Fashion Editor Miranda Stoner explains why we should think twice before indulging in a round of retail therapy
Peer pressure, masking insecurities, wanting to fit in; these are all things which are often attributed to why many people succumb to fashion trends. Whilst they do inform our decisions, the truth is more complex. The real reason people follow trends is a mixture of contradicting impulses and emotions.
According to psychologist Jennifer Baumgartner (Psy.D.) the brain is susceptible to new trends as the reward circuit is stimulated when it encounters something new. This can uplift your mood, creating a sense of joy or euphoria. Interaction with new things can also enhance the cognitive processes such as memory, visual processing and problem solving, which are involved in learning.
Trends move quickly though, and they create only short-lived moments of novelty. It is therefore easy to get stuck in a yo-yo effect or to develop addictive behaviours where you buy a product to make yourself feel happy, but then become dependent on new trends and new products to activate your reward system. This is similar to the behaviour patterns of addicts as trends may provide temporary relief from a problem or feeling of inadequacy which stems much deeper.
Addiction specialist Gabor Maté (MD) affirms that “much of our culture and our economy are based on exploiting people’s sense of emptiness and inadequacy, of not being enough as we are.” This is reflected in the problem that clothes can become emblematic for lifestyles and character traits that we wish to possess. Normally the result of clever campaigns and celebrity endorsement. Unfortunately, buying a Hollister t-shirt may deliver some short-term happiness, but this wears off, when you realise it can’t transform you into a ripped Californian surfer.
Addiction specialist Gabor Maté (MD) affirms that “much of our culture and our economy are based on exploiting people’s sense of emptiness and inadequacy, of not being enough as we are.”
In addition to this, trends can become a way to mask insecurities and fit in with your peers. This means that you can end up wearing something unflattering. Not everybody is the same shape, neither should they fit the same shape clothing, we can’t all pull off the wide legged trouser for example. Following trends religiously also denies the expression of your personal style. A great shame, as style is a great way to subliminally communicate your identity and express your creativity, interests and inspirations.
That doesn’t mean that you should shy away from novelty though, buying a Blazer dress because you fell in love with Rihanna’s first Fenty collection doesn’t make you a sheep or a fashion addict. If it spoke to you and represents the person you want to be and the person that you want to be seen as, then incorporating the novelty of the runway into your wardrobe can enhance the image you want to project. Changing up your style can also have a positive effect on your psychology, as just like changing your pillow case, new styles and outfits can make us feel like a new person. Clothes are a concrete way of breaking out of old patterns of behaviour and can become a representation of who a person wants to be.
The aim of this article isn’t to demonise trends or to encourage you to follow them, rather to remind you to take each new trend with a pinch of salt and analyse whether it reflects who you are or who you want to be. As well as to question whether there might be a better way to combat any feelings of insecurity than an expensive shopping spree.