Can We Change Our Attitudes and Spending Habits About Clothes?
It is believed that women spend around or over £80,000 on clothing in their lifetimes. For men this figure is considerably less, at around £34,000.
When you look at the totals, it seems like an outrageous amount to spend, just on clothes, but clothing and the fashion industry as a whole is a multi-billion dollar and pound industry.
Simply put, we love clothes!
As they say, “clothes make the man”. “You are what you wear”. “Dressing well is a form of good manners”.
There are many sayings and idioms, and quotes regarding clothing. Even stories and jokes, such as “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.
Clothes and clothing and its accessories are a huge part of our life, and our wallet or purse.
Take a moment and look at all the stores and shops on the High Street or anywhere, chances are the majority of them are clothing outlets. And some of these clothing stores are high end, expensive!
Name brands and designer labels can cost a small fortune compared to local brands and stores. Just compare the same style dress sold in Primark or George, to one with a designer label on it. Massive price difference.
Is there a difference in quality, in the end, yes, there probably is, and for the price there should be.
However, you have to ask yourself, how often am I going to wear this particular piece of clothing? How long will I own it?
There are certain articles of clothing we will keep and wear for years, a men’s suit, a certain party dress, but the majority of our clothes sit in the wardrobe, waiting to be taken out and worn. Then every few years, we cull through it all, debating which ones to keep, and which ones to give to charity.
You do donate your old clothing to charity don’t you?
If not you should.
Years ago the idea and concept, which is not new, came about of purchasing used clothing from individuals. This had gone on for many years in the clothing industry, but not so much at a consumer level.
Shops began popping up everywhere offering to purchase your old and unwanted clothing, paying a price per kg.
This brought up a new realm of mischief in that people began selling their old clothes instead of donating them. The charity shops saw a decrease in donations, which they need.
Why just give your clothes away, when you can sell them and make a few quid.
Then you have the issue of someone in need of cash for whatever reason, it could be drugs or alcohol, and selling all their clothes for money, or worse yet, selling someone else’s clothing.
The result of all these unwanted or no longer worn clothes is a lot of waste, some clothing can be reused and worn again, but some cannot. So the material may be recycled and used in some other way. But in the end as fashions change, designers have new lines, and as consumers we change our minds as to what we like one day and not the next, there is a lot of waste in the world of clothing.
It is estimated that £130 billion of unused clothing is lying around our homes, and about £140 million of it ends up in landfills each year.
Why The Waste?
Simply put the reason there is so much waste in clothing and unused clothes can be put down to a few reasons:
* We outgrow an article of clothing
* Fashions change
* We wear an article of clothing out (more often than not, we get tired of it)
* We just want a new outfit
Obviously there are other reasons, but these main factors are why we buy so many clothes.
Cost to the Environment and Lives
There are a few schools of thought regarding our love of clothes and the impact it has on the environment and also the workers who make our clothing lives.
You didn’t think our clothes were all just made by machines in some clothing factor, oh noooo, while there is a lot of automation in the clothing industry, it still in the end comes down to someone stitching bolts of cloth together.
Cheap Clothes = High Cost: In order to manufacture clothes cheaply, one major expense is labour, so you need cheap labour to make cheap clothing.
This means using factories in other countries, where the average wage is much less than say here in the UK, or the USA.
This can create not just environmental issues due to the fabrics and dyes needed, but also to human life, such as those working 18 hours a day in some far off country, working in what was termed, “sweat shops”.
The Assistant Professor at the Brown School at the Washington University in St. Louis, Christine Ekenga states regarding “fast fashion”, “From the growth of water-intensive cotton, to the release of untreated dyes into local water sources, to worker’s low wages and poor working conditions, the environmental and social costs involved in textile manufacturing are widespread.”
“This is a massive problem,” Ekenga says. “The disproportionate environmental and social impacts of fast fashion warrant its classification as an issue of global environmental injustice.”
Here in the UK we are the leader as we buy more clothes than any other country in Europe. That is saying a lot!
The Fashion Designer for English, Phoebe English stated, “It is extremely alarming to see that our government has failed to grasp the true extent of the consequences of the fashion industry carrying on the way it is.”
“It is a vastly damaging industry that has been spiralling unchecked for far too long. The Earth and the people on it are exploited and damaged at every single step of the chain, and this culminates with unimaginable mountains of unused excess stock or badly made broken waste clothing with nowhere to go other than landfill or incineration.”
There is a “hidden price” in the cheap clothing we buy.
A Lecturer at the Manchester Fashion Institute, Sass Brown says, “The hidden price tag is the cost people in the supply chain and the environment itself pays.”
“The price is just too good to be true.”
Changing Attitudes About Clothes
“Fast fashion” and the clothing industry creates much more than just a desire in us to buy new and more clothes, it creates:
* Waste, as 350,000 tonnes each year is dumped in landfills
* Poor working conditions in some countries where workers work long hours for little pay
* Pollution through the use of dies and also incinerating old unused clothes
* Plastic packaging that cannot be recycled
So if our clothing industries and our love of clothes is such a huge business, and also causing damage to the environment and also some of the workers who make our clothes, how can we change this?
We need to change our habits and attitudes towards clothing, and also shopping. No more shop till you drop, and no more buying clothes just to buy clothes.
We also need to embrace “pre-loved” clothes, or vintage wear as some call it.
We are seeing more and more vintage wear or pre-owned clothing shops appear on the High Streets and retail shopping outlets. It is not just the charity shops seeing pre-worn clothing any longer.
We need to reduce our “consumption footprint” just as we try to reduce our carbon footprint.