Habitual clothes shopping fuelled by stress and anxiety, study claims

Fri, 16 Apr 2021 10:09:00 BST
Habitual shoppers recorded their thoughts and feelings in 'detox' diaries
Habitual shoppers recorded their thoughts and feelings in 'detox' diaries

Habitual shoppers amass new clothes to cope with stress and anxiety, an international study has found.

The constant need to add to your wardrobe is partly fuelled by a fear of being unhappy and the pressures of everyday life, researchers have discovered.

The findings come from 'detox' diaries completed by shoppers from countries including Scotland, England, the US, Canada, and Australia.

Frequent clothing shoppers pledged to take a 10-week break from buying new clothes and to record their thoughts and feelings, as part of a sustainability study, supported by Glasgow Caledonian University.

Many admitted to being trapped in a cycle of constant buying and feeling emotionally vulnerable.

Participants reported feeling as if they had "nothing to wear" despite having wardrobes, drawers and other storage cupboards overflowing with clothes.

Individuals from the study said they often used shopping to alleviate negative feelings, including a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and a fear of social judgement.

Dr Emma Kidd, a sustainability researcher at Glasgow Caledonian University, who created the Fashion Detox Challenge in a bid to address overconsumption and reduce clothing waste, said: "The most striking thing about the diaries was how little the clothing items had to do with the act of consumption.

"People are hooked into patterns of overconsumption and the hook is often a fear of missing out or a fear of being unhappy or uncomfortable.

"It’s clear that amassing new clothes does not bring lasting happiness and satisfaction, so we need to sell the benefits of buying less."

Figures show that more than 100 billion garments are sold every year but less than one per cent will be recycled into new clothing.

Dr Kidd said consumers are constantly provoked by year-round sales, time-pressured discounts, pay-later schemes, Instagram influencers and aggressive digital marketing.

Some of the detox participants spoke of avoiding city centres, deleting fashion apps on their smartphones and blocking emails from clothing retailers as they tried to break their habit.

Dr Kidd added: "Time-limited sales and constant discounts carry an underlying message that the clothes you own will never be enough.

"If we're serious about reducing the pace of clothing consumption, marketing like that needs to be confronted and addressed.

"More attention must also be given to the non-material fundamental human needs which consumers are neglecting.

"Viewed from this angle, sustainability is not an environmental problem, it is a human problem."

More than 300 shoppers from across the world have so far signed up to take part in the Fashion Detox Challenge.

Many said they felt happier and calmer after the 10-week break and most adopted more sustainable clothing practices, such as repairing old clothes, buying second-hand items or swapping garments with friends.

To find out more visit - https://fashiondetoxchallenge.com