How to Avoid the Pressure of Fashion

I love fashion. I love style. I love knowing what people are thinking when they get dressed. I love expressing myself with my clothing. I love allowing my identity of the day to show in what I'm wearing. I love experimenting and letting myself evolve through style.

I also think a lot about consumption and waste. I fully support owning items that feel aligned with who we are. This means that sometimes, we have to get rid of what doesn't work anymore. And yet, I wonder: Is there a need to constantly be buying and discarding? We have become so disposable in how we live. 

I notice it everywhere. I was walking home from the grocery store today and I saw a dumpster outside of a neighbor's house. This dumpster has been there for a while, but today I noticed it was emptied of its former contents: A toilet, a rocking horse, the remnants of a mantle. I assume these neighbors are renovating their house. "Good for them," I hear myself saying, "But where does all that stuff go?" 

Where does our stuff go when we discard it? When we donate it? When we put it in the trash? I have heard that people buy only about 10% of what is donated to thrift stores. The rest is sent to landfills or shipped to other countries who don't really want our old stuff anyways. If that's indeed true, how entirely depressing.

I often think about how it's ironic that I'm both in the business of fashion and also passionate about sustainability, two concepts that seem to be at odds. In the last few decades, big fashion brands have poured millions of dollars in learning about consumer behavior and they've learned that people love to buy. Did you know that many brands (especially fast fashion brands like Zara, Forever 21, Old Navy, H&M) run on a weekly schedule? Instead of being on a seasonal cycle (spring/summer and fall/winter), these brands now turn out new styles every week. This means there's always something new to buy.

It’s a function of capitalism. Obviously, brands want you to buy. They want to make money! But at what cost? 

Aside from the sustainability of it all, I feel a lot of pressure in my industry to know what's going on. To know what's "in" or what's "on trend." In some ways, my clients expect it from me. And it both excites me and exhausts me. There will never be a break. Especially at the beginning of a season, so many people are at fall fashion shows and fall fashion weeks. How entirely exciting and overwhelming! But I feel that I can never keep up!

I want to push back on all of this buying nonsense and join others in creating a brave new world in which we aren’t constantly consuming. I suppose that's part of the reason why I started shopping at thrift stores in the first place, because it seamlessly blends the self-expression of style and the sustainability of thrifting.


If you are feeling pressure or overwhelm from all of our consumer behavior, know that you are not alone. And hopefully, these will tips will help:

1. If you must buy, and I encourage you to buy second hand or buy slow fashion. "Slow fashion is the movement of designing, creating, and buying garments for quality and longevity. It encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste." (Read here for more.) 

Slow fashion is ideal, but it's not accessible for everyone, especially those who have lower incomes. This is the real reason thrifting wins, in my opinion. You can find higher quality items without having to pay more for them. But it does take time.

I usually make a list of what I need and then identify what items I can easily purchase at a thrift store. For example, my list right now is as follows: 

Straw visor
Straw purse
Neutral purse
Cropped jacket
Chunky wedges
White jeans

If, after a few tries, I can't find the item I want at a thrift store, I'll either wait (if I don't really need it) or I'll buy it new (if I really need or want it). I am not black-and-white in my consumption practices nor am I immune to the thrill and convenience of Amazon (my partner works there for goodness sake! I would be a total hypocrite if I said I didn't use it). I am not perfect. I *try* to be thoughtful and careful about what and how I buy. And I'm learning about myself every day.

2. With all the influencers and bloggers and undisclosed articles and covert ads out there, it’s difficult to know the difference between what people are recommending FOR REAL and what’s marketing. It seems that everything is a tool to make more money. Be an informed buyer. Check yourself before buying: Do you really need it? Why do you want it? Do you believe in how it was manufactured? 

This can be difficult at times. It can be overwhelming to realize that those Old Navy pants that fit you perfectly are really not sustainably made. Don’t see this as a practice in depriving yourself. See this process as allowing yourself to be an educated and conscientious consumer. 

We are living in a time of massive change. I mean, it was less than 40 years ago that women were still wearing skirts & pantyhose to work everyday! (Hell, it was less than 2 years ago that we finally started saying ME TOO, FORGAWDSAKES.) Fashion and culture and how things are made and who makes them and who benefits from them and the way these concepts all play out in society is changing very rapidly right now. We have more access to information than we have ever had before. It's overwhelming. And it's actually quite complicated because for every solution, we create a new problem. So be gentle with yourself. Do what you can right now. And also be curious about your consumer behaviors. It takes awareness over time to create real change.

Have you seen the Buyerarchy of Needs by Sarah Lazarovic? I find it so helpful when making decisions to purchase. Even my preferred method of thrifting is quite high up on the hierarchy!

Buyerarchy of Needs. Photo credit: Sarah Lazarovic

3. Limit your time on social media. No, seriously. I'm sure you've heard this millions of times, but REALLY. If you want to stop buying so much, then stop exposing yourself to the places with thousands of marketing messages. 


Overall, just do the best you can. Start noticing why you buy and when. Begin to take a deep breath before you purchase. Ask yourself if you really need what you think you need. Is it a want? Wants can so quickly turn into needs. 

I honor that it can take time and real effort to change behavior. It can feel daunting and overwhelming. Go slow. And also know that you are part of a bigger system of people trying to change their worlds and the world, too.

"Be the change you want to see in the world." 


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