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Bitter Sweet Selfies: Fashion’s Impact on Our Mental Health

Fast Fashion is making us want more, spend more and waste more. Accessibility through low costs and an abundance of styles has boosted our need for newness. We’re topping up our wardrobes at an expedient rate. It taps into our need for conformity and our desire for self-expression. But at what cost to our mental health?


The ripples of fast fashion were first felt in the 1990s. But the boom of quick production for short-lived bouts of self expression didn’t hit until the 2000s. When accessible prices were combined with the rise of Instagram.

H&M teamed up with huge names in fashion like Karl Lagerfeld, Isabel Marant and Balmain. The Zara Group and its affiliate brands – Pull & Bear, Bershka and Stradivarius among them – established its global presence. In 2017, the founder of Zara was briefly named the richest man in the world. All of this business seems like a great way for people to fulfill the American Dream. But their business models deplete our wallets, ecosystems, and our mental health.

How It Works

This is how it works.

A pair of jeans with bulky white stitches will flood our feeds and win our hearts. That is until business casual dogtooth takes over the following week. We locate our most convenient fast fashion facility in the hope of posting that same look to our own feed before the day is over. At the store, we realize that the jeans cost more than we budgeted for that month. But we buy them anyway because they are the least expensive version of that pair we’ve yet seen.

We’re flooded with a bitter sweetness as we look in our mirror, tilt our head a little, and take a selfie.

That photo fits perfectly on our page with the crashing wave photo from last week. And the one of us sitting in the bamboo, woven-style chair with the white fringe cushion. We’re so relieved and proud that the picture fits with the rest of our images, because those images are our life. We put up the best of what we do and share it with other people doing exactly the same.

Distorted Image

As a community we create a distorted image. This reflects more favourably our homes, our friends and who we are. We build our identities with each other and our identity follows trends.

A closer look at the jeans in the back of our closet, that might come back in style, will show that the fabric is on the lower-quality side. We may have been a little too wrapped up in our image when we bought them. The money we spend on seasonal pieces might be better spent on timeless classics. Looks that we have thought out more thoroughly. After all, style comes from within and will prevail no matter what we choose to wear.

Can Clothes Destroy Us?

The clothes we wear and the relationship we have with them define us and can damage us. But what happens when the clothes we wear actually destroy us?

The fashion industry is one of the most polluting. Dyes that flood waterways Garments that overflow . Chemical wastewater that runs into our waterways. The delicate balance of our marine ecosystems is thrown off with every seasonally discarded shirt and nylon. The price we pay for style is larger than the dollar sign. But it’s hidden behind our desire to be a part of an “on point” online community.

Mental Cost

Then there’s the price we pay with our mental health and this constant striving to look good, blend in and stand out all at the same time.

Vogue Runway posts that fashion is now a tool for us to express our beliefs. But in 2016, they hailed the collaborations between H&M and designers like Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel, as a smashing success. This is a contradictory message for readers.

We look through glossy pages for guidance on how to look and act. But when we are told to wear disposable clothes, we might start to feel disposable. When we look disposable, our personal value goes down. We don’t perform as well and stop doing the things we like to post about. Our Instagram feeds stagnate and it's all because of one crushed velvet hoodie.

For the sake of our mental health and our wallets, it’s best that we curate our closet just as we do our feeds.


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