In Discussions, Shopping, Style

Why are we so obsessed with fast fashion?

‘Fast fashion’ in case you aren’t aware of the term, means stores like H&M, Jacob, Zara, Dynamite, Smart Set, and Forever 21 to name a few examples where you can buy trendy, super cheap clothing.

YOUR FUNDS MAY BE LIMITED

This was the case when I was young and when I didn’t have money, fast fashion was the way to go. Who at the age of 16, has money for a high-quality blouse at even $50 when you can buy something similar for $20?

Same goes with shoes.

Who can afford real leather boots or high quality ones to boot? Then you have to be careful with them and take care of them, which doesn’t really cross your mind when you’re young.

fashion-italian-shopping-shoes-bag-purse

 

YOU JUST WANT A QUICK UPDATE TO YOUR WARDROBE

However as you get older, sometimes you just want new piece to “update” your wardrobe but without spending a lot.

On style blogs I see plenty of requests like:

Can you please help me find a _____ for everyday use.ย  My limit is $50, but since it seems like a trendier item, anything cheaper would be ideal.

When I read that, I think — “But if it’s trendy, do you ever think about how long you will use said item?”


What if you found it for $20? It’s still $20 wasted in my opinion because you may only have this purse with your outfit two maybe even up to twenty times, and the cost-per-wear ends up being $10 – $1 each time, then you toss it.

In contrast, a nice, classic bag can be worn with an outfit plenty of times over the years and the cost-per-use or cost-per-wear goes down to fractions of pennies.

$1 to me, is still $1.

CHEAP ITEMS NEVER LAST

I know this is common sense but cheap clothing never lasts, but that’s also not to say that anything that costs a lot of money or has a designer label on it lasts longer or is actually all that stylish.

All the times I have ever paid for anything (even up to $75 for something that was from a “fast fashion” store), it has never stood the test of time, but then again, if we’re all looking for quick wardrobe updates and fast fashion fixes, maybe lasting more than 20 times is asking for too much.

After a wash or two, the fabric pills, stretches, fades, and generally looks completely worn out and used even though I haven’t worn it all that much.

This perpetuated the cycle of my thinking: OMG my clothing looks AWFUL… and then I ran out to buy newer, nicer looking pieces which ended up looking trashed after a month or three.

wardrobe-clothes-clothing-shopping-rack

When I realized that I basically had a closet full of crappy clothing that I didn’t want to wear, I did a quick mental tally of how much I spent and realized I could have just purchased a few really nice pieces that I would be wearing and would continue to wear for years to come.

It really doesn’t matter what I bought — if it was a ‘fast fashion’ piece, it looked awful in a short amount of time, be it a “wool”-like coat that only had 5% of actual wool in it, or “silk”-style blouses that were really made out of polyester.

For footwear, I bought many plastic faux leather boots that were ruined after a year or two of wearing them normally, and it got to the point where the “leather” peeled off to reveal the plastic underneath.

Jewellery? Same thing. After a while the brass would be revealed underneath my cheap rings and necklaces which in some cases gave it a cool look, and in others, looked awful.

CRAVING A TREND VERSUS SHOPPING MINDLESSLY

It is one thing to crave a trend or a classic piece, it is another to shop mindlessly.

I did a lot of this shopping mindlessly when I went into stores. I’d be suckered into a store because of any of the following:

  • Ooo new things I have not seen before!
  • OMG! A sale!
  • I feel like a new blouse….

Once I was in the store, it would be hard for me to leave without trying something on, which we all know is the gateway to then purchasing said item.

Photograph-Shopping-Clothes-Closet-Wardrobe-5

As for craving a trend, I can’t say I really fell prey to this because I have never really followed trends slavishly until it becomes a trend that I could see myself wearing in the long-term as a classic piece.

