Book Review: The Dharma of Fashion

This book discusses our attitudes to the clothes we wear and buy from a Buddhist perspective, including many interviews with Josh Korda of Dharma Punx, of whom I’m a fan. As a postgraduate student of Buddhism, I was expecting a lot more from this book, it seemed to be aimed at those who identify as shopping addicts rather than general consumers.

It discusses the dopamine hit we get from the search for new item (which decreases when we actually buy the item, which perpetuates the cycle of shopping), and about Buddhist views on attachment and craving. The author puts forward a theory that what drives our attitudes to shopping and fashion is an aversion to facing up to the fact that we will grow old, experience illness and eventually die.

The section on how clothing makes us feel, and how we use it to feel part of a tribe, but also how we compare ourselves with others was interesting, how we dress to become our desires. We need to bring more awareness to our desires and motivations, being curious about our “vedana”, our feeling-tone (are things experienced as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral). The way to overcome this, it is suggested, is to reflect on the fragility of human life, which will help to suppress our cravings for consumerism in the realm of fashion. Whilst the practice of contemplating the “foulness of the body” is known in Buddhism, this is usually a practice aimed at monks, rather than lay people, and certainly not one with which to start one’s Buddhist journey. The suggested practice of starting a “desire diary” seemed a better place to start for those in the grips of shopping addiction.

There were interesting points made in this book, but could have been better developed (the book is only 96 pages). The pages were littered with quirky drawings, many of which did not resonate with me and did not appear to connect with the text.
I was expecting much more on our attitudes to consumerism in general, and more on fast fashion and the ethics of this industry, from a Buddhist perspective.

I received a free advance copy of this book via NetGalley.

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