Clueless coset syndrome?

I challenge you – don’t buy a new piece of clothing for a month and watch your closet open up.


A scene from the amazing movie Clueless. How is it feasible that we can all identify with this situation & the feelings of desperation and frustration that it evokes?

As someone who absolutely loves online shopping (I used to visit ASOS every single day – I was able to identify exactly what pieces of clothes were new every day. Perhaps a little extreme…) and can think of nothing more therapeutic than going shopping, I have managed to amass quite a large ‘collection’ of clothes. In my apartment in London, my closet is figuratively bursting at the seams. In the spirit of Elizabeth L. Cline, I have counted some of my possessions for this post (I didn’t count everything – I do have a life). I own 13 pairs of jeans and 18 pairs of trousers (that’s not counting my 7 pairs of leggings, and I didn’t even think to count tights). And that’s only what I’ve got here – in my family home in Switzerland, I’ve got 2 more closets. One of them is full of lots of lovely little ‘going out’ dresses that I wish I could also have taken with me to London, and a shelf dedicated to my jeans shorts. As far as I remember, I once counted around 23 after my mom – perhaps rightly – accused me of having a  jeans shorts obsession. So, basically, I could go two months without wearing a single ‘bottom half’ of my outfit twice. And this is not even excessive in terms of average clothing consumption – in her book, Elizabeth Cline mentioned that the average American buys just over one piece of clothing per week. This information is based on data published in 2008, so imagine how much that number has increased by now, when fast fashion is cheaper and more accessible than ever before.

Too many clothes

This meme says it all.

I was interviewing Agnieszka Mizerska, the Head of Operations of Kate Spade in London, for an assignment last week and after the interview we chatted a little and also touched on this subject. She made a really good point about why people might buy so many cheap clothes so often: because they don’t love the clothes they buy. The pieces have a short-term function. Unlike when we buy something that is of high quality and worth its alleviated price, we do not cherish the clothes or accessories that we buy ‘on the cheap.’ We don’t wear them often or find different, creative ways of incorporating them into our outfit. They are like fast food – a quick fix to serve some urge. In the long-term, it doesn’t offer real satisfaction.

Since I decided to buy less fast fashion, I  stopped the weekly shopping trips (both the online and offline ones). I still visit ASOS, but only around every 3 days or only on the weekend. And I’ve realised that I’ve become much more creative regarding my outfits. I’ve found ways to combine pieces of clothing that I would have never thought of before, and discovered combinations of patterns that I really enjoy. I’ve also managed to unearth some clothing items that I really love but had completely forgotten about. As time went by, I started to feel less and less like I ‘don’t have anything to wear’ and discovered more and more ways of combining my existing clothes. And I had a revelation about what I actually like to wear. Those 13 pairs of jeans? Didn’t wear any of them even once in two months. I realised that I love wearing dresses and tights and necklaces and scarves. Why do I own so many jeans?! Because I saw them in Zara or wherever and they fit and were cheap. Not because I loved them.

Clueless shopping

Stop all the clueless shopping!

In light of this, I’ve had a revelation: there is nothing less stylish or more boring than constantly re-injecting fast fashion into your wardrobe. Just going with every fad and trend doesn’t create an interesting wardrobe or person – it creates a shallow one. Think of style icons everywhere: they all defined (and define – thank god they are not all dead) themselves through a certain ‘look,’ not by following everyone else. If we keep ‘buying into’ (pun intended =p) fads, we will never be able to create our own style. It’s only when you have to find new ways to wear ‘old’ clothes that you develop ideas for how you most like to combine outfits, colours and/or patterns. And you could go further than that: Kate Fletcher refers to effective usage of the clothes we already own as the ‘craft of use’ – have a look here.

Clothes could have more meaning and longevity if we think less about owning the latest or cheapest thing and develop more of a relationship with the things we wear. Building a wardrobe over time, saving up and investing in well-made pieces […] are old-fashioned habits. But they’re also deeply satisfying antidotes to the empty uniformity of cheapness.

Cline (2013, p.9)

Do it – stop shopping for a bit. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. And I also highly recommend reading Elizabeth Cline’s book. It’s very insightful and inspiring.


The book by Elizabeth L. Cline is:

Cline, E.L. (2013). Over-Dressed: The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion. (2nd Ed). USA: Penguin Group.

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About Anna Abrell

Postgraduate at the London College of Fashion, studying MA Strategic Fashion Marketing.


Sustainability & Ethics


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