We have been told for decades that we can wear anything we like, because that way we maximise our individual freedom. We can, of course, wear whatever we like, whenever we like, but then why do we wear such a small percentage of the clothes we buy? Surely this means that something’s gone wrong. More choice hasn’t brought us more freedom, but has instead fuelled our throwaway society, made us more stressed and less satisfied with our ever-expanding wardrobes, and created anxiety around how our actions are affecting our natural environment.
So, what’s happened? I believe that one of the reasons why so many of us over-buy and under-wear is because we don’t know what suits us and we don’t know who we are, and as a result we don’t know how to dress in a way that expresses our personalities for the lives we really lead. We choose and buy clothes, shoes, and accessories that, in the heat of the moment, we think suit us and will work with our existing wardrobes and lifestyles, but then we’re often left dissatisfied and disappointed with our choices when they don’t work out. We blame ourselves for not ‘getting it’ like other people, so we go out and try again, and the cycle of buying, not wearing, and then buying some more, continues.
That said, I have clients who do wear pretty much exactly what they want, when they want, but this is precisely because of who they are. These are the people you can’t miss when they walk into a room; they are, by nature, unmissable! If they didn’t dress elaborately, they would look and feel dull, because they are flamboyant creatures! But for many of my clients, this approach doesn’t work and doesn’t give them their best look. They still want to look put together, interesting and feel comfortable in their clothes, without breaking the bank or wasting precious time shopping and getting dressed. They’re not interested in being the centre of attention, they just want to look stylish, visible, and feel like themselves.
Like many of my clients, I can’t, and don’t want to, pull off an over the top, eclectic style, but I can appreciate that it looks marvellous on those who can, and do. Some call me discerning; others might say fussy; I like elegance, quality, and opulence – that’s just the way it is! When my clothes don’t reflect that part of my personality, a part of me is missing. My clothes might look ok, but I feel and behave differently, people treat me differently, and I just don’t feel myself. But when I wear a luxurious fabric, rather than something with a coarse texture, and wear tailored clothes that are fitted to my body, rather than something unstructured, the day goes better, I’m more relaxed, I smile more, things just seem to flow more smoothly because I’m allowing myself to be the person I’m meant to be, rather than listening to those who whisper just loud enough to be heard, “Who does she think she is?”. When I dress for the person I am, not for the person society says I ought to be, I feel happier, and experience the benefits of dressing both my body shape and in a way that reflects my personality every day – and that is powerful.
I’ve had clients bring in mountains of clothes for assessment, their makeup bags overflowing with barely used products, and I’m astonished by how much they own, how little they love, and how few pieces they use and wear. “Don’t you have someone at … who looks after you?”, I ask. Wherever their shopping destination of choice, the answer is nearly always the same, and leads me to question, who exactly are the winners in this game? Yes, we have the freedom to choose exactly what we want to wear, but we’re often left poorer, less satisfied, and more anxious as a result.
So how might gaining this knowledge about ourselves help us play a part in reducing our consumption of fast fashion? Understanding our bodies and personalities better is one way to help us consume less and is also an opportunity to think about and dress in a way that reflects who we are. Increasing our understanding of ourselves, inside and out, means fewer items bought, fewer mistakes made, and therefore a reduction in the number and proportion of items that go unworn.
When we start to act and change our habits around how we choose and buy our clothes; our bank balances, levels of stress and happiness, and our planet will thank us for it.