Let’s Get Thrifty: An Economic Perspective

Sanjana Swaroop for Twisted Tiara

Who doesn’t love fashion? We all dress up to represent ourselves, whether to project our unique styles at social gatherings, or to impress the bosses at your workplace. In the last 2 years, I have noticed women at the workplace peacocking while the men must adhere to the centuries old uniform of shirt, pants and ties. The traditional formal attire has evolved from the humble salwar kurta or saree to include palazzos, wide leg pants with short kurtis, ankle length cigarette pants, capes, kurtas with jackets and belts.

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The Indian middle-class with a disposable income has become obsessed with keeping up with the current fashion trends. Even the mention of the term ‘shopping’ in India can throw some people into a state of hyperactivity while it pushes some into having a PTSD breakdown from festival sales browsing. The garment industry is booming. Globally, consumers purchase 80 billion pieces of new clothing each year, which translates to $1.2 trillion annually for the global fashion industry. Recent studies however indicate that in that past 15 years, the lifecycle of clothes has reduced by over 35%.

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Given the information above, I personally detest the festive season sales and shopping. I would have loved the idea, if we did not have a billion festivals in India. Diwali shopping made sense when you did not buy clothes throughout the year. Not when you have been binge shopping on that sale website, because YOLO and FOMO and “OMG, I want that runway look”. Up until the 90’s, younger siblings would get hand me downs from their older ones, and the older children would get their hand me downs from their parent’s closet. And when all the members of the house had exhausted the maximum use of the cloth, our moms would generously pass them on to the house help or cut them up to use as a pochha. Today however, these sales promote mindless consumerism which has put our generation in debt and is also harming our environment.

Fashion Economy

My favorite part about the series Downton Abbey was watching the Crawley sisters get a new outfit made, which they did once every year. That made perfect sense. Lady Mary Crawley would retire one of her dresses and give them to her lady’s maid, every time she purchased a new one. That is good fashion economy. Collecting clothes that you never wear doesn’t make sense. The fashion “economy” considers the entire lifecycle of the product. Before you label a brand ‘sustainable’, consider the entire supply chain, and life cycle of the garment, from where and how it is made to when it ends up in our landfills. It is important for us to think about how our purchases affect the environment, the lifecycle of our garments and how to invest in clothes that last longer.

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Brands these days, with relentless advertising, are targeting the FOMO generation. They lure you in with lucrative offers or by convincing you that a garment piece you bought yesterday will not be fashionable at the event you want to attend next month. The idea that there are separate outfits for every human activity is also starting to get a bit ridiculous. Yes, sports clothing that allow comfortable breathing might be a necessity in your wardrobe if you’re an exercise enthusiast. But does that mean I can’t wear my yoga outfit for a jog or in zumba?

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Different outfits for office wear, evening outing with friends, evening occasion with the family, etc. has put this idea in our heads, that there is a dress code for events, things, gatherings. God forbid you dare to wear an A-line dress in peak summer, instead of a flared-out summer dress. Lord forgive you for wearing that cashmere sweater at a low-key casual event where only poly blend would have sufficed. And 2) your social status will somehow be questioned if you don’t follow suit. Duh! Didn’t you know there are special pants for grocery shopping silly.

Do not let senseless advertising, only meant to boost sales and promote consumerism, guilt you into buying clothes you don’t actually need. The fashion industry and economy is thriving on your gullibility.

The Cleanse

Let’s take a look within our closets, shall we? Let’s take a conscious look at our wardrobes. Hold each item of clothing, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many times have I worn it? 
  • When was the last time I wore it?
  • Will I wear it again?

If you’re not satisfied with the answer, but the clothes are in good condition, consider donating them so that they would be used. If you’re not satisfied with the answer, but the clothes are no longer in wearable condition, upcycle it to cleaning rags or DIY around the house utilitarian nick-knacks before you chuck them out. Discarded clothing made of non-biodegradable fabrics can sit in landfills for up to 200 years. The annual value of clothing discarded prematurely is more than $400 billion.

If you were to calculate how much water waste you have been responsible for, just by calculating the water waste generated by all the clothes in your closet (farm to closet), how culpable would you be in the reckless use of water? The worldwide average water footprint to produce 1 kg of cotton is 10,000 litres. In India, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt, enough to meet the average person’s drinking needs for two-and-a-half years.

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“85% of the daily needs in water of the entire population of India would be covered by the water used to grow cotton in the country. 100 million people in India do not have access to drinking water”

Stephen Leahy, The Guardian

Let’s not forget guys, Nostradamus has predicted that world war III will be for water resources. You cannot continue to live life surfing sales and browsing new additions all unaware about the water and carbon cost of your choices. It’s time we be mindful of how we use our resources, and there are so many ways to do that when it comes to fashion! Click here for more ideas!

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