Examples of style trends I avoided and still avoid to this day:

  • Harem pants (no one looks good in MC Hammer diaper pants)
  • Super short/tight anything
  • Neon-coloured anything
  • Chunky/Clunky shoes
  • Shoes that are boots or “shboots” which I think are just hideous
  • Anything grunge or very over-sized (it makes me feel and look sloppy)

Examples of style trends that eventually made it to my ‘classic’ list:


  • Skinny jeans / pants (I resisted for so long!)
  • Leather details on things like sleeves or a trim on a pair of pants
  • Maxi and Midi dresses (even though I don’t own any, I would consider wearing one once in a while)

FASHION TRENDS RECYCLE THEMSELVES EVERY OTHER DECADE OR SO

Do we really need to be on-trend all the time?ย 

Why can’t we consider trends and then incorporate them if they are good ones into our long-term wardrobes?

Why do we always have to change up and have different items to update our looks each season?

The retail seasons have gotten shorter and shorter, and it seems like styles are changing every 3 months.

Who has all the money not to mention the time to keep up with these trends?

Deep down, we realize it’s a ploy to get us to spend more money while making us feel constantly dissatisfied to boot, but we still follow these trends to a T.

stock-photo-money-cash-wallet-pay-shopping

Generally speaking I am not immune to trends but I do watch and wait when I see a trend appear. In some years for instance, pastel colours and florals were in. I look sick and feel rather hideous in pastel-anything, so I skipped this “trend” because it didn’t work for me.

Another year, leather and the kind of rocker look was in which I took some elements of and incorporated into my wardrobe, thinking about it for the long-term. I didn’t go ALL OUT with this trend but I did like a piece that had leather sleeves with a jersey knit which I thought was a good piece to wear now, and far into the future.

In 2013, grunge was back in full swing and I distinctly remember this being a thing in the 1990s.

In 2014, leg warmers were apparently in vogue (as is the ballet-dancer style), but that look already had its moment in the 80s!

Everything recycles and repeats, but it doesn’t mean that we should jump to its beat; heck even in the 1990s I was NOT board with grunge and never liked the trend, and even though it came back around in 2013, I didn’t bother with it and left it where it was.

WHY ARE WE SO BORED WITH EVERYTHING THE MINUTE WE GET IT?

When will it ever be enough?

It feels so wasteful to buy a new t-shirt every 2 weeks and discard the rest (or avoid wearing them), even if it makes you happy.

Why are we so bored with everything that we have the minute we get it?

Maybe the lack of anticipation or gratification of buying said item is what contributes to our boredom and kind of attention deficit disorder (ADD) we have as part of our shopping psyche.

REALIZING I DON’T ACTUALLY NEED TO OWN EVERY ITEM I DON’T OWN

One of my problems is wanting to have a lot of variety in the same types or pieces that I enjoy wearing.

My weakness lies in wrap dresses. I have PLENTY of them, but every time I see a new pattern, colour, style or [insert whatever you want here], I feel the need to collect it so that I have ALL the green dresses in ALL the patterns and styles you could imagine.

Photograph-Shopping-Clothes-Closet-Wardrobe-4

This has been (and still is) the hardest part to reconcile in my shopping self. I have had to walk by Banana Republic many a time (especially during 2014) and tell myself:

You do not need another black and white patterned dress. You have plenty, at least 2!

You do not need (yet another) striped dress. You have at least 4 in different, not to mention distinct styles and fabrics!

It can be hard to hold the Collector-side of myself back, but this is why I document all my clothing in photos on my iPod Touch, then I have the photos on Picasa. It’s a bit ‘Clueless‘-style a la Cher Horowitz.

PIECES THAT LAST A LONG TIME ARE WORTH WAITING AND SAVING FOR

The bottom line is that if you have wanted a Chanel purse for a long time, it is worth waiting and saving up for it, so that when you actually buy the purse the months, sometimes years of anticipation of having such a wonderful piece in your possession makes it all the more worthwhile.

