Forming a healthy relationship with your wardrobe

November 11, 2021

Clothes are more than just inanimate pieces of material to be worn over the skin, they are time capsules holding memories, style, and knowledge. From the designer who sketched their first rough idea, to the seamster who delicately stitched the fabric, to the shopper who fell in love with it, clothes act as memories which are passed from one person to the next. 

These memories are manufactured with every body they cover, every eye they mesmerise, and every camera flash pointed at them. Clothes have been time capsules since the beginning of time. From the Ancient Greeks’ white Peplos to the modern century’s vibrant and expressive pieces, they represent the passage of humanity – the evolution of culture, societal standards, and most importantly, confidence. Modern fashion no longer represents conformity, but the freedom to express one’s individuality.

Yet,  there is a threatening hostility accompanying this modernisation of the fashion industry. The sentimental meaning that clothes once carried has been wiped out by the mechanisation of the industry, an accelerated scale of change that has altered the way we treat our once precious garments.

Careless sewing, cheap fabrics, uneven cuts, and unoriginal designs have become the norm when manufacturing clothes that should carry meaning. Consumers fall head over heels for their pretty prices rather than educate themselves on the unattractive facts. Yet, this ignorance comes at a high cost, one that is causing our planet to slowly rot away. With more people being lured into the dark hole of fast fashion, at the end of this hole lies plastic waste, transport miles, dye pollution, landfill waste, and garment worker exploitation- all of which is increasing at an alarming rate.

Rather than industries focusing on the production of timeless pieces, clothes now have one sole purpose – to fulfil a trend. And as all trends are temporary, this purpose is a rather unfulfilling one. Rather than clothes being passed from mother to daughter, they are worn once and disposed of in the back of your wardrobe to never see light again. We have become blind to the casual abuse of our clothes. Fashion is not being appreciated at its finest. This needs to change.

Appreciation will only be restored if our perspective on our clothing changes. We must not treat clothes as disposable outfits, but as something that holds emotional connection. Instead of buying ‘cheap and cheerful’ items that will soon be out of fashion, invest in timeless pieces that will last, and have meaning.

Having a smaller but higher quality wardrobe, like the common saying for friendships, will naturally form a healthier relationship with clothes. Three good quality friends will give you a more fulfilling life than ten untrustworthy ones. Buy clothes with the warming intention of one day donating them to your children. My mother has this healthy mentality, having handed down to me the dresses she purchased during her travels around Australia. For her, these dresses allow her to reminisce on her younger self. For me, they are something I cherish as her daughter. This is what clothes should represent. A passing on of warm memories.

A respect for our bodies also comes with this appreciation. As every body shape is different, inevitably a piece that looks incredible on your friend may not compliment you. A failure to realise that not everything will flatter you comes with a toxic whirlwind of constant validation, lacking worth and appreciation for our bodies. Whilst these inanimate pieces of material are omnipresent in our everyday lives, uniting people and being conversation starters, our self-worth must not depend on it. External goods should not satisfy your internal thoughts. Whilst clothing makes you feel beautiful and empowered, they should not mask what is within, but compliment it instead.

A healthy relationship with clothes equates to a healthy relationship with oneself. And who does not want that?

Holly Downes