Back to Listing

The Science of Why We Buy Clothes We Never Wear

31 January 2017

Are we are a swipe-happy nation?

In 2015, Statista ranked the top-spending countries in the world per capita and congratulations to us – we’re number one! 

According to Mark Hall from, Australians are throwing away $140 million dollars worth of clothing every year which is going directly to landfill. This equates to 1.2 million tons of fashion buried in the ground. Although Australia has a culture of donating material goods to charity, only about 15% of donated clothing is sold again locally in charity shops – about 15% becomes industrial rags, 25% goes directly to landfill, and the other 40-50% into the global second-hand trade. (NACRO 2013 National Waste Report pg 7) says Australians are the world's second largest consumers of textiles, buying on average 27 kilograms of new clothing and other textiles each year. 

So why do we purchase clothing we never wear?

A 2007 study by researchers at Stanford, MIT and Carnegie Mellon tested the neurological reactions of participants when buying clothes. What they found was that the brain’s pleasure ambens were activated when a person desires an object.

In making the decision whether or not to buy the desired item, the brain weighs up the pleasure of owning the item versus the pain of outlaying the money for it. One of the study’s authors, Scott Rick, said 

“the brain seemed to be responsive not necessarily to price alone, or how much I like it, but that comparison of the two: how much I like it compared to what you charge me for it.”

Basically, the brain likes a good deal and therefore when you find clothes at a significant discount or at a cheap starting price, your pleasure centers will light up at the thought of purchasing.

As an Image Consultant and Personal Branding specialist for the past 10 years, I've always been fascinated by the way women shop. Many of my clients before working with me:

  1. never try on garments before purchasing them
  2. they crisis shopped at international airports
  3. they never have a shopping plan and just "hope" they find something
  4. purchased for their "future" self i.e when they lose a few kilos (I'll look great in that)

Question: How many times have you purchased a piece of clothing on sale and have only worn it once or twice or not at all?

Here are my top 3 gold nuggets for avoiding a crisis purchase.

My golden rule is: Only buy pieces you can wear at least 3 ways.

My golden question to ask yourself before buying a piece on sale is: Would I buy it if it were full price?

My golden approach to shopping: Have a plan. Know exactly what you currently have in your wardrobe and establish the cost per wear for that piece.

Here's an example.

Building a wardrobe takes time, commitment and self-awareness. By following my proven system for building a versatile wardrobe not only do you stop contributing to landfill but the end result is a versatile wardrobe that gives you the confidence to move out into the world feeling great and self-assured. Watch my video by clicking here.

In summary, shopping is an activity that can stimulate feelings of happiness and there’s a scientific reason why we all love good value for money. Just remember that science isn’t going to pay your credit card bills so I'd still advise you to shop wisely. Don't forget about the environmental implications of buying those one hit wonders.

Styling Your Success


P.S If you'd like to learn more about our personal services, please click here and if you'd like to learn about our Confident Career Woman public program, please click here.