Buying a knockoff whether it is fake or a similar high-street copy is like eating fake sugar or those yoghurt cups with clever names like “Strawberry Cheesecake” when your body is craving real sugar, and a REAL piece of cheesecake, and trying to tell yourself you’re satisfied.

You will just eat more fake sugar or fake yoghurt dessert cups and never feel like you’ve satisfied your craving.

Your closet will just fill up with these cheap knockoffs of low quality, and one day (like me) you will open your wardrobe and think:

Wow. I spent over a thousand bucks of my hard earned money on crappy clothing that I don’t even want to wear.

Why didn’t I just save my money and buy a few great pieces that I will pull out again and again to wear?

Our obsession with fast fashion ruins this for many of us because it’s so cheap to replenish your wardrobe with brand new, cool pieces at the time even if it makes no sense over the long-term.

In hindsight I am now buying more vintage / retro pieces because they were better made, but also because they still seem to look like classic pieces that can stand the test of time no matter what age they were made in.

All they need in some cases, is a little rework (lengthening the sleeves with a ribbed cuff), or adding straps in another colour to update it.

HOW MANY PIECES OF CLOTHING DO YOU REALLY NEED?

This is a question I struggle with because my other problem lies in the fact that I treat clothing as a beautiful collection (as I briefly mentioned above), and it is all about the pleasure I do gain from having nice things.

Photograph-Toronto-Canada-Holt-Renfrew-Shopping-Clothes-Wardrobe-Display

Clothing is more than just function for me.

It is more than just putting on a blouse that matches with a pair of pants and going out the door.

I truly care and derive great pleasure from wearing interesting and nice outfits (coordinating and so on), and I doubt this will ever change even as I age.

As a result, I like having a wide breadth of choice and even if I have a unique or fun piece that I don’t consider a basic staple in my wardrobe, it doesn’t mean I want to get rid of it because there are days when I will feel: I want to wear this, it will make me smile or it matches my mood today, and I’ll tug it out of the wardrobe.

That said, I now want quality pieces that I can wear even until the age of 60 or older, and I am becoming pickier and pickier about what I buy as a result, even if I do end up spending more money or waiting longer and saving for something I really want.

SO WHY ARE WE SO OBSESSED WITH FAST FASHION?

WHEN WILL IT EVER BE ENOUGH FOR US?

 


Share Tweet Pin It +1

Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

You may also like

Previous PostWhere do we draw the line at cultural customs?
Next PostThe 10 Golden Rules of Personal Finance

38 Comments

  1. Joy

    Hi, where did you take the last picture with the paper lanterns? I’d die for that red dress!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      That was in Holt Renfrew in Toronto, Canada. It was one of their displays sometime in 2012. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  2. Lauren

    I agree there is a total obsession, I have so many things I’ve thought I need to have then only worn once! Terrible I know. I try to save up to buy quality more now though
    Lauren
    livinginaboxx

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I’m working on trying to pare down my wardrobe but it isn’t working!

      Reply
  3. Archana

    Our previous generation knew how to sow, inspect quality, distinction between materials, etc. And they can associate cost with the product. I feel like this education is lacking in this generation. Quick fixes and consumerism rule the day. I possible cure for it is emphasis of personal style over fashion. Once you define your style, you dont need so many things. BUt then, i see how Kate Middleton is ridiculed for not being trendy enough ( got accepted on the links this week on IFB). The society is doing its part in encouraging consumerism with no real education on the consequences of buying unethical/cheap stuff.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I agree with you! Kate Middleton is not trendy enough to be sure but I do really appreciate her style (it’s close to mine) and she REUSES!!! items in her outfits.

      I hate quick fixes and quick fashion. I can tell immediately if a garment has been well-made, regardless of its brand or price. Designer items aren’t necessarily well made or worth the price but on the whole, they do seem to be worth it.

