Emotional Attachments Matter in Sustainable Fashion, Here's How to Cultivate Them

by Karly Rayner

You know how you have fifteen beautiful shirts, but you overlook the flashy new gladrags for ‘the one,’ which is positively a part of you despite being a bit misshapen and threadbare? That’s your emotional support garment. It’s almost impossible to predict what will become a wear, rinse, repeat staple, but once you’ve found them, they are here to stay in a way that’s nourishing for both you and the planet. 

We develop deep emotional bonds with our clothing, especially if we are slow fashion devotees who want our purchases to be with us for the long haul, but this aspect of sustainable fashion is rarely spoken about. 

While scientists say that choosing a future favourite garment is difficult to do, it is possible to dissect the elements which might make up an emotional support garment to help us select clothes we will want to wear a life into. 

Emotional Attachment


The circumstances around buying a garment can help us develop a positive emotional association from the very start. Clothing rummaged in a particularly satisfying thrift store find can have a real hold on us, especially if bought on a memorable holiday. Just ask the red “player” halterneck I found in a 1 euro bin in Berlin over 15 years ago, which I still treasure to this day! 


Online purchases can also have us absolutely enraptured from the very beginning, whether it’s due to being bought as a special treat to celebrate a milestone or from it fitting like a second, confidence-boosting skin as soon as you whip it out of the box. 

Conversations about people’s favourite items of clothing are often rich with emotion and centred around enriching journeys and occasions and, while none of us can predict the future, we can choose clothing which makes us feel fabulous from the start.

Individual Themes

Individual touches which speak to your personal style, such as the Romina Dress's gathered corset waist are an important ingredient in a wear, rinse, repeat staple. 

Clothes that feel like a ‘bit of you’ and form a cornerstone of your personal style are likely to be with you for as long as you can keep them in one piece. 

The distilled essence of fashion is an expression of the self. This means a favourite piece might symbolise a characteristic, uniqueness or value we want to connect to ourselves and our identity. 

We just know these pieces in our bones when we meet them. In the words of a participant questioned for Kirsi Niinimäk’s paper “Forming Sustainable Attachments to Clothes:

“From the very beginning I felt a sense of ownership with this clothing; it works in all occasions, the quality is high, it is timeless, I enjoy wearing it, and it ages beautifully. Moreover it has helped me create a personal clothing style through a combination with different clothes. The product expresses my personality.”

Take heed though, if you meet a garment like this and let it get away, it might just haunt you forever! 

Enclothed Cognition


Studies have shown that wearing certain types of clothes really can make us feel and act differently. While the focus of most of the studies have been white coats or uniforms, a dress which makes you feel beautiful while wearing it will allow you to embody a level of confidence which would probably be unreachable in a less-flattering garment. 

In a 2000 paper by P. Jordan, it is pointed out that the emotional benefits of a product are the aspects which affect a person's mood and give them a boost. The strong impact that clothing has on our emotions means clothing is likely to stay with us for a long time if we feel a certain way while wearing it. 

Sensory Themes 

The 100% silk crepe de chine Celine shirt has the sensory magic touch.


Clothes which feel like wearing a warm hug have a high chance of becoming a treasured and well-worn emotional support garment. 

While words like cosy and snug summon up images of a well-worn dog walking cardigan, clothing doesn’t have to be casual to have comfortable appeal. The pleasant touch to the skin offered soft organic cotton shirts or silk can also provide a sumptuous sensory experience which will leave you wearing them again and again. 


The Constance evening blouse is a shapeshifter which will take your from presentation to Christmas party. 

If a piece of clothing works for its intended purpose, we will wear it over and over again. Naturally utility varies enormously depending on whether a garment happens to be a raincoat or an evening dress, but it all boils down to a design that fits the brief. 

Regardless of whether we are talking about hiking socks or a perennial Christmas party favourite, a person may become attached to a piece of clothing because of its quality, shape, fit, weight of the material, repairability, functionality or longevity. 

The word utility might bring shapeless khaki to mind, but a shirt which has dazzling boardroom to ballroom credentials has a high utility value if it slots into your lifestyle, and is likely to become an emotional support staple because of it! 


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