Clothing has amazing potential. It can express a great deal about our personalities, celebrate our heritage, and even improve our happiness, making us feel great. However, the fashion industry, as a wider concept, has an even greater influence, one that is not always positive. In fact, there are a number of reasons why great caution should be exercised when supporting and embracing fashion because it can actually contribute to low mental health.
One of the most pervasive issues among high street fashion is the continued promotion of ‘ideal’ body types. Despite a growing pushback against small sizes, store advertising continues to predominantly celebrate clothing that fits only a certain number of people, contributing to a growing pressure to attain certain physiques. This occurs in advertorial photographs, videos, and physical displays, such as mannequins.
Additionally, sizes themselves also contribute to a culture of ‘idealness’. For example, unlike men’s clothing, women’s clothing is numbered, leading to a ranking system that embarrasses and pressures women into fitting into certain categories. This culture would perhaps not be so pervasive if manufacturers were able to ensure their sizes were uniform but, as garments can vary from brand to brand, it leads to extra pressure, with shoppers encountering seemingly unusual clothing sizes.
High street fashion also remains dominated by unethical manufacturing processes, those which underpay staff and pollute the environment. As these costs become more familiar to customers, they begin to feel guilty about their wardrobe. Some are turning to upcycling old clothing or supporting more ethical brands but the onus of responsibility is then unnecessarily pushed onto the customer when it is, in fact, the business and manufacturer that has the power to change their practices.
Furthermore, with fashion comes rules. Trends lead to certain colour combinations and styles being seen as unacceptable. Often, these rules are in place for women, especially elderly women, who are typically told to ‘dress their age’ or ‘avoid certain colours’. Oppressive rules as such lead people to embrace safer, more neutral clothing in lieu of the exciting garments they would actually feel comfortable wearing.
To take back the positive well-being potential that comes with clothing, we must start dressing how we feel, regardless of rules and trends. By embracing the clothing that makes us feel good elevates our mental health and allows us to embrace our identity. Even if our ideal outfit is decreed as odd or unconventional, by wearing it, we rally against fashion norms and help to open the door for others who wish to wear the same styles and colour combinations. We must also make an effort to support the manufacturers and brands that bring positivity into our lives, whether through their unique clothing or ethical production.
Ultimately, we must remember that fashion is not solely for other people. No matter how much pressure there is to dress a certain way, the clothing an individual wears must firstly make them feel good. If it does not, then a wardrobe is created at the cost of a person’s mental health.