If you’ve been shopping, oh, any time in the last thirty years, you’ve probably noticed – or caught yourself saying – the following things about fashion. Today, these sayings are used with such frequency and flippancy that they’ve lost all actual meaning. So let’s slow down for a second to consider how accurate these sayings really are…
1. I have nothing to wear
What does it mean? I imagine this saying was once used hyperbolically. Yet when we use it today, we seem to genuinely believe it, when what we actually mean is, ‘I have nothing that I want to wear’; ‘I have nothing new to wear’; ‘I have nothing that I feel good in to wear’.
True or false? False. Given the average American woman has 300 pieces of clothing, I highly doubt that having nothing to wear has ever been a genuine, immediate issue for anyone who has used this expression.
Why should we stop using it? The absoluteness of the statement imbues in us a sense of urgency to shop immediately, which is neither smart nor sustainable shopping – it’s seldom personally satisfying in the long run and it certainly isn’t good for the planet or the people we share it with.
2. I need a new […]
What does it mean? From ‘I need a new dress to wear tonight’ to ‘I need a new mint green crossbody bag’; ‘I need’ seems to be synonymous with ‘I really, really want’.
True or false? False. Let’s revise the meaning of ‘need’, shall we?
need; to require (something) because it is essential or very important rather than just desirable.
want; to have a desire to possess or do (something); wish for.
Alright, now that we’ve got that distinction clear again in our minds, let’s use the word ‘need’ correctly.
I need: food, water, shelter, my human rights to be respected.
I want: a new dress to wear tonight; a new mint green crossbody bag
‘Cause, let’s face it, trendy new clothes aint something that anybody needs.
Why should we stop using it? Firstly, we go out and buy a whole bunch of unncessary things we don’t really need, because we’ve told ourselves, and others, that we do need it. Further, when we overuse or incorrectly use words like ‘need’, we become desensitised to the significance of the context when the word is used correctly. A negative consequence of such desensitisation may be that it causes people to be less helpful to those in actual need, because they don’t recognise the seriousness or perceive any urgency.
3. It’s only [$…]
What does it mean? The expression ‘it’s only $4/$10/$15’ is usually used as a relevant factor in deciding whether or not we should buy something, and sometimes whether or not we should buy a lot of something.
True or false? False. An item that is costing us so little at the checkout, most certainly comes at a huge social and environmental cost somewhere in the production process (cheap labour, pesticides, waste).
Why should we stop using it? We are bright and beautiful consumers, with sharp analytical minds and a healthy dose of common sense; when we see an item that is ‘only’ [$…], we should follow up with the questions, ‘how’ and ‘why’?
4. I’ll get it anyway
What does it mean? This is not an enthusiastic, ‘I’ll get it!’ but a resigned, ‘I’ll get it anyway’. It acknowledges that whatever we’re about to buy is not really good enough; it’s not quite our size, style, or what we really want… but we’ll go ahead and get it anyway.
True or false? False. Sure, you went ahead and bought something ‘anyway’ despite its flaws – but will you wear it? Probably not, and you’ll probably end up throwing it away unworn. When we ignore commonsense at the checkout, it’s usually a mistake – for our finances, our personal style, our self esteem, and for the planet more broadly.
Why should we stop using it? Let’s stop cutting corners and settling! If it’s not what you really want, hold off and slow down, sister! Today’s model of fashion encourages us to buy and dispose at breakneck speed – and you might have felt that pressure when shopping. But bring a critical eye and a good dose of patience to your shopping and I guarantee you’ll end up loving more of what you buy – YAY for more enthusastic ‘I’ll get it!’ moments.
5. It’s so last season
What does it mean? I means that the fashion industry tells us that it’s no longer current, and by extension, it’s no longer valuable or worthwhile wearing.
True or false? False. Think of any style icon in the last century – Audrey Hepburn in cigarette pants, turtle necks and ballet flats; Grace Kelly in two piece sets, with pearls and and cat’s eye glasses; Emmanuel Alt in loose fitting shirts, tailored trousers and blazers. They all have had a signature look, which had very little to do with fashion trends. Style icons choose well – pieces that they like and that suit them – and wear those pieces consistently through the seasons, as other trends come and go. And trends do come and go… and come again. From polka dots to flared jeans to midriff tops to double denim; just because it isn’t the height of fashion one year, it will surely come back on trend a few years later. For these reasons, we should buy and hang on to garments because we love them and because of the way they make us feel when we wear them – not because someone else says they are in style.
Why should we stop using it? Not only does it do nothing for developing our personal, signature style (or for our wallets) saying that something is ‘so last season’ limits that piece to having a lifespan of only 6 months to a year. This encourages mindless consumerism and needless waste and – with the average American throwing away about 65 pounds (or 30 kilograms) of clothing per year – this high turnover of buying and disposing clothes is something we could do with a little less of.
Since looking out for it, I have noticed myself frequently saying ‘I need a new…’ and I’m resolving to use it less often. Have you heard or used some of these expressions while shopping?