Months of lockdown taught us what we really value and what we can live without. This season it’s all about swapping your BAD fashion habits for GOOD …
We shop with our friends, for fun, to mark occasions, to feel good, to console ourselves when we’re feeling down. We experience the shopping highs – when we find the last sale bargain in our size or uncover the perfect dress for a special occasion – and the lows, from size-related self-esteem to depleting bank balance. Mostly, we shop to give ourselves a fashion filip, a psychological boost – it’s not called retail therapy for nothing.
But the highs we get from shopping often fade over time; the siren call of the new means we suddenly find we need a similar jacket to the one we have but with a slightly different collar in a different colour for this season. We find something, use it, get bored and start searching for the next thing. The more we use something, the less we want it. It’s standard habituation.
Fashion psychologist, consultant and researcher, Dr Dion Terrelonge agrees. “When you go shopping you get that buzz when you walk through the doors of a shop or when you find a bargain. But when you get home and you look at your wardrobe full of clothes you don’t feel the same level of excitement. The buzz is gone.”
It has become the norm to simply replace something once you’re bored of it. We don’t opt first for updates or alterations because it has become just as cheap to buy a brand new dress. We stuff our wardrobes to the brim with more, more, more only to get rid of piles of clothes when we want to make space for the new. It has become a habit – and one we need to kick.
“Sometimes when people feel they want more and more stuff, it can be psychologically symptomatic of an unfulfilled need or want that they have – almost like a hole they are trying to fill,” says Dr Terrelonge. “They become very saddened by the act of shopping because they know that no matter how much they buy, that hole and that feeling of needing something to fill it never goes away. It’s never quite fully satiated.
”All the while, the planet is being oversaturated with products that are being produced, used and discarded at an alarming rate. When we look at the true costs of fashion it becomes clear that hidden underneath that €19.99 bargain dress there are multiple other costs to factor in, from human suffering in workshops and factories where workers are forced into lightning-quick production lines to keep up with the weekly drops that we’ve come to expect from fast fashion retailers, to environmental damage from fabrics, waste and dyes.
The necessary shift in behaviour that is required to kick our bad habits doesn’t mean forgetting fashion and the beautiful sums of its parts that we enjoy – the performativity of fashion, the creativity and self-expression – in fact it means the opposite. It means taking more time to understand and appreciate the craft, to take a step back and plan and think about your purchases rather than buying in a mad dash late-night Thursday in town when you feel like you have nothing to wear for the weekend. We can still celebrate our love of clothes but in a more conscious and considered way.
We recognised the worth and the value connected with SMALL BUSINESSES and how much they need and appreciate our support.
The key to all of this is shopping local. When we couldn’t physically go to shops due to lockdown, we were forced to return to a slower way of living. We phoned, WhatsApp’d and DM’d our favourite designers and boutiques. We made real human connections worth more than a quick till purchase in a busy high street shop. We recognised the worth and the value connected with small businesses and how much they need and appreciate our support. And we helped to make a difference in our own small ways. “Every single sale a small business received made a difference, no matter how big or how small, you can be sure it directly contributed to that boutique’s survival,” says Ruth Ní Loinsigh, owner of Om Diva on Dublin’s Drury Street.
Even before the pandemic hit we could sense that the fashion industry was at a crossroads. Many shoppers began looking towards independent designers where craft and care goes into every piece they make. In Ireland, some of these designers performed best during the pandemic, pivoting their brands to create bespoke pieces for clients old and new. Helen Cody, when many of her bridal clients had to postpone their weddings, pivoted her brand to create a range of ready-to-wear blouses and dresses in uplifting prints which she sold via her Instagram page. Likewise, independent retailers shone throughout the crisis. Om Diva began selling its vintage pieces through second-hand marketplace Depop and noticed a huge increase in their social media engagement. “We try to sign off our DMs with our names,” says Ní Loinsigh “I think it’s important for people to feel like they are dealing with an actual person to add a human touch.” Lots of local boutiques began to offer personal shopping sessions via WhatsApp to help their customers find their perfect pieces, adding an extra layer of value and meaning to the virtual shopping experience.
Months of lockdown showed us what we really value and what we can live without. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that knowing you are making a difference – to people, the environment, natural resources, small designers and local economies – will give you the same dopamine hit as a one-time shopping high.
GOOD FASHION HABITS
1 Make a list of items you need each season and stick to it. Keep it in your phone or somewhere that you will always have to hand if you find yourself in a shop fighting the urge to impulse buy!
2 Unsubscribe from brand newsletters and social media pages to remove the temptation to impulse shop.
3 Take your time – if you see something you think you love, wait a few days and if you still really want the item and if you “need” rather than want, then go back and get it.
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