Recently, I’ve been ending my nights out by subjecting my friends to a drunken rant about how Greek life promotes consumer culture, and I’m starting to think my drunk thoughts have some merit.
I have seen it countless times, and it always begins with the GroupMe Message™.
“What’s up ladies. This Friday we’re hosting our jungle themed party – Jungle – and we would love to see you guys there in some animal print. 10 p.m. 420 N. Frat St.”
Sounds fun right? But – oh no! I don’t own any animal prints … What's a girl to do?
The solution is usually Amazon, Forever 21, Nasty Gal, or Fashion Nova. Basically, any cheap fast fashion website that has a nice selection of leopard print tops.
Trips to the package center become weekly events. A collection of attire for any and all themes builds up and sits in the back corner of dresser drawers until the next rare occasion calling you to dress like a predatory feline or 80’s workout instructor or disco queen.
Fast fashion is killing a lot of things: the environment, our bank accounts and individual expression.
According to an article from The New York Times, “about 85 percent of textile waste in the United States goes to landfills or is incinerated.” Because most fast fashion fabrics are made from synthetic materials, they won’t decay. This adds a huge amount of junk on top of the waste issue that is already a global epidemic.
Maybe when you’re thinking of buying that ten dollar tube top for mid March, consider that perhaps the reason you’re shopping for that rather than a sweater is because your purchases are actually contributing to global warming.
In a culture where women are being encouraged to just be themselves and support each other, why are we, as a community, shopping from the same five online retailers and wearing different versions of the same outfit to every party we go to?
Social media, arguably the largest promoter of consumer culture, has programmed us to all strive for a specific look that requires the latest and cheapest version of whatever the Kardashians were wearing the week before.
The fraternities and their theme parties aren’t helping the problem, either. They come up with “unique” and “fun” themes just so they can get enough girls and alcohol in one room with the hope that some of those leopard tops will end up on their bedroom floors later.
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That is not worth ten dollars plus shipping and handling.
Buying actual, authentic, quality pieces can be intimidating due to the cost and commitment to a specific style. Part of the appeal of fast fashion is that if you don’t like the piece in a few weeks, it’s not a total financial loss.
That’s the thing about quality pieces though – they often have a more timeless look because they aren’t playing off of trends that constantly turn. Plus, the amount you’ve spent on five cheap tank-tops in the last two months could’ve gone to that nice pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing that you could have gotten way more use out of.
Another reason why some pricier pieces are worth investing in are for ethical reasons. So many online retailers can sell you that leather skirt for less than 20 bucks because they use cheap labor and capitalize off of poor countries so they can pay low wages.
When you think of the phrase “sustainable clothing,” train yourself to remember that it’s not just important to sustain a lower carbon footprint, but also your finances, your individuality and your morals.
My personal favorite shop stops are back home in the Bay Area of California. I love supporting my local skate shop when I need a new hoodie, the second-hand store owned by my mom’s friend, and Goodwill. Shopping is a fun and personal experience that I love to use as an excuse to support people and places close to home. As for online, ThredUp, Etsy and Outdoor Voices are great companies with sustainability missions.
Next time you get that GroupMe Message™, ask a friend if they have an extra shirt that works, or try to get creative with your existing wardrobe.
The Greek community as a whole can take steps toward making dressing up more sustainable. Have costume bins in the sorority suites where anybody can put shirts they don’t wear anymore, start a group chat with your pledge class dedicated to swapping clothing and, if you do need to buy something new, go out with your sisters to a local or second-hand shop.
Don’t put the consumer in consumer culture, because Nastygal is just nasty, gal.