Material People: Is is ok to like pretty things? Part 3

This is the final part in the 3 part blog series looking into sustainable fashion. Part 1 looked at the ethics of the garment industry’s labour market, the second part is about the environmental sustainability of the fashion industry. In this blog I will look at how I can make choices that are less wasteful and conclude the short series.

I love clothes and sometimes I will walk into a shop and think I want everything. If I am having a bad day I think that buying something will make me feel better, but normally I stop myself and say “do I need this”? Thanks to the generosity of my Mum over the years the answer is always a no! I also love fashion and like to look like I have an awareness of the current trends. I find clothes to be a way in which I am really comfortable to be creative and express myself. It is exciting that with different clothes you can create a totally different character. I have found that “The trick” to is to have your own style, with just a nod to the trends, this can be through accessories, or how you put your outfit together.

Greed and waste

The problem

For some reason it seems to be quite a human thing to want to buy new things, it might be cars or furniture, holidays, getting your hair or nails done, jewellery, shoes, etc etc,  but we also all agree that greed is an ugly trait. We love to be humble but we are programmed by society to want to be richer. It is all growth, growth, growth, despite the recession, despite the fact as individuals we know in our hearts that non-material things are just as good if not better than lots of stuff!

When it comes to clothes do you really love the things you have? Will you wear them to death? Will you keep them for years because you love them so much? Are they tied into fond memories? If you think this way then you are less likely to buy into the unsustainable fast fashion cycle? If it is going to sit forgotten at the back of your wardrobe because you have so many other things then what was the point of buying in the first place?

Sophie’s video in part 2 highlighted just how much clothing we put into landfill. Wasting clothes means that there is a waste in the resources required to make the clothes and the impact those items have on the environment, as described in part 2 of this series.

The solution

So there are two key and connected issues to think about: Is there a way of getting the same special feeling we get as we get when we buy/wear new things? Can we be less wasteful and put less clothing into landfill?

Is there a way of getting the same special feeling we get as we get when we buy/wear new things?

Firstly,  are there other ways in which we can get fulfilment other than buying stuff (not just clothes). I get fulfilled by being creative, reading a book, seeing a show etc etc. Secondly do you buy new things because you think that you need them, to keep up with trends or because you have “nothing to wear”?

The reason that I often clean out my wardrobe and the reason I made my youtube videos. I wanted to remind myself of what I have and how much I love it, I wanted to look back at the memories that are tied into the fabric of these garments. The outcome – I wrote this blog series and I felt the same sensation when I buy new things about the clothes that I already have. I have through doing this realised that I do not need to buy anything new (even if I could afford to). I thoroughly encourage everyone to have a good clear out, especially if you are a bit strapped for cash. You will feel like a new person. You will realise that you don’t need to buy new stuff to feel better about your life.

Get creative: apparently mending and up-cycling of clothes has shown a substantial rise in the UK in the last year, according to a Guardian report. This has been partly put down to the recession but I want to be better at sewing and make things myself even if I could afford to buy new clothes. I can sew a button back on, and I have a sewing machine but I would love to have the skill to really put my own stamp on things. But even without skill or equipment you can stretch your creative legs by restyling your clothes, if you are anything like me you get stuck in a rut with what you wear, shake it up and it will feel like new.

Can we be less wasteful and put less clothing into landfill?

So, before you throw something away ask yourself:
1. Can I wear it more? The trailer below shows that if you keep your clothes for an extra 9 months then £5 billion could be saved from the cost of resources
2. Should I have bought this in the first place? This may make you think twice next time.
3. Can I up-cycle it or use it for something else? There are so many sewing classes, and places that can teach you to up-cycle or refresh old clothing and it means so much more if you know that you have put your own creative stamp on something.
4. Can it be recycled? Where? The recycle now website will tell you.
5. Will someone else create a home for this? eBay, friends, etc

People enjoyed watching my video and I felt bad that it was a bit of a show of materialism. So much so that it triggered the writing of these 3 blogs and my need to justify myself.

So to go back to my justification for the number of dresses that I have, and my tips for not letting your materialism get the better of you:

  1. Only one of my dresses was bought this year (2014). I keep my clothes for a long time, my size hasn’t really changed for the last 15 years so I have accumulated things over time.
  2. Some of the dresses are over 10 years old. I have captured so many memories in the different items of clothing, from the time I (almost?) flashed on an obstacle course at a friends summer party over 10 years ago, to taking dance classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in LA.
  3. The dresses that I bought for myself are second hand. I love giving clothing new life. I also like to make sure that when I do separate with my clothes that they have good new homes.
  4. Almost all of the dresses were gifts and therefore they become more special to me than pure material possessions.
  5. I am resolving right now to not purchase any new dresses for the next 12 months when I will review the situation!
  6. I am going to learn how to sew, and will document my progress on this blog.

And of course it is ok to like pretty things! In fact you should really love pretty things, just make sure they are pretty on the inside too. I hope that reading this has made you think twice, what do you do to try to keep check on materialism, or to be more ethical in your purchasing. Will anyone join me in the challenge to not buy new things?




  1. Grete
    June 24, 2014 / 12:13 pm

    There’s nothing wrong with liking pretty things, nor with having a huge amount of dresses – providing you have the money and it doesn’t impact on anything else in your life.

    Loved (almost) all the dresses by the way – I think my favourite was the tight bluey-purple one.

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