Is it Possible to Make Your Wardrobe More Mindful?

From mindful meditation to mindful eating, being conscious of our actions and our surroundings has become a way of life. MiNDFOOD STYLE finds out if it’s possible to apply the art of mindfulness to the world of fashion.

Love them or loathe them, it’s easy to understand why the Internet phenomena of haul girls and unboxing videos have garnered so much attention over the years. Anyone who’s ever saved for months for those pair of shoes or that handbag is well aware of the buzz that a new purchase can bring. “We are getting a thrill from shopping new clothes for different reasons,” explains University of Auckland PhD researcher, Miriam Seifert. Everything from a sense of belonging, our own personality traits, gaining prestige in the eyes of peers and staying on trend plays a role in why we feel the way we do when we shop. “Retail shopping in general, and especially fashion, gives us a feeling of a thrill because there are new products in store every few weeks,” she explains adding that regular drops of new season fashion encourage us to buy on a regular basis. “Consumers are afraid they’ll miss out on the latest trend.”

And then there’s the power of a sale. “The feeling of getting a bargain when shopping for new clothes is a very dominant factor, which can influence our decision to go shopping,” says Seifert. As tempting as sales can be, they can trick us into thinking we’re not doing anything wrong by purchasing products on a whim because we’re not paying full ticket for the product. “We go shopping because we want to experience the joy of getting a bargain and saving money,” she explains.

Social media has completely changed shopping and the reasons why we do it for many of us. Before the rise of social media, she explains, we only saw what we had in our wardrobes and shared what we had with friends and family. “ Social media has made one’s clothing and wardrobe so much more exposed,” she says. Long gone are the days of not caring about what everyone else is wearing, our inner voyeur is now able to peer inside the wardrobe of everyone from Rihanna to our best friend living on the other side of the world. “There is strong social pressure, especially across the younger generation as well as celebrities that don’t want to be seen in the same clothes on social media every time someone takes photos of them.” It’s this pressure says Seifert, that’s making us buy more than we need. “Fast fashion was able to support and encourage this mental and psychological shift in consumers by offering low price fashion items that are affordable and enable us to have more than one shirt or one pair of pants.”

With mindfulness permeating all facets of life – from how to eat, how we think and even how we exercise – fashion could be the last bastion of an outdated way of shopping. So how do we be more mindful in a fashion world that seems to be so saturated with options and bargains? “For me personally, mindfulness is about bringing consciousness to my everyday thoughts and actions,” explains AUT fashion lecture, Leica Johnson. She describes mindful fashion as bringing awareness to fashion purchases we make. “You can simply ask yourself how your purchase affects the planet and the people on it.” While the answer to that question isn’t always straightforward – issues of transparency are fraught in the fashion industry – just pausing to think about why you’re buying somethings enough to prevent a regrettable purchase that may be flung to the back of the wardrobe after one wear. Johnson also says the questions tend to nudge the individual towards supporting brands that use social, ethical and environmentally sustainable practices.

Founder of Well Made Clothes, Courtney Sanders, is well aware that the fashion industry supply chain from seed to retail floor is incredibly complex. “It’s almost impossible for brands and customers to be perfect every step of the way,” she says. To make things easy, Well Made Clothes recommends shopping the ethical values that are personally important to you. “If you care most about people being treated fairly, shop labels with fair certifications; if you care most about ensuring animal welfare, shop vegan labels; if you care most about minimising environmental impact, shop labels which use certified sustainable fabrics like organic cotton and closed loop modal. We feel this is a manageable solution to what can be an overwhelming problem.”

Seifert says while it’s easy to fall for marketing campaigns peddling slashed sale prices, it’s important to try and avoid impulsive and emotional shopping. She suggests asking yourself: Do I really need it? Do I have something similar already in my closet that I use or haven’t been wearing at all? Will it make me happy to buy it? “Maybe even go home and sleep on it overnight,” she suggests. Seifert says when she personally likes a garment she will wait a day or two before she purchases it. “If it is gone the next day, you can be sure that there will be another shirt, pants, coat, whatever it is that will catch your attention just as much in future,” she says.

Asking yourself how often will you wear an item is also important says Johnson. “Each time you wear a piece of clothing you actually reduce its carbon footprint,” she explains. “Ensure the item of clothing is worn a minimum of thirty times.” Instead of succumbing to the pressure of purchasing a one-off for a special event, Johnson suggests hiring it, borrowing from a friend or even sharing the purchase with a friend. “I love that clothing can produce an emotional response in us,” she says. “If you have this kind of response to an item of clothing and can’t afford it, then save up for it until you can.” Johnson says it’s this type of clothing we form attachments to and create memories with. “They’re the garments we don’t want to let go of even when they’re looking a little tattered and worn.”

Following trends and rushing out the buy the latest pair of Instagram-famous sneakers might not be the way of the future, but being more mindful about our choices doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style. “Mindfulness with our fashion choices should be more about finding our own style by making decisions that are truly right for us personally,” says Seifert who believes the future of style is uniqueness and personal expression. “Fast fashion, seasonal trends make us all look more and more the same through the way we dress,” she says. “Style will never be lost, but in the future, we will be able to much clearer define and express one’s personal style through mindful shopping.”

Sanders says she’s found marching to the beat of her own mindful fashion drum enlightening and empowering says, Sanders. “Trends tend to homogenise fashion, demanding we all dress the same,” she says pointing to the Tumblr from last summer that was dedicated to hundreds of women wearing the same off-the-shoulder Zara dress. “Not only is this problematic from a feminist perspective because it tries to demand we all fit into very narrow and patriarchal beauty standards, but it’s also just super boring – fashion should be about self-expression, not about being slaves to trends.”

She admits she hasn’t always be so conscious of the complex issues involved with mindful purchasing. “Before I was aware of any of these issues I felt the pressure to buy new clothes all the time, which meant I ended up with a closet full of clothes that weren’t me at all,” Sanders says. She says she would spend hours agonising over trends and working out how she could work it into her look – often she’d make the purchase and never wear it out of her bedroom. “When became more conscious of the impact my fashion purchases had I started to buy less and really think about whether I would wear it. It has meant my wardrobe is a lot more concise, a lot more me, and I would say a lot more stylish,” she laughs.

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