A new view on consumerism

Art by Maryrose Ceccarelli

More, more, more, more. More clothes, more shoes, more makeup, more stuff. Living in America, this is how all of us are. Of course, we all know it, but do we realize how prevalent it is in our culture? Being abroad and immersed in European culture has brought this issue to my attention more than ever. 

In Europe, something that I’ve noticed is the lack of constant exposure to physical ads. In Florence (where I’m currently studying and spend the most time in) there aren’t billboards or public transportation plastered with ads everywhere. Florence is also an ancient city with many historical buildings, churches and museums. No one is going to put an ad for the newest Netflix series across the Duomo. For that reason, there is less physical advertising. 

One time I was in line at the grocery store and the man in front of me said “Have you ever been to my restaurant?” Seeing as I had never met this man before, I replied “no,” and he proceeded to hand me a business card with his restaurant’s name on it. This is common in a place like Florence since most restaurants and businesses are locally owned, so they employ someone to stand outside the restaurant and hand out business cards. This, to me, feels more genuine and less invasive as the ads we see in America. Don’t get me wrong: there’s still an immense exposure to digital ads in other countries. This is unavoidable in our generation.

I bring up advertising because it correlates with how society is pressuring us to buy new and buy more. I have been a lot more conscious of what I’ve been buying while I’m here. 

Is this piece unique?

Can I wear it multiple times?

Will I still like it in a couple of years?

Those are some questions that I have been asking myself when shopping. Granted, I only have a limited amount of space in my suitcase to buy new things, which is another motivating factor that helps me to avoid blacking out while shopping and buying cheap things that I might wear twice. This is an issue I feel like a lot of Americans might struggle with. Just because an item is cheap DOES NOT mean you need to buy it. Investing in well-made, sustainable pieces is a good foundation to build your wardrobe around. It’s also a win-win for everyone, you save money because you’re buying less and investing in better pieces, and the environment wins by you not buying from fast fashion retailers and by not throwing away unworn clothing. 

So, I invite you, reader, to ask yourself some of these questions on your next shopping excursion. We all fall into the temptations of fast fashion and consumerism from time to time because it surrounds us and it’s convenient. If we all choose to make positive changes, big or small, in our lives, it has the possibility to cause a chain reaction. Talking about buying clothes sometimes seems frivolous and shallow, but these are the issues that our planet is faced with, issues that have been put into fruition by our spending dollars. 

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