Give fashion the flick and stop clothing waste

Street stall with clothes hanging against wall

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

In the last article we looked at why people buy so many clothes. Are you swayed by the dictates of the fashion industry? Resist these pressures, stop clothing waste and save more money.

What’s more, you’ll help cut down the impact on the planet as well.

Here’s a summary from the previous article of why you (and others) may buy too many clothes.

1 To improve your mood.
2 To improve body dissatisfaction.
3 To improve your self-confidence.
4 To fit in with your social circle.
5 To prevent a fear of missing out.
6 Because of a belief you deserve them.
7 You don’t know what suits you.
8 You settle for third-rate.
9 You buy mismatched items.
10 You’re a fashionista.
11 You avoid hassling with returns.
12 You’ve never really thought about it.

We often assume that buying new clothes is a positive thing that makes you feel better. But how does that belief stack up with reality? Let’s look at each of the reasons for buying clothes in more detail. Then we’ll work out ways to stop clothing waste. 

1 To improve mood

So does buying clothes really make you happier long-term? OK, you may get short-term pleasure when you buy an item. 

But does this last?

Often your mood dips when you realise the item doesn’t look as good at home as it did in the shop. In fact, many people find clothes shopping a deeply negative experience.

Be mindful of your mood

From now on each time you shop, be mindful of your mood. Notice if you feel better, worse or the same after a few hours or days. How many times do you really feel long-lasting pleasure after buying clothes?

Does the enjoyment you get when buying clothes help with your problems? Do you feel dissatisfied when new fashions come out, because you don’t have them?

Sadly, buying clothes often doesn’t seem to produce long-lasting benefits for mood.

So instead of relying on retail therapy, learn other ways of improving your mood.

Learn to identify and challenge your negative self-talk. Mix with people who raise you up, instead of pulling you down. Do things that make you feel good, like listening to inspiring music, cuddling a pet, walking in the park, or reading a funny book. Eat healthier foods to give your brain a chance to make the “feel good” chemicals.

If you follow these strategies consistently, you’ll improve your mood without having to spend a heap of money. 

2 To improve body dissatisfaction

Many people have problems finding well-fitting clothing. And in part, this is due to the fashion industry. Often designers are using outdated patterns for body shapes and sizes. In addition, they’re focussed on Barbie and Ken look-alikes.

But healthy adult human bodies don’t match these impossible images. Therefore affordable, well-fitting clothes can be hard to find. 

Remember, you’re not to blame.

However, frustrated shoppers often believe their bodies are at fault. So shopping for clothes can be deeply distressing. And it can leave you more dissatisfied with your body than ever. 

These horrible feelings can drive you to buy even more clothes. Perhaps you hope you’ll eventually find a style to hide your perceived faults. If so, it’s easy for advertisers to target your vulnerability and tempt you to buy more.

To break out of this cycle, learn to reduce the importance of appearance and body shape in your life.  

Coping with body-shaming

Many people have to cope with some form of body-shaming. 

Worrying about your appearance may mean you’re easily hurt by criticism. Others may play on your insecurities.

Then you start spending all your attention and energy on improving your appearance. You channel your self-worth into pleasing others, or seeking their approval. 

In the end though, you never define what you want in life for yourself. Why allow others to control how you think about yourself? Don’t allow your well-being to be dictated by others.

Swim against the tide and develop your own style with pride.

If others don’t like it, that’s their problem. And if they’re busy trying to make you feel bad, they’re not worth being friends with anyway.

Spend more time thinking about your good qualities and abilities. Develop interests and hobbies that give you a sense of achievement and pleasure. 

Broaden your horizons to embrace the wider world, and get away from the narrow interests of fashion and makeup. For example, do some volunteer work in a pet shelter or help children learn to read or play sport. 

Find an activity that makes you feel good within yourself. 

3 Lack of self-confidence

Do you buy clothes to make yourself feel more confident overall? Most of us enjoy clothes that look good on us.

But if you can’t imagine feeling confident without a new set of clothes, this can become a problem. It implies again that you feel largely defined and judged by your appearance.

But do others really only focus on your fashion sense?

As mentioned above, start considering your other qualities? What things have you achieved in your life, no matter how small? Can you list your positive qualities, or ways you’ve helped others? Remind yourself often of these positives, rather than focussing only on clothes and your appearance.

