Is Fast Fashion Overconsumption Making You (Un)Happy?

Melissa Wijngaarden

Is Fast Fashion Overconsumption Making You (Un)Happy?

Feeling blue? Shopping therapy will cheer you up. Something to celebrate? A clothing haul, of course. A parcel comes through the door with your new garments? Exciting!

Fast fashion is clearly bringing you joy, then…

Or is it?

Let’s find out if fast fashion overconsumption is actually making you happy (as told by someone who, before co-founding a search engine for ethical clothing, used to buy way too many fast fashion clothes).

What do we mean by fast fashion overconsumption?

Consumer in a pile of clothes and trapped in the vicious cycle of fast fashion overconsumption

Fast fashion overconsumption is when you keep:

  • Buying cheap clothes to follow ever-changing trends and always have something new to wear
  • Discarding them after only wearing them a couple of times
  • Repeating that

This industry and its marketing are literally designed to keep you trapped in this vicious cycle!

And I’ll be honest: it does feel good at first, especially when you buy that new garment, get it delivered, and wear it for the first time.

That's why I used to do it all the time, too. It seemed fun!

But what happens after that? Is fast fashion overconsumption making you happy (or better: keeping you happy)?

7 signs fast fashion overconsumption is NOT making you happy (despite the initial dopamine hit)

Consumer realising fast fashion overconsumption is not making them happy

  1. You often say “I have nothing to wear”... even though your wardrobe is full
  2. You think of clothes as disposable and throwaway items instead of valuing them
  3. You get excited when you buy a new garment but start seeing it as “just another thing in your wardrobe” (or perhaps even “old”) after a few days
  4. You consume plenty of fast fashion content on social media (hauls, “who wore it best”, influencers wearing new outfits in every single video…) but it leaves you feeling like you’re not good enough and are missing something
  5. You’re actually spending A LOT more money than you thought on clothes (turns out, all those £5 price tags do add up)
  6. You often buy clothes out of insecurity (like not wanting to be seen with the same outfit at two different parties) and to boost your self-confidence
  7. Despite doing all this regularly, nothing really changes… and you’re always back at the start of this list

Do any of these sound familiar? 

Then, let’s look at what’s keeping you trapped in this vicious cycle and get ready to break it.

Why fast fashion overconsumption makes you feel good at first but unhappy in the long run

Unhappy fast fashion consumer surrounded by clothes

It sounds contradictory at first: how can something bring you joy and keep you unsatisfied at the same time?

Well, that was fast fashion’s plan all along!

  • Fast fashion overconsumption has been affecting your brain – When we see an item we want to buy, our pleasure centre gets activated. So, your brain releases happy chemicals like dopamine. The lower the price, the MAXIMUM sense of pleasure you get
  • That happiness is short-lived – That excitement goes away after a day (or even less), and the buzz of that new item only lasts four wears on average. And when that ends? A third of consumers feel even emptier than they did before their fast fashion purchase
  • It gets you “addicted” to chasing dopamine – What do you do when that excitement wears off? Buy new clothes again, of course. And again
  • It plays on your insecurities – Think about it: fast fashion depends on frequent purchases. This industry wouldn’t survive if you felt happy and confident! So, it makes you feel the opposite: like you must keep buying new clothes to fill a void, quench that FOMO, be deemed worthy, or ‘belong’
  • It removes your self-expression – Fast fashion pushes you to buy clothes to follow new trends and mimic influencers, but that’s not necessarily the style that makes YOU happy! No wonder you’re always dissatisfied with your choices and need more

Ready to say ENOUGH to this system? Here are some tips to help you break free from fast fashion’s overconsumption.

How to ditch fast fashion overconsumption and feel happy whenever you (re)wear your clothes

Happy friends ditching fast fashion overconsumption

  • Educate yourself on why fast fashion is bad – By now, you already know why it's keeping you unhappy (which is a great start!) but fast fashion is also terrible for the environment and keeps millions of garment workers trapped in modern slavery conditions. That's what made the biggest difference for me after watching The True Cost documentary! Once I discovered why those clothes were that cheap, I no longer wanted to contribute to their hidden cost
  • Remove distractions – Shopping apps, fast fashion newsletters, influencers who promote overconsumption… Consider deleting and unfollowing them, and replace them with positive sustainable fashion resources. I also stopped seeing shopping as a social activity to hang out with my friends. Instead, I replaced it with going out for dinner or drinks together, visiting museums, planning days out, and so on
  • Declutter – Do you always find excuses NOT to wear certain clothes? Sell or donate them
  • Start dressing for yourself (not to get external validation) – Break free from temporary trends by getting clear on your signature style. I promise: you’ll feel a lot happier whenever you (re)wear clothes that actually feel like YOU! As well as embracing repeat outfits, you can also use the same items to create different combinations
  • Love your clothes instead of seeing them as disposable Take care of the clothes you own to help them last longer, and be mindful when buying new ones. For example, ask yourself: “Can I see myself wearing this +30 times? Does it match my style? Does it go with the other items in my wardrobe?”
  • Focus on cost per wear – A single fast fashion item might be cheap (*cough cough* because it hides a big environmental and social cost), but have you calculated how much you're actually spending on clothes every month? The chances are, it’s a lot more than you think! Plus, if you buy many £10 pieces but only wear them twice, their cost per wear is £5. If you invest in fewer clothes that match your style and were made to last and you rewear them for years? For example, the cost per wear of a £60 garment worn 30 times would only be £2
  • Be strong, and resist temptations – For example, if you see a fast fashion item that triggers your old I-need-to-chase-that-dopamine-hit reaction, wait at least a month before buying it. I used to do that all the time when I first ditched fast fashion! By the end of that month? I'd either find ways of recreating the same vibe with clothes I already owned or.... realise I no longer wanted that new item. You could also try positive affirmations to quit fast fashion. Whatever works best for YOU!
  • Choose clothing brands and pieces that match your style and values – When you break free from trends and stop wasting so much money on random hauls? It becomes easier to invest in fewer pieces that were made ethically! 

Years ago, though, my sister, best friend, and I were in your same shoes: we wanted to quit fast fashion and switch to ethical clothing… but we didn’t know WHERE to find it.

It felt like these small stores were scattered all over the internet. Plus, so many big fast fashion brands were tricking consumers with their greenwashing and so-called conscious collections.

That’s why we created Project Cece: to bring hundreds of fair trade brands in one place and include filters to narrow down your choices.

It might sound scary to ditch fast fashion overconsumption, but it becomes easier with practice. And the best part? You’ll feel happier in the long run!

Found this helpful? Start receiving our tips and inspiration to make even more sustainable fashion choices.

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Project Cece is a platform that collects ethical fashion from vetted brands and shops in one place. Browse ethical fashion for women and men and find items that fit your style, budget and values!

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