Ethical Fashion: Make Considered Purchases with the 4, 3, 2, 1 Rule

Considerable vs Considered

The difference between the words “considerable” and “considered” may seem slight grammatically. Still, when it comes to our shopping habits, especially in the fashion industry, these two words could not be more different.

Let’s start with “considerable purchases.” It is no secret that when we have an event to attend, we often end up buying a new outfit for the occasion. Whether it be a wedding, a birthday, a Christmas party, or even an interview, we often add something new to our wardrobe. Buying a whole new outfit every time we go out is what we refer to as “considerable purchases.” This means we consume large amounts of something, usually without a thought beyond the initial impulse. This way of viewing clothes is highly unsustainable, as it is what the industry refers to as “fast fashion” – the act of purchasing a piece of clothing with the intention of wearing it once and then quickly disposing of it.

Now let’s look at the opposite side: “considered purchases.” This practice is one where we think carefully about what we are buying before we make the purchase, rather than just impulsively deciding “that will work” or “I like that.” We consider questions such as “will I still want to wear this garment next season?” or “where else will I be able to wear this garment?” There is nothing unsustainable about occasionally buying a new addition to our wardrobe, as long as it is a considered purchase.

Recently, I came across a useful way to make a considered purchase from Shakaila Forbes-Bell called the “4, 3, 2, 1” rule. This rule consists of four questions:

  1. Can you see yourself wearing this in four years’ time?
  2. Can you think of three other occasions where you could wear it?
  3. Take two deep breaths.
  4. And have one good night’s sleep.

Some of these questions are self-explanatory, but the second to last one – taking two deep breaths – may seem strange at first. However, the reasoning behind it lies in science. As humans, we often crave the hormone dopamine, also known as the “happy hormone.” Doing things we enjoy, such as shopping and buying new things, releases this hormone and can lead to us becoming somewhat addicted to the activities that give us a “high.” Shopping and buying new things can be addictive, and science supports this. By stopping and taking two deep breaths to calm down your nervous system, you have a better chance of controlling the impulse to buy the next new thing you see and avoiding the persuasion tactics of big fashion brands.

The last rule, having one good night’s sleep, is also about taking a step back before making a purchase. As Forbes-Bell explains in her book “Big Dress Energy,” fashion giants often use psychological tactics to persuade us to buy their clothes. Marketing practices play on our impulses to increase their sales, using phrases like “get it while it lasts” and “limited stock” to push us towards making an impulse purchase, heightened by our fear of missing out if we don’t buy it right away.

But if we take a look at our current wardrobes, how many of us can say that there aren’t a few impulses buys hidden away in there somewhere? We have all made impulse purchases before – that dress that was the last one in our size, or those outfits we bought while out shopping and haven’t worn yet. It is likely that those garments in the back of our wardrobes were not considered purchases and that we fell victim to a brand’s psychological marketing tactics that triggered our impulse to purchase. So next time you are out shopping or looking for a new outfit for an occasion, try opting for a considered purchase over a considerable one. Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in the fashion industry, and making considered purchases is a small but impactful way that we can contribute to a more sustainable future. By taking the time to think about our purchases and the long-term value they will have in our wardrobe, we can avoid contributing to fast fashion and instead support brands that prioritize sustainability and ethical practices. So, the next time you go shopping, try using the “4, 3, 2, 1” rule to make a considered purchase and make a positive impact on the fashion industry and the environment.

Article by: Meg Gardner

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