Others are just as worried

And remember, others are often just as worried about themselves. In fact, most people are too concerned with their own appearance and performance in social situations to worry about yours.

So whenever you’re with others, do a little experiment. Take your attention away from yourself, and put it onto others around you. Don’t be tricked by outward appearances of those who seem to be having a good time. 

Notice mindfully how they often appear to be worried about themselves. Look for the little tell-tale signs that they’re nervous too, like talking too fast, laughing too loudly, fidgeting, or not making eye contact. Some drink too much, too quickly. Still more people avoid having to interact at all. They’ve learned to evade notice by keeping themselves busy at the buffet, or hiding in corners and on the fringes of groups. 

Anyway, even if some people are critical of you, why should you care what they think? Are they demonstrating values that you feel comfortable with? And what’s behind their need to pull other people down?

Perhaps this suggests that deep down, they’re as insecure as most other people. 

Focus on other goals

Remember, it’s also in the fashion industry’s interests to keep you permanently dissatisfied with your image and appearance. So rather than focussing on appearance, focus on other goals. 

What would you like to achieve? Use your time and energy to focus more on these interests or dreams. Then you’ll become a more confident, interesting person in your own right. And the importance you place on appearance will gradually fade.

4 Wanting to belong

Anyway, who says you have to conform to your social circle’s rigid expectations? Is it true you’d be rejected if you don’t wear the “right” clothes?

And if people only like you when you conform, does this mean your group can’t tolerate differences? That they want acceptance from others, but refuse to return the courtesy. In other words, are they hypocrites?

If they’re hypocrites, do you really care what they think?

Can you see that they’re scared themselves of not belonging? Their fears may be so strong that they have to turn it around, and make others feel they’re not good enough to be with them. 

So feel sorry that they have to act like this, to keep people around them. But don’t let yourself be intimidated by them. 

5 Fear of missing out

No matter how many clothes you buy, there’s always something you don’t have. New fashions are always hitting the shops, and they can be irresistible. So how can you stop feeling as if you’re missing out? How can you stop feeling jealous of people with all the best clothes, who post on social media sites?

Remember social media sites highlight sanitised versions of people’s lives. Women and girls in particular seem to only post their best images. All their social activities have a positive spin. Everything’s perfect.

But you probably know people whose online presences don’t tally with reality. Many others indulge in the same fabrication.

What makes people do this? Again, is their self-image so fragile that they need to pretend?

Once you realise this, your life suddenly doesn’t look so bad. Remind yourself how fake the whole social media scene is, and how it’s helpful to limit your exposure to these sites.

The same thing goes for all the fashion sites. 

Notice each time you want to check the latest fashions. Allow the urge to pass without acting on it. Focus on doing something else that is fun or interesting. Remind yourself there’ll always be more sales or new fashions in future.

And remember, the fashion industry is built around wanting you to keep buying, even if you can’t afford it.

And if you can’t spare the money in the first place, the best bargain in the world is worth nothing. 


So to break the constant desire to buy more, begin the practice of being grateful for what you have already. Commit to wearing out the clothes in your cupboard.

Then choose to focus on something unconnected with fashion or shopping. E.g. read a good novel, do some craft, exercise, play with your kids, go out with good friends, study, play music, garden …

You may feel unsettled each time you think of clothes shopping. Allow the feelings to be there, while you do something else. You’ll notice that these feelings will pass, the more you get involved in other activities.

Remind yourself what’s really worthwhile in life, and stop clothing waste at the same time. 

6 To indulge yourself

Of course we all deserve to have some treats occasionally. And we all need to have a good basic wardrobe for work and leisure.

However, using new clothes as a reward means this habit is hard to break. Soon you’ll want new clothes for every little achievement.

So work out what other healthy activities are rewarding or enjoyable. Do some of these to acknowledge successes, instead of buying clothes.

Making up for the past

If you’re trying to make up for past deprivation, acknowledge your feelings. Don’t suppress them. At some stage you’ve had it tough. It’s only natural to want to pamper yourself sometimes.

But be wary of trying to fill the emptiness inside with more and more stuff. 

See if you can treat yourself in other ways

Give yourself experiences, rather than more things like clothes. Go to a movie with a friend, get a massage, take yoga classes, learn Thai cooking …

Develop skills, do volunteer work, be inspired by others who try to help. 

