I have too many clothes. In my walk-in wardrobe there is barely a space for me to squeeze another coat hanger. I have had to add another cupboard. And that’s full. On top of my closet sits a giant suitcase of my skinny clothes that I intend to wear one day. By the time I fit into them they should be back in fashion. I have a basket just for socks. Two drawers just for bras, and I hardly wear them. Another two for undies, and I do wear them. I have almost three for swimmers. Weirdly I still stand in my wardrobe dumbfounded, insisting I have nothing to wear. This is bullshit. What I am saying is, ‘I don’t like myself much today’. So I buy a new piece. Or two. This always makes me like myself a bit more. I tell myself I deserve it. I feel that shopper’s buzz. Then I don’t think about it much. Under the thrill sits shopper’s shame. New shorts don’t make me happy. There is no garment-sized hole in my heart. I know intuitively it’s wrong. I know I don’t actually need anything. I could buy nothing for three years and I’d still be able to wear something different most days. Then why don’t I? Because I’m a fashion addict. Like most women I know. Capitalism has taught me well. I’ve been conditioned to be bored. To believe that I am not enough. That I could look better. To believe that new is better than old. That cheap isn’t just good – it’s the end goal. ‘I got two dresses for $50!’ Really? Who in the supply chain died for that? I don’t like to think about the women and children in sweatshops because it makes my beautiful new dress feel ugly.
Intellectually I know this is wrong. I know that fast fashion is not just harmful to people at the production end, that it’s creating a massive environmental problem. The world is drowning in unwanted T-shirts. Ironically some of those T-shirts probably have slogans that talk about supporting the environment. Perhaps the best way to support the environment is to never by a T-shirt that says you do. Just do it. Australians discard more than 500,000 tonnes of leather and textiles each year. Two-thirds of that are manmade synthetic or plastic fibres that will never break down. Most of our fashion items we throw away because they’re not in fashion. There are shirts underground that are still going to be there long after the human race is dead and gone. Aliens will be able to dress in polyester short shorts with matching camies for hundreds of thousands of years. Why would anyone need so many clothes? Why can’t we be happier with less? Maybe it’s time to take the detox diet to the wardrobe. I read somewhere that you should be able to survive with just 30 items. Clearly I’m not going to throw away what I already have. That would be wasteful. But what if I stopped? What if I bought nothing? Could I do it? As I am writing this, two dresses arrive that I bought online. They are both polyester and wrapped in plastic. I feel a bit dirty. Like I’ve just scored one last hit before trying to get clean. I tell myself it’s the last time. It’s so hard to be ethical sometimes. Particularly in a culture that encourages over-consumption. We’re not just eating too much; we’re shopping too much, driving too much. We used to consume a lot less. I remember my mum taking me shopping for clothes. We didn’t buy new things every week. It was seasonal. I’d get a pair of jeans, a new jacket, a skirt and a top. That was pretty well it until summer. I’d wear the same items over and over until they didn’t fit and then I’d hand them over to the girl next door who was thrilled my growth spurts didn’t just grow me – they grew her wardrobe. I’ve decided to try and stop my fast fashion addiction.
Local fashion designer and activist Helen O’Carroll of Bay Active has erected a wall of waste at her new store on the industrial estate to illustrate the problem. She told me that our clothing waste from Byron alone each year would create a 6-foot wall that runs all the way to Brisbane! Helen is a designer committed to transparency in the supply chain and in a Less is More approach. It’s up to the fashion industry and manufacturers and retailers, and it’s up to consumers. And we have to start now. I’m writing this in the nude.