      Reply
  4. Quaintrelle Georgiana

    Thank you for an interesting article. I have been thinking this for quite a long time. My view of the fast fashion clothes quite changed when a few years ago. I was angry with all the “cheap” clothes that washed out pretty quickly or did not really fit (I am actually preparing an article about the reasons why the Tshirts and jeans from these stores donยดt fit – it will by on my blog during the next week ;). So I learned how to sew and make my own clothes that would fit me and would not be ugly after a few washings. I “discovered” the world of vintage now and am pretty fascinated by the quality and uniqueness.

    Reply
  5. Jessica Moorhouse

    It took me a while to get on the skinny jean band wagon too haha. I usually stick to the classics and avoid trends because I seriously don’t go shopping enough to ever stay on trend anyways. One thing I noticed this year was people wearing ankle rainboots. What’s that about? How impractical!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Yeah, I wasn’t sure skinny pants were going to last so I didn’t bother until I saw how nice they were on others.

      ANKLE rainboots? What’s the point?

      Reply
  6. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

    I haven’t bought any clothes in quite a while, but I am a fan of H&M, it’s honestly one of the only stores that still fits me. The vanity sizing these days has created a void of clothing for petite people.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      How about other stores like Banana Republic that sells petites? Or Ann Taylor?

      Reply
      1. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

        You’d be amazed at how big a petite 00 is at those stores. Literally just falls off of me. It’s not like I’m overly skinny, yes I’m small, but I’m a pretty fit, healthy size.

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          Oh I’m not surprised. I’m usually 00 at J. Crew, and a lot of other stores.. and that’s if I’m 5’5″ and 105lbs (pre-baby).

          Reply
  7. neurosciency

    as i have gotten more budget-conscious i have learned that sometimes a high-quality piece that is super versatile is a lot better than owning 3 or 4 equivalent cheap forever 21 pieces (unless you don’t own a lot of clothes, lol).

    but i still do love forever 21 for the occasional trend that i want to try but don’t have the funds for a high-end version of it. oh and i always check the fabric details to make sure it’s machine washable. the main problem i have with high-end retailers is that a lot of the clothes are supposed to be dry-cleaned.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I’ve finally learned the same lesson. Forever 21 may make cute clothes but they don’t last past 3 washes or so and it’s false economy. I bought a white sweater with black lace trim there about 4 years ago and after I washed it twice, it looked awful.

      As for things being drycleaned, I ignore the label. I wash everything gently by hand or on the delicate cycle in the washing machine and it hasn’t been a problem yet!! (Even silk)

      Reply
  8. Tania

    You are definitely a “classic” in terms of style. Because I’m curvy and short, too classic doesn’t quite work on me but I love the look on someone taller, thinner and more of a straighter body type/strong shoulder line. I wear harem pants with the legs shoved up to the knee with a little tank on the weekends in lieu of shorts (I feel cute but a bit more covered up. Open toed booties are also a bit more flattering with a shorter dress out dancing versus an open toed sandal (again I feel a bit more covered up). I think that trendier items can work for a much longer period if it’s an excellent fit for one’s personal style AND if it’s good quality. But only if you style it in your own way and not the “look of the moment” or how every fashion blogger is wearing it. I love brass jewelry too but not plated brass, artisan made industrial looking pieces (a ton of Brooklyn jewelry artisans are using brass as a material). Of course I live in a very peace out hippie place so we’re not on top of the trends anyway.

    I think fast fashion’s attraction is to serve the endless need to shop and buy. If people bought less frequently they’d find they could afford a higher priced item. Fast fashion has been around since I was a teen (25+ years ago) but it catered more to the younger crowd. Now I see women of all ages shopping at fast fashion.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I’m starting to see that trend as well. It could be something to do with the ADD of Pinterest boards, you see a new style or a blogger rocking a new kind of outfit almost every day and you feel the need to update or upgrade your wardrobe but can’t afford to do it because they have astronomical budgets for their business to shop for clothes and/or are given them for free!!!!

