How do we address the emotional needs fast fashion claims to meet with spiritual practices that actually provide longterm inner sustenance?
Fast fashion has proven both alluring and enduring in recent decades. The systems’s critics grow louder and more plentiful by the day, while the industry grows alongside them. This is not a question of meeting basic clothing needs - Americans alone consume billions of garments per year. So if critics calling for shifts away from fast fashion keep getting louder and common knowledge around clothing’s negative impacts keeps growing, why aren’t we changing our buying habits?
The answer is complicated, but one piece of the puzzle is why we buy clothes in the first place - our emotional reasons for buying clothes. Fast fashion offers answers to some deeply fundamental and basic human needs about who we are, our relationship to our community, and our daily encounters with beauty, goodness, and hope. Clothing meets essential human needs within us, and we often buy into the fast fashion cycle to fill an internal emptiness. Fast fashion offers us the promise of:
Aspiring social status and respectability
Relief from boredom
Belonging and an end to loneliness
Feeling beautiful and complete
In short, fast fashion companies seek to keep us buying more at the expense of our wallets, our inner peace, our earth, and our communities with quick fixes that don’t actually satisfy our longings.
As faith-driven folks, we know that our spiritual traditions offer us paths to the Divine that fills our souls in longer-lasting ways. Our spiritual heritage holds tools and resources to address our consumption and earth-abandoning practices by addressing the needs that drive them.
Essentially, love and empathy must be the foundation of our wardrobes. Not a wispy, spineless, starry-eyed kind of love but one that pays attention, is grounded in reality, and endures over time. Our spiritual practices are meant to be tools of love, and foster within us a sense of connection to God, the earth, and each other. We know that God can work through all things to cultivate holiness and growth in us. Let our closets be a tool of inner spiritual edification. You may find you need less new items and love what you have more in the process.
Below are four separate practices that have been adapted to fit the needs fast fashion claims to fill.
Rather than browsing online catalogues to fill the time, practice love of the present moment through creativity. Give life to an old garment through refashioning or upcycling. Cut up an old sweater to make a throw pillow cover, or make sock puppets out of old socks. Generate a spark of creativity!
Pull out your clothes given to you by loved ones or that feel like a cozy hug. Wrap them around you. Put one hand on your chest, and one hand on your stomach and take five deep breaths. Feel the connection to the world around you and God within you.
The effect of clothing on our mood and behavior is real. So make the act of getting dressed mindful. Put on something bright if you need joy or soft if you need tenderness. Encounter your beauty in conversation with your clothing, not in competition. Your beauty is complemented, not completed, by your clothing choices.
Take a favorite clothing item out of your closet or a garment given to you by someone you love. Think back to three separate occasions or happy memories while wearing that outfit or item. Take a few moments to journal those memories. Bask in the love of your community, knowing that you are held by that love even while apart.
Mindful clothing habits are a way of practicing spiritual resilience and spiritual grounded-ness in a tumultuous world. It’s time we use all of our resources to shift our hearts and minds away from endless clothing consumption as we work to fashion a different world.
What a refreshing perspective! These mindfulness practices are beautifully accessible, I’m going to go pull out a soft cozy sweater and do the breathing exercise. Thank you!