I don’t believe in fashion. There, I’ve said it. It’s out there. Fashion exists, of course I know that it does. It’s just that fashion, to me, is enslavement to somebody else’s ideas of what we should and shouldn’t be wearing. I don’t want to be a slave, and I don’t want to help anyone else to be a slave either.
Style, on the other hand, is something I believe strongly and fervently in. It is a true and dynamic expression of who you are. Style tells us who you believe yourself to be – even if it’s just for today. It is about self-expression. Style signals our sense of individual identity. I believe in style, and in particular I believe in sustainable style. Let me tell you more.
The clothing industry is a $375 billion dollar a year industry. Clothes are serious business. A lot of time, effort and money are put into creating fashion cycles. They are designed to get our attention, get it fast and get it often.
Fashion cycles are getting shorter and shorter every year. In the past clothing stores would refurbish their stock once a season or perhaps once every 3 months. Now, some global clothing brands boast that they update their stock twice a week. A week! They encourage their customers to buy their new merchandise on a regular, ideally weekly, basis.
Here’s my question…
How can you possibly maintain a sense of personal, sustainable style if you are updating your wardrobe on a weekly basis? I would go even further to suggest that such a frequently updated closet creates a shifting and unstable sense of self. Additionally, frequent purchasing erodes one’s sense of identity. Like water dripping on a stone, you are forever shifting the foundations on which the expression of that identity rests.
Many women I have met shop too much, by their own definition. Their shopping has started to cause them harm. Not only financially, although that is often the most visible sign of someone who shops too much, but emotionally and psychologically as well.
They are thinking too much about shopping (sometimes it’s their prevailing thought pattern – things they have seen that they want to buy, items they have already bought, shopping trips they wish and are planning to take).
Their emotions are caught up too much in shopping – they feel guilty, they feel elated, they feel embarrassed (and sometimes ashamed), they feel the ‘buy high’ and then the inevitable emotional crash after it wears off. It’s an exhausting roller coaster, emotionally, cognitively and psychologically.
These women have exhausted themselves from too much consumption. I, too, exhausted myself with too much shopping. The extreme path I chose to heal myself from this toxic behaviour was to take a year without buying any clothes. I knew I had to stop the constant intake of new items into my closet, to regain some sense of where shopping fit into my life and to regain some sense of myself. That year changed my life! It not only changed my shopping behaviour and beliefs, it changed how I think and feel about consumption. That year was also when I discovered the importance of sustainable style.
About Sustainable Style
Sustainable style is about knowing who you are. It’s about loving and appreciating who you are and making clothing and purchasing choices that make you feel good and look great. It’s about having a deep and enduring sense of your worth and your identity and understanding how clothes both express and inform who you are.
Sustainable style recognises the endless feedback loop between how we look and dress, and how we feel about ourselves. Clothes matter, they make a difference. If you and I were to swap clothing, we’d feel differently about ourselves. You feel better when you look better. And, we all know that painful high heels always show more on your face than they do on your feet!
Sustainable style recognises that your style is dynamic. It’s a living breathing thing that changes over time. During important transition times in your life, such as changes in relationships, career, and geography, you should assess your style and make informed and meaningful changes to the way you dress and present yourself.
Being a slave to fashion erodes our self-esteem and confidence because it assumes there is a gap between where you are and where you should be. Style, on the other hand, builds self-esteem and confidence because by its very nature it assumes the woman developing and expressing her unique style is beautiful.
About today’s guest blogger: Jill Chivers, Author, Speaker, Facilitator. Jill Chivers understands the overshopping cycle first hand. After recovering from her compulsion to overshop, Jill is now an advocate for conscious shopping. She has created the world’s first online membership site for other women who want to create a healthier relationship to shopping, themselves, their wardrobes, and their wallets. Jill has appeared in many media stories in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, talking about compulsive over-shopping, including ABC4, NBC affiliated King 5, the San Jose Mercury, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Wall Street Journal. Learn more at My Year Without Clothes Shopping.