      So what do you do? You head to H&M and buy something similar in a lower quality and wear for that season, then it gets shoved to the back of your closet when it falls out of favour.

      Reply
  9. SarahN

    I agree with what you’re saying, and still contradict the logic… I mean some things will wear out no matter the store or quality (usually things I sweat on, like long cotton ts and the like). That being said, I am more resigned to a ‘collection’ style now. I only need a black coat and a greay coat and a navy coat – any others are replacing one of those three ONLY. Likewise jackets – navy, black: done. Flirted with white… And the same with shorts and caridgan…

    Patterns don’t feature heavily in my thinking, if I find one I like, I’ll buy it, and so long as it’s a style I know suits, it’ll work for me.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Oh true. There are basics that do wear out.. although I find H&M and other similarly cheap t-shirts tend to not keep their shape after a few washes.

      I have a collection style.. kind of like a “capsule just for me”

      Reply
      1. SarahN

        @save. spend. splurge.: So true – the cheaper the T the worse it can wear. But it’s partly looking at the fabric, no matter where you buy it. Some overpriced ones are worse ‘value’

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          True. I’m wondering if James Perse is worth it…

          Reply
  10. Reada

    A note on the readability of your site… I start reading a post in my RSS reader, there’s now a link to click through to finish reading at your website, but the link takes me to the top of the article. It would be a lot kinder to have that go to the cutoff place instead of the top of the article, because I’m not going to read it twice.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I will try to see if I can fix that but I am not sure if I am able to. ๐Ÿ˜

      Thanks for letting me know.

      Reply
  11. sarah

    You accurately described my life until two years ago. I remember in 2011 when I first started tracking my spending, I found out that I had spent $2000 on random crap that didn’t last past two washes. That was the turning point for me – realizing that I spent $2000 and had nothing to show for it a year later. I’m still working on it, but I’ve gotten better at saying no to cheap fashion and polyester clothing (winters are easier than summers though). I had to avoid stepping in Zara and h&m for a year to get the fast fashion addiction on hold. I am proud to say that I recently walked into Zara and felt the fabric of a silk blouse, recognized that it was cheaply made (fabric appeared to be woven from damaged/broken silk strands) and walked away empty handed.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      !! Excellent progress!

      I do find that even though it says “silk” or “cashmere”, (100%), I have to touch it myself to know whether or not it is good quality silk or cashmere. Generally speaking, cashmere that is of good quality, unless it is secondhand, NEVER goes for under $100. I’ve tried cashmere sweaters on at Uniqlo and all these other places (Joe Fresh), and it’s always itchy.

      Reply
  12. Abigail

    I work from home, so keeping up with fashion isn’t as big an issue for me. Yeah, I wish I looked nicer sometimes, but I’m just not willing to spend a lot of money on clothing.

    That does mean that when I do shop I might buy too cheaply. I was pretty disappointed last year when I bought some linen pants from a Gap Outlet. Before the end of the summer, both had already started pilling. Boo.

    That said, when you talk about being willing to “spend” on pieces, I’m not really sure what level you *are* talking about. I think I just need to be more careful about taking a hard look at the fabric and seams before buying.

    Then again, another option is to shop secondhand, like you’re doing with vintage stuff. You can get a pretty good idea how well something will wear if it’s already used. And you save a lot! Since I’m probably going to need maternity clothes soon (fingers crossed!), I’m planning on mainly buying secondhand.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      To each their own. I LOVE clothing so for me, my budget and spending on pieces (classic pieces like a good pair of pants, a jacket, etc), is not a problem for me as long as the quality justifies the price. Unfortunately just because the price is high it doesn’t mean it’s of good quality, so that’s ANOTHER thing to look out for.

      A pair of cheap jeans for instance, will only last a summer versus a better made pair that is well sewn, of better denim fabric and not thin and flimsy, which is unfortunately the case at mainstream retailers that deal in fast fashion.

