There’s a lot of negativity – and rightly so – around fast fashion but if we pause for a minute and think about our own personal style we’ll remember that fashion can be an art: a method of self-expression and freedom.
With this in mind, how can we use fashion to have a positive effect on our mental health?
This year I’ve been travelling around and living abroad. As a result of having to live out of a suitcase, I’ve had to keep clothing purchases to a minimum. In fact, I actually went 6 months without making a new clothing purchase.
In the fast fashion era we’re living in, going 6 months without a new purchase is quite unusual. I know many people can barely make it through a week without hitting the shops or the apps.
It was definitely the longest I’d gone without buying new clothes. I was forced to live with the same limited amount of garments – about a quarter of my wardrobe. In there were my favourite items that I had carefully handpicked before leaving home.
The day before I left, I had to pack and unpack my suitcase four times because I was so desperately trying to cram as many items of clothing as I possibly could into it. I left feeling slightly worried about how I was going to get through the next few months with such limited options.
Fast fashion perpetuates the message that we need a lot of clothes to be happy, and we need to buy new ones regularly. I can blame this for my anxiety when leaving home without my full wardrobe.
Unexpectedly, I actually benefited from this experience. During my time abroad, I spent time enjoying the moment, I didn’t go into fast fashion stores, and I didn’t follow fast fashion influencers on social media.
Free from these distractions, I learnt to really appreciate the items I had. I became content with them. I was initially worried about how I would live with so few items, but when it came down to it, I was happy. It was a weight off my shoulders not to have to worry about making new purchases.
I got creative with combining pieces I normally wouldn’t, I found fun ways to accessorise and I learnt how to wear the same item multiple different ways. I also found joy in mending an old bag that I loved dearly but was falling apart.
Nearing the end of my trip, I realised I had a little suitcase space to spare. I had been thinking about purchasing a new pair of jeans for nearly a year. I stumbled across the perfect pair in a beautiful second-hand store in Queenstown, New Zealand, named Recycle Boutique.
It’s been about three months since I purchased these jeans, and I still get excited to wear them. When you unburden yourself of the pressures of fast fashion, you can really have fun with the way you dress.
Take a break from buying fashion, even second-hand, for a few months. It’s important for all of us to love the clothing we already have, and to realise that we don’t need to buy new clothes to be happy. It’s only in recent times that happiness and excessive clothing purchases have been linked.
Clothing should be about expressing our own identity, not following trends set by fast fashion brands. When you take a pause from purchasing, clothes again become about your identity, and you learn to love the items you’ve had all along.