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Why do we buy clothes we don’t need, we don’t love, we don’t wear?

I regularly see queues of people hobby shopping, trying on clothes, buying clothes, spending their hard earned money on clothes. While I observe this behaviour, I am curious to know whether they will get full value from the clothes when they get home. Will the clothes be worn? Can they make lots of new outfits with their new clothes? Will the clothes still be in their wardrobes and cherished for years to come?

On the other hand, I also regularly see loads of unworn clothes in my clients’ wardrobes – and I do mean loads. These clothes pass from person to charity shop back to a person back to the charity shop and eventually to waste without ever fulfilling the role for which they were made. 

There are too many alarming statistics about the amount of unworn clothes in our wardrobes – most of which should never have been put in there in the first instance. These are eventually removed and end up in landfill, here and in other countries, where they will take years to break down.

Our lives have a natural tendency to become filled with more. In the words of sociology professor Juliet Schor, “the pressure to upgrade our stock of stuff is relentlessly unidirectional, always ascending.”

And it is no wonder – as we are bombarded with new images, new styles, new fashion drops from advertising, social media influencers, fast fashion companies  –  it’s very easy to succumb. It’s not, however, good for the planet or for your pocket.

Have you heard of The Diderot Effect? James Clear brought it to my attention.  “The Diderot Effect states that obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption which leads you to acquire more new things. As a result, we end up buying things that our previous selves never needed, to feel happy or fulfilled.” [See full article here].

How can you change? How can you reduce your consumption? Here are some strategies to help you shop more mindfully.   

  1. Educate yourself on the styles of clothes which will work for you. Know your best colours, your best styles, honour your personality and your body architecture – ALWAYS. When you do, you’ll always buy clothes that you’ll wear over and over again. You’ll have a valuable wardrobe full of considered choices. This is the most effective strategy.
  2. Reduce your exposure to purchasing triggers – advertising, influencers, social media, subscriptions to online shops and magazines. That will stop impulse purchases. Choose an alternative activity to hobby shopping.
  3. Use the capsule wardrobe list from your style consultation to set yourself limits. Keep a list in your wardrobe of the items you have and the items you haven’t. Bring that list with you when shopping so you can fill those gaps and buy only the things you need. Know when you have enough. Stop buying items you already have.
  4. One in, one out. When you have enough clothes, agree to remove an item every time you add an item. That will ensure you always have a well curated wardrobe and will stop you from drowning in clutter.
  5. Go one month, one quarter, one year without buying something new. I’ve pledged not to buy anything new in 2022. I’m becoming more resourceful by creating new outfits with the clothes I already have. I’m also regularly checking in thrift and second-hand shops. However, I’m not buying anything second hand unless it works with my colour palette, is the right style for me, fits me and will be valued by me for months and years.
  6. Stop hankering after new things. You can always convince yourself that you ‘need’ something new. You can also convince yourself that you don’t. Both choices are available, it’s up to you.
  7. Take a calculator and total the cost of everything that you have that you don’t wear. That number may demonstrate the amount of unworn value you have in your wardrobe. It might also convince you that you have no choice but to shop mindfully!

Maria Macklin  |  Image Consultant

Delivering self-love through the science of style

EMAIL:  maria.macklin@houseofcolour.com