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The War on Wedding Dresses

January 7, 2012

Hell hath no fury like a bridal boutique scorned. At least that is the case for one wedding dress retailer that was caught red handed on a cell phone destroying high-end wedding dresses.

The resulting melee for the “bling” found on the dresses and lengths at which retailers will go to preserve the scarcity of the label designer’s name shows the amount of value placed on high-end products in our consumer-based society.

I have discussed conspicuous consumption in prior blog posts and have actually written a research paper about the topic. Keeping up with the Jonses is a never ending battle as people try to one up each other in this superficial game of flaunting wealth via products such as clothes worn, clothing accessories, cars driven and so forth.

So why do people engage in this type of behavior? It’s a subtle way to show off one’s wealth, i.e. it’s a signal to others, who also participate in conspicuous consumption and are familiar with brand names, that you have a lot of money. The ability to purchase and wear items that only a few can truly afford gives one the feeling of superiority because one belongs to an exclusive group. It also gives one the feeling of power and importance in our capitalistic economy where consumption is ubiquitous.

It takes more than just the name to keep things high end. During my research, I learned that when it comes to luxury brands, most consumers are unable to recognize between counterfeited products and authentic products. However, the story is much different for the rich. They are trained to recognize the small nuances of high-end products, thus, they can determine what is genuine and what is fake by scrutinizing certain details.

A Wasteful World

The article also brings up the issue of waste in our world. By far, we human beings are a wasteful society. Sure we have recycling programs, but it doesn’t change the fact that we have agreements to destroy wedding dresses instead of selling or donating them to those who may have a use for them. Instead, we destroy the dresses, make more of them, then destroy those ones when a retailer goes out of business; it’s a vicious cycle that leaves a destructive carbon footprint.

I employ wedding dresses as an example, of course, of our wastefulness, but there are other products that could be substituted in place of the dresses. The act of maintaing social status is harmful to the environment, not just from the created waste but also from the demand on the Earth for the needed resources in the production process. Sadly, those resources are discarded and more resources are demanded for future waste, also a vicious cycle that leaves a destructive carbon footprint.

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