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The Paradox of Choice: More is Less

Having an unlimited number of options when buying clothing can seem like a good thing – we’ve all sifted through endless store pages, waiting for the perfect item to appear. Choice has saved many of those ‘I have nothing to wear’ dilemmas.

We associate choice with freedom, rooted in our human instinct which tell us that choice provides control and a means for survival. In modern life, we are overloaded with choice; the fashion industry alone produces 100 billion garments per year – fuelling over-consumption and a detachment of material goods. As we find ourselves in an abundance of choice, our certainty for those choices become less confident and more confused. You might start by looking for a new dress, you are now lost in mini dresses, blazer dresses, prom dresses, midi dresses, shirt dresses, maxi dresses and corset dresses (these are just some of PLT’s dress options, however the website proudly announces a total of 27,296 items for sale).

The ‘paradox of choice’ is a theory popularised by American psychologist Barry Schwartz. It suggests that whilst we believe being presented with multiple options make it easier to choose one that we are happy with – having an abundance of options ultimately require more effort to make a decision, leading us to feel overwhelmed and dissatisfied with the choice we eventually make. When applied to fashion, having more choice might be a reason why so many of our clothes are abandon in our wardrobes. We have so many options but still ‘nothing to wear’.

March 2022

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