 90s and 00s where everyone was pressured into looking exactly the same. We all wore Tommy Girl perfume, we all had the same pair of jeans, ponchos were actually a thing, and every girl walked into the hairdressers and like some kind of programmed android demanded the “Rachel haircut”.

Nowadays we are (finally) realising that not everyone is the same; size, sexual orientation, hair colour, body shape, whether you’re a gluten free vegan or not. We don’t all need to be a size zero to qualify for the right of being able to wear what is fashionable. We are trying our damndest to embrace our differences and express them as much as possible, but there is still that voice (which sounds suspiciously like Rachel Zoe) screaming at us in the background, telling us that fashion is the opiate of the people and we must all conform in order to be classed as normal.

As human beings we have a built-in desire to be accepted, to be liked, and to be popular. We don’t want to stand out for fear of standing out in the wrong way. Nobody wants to be the one everyone stares at when you enter a room because your elaborate fashion choices make you look like a pigeon covered in glitter and tinfoil; instead we want to be a beautiful and radiant peacock.

One question that doesn’t occur to everyone is this; how to you tackle the turbulent fashion world if you already struggle with your identity? Fashion conformity and self-expression are strong dualities.

I’ve been compared to Vince Noir from comedy show The Mighty Boosh, not because I’m hilarious, slender, and have an amazing haircut (for I am none of those things), but because my style fluctuates on a daily basis. I can go from skate-punk to goth, modern witch to modern trend, and from ‘what the f*ck’ to ethereal, bohemian hippy who looks like she listens to too much Fleetwood Mac.

I wear a fake septum ring regularly because it’s fashionable (and because I like it), but I’m holding back on getting it done for real because sometimes I don’t always want it in, it depends on what style I’m serving that day or week.

Our identity and sense of who we are is both the most powerful, yet vulnerable thing we own

Conformity and Expression are both in the boxing ring and fast fashion is in the audience cheering them on. Keeping up with the scores is just as hard as keeping up with the trends – it’s no wonder we don’t know who we really are because we’re just clothes-shop mannequins that have had life breathed into us.

We need to keep progressing in our acceptance of who we are. Individuality and differences of opinion are surely what drive the fashion industry in the first place?

Everybody laughed at Vivenne Westwood when she first showcased some of her collections on television in the early 90s and there was outrage when she won Fashion Designer of the Year.

She smashed through the boundaries of conformity and gave fashion the finger.


  1. Yes! Loved this so much. You expressed, far more articulately than I have managed, something that I have been hotly debating with a colleague recently. Forwarding immediately.

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