New Clothes Will NOT Make You Happy

Think for a second: can you remember what your co-workers wore yesterday? Or even the day before that?

I didn’t think so.

So you can imagine that it is very unlikely that they even noticed, let alone remembered what you wore either. Amazing how getting dressed- a task that many of us agonize over daily-  can become inconsequential in a matter of minutes.

What does matter though, is that you felt comfortable and confident in your clothes, not the brand, price tag, or how they rate on the “trendiness” scale.

With that being said, like many Westerners, I’m somewhat obsessed with clothes. Thanks to our lovely system of capitalism and the control exerted over our society by corporations, we have become a culture engrossed with our appearances and social media presence. But, like most consumers, I’ve reached a saturation point where I have too many clothes, and my overflowing closet feels like more of a burden than a boon.

This fact really hit me in April when I was checking in for my flight from Boston Logan Airport and found out (too late), that I was going to have to pay a whopping $90 to lug it the first step in my journey to Europe. All I could to was shake my head and try not to explode with frustration at the realization that I was paying money to carry my possessions around. Why hadn’t I packed lighter and brought fewer clothes!?

Well….clothes, like food, are complicated. We have complex relationships with these material things that we need in order to survive and function in society, and yet, it is far too easy to succumb to the in-your-face advertisements and buy clothes that we don’t need, and food that is both cheap and unhealthy.  We’re tricked into thinking that a new pair of shoes will make us happy, that the trendy blouse will make us attractive, and a flashy suit will make us successful. However, those are downright lies. You will make yourself happy by having fulfilling relationships, you will make yourself attractive by exercising and practicing self-care, and you will become successful through hard-work and determination. The short cuts that the companies sell are pure smoke and mirrors.

In fact, take it from me: when it comes to clothes, less is truly more. I am loving my closet and it is loving me right back now that I’ve given it room to breathe, and have only kept clothes that I actually want to wear, are in good condition, and fit me well.

My mantra now is quality instead of quantity, and I do not buy something unless I 100% need it, love it, and will wear it. Sure, the anticipatory “high” of shopping and buying online is intense, but I guarantee your life will improve if you open up your closet to find only clothes that make you feel your best. Ditch (donate/reuse/mend) the rest!

Here are some of other guidelines that I’ve found helpful:

  • Only buy clothes made from natural fibers: cotton, linen, bamboo, wool, and silk. My favorites are linen, bamboo blends, and (merino) wool.
  • Never purchase clothes made from synthetic materials (polyester, viscose, modal, etc.)  [More to come on this in the next post]
  • Avoid “fast fashion” brands (Forever21, Zara, H&M, etc.) and big corporations (Victoria’s Secret, GAP, Macy’s, etc.), and buy from local, small designers.
  • Buy U.S. made products over foreign-produced.
  • Buy used, second-hand, or consignment unless it’s undergarments/bathing suit.
  • I have to be able to wear it with what I already have in my closet.
  • No impulse shopping! Put it down, leave the store, and take a while to think about it before making the purchase. When I do this, the likelihood that I’ll buy the item drops from 100 to 1.

Be patient with yourself as you work to break your addiction to clothes and consuming. It’s not going to be easy, and you’re not going to be perfect. Most importantly, be mindful and conscious of what you’re buying, and the rest will fall into place.

Additional Resources:

If this is your first foray into cleaning out your closet, and cutting back on buying clothes, check out some links below to get started:

 

In case you’re still not convinced that fewer clothes will make you happier, stay tuned for my next post on the environmental cost of “fast fashion”.

 

The Not-So-Glamorous Impact of Fast-Fashion

Clothes. We can’t exactly live without them.

Nope, I need to go to work and not spend my life at a nudist colony. Darn.

But, we can certainly buy fewer and buy smarter.

Why should I care about clothes, you ask?

Well, for starters when we have too many things that we don’t love, it can cause us stress, decision paralysis, and it causes us to buy things we don’t need. If you think you might have this problem and you’d like some inspiration to go through your clothes once and for all, see my previous post here about Marie Kondo’s life-changing book.

Secondly, clothes are one of the most polluting and high energy/water-consumption items that we purchase on a frequent basis. All made worse by the fact that many of us shop as “a hobby”, a stress-reliever, or addiction; instead of only buying things when we absolutely, positively, can’t live without (i.e., toothpaste, a warm coat, etc.). It’s America, which means that most of us do this.

Third…Read below. I’ve pulled together clothing-related facts that I find both interesting and jaw-dropping.

According to Maxine Bedat’s Ted Talk:

-Consumers have 300% more clothes than they did just a generation ago. That’s like my parents only possessing 20 items of clothing, whereas now I own 60. (Actually, I own 112. Yup, I counted. And this is after I did a serious clean out of my closets. Omigod, I need to get rid of more. Disclaimer: this doesn’t include shoes/accessories).

-The U.S. went from having 95% of its clothes produced domestically to less than 2% being manufactured in the States today (that’s an 80% decrease). One can really see this particular fact come to life on the “Made in” tags of older, vintage clothes versus new ones.

-Polyester is in 50% of all our clothing– and is NON-biodegradable (hint: it’s oil-based); and when these materials are washed, thousands of plastic microfibers end up in the water. And then end up in the fish. That we eat.

Not to mention that plastic-based fibers are not breathable and they retain odors much more than cotton, silk, cashmere, wool, linen, or bamboo. To top it all off, they generally look and feel like the poor quality stand-ins that they are. One reason that “fast-fashion” companies (i.e., H&M, Loft, Zara, A&F, etc.) can sell clothes so cheaply is that most of their items are made out of polyester. Gross.

-Linen, on the other hand, only requires 8% of the energy that is used to manufacture polyester. Natural fibers for the win. Takeaway: DO NOT buy anything with polyester, acrylic, or other synthetic/human-made materials. Trust me on this.

40% of the clothes that the U.S. imports come from China where 75% of the power is generated from coal. Those Chinese-made clothes are dirty and bad for the environment.

One in six people in the world work in some part of the apparel supply chain, with 80% of them being women, and 98% of them not receiving a livable wage. Not to mention that many of them are frequently abused and exploited. If you care about human rights, and especially women and worker rights: Do. Not. Buy. Cheap. Clothes.

So, that leaves us with the big question: where do I buy clothes? Not to fret, I’ve got you covered with my post here.

And no need to throw away perfectly good clothes, learn how to repair them here.

If this got those wheels in your brain churning and your blood pumping with the clothing industry injustices of the world, read through more articles about the topic here:

“We have one eye open and one eye closed”: The Dirty Labor Secrets of Fast Fashion

“Fashion Must Fight the Scourge of Dumped Clothing Clogging Landfills”

“The Clothing Insurrection: It’s Time to Take on the Fashion Supply Chain”

“Is Fast Fashion a Class Issue”

Then, tell me, how many items of clothes do you own?