By: Abigail Driscoll
In 2006, people were buying a third more clothes than they were in 2002, according to a Cambridge University study. That same study discovered that four times as much clothing fill women’s closets now than in 1980. Where there used to be just four main collections of clothing released by brands each year, one for each season, labels now average about 18 collections a year. They are producing more clothing, at lower prices, with fashion trends changing rapidly. This is what we call fast fashion, and it’s how almost all of our favorite retailers operate.
The fast fashion cycle is the reason we have most of our sweatshops around the world. There is an immense amount of pressure on the supply chain to produce quickly, and factory workers are the easiest way to cut corners and reduce margins. So we have men, women, and children all over the world who are working under dangerous conditions, for twelve or more hours a day, earning pennies so that the latest line of faux leather pants can be put on shelves as fast as possible.
At some point, we have to ask ourselves: why? Why do we need to be constantly changing our wardrobes, keeping up with the latest trends? Why is shopping such an effective antidote for a bad day? Why is it so embarrassing to be seen in the same outfit twice? As I’ve started to do more in-depth research on the topic of fast fashion, sweatshops, and modern day slavery, I have found myself curious about how our culture has come to this point. What exactly is it that fuels fast fashion? What is my individual role in shaping this consumerist culture, and how am I continuing to sustain it?
I have to confess that a lot of times, it comes from deeper inside myself than I’d like to admit. It’s easy to brush it off as “fashion is fun!” or “I don’t know, I just like clothes!” But the truth is, most of the time I feel the need to keep up in order to impress others. I want to look good so that I can feel better about myself. I try to derive my confidence from my outward appearance, rather than from within myself and my inherent worth as a human being, made in the image of God.
The clothes we choose to wear should be an expression of who we already believe we are, not an attempt to fill a void or elicit personal value. Fashion can totally be fun, it can be a creative outlet for us, and it can absolutely be something that aids our confidence. However, we have to ask ourselves whether we need that confidence so badly that it’s worth expending the health and livelihood of another human being. Will we believe the lie of culture that we are less worthy if we don’t have that outfit or pair of shoes? Are we secure enough in who we are that we’d be willing to spend more money on less things if it meant those things are made by people working under fair and safe conditions?
I believe one of the most emboldening verses in the Bible is Zephaniah 3:17: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (ESV, emphasis mine).
That’s crazy to me. Though this verse was written for a specific group of people in a distinct circumstance, I believe the essence rings true for us today. These words have the power to shape the way we view ourselves, and consequently the way the way we get dressed in the morning, the way we shop, and the way we shape our culture.
Ladies, we were made by the One who formed the galaxies. We are godly beings, imperfect and yet worthy of being rejoiced over. Flawed, yet worthy of praise and loud singing. Is it possible that as we let this sink in, it might permeate our shopping habits!? Might we realize that we don’t NEED a new outfit, accessory, or pair of shoes for every occasion? Might we believe that the sacrifice is worth it, and that by choosing to stand against fast fashion and sweatshops, we are not only standing up for our own worth, but also for the worth of women all the way across the world?
Nowadays, when I’m at the mall and I see a really cute top or bag that would seriously make me feel better about my day, I stop and make myself remember where my worth comes from. It doesn’t come from a new outfit or a really (really) cute pair of boots. It never has and it never will. I also think of the woman who made that pair of boots and about her worth. I remind myself that our needs, our freedom, and our worth are linked together.
PS – for a related (and really awesome) article, read the Wonderfully Made founder’s recently published article on the Darling Magazine blog about how to go about consuming less and creating more.
Photo Cred: Hannah Morgan
Abigail is a writer based in Cincinnati, OH with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and experience in mental health and sales. She is the founder of Freestate (www.shopfreestate.com), a resource that makes it easier for consumers to shop ethically. You can say hi on her blog, www.ritesofasylum.com, or on social media at @abigaildriscoll.