And rather than focussing on things, focus on being the best person you can. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude as mentioned above. Focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t.

Otherwise it won’t matter how many clothes you have – it will never be enough.

7 Not knowing what suits you

Some people have a gift for finding the perfect outfit and accessories.

But the reality is that most of us don’t know what suits us. It doesn’t matter how long we spend trying, we look at best average. And that’s OK.

But you can learn some fashion secrets to help.

Look online to find out what suits your body shape, and hair or skin colour. Think of hiring a fashion consultant. It might save money in the long run. Or ask trusted friends or family for tactful advice when you’re shopping. Don’t believe shop assistants who tell you everything looks great regardless.

And don’t assume the latest fashions will always look good on you. If your gut feeling says an item doesn’t suit you, it probably doesn’t.

Resist the urge to buy it. Go home and think about it. If it’s not there the next time, it’s probably for the best.

If you keep buying the wrong things, you’ll never stop clothing waste. 

8 Settling for third-rate

Perhaps you’re determined to buy something, but can’t find what you want. So you buy something just for the sake of it.

Remind yourself of this tendency before and during your shopping trip. Acknowledge your desire to buy at all costs.

It’s understandable, but not helpful. You know deep down you’ll buy something you’ll never wear.

Listen to your intuition

If something’s a bit tight, don’t kid yourself you’ll hold your stomach in all day. Or that you’ll alter it to make it fit. That’s never going to happen!

And if you know that deep purple top doesn’t suit you, forget it.

Accept reality!

Remind yourself that later, you’ll regret buying this item. Think of the money you’ll save if you resist. Imagine something you really want to buy, instead of something that doesn’t fit or suit you. Don’t accept a third-rate item instead.

9 Buying mismatched items

Analyse your wardrobe to work out what you need to fill the gaps. Do you need a certain colour or style of trousers to match your tops? Are you missing a certain style of top to go with that great pair of jeans?

What exactly do you need, that will allow you to wear what you’ve got already?

Write these things down. Take this list with you when you shop. Don’t be tempted to buy anything else. Take items you’re trying to colour match with you, to ensure success.

10 You’re a fashionista

Perhaps you’re studying fashion or would like to in the future. It’s a serious interest in your life, and you want to take it further. To give it up would be like stopping breathing. It’s your lifeblood.

However there’s enormous pressure to look fantastic all the time. And no-one can live up to that pressure 24/7, and still have a balanced life. 

Make your own clothes

Getting proper tuition to make your own designs will pay dividends. You can do it for a fraction of the cost of commercial clothes, and will work far more productively. 

Wearing your own clothes is also free advertising. And if you donate your older creations, more people will see your brand.

11 Avoiding the hassle of returns

You’re not happy with an item, but can’t stand the hassle of taking it back. So you end up with unused items in the back of the cupboard. Now you feel really guilty about not being able to stop clothing waste. 

Choose well in the first place and eliminate this hassle for good. Shops don’t have to take back something just because you don’t like it. However, some may have an exchange policy as a matter of course. Shop assistants don’t see this as anything out of the ordinary.

Most will be polite or neutral. If one is annoyed, see this as more about their dissatisfaction, than about you.

And learn assertiveness skills, so you’re comfortable with making clear requests.

12 You’ve never thought about it

Perhaps you’ve never seen buying too many clothes as an issue. Learn how clothing waste is a problem for the planet. At the same time, become aware of the unhealthy influence of the fashion industry on our emotional well-being. 

Let’s stop focussing on appearance

Re-examine your belief that chasing the perfect outfit is a recipe for happiness. After all, how do you feel when you meet someone dressed perfectly? Jealous, inferior, depressed?

So do you want to make others feel bad when you’re the best dressed in the room?

How about we support each other, instead of scoring points against each other?

Let’s show we’re secure in our own selves. We don’t need to use clothes to compete with each other to feel good.

Give up this insane quest to gain approval of others through appearance. Use your talents to find other more meaningful interests.

Let your preoccupation with appearance fade to the background. Ironically both your mood and confidence will improve.

So escape the grip of the fashion moguls. 

Be your own person!

Stop clothing waste and save money at the same time. And once you’ve overcome your urge to buy so many clothes, start working on reducing food waste as well. It’s all in the interests of saving the world’s resources. 

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