Finding a Thoughtful Way to Shop as a Student
Happy Cyber Monday!
Cyber Monday has arguably become a bigger shopping day than Black Friday, as the National Retail Federation reports that online sales have surpassed in-store sales by more than 10 million already this past weekend. In order to fully appreciate and revel in this day of extravagant consumerism, I’ve decided to write about my way of shopping, particularly online, that helps me keep calm amidst the chaos.
Having a sense of structure in my shopping has been especially important to me after having read so many articles and even writing my own article about the wastefulness and inhumanity of fast fashion and the fashion industry in general. However, while I value environmentalism and the humane treatment of workers, I realized that I lacked satisfactory solutions to truly embody these values as a consumer. This system made up of qualifications and disqualifications that determine when to buy and when not to buy an item of clothing has been a way for me to deal with this dilemma.
If you feel some strong emotion about an item of clothing, it probably means something. If you buy an item of clothing that you don’t feel strongly about, you might still wear it, but it just doesn’t feel the same as buying something that made you scream YES!!!!!! as soon as you saw it. When I saw this pair of Rachel Comey jeans on The Dreslyn, my heart started beating so fast that I bought it despite its hefty price; and it still is the best item of clothing I’ve bought thus far in my life.
This test is perhaps the most helpful. If you’re still thinking about that pair of patent red boots at least 48 hours after first seeing it, it’s probably worth buying.
In the past, I often sacrificed quality for cheaper prices, but I now know that better quality results in the least regrets and longest lasting buys. If the quality’s no good, don’t buy it.
For the most part, if it doesn’t fit just right, don’t buy it. Length is ameliorable with tailoring, but if it’s loose or tight when it shouldn’t be, it’s not worth any price.
IF IT INFRINGES UPON ONE, IT'S PASSABLE; IF TWO, LET IT GO
There are many brands, particularly in fast fashion, that do not provide their employees safe working conditions, don’t pay their employees enough or at all, and/or don’t treat them well in general. There are also many that plagiarize other brands as well as steal artistic material from those with less power.
Environmental wastefulness and lack of sustainability
The fashion industry has one of the most egregious impacts on the environment due to excessive production, lack of recycling, and the enormous use of water and energy. However, many brands these days are striving for sustainability through strategies like upcycling clothing or using cleaner production methods.
The above two stipulations, particularly the latter, are difficult to avoid. After having written my article on the ethics of fast fashion, I couldn't ignore my feelings of anxiety and uneasiness because I felt like I had oversimplified what was going on. It was easy to criticize the fashion industry and state that I wanted to be a smarter shopper, but it was not easy to follow through with actions as an individual. I am a student, with little spending money at my disposal, and the few humane and eco-friendly brands that exist tend to come with formidable price tags. When I tried to eliminate brands based on my values, I ended up with almost nothing that was within my price range which was disheartening.
After realizing how much I was struggling to balance my desires and abilities, I decided that it was more important for me to create a temporary system of compromise rather than continue to waver between both ends and feel guilty regardless. One could argue that I'm going too easy on myself, and that my problem is truly a first world problem. It is, and I can't completely defend myself against this point, but it's difficult to achieve any goal so immediately. I think that taking any step, no matter how small that step is, toward becoming a smart and worldly shopper is significant. Right now, I do tend to avoid brands that commit only the first crime because it's slightly easier to do so, but my system of flexibility obligates me to make a brand off limits completely only if it is both morally problematic and lacks sustainability. This system reminds me of my values while taking my current situation into account. It doesn’t free me from compunction entirely, but will suffice until I graduate, have a job, and feel financially stable.
Shopping can be overwhelming and crazy, engendering a space where it's easy to let go of values and embrace bad habits. All these stipulations, from the ethical to the concrete, comprise a reliable system that has been helpful in building a solid and fruitful closet.
Cover Photo: Clueless