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Is the the fashion industry mentally abusing us?

Updated: May 26, 2023


We use it every day to express ourselves, attract attention, look the part for employment, or merely to avoid receiving an indecent exposure charge.

Wardrobe is so common in your everyday lives that we have become desensitized to the negative impacts that our need for it causes on our moods and behaviors. We have come to buy and use fashion for various reasons other than utility such as emotional fulfillment, self esteem boost, or avoidiance of life stress, or merely to fit in with others. Fashion industry professionals know this and use the separation of why we buy what we buy and why we wear what we wear against us. This mental manipulation has us owning more wardrobe items than before but using them less than ever. The outcome is fashion industry being worth 1.7 trillion dollars (as of 2022) and producing an astronomical amount of enviormental waste as well as human struggle world wide.

Photo (AL Jazeera)

Let'stake a moment to consider the facts. Between 80 and 100 billion new clothing items are produced each year with 92 million tons of textile waste (87%) ending up in landfills as of 2023 and only 1% of textiles being upcycled. The United States of America and China are the top Contributors to this waste. China is the top offender due to it's position as a global manufacturer and the US as a top consumer. That said it is imperative that we adopt healthier wardrobe mindset.

Photo ( NY Times)

Enclothed cognition is a term fairly new to the English language. Coined in 2012 by Hajo Adam and Adam D Galinsky it is used to describe the systematic psychological effects wardrobe has on its wearer. This is a very important term to know as this is the psychological tool that fashion industry professionals use against us to have us buying more but using less.

Here are 5 ways the fashion industry uses enchothed cognition to mentally abuse us:

  1. Status Symbols

Status symbols as it relates to wardrobe started as an overall positive indication of professionalism, hard work, religion, social status, or culture. Examples include firefighters and medical uniforms, martial arts belts, priests collars, high end designer and African garb. Now a days these principles are used against us to at times drastically alter our decisions and opinions. For example the use of celebrities to steer our status symbol purchases. We see celebrities with a high end high priced "luxury" item and immediately it becomes a "need" for fashionistas and those trying to keep appearances. There is no question if they can actually afford such a purchase or if the celebrities wearing it actually paid for it or if they are actually GETTING paid to wear the item(s).

2. Trends

Fashion trends have historically been part of the upper echelon as a display of opulence. It was actually taboo for lower classes to dress as the upper class did because they did not have the wealth and lifestyle to match what their wardrobe presents. Over time trends have become a way for the lower classes to "fake it till they make it" blending in with upper classes for acceptance and often creating debt while doing so. Now a days the upper class being used by fast fashion and high end luxury to use trends inna manner that motivates lower classes to stay in debt and chase lifestyle goals unrealistic to their means while deepening environmental and global ethics issues.

3. Insecurities

The fashion industry uses marketing tactics to profit off of our Insecurities. Instead of creating more products and services that will holistically treat our issues they offer quick fixes and superficial solutions. For example the rise of spandex in clothing. Spandex was created as a synthetic alternative to rubber and was primarily used in bra straps, jock straps and workout gear. The United States is in a health crisis and spandex is now an ally. With obesity being among the top 10 ailments of Americans spandex has become a superficial solution to our weight insecurities. Now available in all categories of clothing we have clothing that grows with us temporarily as opposed to denim and cottons that used to be a reminder that we may be putting on weight.

4. Celebrities

As previously mentioned celebrities have been used by the fashion industry for decades to push their products. Now that social media has taken over there are more levels of celebrity that we are able to relate to and "follow" which deepens the fashions influence on us. One issue is that celebrities and influencers are often given these items for free or at a deeper discount than we are able to access. The other issue is that our lifestyles do not match those of the people we follow there fore we have more wardrobe than we use or can organize.

5. Fast Fashion

Over time the fashion industry realized that they can get more from their consumers by meeting us at our wallets and our interests. We have seen the rise of retailers such as Fashion Nova, Shein, and Pretty Little Thing overwhelm us with cheap products back by the influencers and celebrities we desire to live and look like. The issue is that these companies are notorious for ripping off smaller designers for their designs, having unethical manufacturing conditions, and turning over their products so quickly that we end up spending more than ever to keep up because it's so cheap we don't realize it.

Come back NEXT Thursday at 8:30 am to learn more about enclothed cognition and ways we can start to free ourselves from this abusive cycle of manipulation from the fashion industry.

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Very well written and informative. Being in the fashion industry myself I can see your points as facts. Thank you for the time and effort put into this.

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What an amazing and intellectual read! I can’t wait until next week!

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