The Diderot Effect on Fast Fashion

It Happened

I had an epiphany last year that the #Konmari #Cline method had slowly infiltrated my wardrobe, which was repulsively spilling out fast-fashion items with only up to 20% wear rate.

A short, mindless trip to the mall now feels dreadful. That sales rack at Forever 21 I used to comb my fingers through? No joy. That once-attractive yellow and red BOGO sign hanging proudly on Urban Outfitters’ glass doors? Meh. Not falling for it. Ironically, during my spiral of consumption on the Amazon Kindle library, I was led to acquiring this book on a topic I’ve been weirdly curious about. 44 pages in, I was sold. That book was Overdressed by Elizabeth L Cline.

The Diderot Effect

I came across this article on Quora that summed up the purchasing habits of 99%* of the population perfectly. When asked “Why is our generation so unhappy?“, Louis tells us a thought-provoking story revolving the life of a French philosopher, Denis Diderot:

"Like many Enlightenment thinkers of his time, Diderot had little concern for material possessions. That changed when he received a new scarlet robe from his friend as a gift. The robe was so beautiful that Diderot treasured it above all else. But Diderot also quickly realized that the robe was out of his place amongst his other common possessions. He didn’t own anything that would match the grandeur of his new robe. And so Diderot went about replacing his old possessions. He replaced his straw chair with a leather one. A large mirror took over the mantle of his fireplace. He filled up the vacant corner of his house with a writing desk. Before long, Diderot found himself in debt. As he remarks in his essay titled Regrets For My Old Dressing Gown, 'I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one.'" (Read more about The Diderot Effect here)

Image source: Victor Garcia

Today’s modern consumption habit inadvertently promotes the idea of paying more to look like everyone else — all in the pursuit of status, approval, and thrill. However, do these material possessions contribute positively to your well-being? If you had to strip naked to save your life, what value can you bring to the table?

Reading Cline’s book has effectively helped me reassess what fast fashion meant to me, the environment, and most importantly, the questioning need for working more hours to pay off your shopping debt for these flimsy things that will most likely not last you through your retirement. It also doesn’t help that working in the marketing industry does sharpen my antenna to repel any sign that shouts, “You need this!”

A Quick Wardrobe and Life Decluttering Hack:

Image source: Charles Deluvio

Add everything you think you need in your shopping cart. Quit it before you click it. If you don’t find yourself coming back a few days later, that’s a great sign! Hold on a little longer. Wait for that email to hit your inbox. When it arrives, think: Did you remember putting all these items in your cart?

If yes, ask yourself:

  1. Would I use this?
  2. How will I use this?
  3. When will I use this?
  4. Do I need to buy more things to go with this?
  5. Can I live without this?

When you start scrambling for weird reasoning, you know. If you answered no, I think you got your answer ;)

Happy saving!