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Confessions Of A Shopaholic: Yes, I Return Clothes After Wearing Them, Tags Intact

A girl’s tale of wardrobing—the simple act of wearing clothes with tags intact and returning them after use.

Sonakshi Babbar

As I strutted down the stairs of my favourite restaurant in a pair of high heels for a dinner with close friends, the look of admiration for my stellar outfit in their eyes was equal parts confidence-boosting and amusing. Surely, dressing up for oneself is a thing, but getting validation for your fashion statement never hurt anybody. What did hurt at that point, however, was what I was finding amusing in my situation—the tags at the back of the dress, rubbing mercilessly against my back, dulling down my fake smile bit by bit.

It seemed like punishment for my intent was to return the dress I was wearing the very next morning, because I was done with it in a night. But the thought of my bank statement reflecting the complete refund made me embrace the pain and eventually turned me into a seasoned executor of this wear-it-and-return concept. Here's more about wardrobing and how I overcame it.

I fell prey to ‘wardrobing’

A newly-coined word, according to Urban Dictionary, ‘wardrobing’ refers to the “fraudulent” act of returning used garments for a full refund. For the uninitiated, many other fashion retail brands of their kind have a 30-day return policy. So, if the garment doesn’t fit well, or if you change your mind about it, or if you think that the quality isn’t up to the mark—you can always return it within 30 days after the date of purchase.

For the over smart, ‘wardrobing’ is the exploitation of this supposedly kind policy that was meant for customer satisfaction.

But, it helped ease off the social pressure

I am a shopaholic—partly because of my love for fashion and aesthetics, but also because of the pressure of not repeating outfits. I am working on it, but till the time I don’t get there, I don’t want an outfit that everyone has already seen on me in my wardrobe for the rest of my life.

The novelty wears off, and so does the trend, when it is finally time to repeat the outfit hoping that everyone would’ve forgotten about it. With no real use, apart from serving looks at a do, the garment belongs to the racks of the showroom and not my wardrobe. 

My bank balance really appreciates the act

Money saved is money earned. Money wasted on an outfit that you would only wear once is money burnt. Poetic, right? Also, true.

However, for me, it’s also now about choosing the lesser evil

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If you happen to be even mildly health-conscious in life, you’d know how every fitness fanatic would ask you to make a few healthy swaps in your lifestyle: jaggery instead of refined sugar, brown rice over white rice, a 200-calorie aloo parantha over a 400-cal burger. But, you do realise that jaggery is sugar after all, brown rice is carb-loaded too, and so are aloo paranthas? However, these comparatively-healthier options are glorified because they won’t raise your blood sugar levels as quickly as their refined counterparts. The point? Well, it’s about choosing the lesser evil.

Lesser evil=Loyalty to the planet and not so much to your favourite fashion brand!

Zara, H&M and the likes of it will come and they will go, but Mother Earth will remain forever. And for it to remain forever, it is important that we do our bit to curb wastages of all sorts. In a world where it takes gallons of water to make a single cotton t-shirt, imagine what a fast-fashion brand like Zara—that launches a new collection every two weeks worldwide—is doing to the environment.

I am not even going to get into the human rights violations that happen during production of these garments. Nor am I going to talk about the air and water pollution caused by fast-fashion brands. But I do want to focus on the fact that the more I buy and keep the outfits, the more they will produce and the more they will harm the environment. The returned goods will make their way back into the inventory and maybe will be of better use to a fellow sistah! 

How I justified my act further

A 2019-survey carried out in the United Kingdom revealed that one in every five shoppers buys items with the intent of returning them after wearing them to a particular occasion. And this, apparently, costs the fashion industry a whopping £1.5billion annually in the UK alone! Now, imagine the state of affairs in our country with the population count of just the metropolitan cities being almost twice that of the whole of UK!

Ouch! That must really hurt the brands. But, my question is that if this return policy burns such a hole in their pockets, why don’t these otherwise-opportunistic retailers make amends to curb the returns of used items?

I plead guilty of being vengeful

You must be living in la-la land if you think the sample outfits worn by models for shoots and the ones spotted on celebrities do not make it back to their inventory, and eventually, to our wardrobes. So, why am I the villain for learning from them and just applying the teachings, huh?

However, I pledge to be more responsible now

What started as a money-saving tactic turned into a waste-reducing effort, or so I thought. But a fraudulent act can last no longer than a fast-fashion brand's latest collection. This acceptance took time, but it did come eventually.

While the environment-lover in me lauded the return, another question arose in my head: Isn’t the pick-up and return going to increase the carbon footprint? What also bothered me was the fact that, like many others of my kind, I just return the garment hoping and praying that they sanitise it before putting it back on the racks. What if this unhygienic practice spreads skin infection?

The solution?

For starters, I gave up on wardrobing and here’s why you should too :

a. Because you don’t want to be committing fraud.

b. Because the only real way to stop fashion from ruining the planet is to opt for sustainable fashion brands, buy ONLY what you really need, and stick to classics that can be styled in different ways.

Come on, get creative—not in terms of thugging these brands, but in terms of restyling your wardrobe staples. Say what?

Photo: Shutterstock
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