I believed that I loved clothes—loved fashion. I’m not alone. I’ve heard many women—teachers, artists, stay-at-home moms, and traders—profess their love for fashion, to justify shopping too much. On average, Americans discard 80 pounds of clothing per person, per year, and most garments are worn an average of seven times before being chucked in the trash. Based on this statistic, it seems many of us are “loving” fashion in a Tinder-swipe, one-night-stand kind of way. There’s nothing wrong with a fling, but cultivating a collection of beloved clothing and inimitable personal style takes time, and, yes, commitment to building infallible confidence. Developing a healthy relationship to fashion is a money-saving, self-esteem building, and fulfilling endeavor. So, how do we do it? Here are three ways to resurrect your love of fashion, buy better, and buy less:
1.Rewarding retail therapy
Do you remember the last time you bought an item of clothing for the following reasons: You felt insecure; you had a bad day; you felt inadequate at work; it was 70 percent off; you were stressed; you felt depressed; you were worried about money (yes, that’s thing, I’ve done it). Self-Assessment: How often do you wear that item of clothing? Do you still own it? Did it work?
There are few good life decisions I’ve made from a place of lack. When I’m feeling insecure, stressed, or pressured to impress others it’s hard to make choices that are beneficial to me—usually, I end up trying to please someone else and the overall feeling gets worse. Given that what we wear is deeply personal and should reflect our truest, best selves, I would argue that this is not the time to impulse buy anything. These emotions are best worked through somewhere far from a cash register connecting with trusted friends or family, exercising, meditating, breathing, reading, in therapy, or sitting in nature. Instead, how would your shopping decisions change if “retail therapy” was celebratory—a reward for a moment of accomplishment, joy, or happiness? What if you shopped for the things that adorn your body when you felt the most confident? My guess is that your purchases would be smarter and fewer, because when we feel genuinely satisfied about ourselves, the need for more things often fades. The next time you feel the urge to shop, check-in and asses how you feel. If you detect anxiety or negativity, breathe deep and walk away from the store or the computer. Wait until you’re having a great day, or a neutral one, to decide if will make that purchase.
2.Choose style over fashion
Fashion offers valuable cultural and historical information about its people, politics, and values. For example, the evolution of Western women’s clothing from highly restrictive to leisurely relaxed maps the change in women’s role in society over time. It is for this reason, as was memorably explained in the “cerulean blue” monologue in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ film, that few of us are exempt from the influence of fashion. However, dictating your wardrobe based on current trends is not the secret to enviable personal style or good shopping habits.
The least wasteful and most satisfied shoppers are those that are confident and knowing of their unique personal style (please refer to our interview with Ashleigh Cummings). I recommend you use the rule of thirds to refine your unique personal style: ⅓ fashion inspiration, ⅓ know your assets, and ⅓ be practical.
Don’t be defined by fashion, but be inspired by it. Whether you enjoy perusing runways in Paris, Lakme, or Melbourne, watching films with ethereal costume design, following talented upcycle designers on Instagram, or pinning the best street style images on Pinterest, make a habit of allowing your creative mind to explore different expressions of fashion and trends. The goal is not to create conditions for you to compare yourself to others, critique yourself in any way, or feel like you need a whole new wardrobe—it’s a research exercise of getting a sense of the colors, shapes, and clothing combinations you are drawn to and might like to try a version of for yourself. In stylist speak, we create style boards and I regularly use Pinterest and Instagram to create style boards for myself and clients. If I really want to shop but I know I shouldn’t, I use Pinterest as a distraction. It helps me to think creatively about pieces I already own and imagine ways to restyle my existing garments so that I can forego an unnecessary purchase but still benefit from discovering a new outfit.
Here is an example of a mood board that inspires my personal style
Know your assets
In this article, I outline a system to analyze your wardrobe and mine it for valuable information about the clothing that suits you best. It should form the foundation for all future style and shopping decisions. If you haven't already, check it out and prepare for a weekend of style learning.
Choosing and wearing clothing is emotional, but buying it needs to be practical if you want to get the most value from your purchase. Charge headfirst into your shopping decisions with a defiant Elizabeth Warren cry of “I have a plan for that!” That means seriously taking into account such things as budget, wearability, and longevity. In our recent interview with author, journalist, and conscious closet aficionado, Elizabeth Cline, she discussed why creating a clothing budget is invaluable. Before you shop it is useful to ask 3 simple questions:
- Can I afford it? How much you are able and willing to spend?
- Does this make sense for my life? Are you shopping for the life you have, or the one you imagine? After my last closet cleanse, I finally admitted to myself that no matter how much I love high heels, my busy lifestyle and commitment to comfort demands I wear flats so I should not waste any more money on ornamental, unworn heels. The money and time I will save!
- Do I already own three things that pair easily with my new purchase? If your new garment will have no friends in your closet it probably belongs in a different group. Don’t rob the clothing of friends.
This is not to take the fun out of shopping—if you’ve ever felt your heart pounding at the checkout as you wonder how you’re going to pay off your latest splurge, you will greatly appreciate the feeling of planned, guilt-free shopping.
Let’s be realistic, some days you really just want to treat yourself, and no amount of Pinterest browsing, deep breathing, or strolling in nature is going to cut it. This is the point at which I regrettably feel the need to remind you that each year 100 billion garments are made while a garbage truck of clothing is wasted every second. So, let’s explore my diversions list: The things I do when I just want to burn some money and feel really damn good after it that don’t require me to buy clothing.
- Meditate. I know, we said breathing wasn’t helpful but guess what, it is. Try any of these apps (here, here, and here) and you’ll find a guide that you like.
- Enjoy a facial. Whether at a dermatologist or using a soothing DIY at home recipe, spend the day replenishing your skin.
- Try a new workout. Slogging away on the treadmill is a thing of the past and there is no shortage of workout apps promising the most thrilling work out of your life, or bougie, crystal infused workouts to try in major cities if that’s more your thing, and while spending 30 minutes working up a sweat instead of buying new shoes sounds like I’m pranking you, deep down you know that the resulting endorphins are absolutely worth it.
- Cut it off. There are few things that feel as luxurious as a fresh hair cut nor complete an outfit better. Receiving a good hair cut is a relaxing antidote to a shopping urge.
- Get a massage. From your partner, a masseuse, your friend or yourself.
- Buy a new lipstick. Sounds small, but nothing brightens my day more than finding (another) perfect red lipstick. There are some great new cosmetics companies that are biodegradable and have reusable packaging. If you’re not a lipstick wearer, a new foundation, moisturizer, or mascara will also hit the spot.
Photographer: Sandra Semburg
Words: Laura Jones