If you break it down, “fashion” is by very definition, impermanent.  The word is often bookended by others like “latest”, “craze” and “trend” – implying that no matter the current popularity of the subject, it too will soon be replaced.


If you’re like most women, it’s probable you’ve lusted over an “it bag” worth more than your rent, trolled eBay for deals or maybe even maxed out a credit card to secure one of your own. Remember when Uggs were an absolute wardrobe essential? To be worn with everything from leggings to mini skirts, the furry boot went from sell out success to being dubbed “fuggs”, now acceptable only on snowy days for sprinting to the corner deli.

It’s true. Fashion is an industry built on abolishing the old and outdated by creating a craving for the new. This constant cycle often nurtures a herd mentality of consumers buying what magazines tell them to buy in an effort to avoid the embarrassment of being “out of style”. Yet, despite the moneymaking roots, fashion is much more than just materialistic consumerism. For designers, fashion is an artistic expression as valid as any other. For editorial stylists, fashion is used to convey a message and tell a story that goes far beyond the clothing itself. For women like you and I, fashion is also a method for presenting the outside world with the person we are inside.

… despite the moneymaking roots, fashion is much more than just materialistic consumerism.

As a personal stylist and blogger, I am deeply engaged with the fickle industry of fashion on a daily basis. Part of my job is to actually comb through my client’s closets, ejecting items that they own in favor of items that they “need”, and then shopping with them to find those items. The goal here is to purge anything that is not being worn, clearing both the physical and mental clutter of months (sometimes years) past.

This process is often described as cathartic, and with good reason. By ousting the things that don’t make my client feel amazing when worn, we make room to see the things that do. I often hear people rationalize keeping a dress that makes them feel terrible, just because of a fancy label, or because back in the day it was their favorite. In truth, that dress is only distracting from the items that are actually wearable, and may even make it’s owner feel guilty for leaving it hanging there, week after week.

Holding on to old, unworn clothes, just because they were expensive or were useful once upon a time is just as materialistic as buying something new. By clinging to clutter, one is not taking a stand against the consumerism of fashion so much as placing value on clothing as an acquisition, rather than as a method of self-expression. A closet should hold the tools for conveying your best self to anyone you meet, and nothing extra.

The trick is to invest in fashion as an approach to individualism rather than simply a way to fit in. When used properly, fashion is an incredible device for building self-confidence. Think about the feeling you get when you know you look your best. It may sound superficial at first, but that feeling grants you the poise to actually forget about the way you look and focus on being as great as you feel. I have had clients tell me that updating their wardrobe gave them the confidence to ask for a raise, go on a date, or simply learn to love their body. It’s easy to forget about the importance of caring for yourself when life’s other duties take precedence. But the truth is that when you feel healthy, happy and confident – you will be better equipped to tackle your duties with gusto.

… invest in fashion as an approach to individualism rather than simply a way to fit in.

So rather than feeling guilty for shopping, or shying away from it altogether – I encourage you to be conscious about what you buy.  Flash sales can be tempting, especially at this time of year, and your friend’s new shoes may make you long for a pair of your own. Caving to social pressures is to be avoided, but forcing yourself to wear something that makes you feel insecure isn’t helping anyone, either. Instead, consider donating unwanted items to charity, or reselling them to those who may appreciate them more than you do.

Then, buy the dress that makes you feel like the best version of you, not the one that a magazine claims is a “must-have.” Wear it with pride, knowing that you’ve made a conscious decision and are using fashion as it is truly intended: for bringing joy and self-expression.

Considering bringing your closet donations to companies such as these: 
Bella Bag: Cash for handbags.
Rebagg: Cash for handbags.
Couture Boutique: Consignment for clothing and accessories.
Thread Up: Consignment and either keep the proceeds, or donate to a charity of your choice.
The Real Real: Consignment with white glove service (home pick up) available (contact skye.lehman@therealreal.com).

How can you be more conscious about filling (and emptying) your closet?

Image via Deerily on Flickr


  1. I definitely needed to read this! This was a lovely piece and very inspirational. I was doing laundry last night and came upon two pieces of clothing and asked myself, “Really?” I need to start buying fashion smarter and buy what really makes ME happy, and not THEM. As an aspiring stylist, your words have become words of wisdom to me. Thank you for writing such an honest article– it was perfection.

    1. So very glad to hear that! Cheers to another soon-to-be-stylist with a similar approach towards personal satisfaction over trendiness. Best of luck in your career and beyond.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this piece. I totally agree with you about the ‘herded mentality’ and how fickle styles can be. You have inspired me to write a piece about this.

    1. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the article, and plan to write your own! Together we can continue to spread confidence through style 🙂 xx @natty_style

  3. This is a beautifully-written and inspired piece. “When used properly, fashion is an incredible device for building self-confidence.” Amen! Thank you for writing this so eloquently.

  4. Great post! I can feel your passion in your words. I’ve always been one to choose items based on my personal style rather than what is in “fashion,” and I actually go through my closet about once every year or two to purge items that no longer fit my style or that I no longer use. Since I’m currently transitioning from student to working adult, this happens to be going-out dresses that I can’t believe I ever wore, haha. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I greatly appreciate this honest and thoughtful approach to the fashion industry. The elongated nature of fashion is cyclical. Trends return, decades later, to once again be top hits. It is a form of self-expression and presentation. Dressing a certain way often encourages a behavior: this is why businessmen wear suits and companies have dress codes. It is an industry that goes beyond indulgence.


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