conscious consuming: outfit repeating isn’t bad, but fast fashion is
Fast fashion is the world’s second largest pollutant, behind oil. This fact may surprise some; the outer appearance between oil and fabric pollutants seeming vastly different – and they are. Still, it’s the sheer volume and waste associated with the process of fast fashion that is making it deadlier than it seems.
According to Business Insider, ‘The fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions, it is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.’
If there was a tag on every piece of clothing telling you what went into making it, would that make you feel more aware of the consequences of fast fashion? Or feel guilty? If you went shopping one day and picked up a cotton shirt that said, ‘I took 2,700 litres of water to make (enough water to last ONE person two and a half years)’, would that suddenly shock the public into reducing their shopping? I don’t believe it would.
As it can be imagined, the majority of these consumers of fast fashion are women. But why is that? Has this become a stereotype of women, to shop and spend all their money on clothes? To wear the same outfit once a year and still fear becoming an “outfit repeater”. It’s become an issue so embedded into our society that it hasn’t even been made aware of as the actual problem or considered a factor in why we just can’t stop consuming fast fashion.
It has transformed from a non-verbal show of wealth to being considered cool and trendy to an essential and normal part of life. But why has this only become an issue for women? Why is it OK for a man to wear the same styled clothes day in and day out and not become patronised for this choice? Clothes aren’t a single-use item, so why are they being treated in this way? The sheer fact that people have so many clothes but refuse to wear them more than once in a row in fear of being shamed by work or classmates is ridiculous. It’s become a useless and problematic habit in our modern minds.
We need to take the steps forward to stop shaming those who are simply doing what clothes have been made for: wearing. Why would you buy something like a laptop, use it once, and then never again keep up appearances? It doesn’t make sense, does it? This is essentially what’s happening when people buy clothes and leave them in their closets to be eaten away by moths, or even worse, buy clothes, wear them a few times, and throw them out in perfectly good condition. The stigma of outfit repeating needs to be crushed, not only for the benefit of the earth but for women. Why should we conform to such a dated idea that does more damage than good for us and the planet?
But how can we resolve this deeply embedded issue? Well, this doesn’t mean that we have to throw out every piece of clothing that we own (that would make things worse) but to simply start shopping more consciously. To ignore the idea that we can’t re-wear and style a single piece of clothing, or just wear the same top for a whole week because it’s pretty or we feel comfortable in it. We need to normalise re-wearing our clothes and outfits, and repairing and recreating what we already have. And of course, to ditch the shame associated with re-wearing clothes because, to be blunt, no one really pays attention to what you wear in a week; if they do, then who cares. We have washing machines for a reason! If there’s no demand for such a large amount of clothing, then these big branded factories won’t need to make and waste as much.
It’s as simple as asking yourself a few questions before you make a purchase:
Will I wear this? How often and with what? How has it been made? Is this just an impulse buy?
If everyone shopped more consciously and ignored the patriarchal morals that have been embedded in our minds, we could make a real difference; one that could save Mother Nature from the death we are causing her.
Rachel Gregg is a Melbourne-based writer and typical coffee lover. You’ll find her trying to shorten her never-ending TBR pile or writing whatever sparks her imagination next.