Do the clothes we wear reinforce a sense of identity?
The fashion industry provides us with a way to express our true identity, ultimately leading to a feeling of empowerment. Consequently, if we are satisfied that our outfit choice adequately reflects our idea of self, then it is likely that we will have increased self-confidence and a positive mindset for the day ahead. Fashion, for many, offers the chance to communicate creativity and uniqueness. Importantly, fashion is not limited to the clothes we wear, but includes how we style our hair, do our makeup and choose to accessorise. Someone who does not know us is often able to get an idea of our personality by the way we style ourselves. Are you at the pub in sweatpants and a t-shirt? At first glance I will think you are a chilled out, care free person. Of course assumptions can be problematic and we’ve all been told from a young age by our mothers to ‘not judge a book by it’s cover’, but we are human and it’s in our nature to have them.
However, it is wrong to assume that all of us have a strong sense of identity to express and unfortunately, some are not happy with who they are. How can the fashion industry create a feeling of positivity amongst those of us who are yet to realise or to be accepting of their identity? It offers a path of exploration through trial and error. If we feel good walking through town wearing our hair in a slick back ponytail with matching gym leggings and a sports bra then we will repeat and recreate this outfit over again, identifying our own fashion style. We must ask ourselves if we feel good about what we are wearing because it is showing individual creativity or because it matches society’s expectation of what it is to be ‘in fashion’.
Buying our clothes sustainably makes us feel good about ourselves.
As aforementioned, I believe that if our identity is mirrored in how we present ourselves we are more likely to have a positive mood. Additionally, if we buy our clothes ethically and sustainably then we feel like we are making a difference to the world around us and again, our mood is boosted. Fast-fashion surrounds us. We log on to facebook and our feed is polluted with adverts from Pretty Little Thing, Nasty Gal and Boohoo. I can admit that sometimes I find it hard to resist bargains that are promised by these brands when shopping sustainably can cost dramatically more money. However, here are a few reminders of why spending the extra few pounds is worth it.
Fast-fashion has a detrimental effect on women and therefore is not only an environmental issue but a feminist issue. The fashion industry remains one of the most labour intensive industries in the world and around 80% of clothing workers are women. In garment factories across South Asia and India, millions of women work long hours for minimal wages, in uncomfortable and often dangerous conditions. The concept of women supporting other women should not be limited to our own country. We should be aware of how the fast-fashion industry helps to exploit women’s labour in foreign countries in order to make women in our own country feel empowered. I, therefore, believe that a lot of fast-fashion brands in the UK have hypocritical feminist values.
When looking at the cost fast-fashion also has on the environment it can be identified that the fashion industry makes up 10% of carbon emissions from humans and is the second biggest consumer of water. We should try to be sustainable with our fashion options through buying second hand and wearing our clothes for longer periods of time. As always, there is an issue of privilege meaning that some people may not have enough income to make sustainable decisions. However, if you are able to buy fashion sustainably, knowing that you are making a difference is sure to make you feel good about yourself.
To answer the original question, yes. The fashion industry absolutely does have the power to affect our mood. Through fashion we can explore within ourselves, test out what makes us feel good and learn to represent our true identity.