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Shame, Blame, and Passion: Affects of (Un)sustainable Wardrobes

Journal article
Authors Magdalena Petersson McIntyre
Published in Fashion Theory-the Journal of Dress Body & Culture
ISSN 1362-704X
Publication year 2019
Published at Centre for Consumer Science
Language en
Keywords affect, wardrobe, emotion, fashion, consumption, diary, Affect Theory, fashion, Arts & Humanities - Other Topics
Subject categories Economics and Business, Cultural Studies


In order to change consumption patterns into something that is more sustainable, it is essential that we consider the various and conflicting meanings clothes have in people’s lives. This article presents an analysis of diaries written by consumers of different ages and occupations over a period of three months in 2015. These consumers documented their clothing and shoe purchases, took inventory of the contents of their wardrobes, and reflected upon their clothing consumption. The aim of this study is to examine consumers’ use and consumption of clothing and how they deal with dissonances in relation to what they see as ‘sustainable’. What motivated their consumption? What compromises did they make? and What were the processes that determined their choices? The authors of the diaries claimed that they wanted to consume clothing in a sustainable manner, but they found that they did not. Direct criticism of the fashion system was often elusive and difficult for them to articulate. Consequently, instead of asking for the creation of a different fashion system, the authors of the diaries blamed themselves for their failures with respect to sustainable clothing consumption. Drawing on Affect Theory, the article discusses how emotional attachments informed the authors’ relationships with their wardrobes and the conflicting emotions surrounding the pleasure and pain of fashion. In their texts, they provided a number of different explanations as to why they bought, kept, and used clothes to justify why they consumed clothing even if they did not want to consume or felt that they should not. The diarists also remarked on how this made them feel about their consumption. Some claimed to “love” fashion. Others wrote they “hated fashion”, whilst others stated that they “didn’t care at all”. However, as was the case for all of the authors, the dream of owning a ‘perfect’ wardrobe pervaded their texts and worked as a way for them to deal with the dilemmas, contradictions, and struggles of fashion.

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