      I can’t even remember the times I touched things at H&M only to inspect it and realize the seams were already unraveling.

      My favourite places to shop are either independent designers (locals), Etsy, or in secondhand shops that are vintage or designer duds on consignment.

      Reply
    2. save. spend. splurge.

      Oh and as for maternity wear, just wear a larger size. Depending on the seasons, you may even get away with a wrap dress for pretty much the entire pregnancy.

      Reply
      1. Abigail

        Yep, I lost about 25 pounds a year or two ago, but I kept all my bigger clothes, since my weight fluctuates. Two extra pants sizes gives me some wiggle room for a growing belly. @save. spend. splurge.:

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          Perfect ๐Ÿ™‚

          Reply
  13. Cindy

    What I also find disturbing is that fast fashion can often be disguised as expensive and/or designer items. Just because a label is slapped on a cheaply made, trendy item, it does not mean that its worth the ticket price that its printed on. Off the top of my head, I can list off 5-10 brands/labels that are disguised as upmarket labels, when in fact they are not worth anything more than what you could buy at discount department stores.
    I think its important to look at items critically and ask yourself whether this item is worth the ticket price.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I AGREE!!! This is so true.

      I find that J. Crew for instance sometimes veers into the category. SOME of their stuff is well made, other things like their t-shirts, must cost only $5 but are marketed at $68 and then “discounted”. Or the fabrication is crap, because the “100% cotton / linen” it is made out of, is so tissue thin that they’re trying to make it sound like it’s high-end because it’s so thin when in fact it’s just a crap fabric.

      Other things I look out for are fabrics that have a lot of polyester in them. $150 for a dress made out of thin polyester? No thank you. I don’t care how nice it is and what brand it is, it’s not worth the price.

      Reply
  14. Kathy

    I’ve always loved clothes and have never felt I had enough. I usually buy classic things, suits or sheath dresses that will stay around for years. Now that I have enough money to get whatever I want, I find that I need very little. I’m retired so I live mostly in jeans or shorts and tees while keeping some of those classics in my closet for the occasional wedding or funeral.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      You and me both. I really love sheath dresses as well and I’d be hard pressed to pass up a good sheath dress especially since I find it’s very forgiving on my body shape even though I am currently 20 pounds overweight (baby / cake-eating weight).

      Even though I joke I am semi-retired, it is kind of true. I haven’t worked in a while and when I do work, it’s contractual work, but I still really enjoy and get a lot of pleasure out of dressing up.. I doubt this will change even as I age, if my mother’s shopping habits are of any indication ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Reply
  15. AdinaJ

    My weakness is the same … I treat clothes like collectibles. But I am making an effort to curb my collecting instincts and to stick to buying quality items whenever I can. Usually second-hand.

    I’ve also started tracking my clothing use this year; it puts my slightly OCD tendencies to use, and I will get an exact cost-per-wear number going forward. It also makes culling my wardrobe (which I do 2-3 times a year anyway) much easier.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      If I had a room just for my clothes, I think I’d turn into a collecting shopaholic again. I like seeing stuff displayed and organized… it’s my weakness. And I love variety.

      You know, I should track my clothing use this year as well, as soon as I shed this baby weight. I feel like my suitcases are starting to get a little tight around the seams.

      Reply
  16. Midori

    My mom always keep telling me that she worn that before and that and that… it’s definitely recycling…

    I don’t think it’s ever enough for some people… not until they make peace with and accept how they look. It’s more of a psychological thing. “This blouse will make me cooler”… quick and easy fix that needs constant replenishing (ie. buying more clothes). And people love things that are quick and easy! That’s my 2 cents anyway.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      It’s never enough for ME but luckily I am getting pickier with not only the fit/cut/style of the item I am buying, but the fabrication (is it polyester?) and where it’s manufactured. This has cut down significantly on my purchases.

      Reply

Leave a Reply