Ever wonder why you’ve got a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear? With the advent of ready-to-wear fashion, clothing has become cheaper than ever. You can get a dress for the price of a cup of coffee, or so this Teen Vogue video tells us. On the other hand, the number of fashion cycles, the process in which an item or trend comes in and out of popularity, has increased, with new items and trends added almost every week. For all you know, the shirt you just bought last month is no longer trendy. Considering the prevalence of social media and the stigma behind “outfit repeating,” clothes no longer hold the significance they once did. Billions of tons of them are being sent to landfills, further accelerating our ongoing environmental crisis.
I still remember the first time I watched The True Cost, and the horrors I felt learning about the working conditions of garment workers, which forever changed the way I (and surely many other) view buying clothes.
Social media, documentaries, short YouTube videos, and tiktoks are gradually transforming our attitudes and behaviors toward sustainable fashion. After all, who wouldn’t feel upset and horrified to find out about the Rana Plaza accident, the non-biodegradable fabrics ending up in our landfills, or the contaminated water sources? These issues are being brought to the forefront by eco-conscious media, which has helped raise awareness and prompt many to reevaluate the way they shop. Studies find that students “having higher tendency to follow media held more favorable attitudes and behaviors toward sustainable lifestyles, and more ecocentric values” (Sahin et. al., 2012). It is clear that later generations are becoming more environmentally conscious when it comes to clothing consumption, with Gen Z being most likely to engage in practices such as upcycling, reselling, and peer-to-peer trading (Petro, 2020).
However, it is important that we acknowledge that despite the obvious benefits, sustainable fashion remains inaccessible for many. Sustainable brand dresses can start at $200, and the demand for second-hand clothes has also driven up prices at thrift stores and charity shops, making it even more difficult for people who need it the most to shop second hand. Keeping in mind that people who shop sustainably are those who can afford to do so (Zhang et. al., 2021), effort is therefore needed to examine the relationship between income, social class, and sustainability.
Petro, G. (2020, January 31). Sustainable retail: How gen z is leading the pack. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregpetro/2020/01/31/sustainable-retail-how...
Sahin, E., Ertepinar, H., & Teksoz, G. (2012). University Students' Behaviors Pertaining to Sustainability: A Structural Equation Model with Sustainability-Related Attributes. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 7(3), 459–478.
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