”Welcome 2017: No new fashion items in 2016, are you really sure Tina?” Blogpost #6 from Tina Sendlhofer

The last blogpost about #tinasyear

In short: I feel fantastic with my choice to refrain from buying new fashion items for 12 months. As my own behavioural project proceeded, I gained confidence and strength from my decision to disengage (partially) from one of the biggest societal ills: consumerism.

I remember that about a year ago I was full of energy and motivation to change my behaviour. Was it always easy? Certainly, it was not! I experienced cognitive challenges especially at the beginning and the turn of the seasons. It was quite difficult to withstand indulging in what fashion companies seemed to scream at me from all their posters in the streets, or the advertisements on facebook. I imagined these beautiful photographs and advertisements communicating to me personally: Tina, if you do not get the latest, new spring, summer, autumn or winter colours or styles, then you will not fulfil the role that society has given you. You will not look good and achieve happiness. Act accordingly! Come and buy.

When I had my fashion out-coming to my closest peers, I felt at times supported – but at times I also experienced heavy criticism. For the latter, I have already lived quite a strict lifestyle: no alcohol for ficw years, no meat for one year, a minimum of dairy products for one year and no palm oil-based food products such as chocolate! When I proudly announced that I would now also stop buying new clothes, they reacted instantly: what is the fun in your life then? You are leaving out all the fun stuff in life! You are going to be lonely. You are too extreme!

These critical and rather unsupportive behaviours made me of course contemplate whether I had made the right choices for my 2016 year. Clearly, I was breaking the norm. The norm of what is “appropriate” or “makes us feel good” that I strongly believe we have indeed constructed ourselves. In these cases, it was even tougher for me to restrain from lecturing them: do you really believe – after some reflection – that this norm makes you truly happy in the long run? Especially when it comes to the norm of fashion consumption, I strongly disagree. I am wondering if those who comply are truly happy when hunting for the latest style, and then being told after six months that this style does not make them look good any more and it is time for an instant change! What kind of concepts have we created and are still buying in to? A system in which large fashion corporations tell us how we are supposed to look beautiful and therefore achieve happiness? And if we do not own the latest styles, that we cannot look as attractive and achieve such great happiness as those who are always up to date?

To my surprise, some of my critics stretched so far as to start to purchase fashion for me. They were afraid I would not look “good” enough if I restricted myself to wearing the clothes I had piled up in my closet. Their efforts really put me in a moral dilemma. Should I take the gifts and live with my somewhat hypocritical behaviour of indirectly living and therefore supporting the consumption patterns I was so heavily criticising? Or should I return the gifts and snub those who meant well?

I have received many good comments from other peers. They got inspired and some even started to question their own consumption patterns, or lifestyles. In them, I found support and approval for my decision. That reinforcement has been important to keep me going.

Overall, the past year has taught me a lot. Firstly, it taught me that it takes a strong personality to break the norm. Despite the variety of rationales supporting my chosen lifestyle, the majority of my closest peers did not support my resolution. Secondly, it taught me that one can change one’s behaviour. It is tough but with a little bit of self-discipline I truly believe it is possible. For everyone. No one drags us into the stores, it is our own free will to enter. Thirdly, breaking the norm also gave me some extra free time and money. I have never spent many hours in stores, but this year I did not even need to think about going there. Fourthly, I realised I had stocked up over the years an enormous amount of clothes. That really made it easy for me to live with my choice. In fact, I could reduce them by almost a quarter and still feel I had enough items. Lastly, it feels satisfying to know I can, by my own will, decide to break with what is expected of me and still feel good. I feel happier with my choices when I feel I have better control over doing what I really want to do. And I have more time to spend my energy on topics that matter to me.

Even though I have not bought anything new since the beginning of 2016, I am not sure if I will continue with it. I am trying to figure out an alternative style of fashion consumption. What I am sure of, though, is that I will stop buying from fast fashion companies that offer fashion for unfair prices. Unfair for those who pay for our fast-changing (fashion-)lifestyles. Our wealth is perhaps too cheap. Those who pay the bill are nature and the humans who are exploited for our wrong behaviours.

Written by: Tina Sendlhofer, PhD student at Misum

#tinasyear #MakeAChange

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