Very Expensive Clothes

 < HABIT: Buying "cheap" clothes that are actually expensive >

I remember my high school days, going to the mall with my friends and hitting up our favorite stores: H&M, Charlotte Russe, and Forever 21. We loved the experiences - trying on tons of different trendy pieces, searching for a cute party dress, and the best part, freaking out about how cheap everything was - cheap enough to buy without feeling bad about what seemed to be a good bargain. Buying these cheap products seemed like a win, especially for us high schoolers. But the habit of buying a lot of what we deem as bargain clothes isn’t a victory in the bigger picture.

The fast fashion trend has made fashion consumption all about purchasing a lot of clothes for cheap prices, but what many don’t realize is that the clothes we buy are designed to fall apart. Fifty years ago, clothing was seen as investments - designed and produced to last for long periods of time. Similar to how we purchase and treat our laundry machines or refrigerators, consumers would buy garments that were value-driven, and wear them for many years before disposing it.

If you take a look at the graph below, our purchasing behavior has drastically changed: we now purchase clothes for much less than what they’re worth, and because of our high demand for “affordable” and trend-conscious clothing, retailers supply larger varieties of products that are lower-quality and easier to toss.  

We all have reasons why purchasing cheap clothing seems justified. As a college student, I want to be trendy, yet I rarely want to pay $20 for a t-shirt. Ultimately, we must realize that frequently buying cheap clothing has greater, deeper, and more dangerous costs that fashion brands won’t tell us.

Why This Matters

Fast fashion is creating an environmental waste crisis. Believe it or not, the fashion industry has become one of the most wasteful and dangerous industries in the world.  The industry is the 2nd largest industry polluter, after oil. Because products are being made with such cheap quality, we are more likely to dispose a large quantity of these products. Most recent statistics show that the volume of clothing Americans toss each year has double from 7 million to 14 million tons. These disposed products end up being thrown in landfills where they are unable to decompose.


 > New HABIT: Choose Quality in the Right Quantities <

It’s wonderful to acquire a great product. As a fashion merchandising major, I know there’s a lot of beauty and art in how we express ourselves through what we wear. But how much greater is it to consume and identify ourselves with products that do good for the world and those living in it!

Here are some ways to be conscious consumers:

  1. Know the brands you’re shopping from. The more transparent the company, the better. Seek to find quality garments from quality companies, aimed to create and produce sustainable pieces. Project Just has a great database for you to explore different brands and how they stand in terms of sustainability, product quality, labor conditions, and more!

  2. Treat garments like investments. Buying higher-quality, longer-lasting clothing is both cost efficient and better for the planet.  Higher-quality clothing from more transparent companies may have intimidatingly high prices, but if you evaluate how long this clothing will last you and the money that you save from only buying one, long-lasting piece as opposed to several short-lasting pieces, the purchase will be worth it in the end.  PopSugar gives the amazing tip of applying a cost-per-wear strategy whenever you’re purchasing items for your wardrobe.

  3. Use the buyerarchy of needs to examine your need and how to purchase clothing. There will always be events or occasions we need specific outfits for (weddings, work presentations, music festival outfits!).  But looking good and being a conscious consumer are not mutually exclusive!    

 Sarah Lazarovic's Buyerarchy of Needs

Sarah Lazarovic's Buyerarchy of Needs

Through challenging myself in taking these action steps, I’ve found a lot of hope and excitement in what I wear and why I wear it;  No longer am I wearing this clothes merely to look and feel great, but also for the sake of taking part in caring for a world much bigger than I am.

As Anna Lappe once said, “every time you spend money you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.” My question for you is: What world do you want to live in?

- Written by Gracie Leung

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