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Saga Voices – Let’s talk…clothes shopping

Rachel Carlyle / 01 September 2022

Each month our insight team conducts an in-depth poll of Saga customers. This month: your wardrobe secrets.

Illustration of lots of colourful clothes and accessories

It seems Marie Kondo and the army of other TV declutterers would have their work cut out with Saga customers. In our poll of 1,700, a surprising 73% say they are keeping clothes ‘just in case’ even though they feel they will never wear them again. Six in ten admit they no longer wear at least half of their clothes – and almost half (43%) have items they’ve never even worn.

This doesn’t surprise fashion psychologist and researcher Dr Dion Terrelonge. ‘People are magpies – our brains tell us to keep things just in case, and if something belongs to you, you want to keep hold of it; it becomes an extension of you, part of your identity,’ she says.

There may be another, more prosaic, reason of course: we’re desperately hoping we’ll fit back into them one day. In our survey, nearly one in five women (but fewer than one in ten men) have bought clothes they know don’t fit them, hoping one day they will. ‘I’ve definitely done that – it’s a kind of denial,’ says Dr Terrelonge. ‘Women have been conditioned to associate clothes size with a sense of worth, and if you go up a size it represents failure, a lack of self-control.'

92% say older people dress younger than previous generations

Having a crammed wardrobe might be a comfort to some, but it can present guilt-inducing ‘choice paralysis’ to others. Yet most people can’t stomach mass clear-outs, says behavioural psychologist Dr Carolyn Mair, author of The Psychology of Fashion.

Instead, I suggest keeping clothes you don’t really wear out of sight. Make three piles: the clothes you wear now, those you like but you don’t generally wear – but you might, and then the pile that you don’t wear that don’t hold memories for you, either. Pass on the third pile to charity shops or to friends. Then put the second pile in an empty suitcase and review it next season or year: if you’re not delighted to see those clothes again, you have your answer. You can also add to the case as you go.’

Nearly three quarters of the under 70s embrace online clothes shopping, and 53% of the over 80s

When it comes to buying clothes, women shop more than men, spend more, and enjoy it more. Half of our male respondents bought clothes once or twice a year or less, whereas a similar proportion of women buy something to wear every month or more.

Our survey found Marks & Spencer was far and away the most popular with all ages, with 82% shopping there, followed by John Lewis (39%). Next, Sainsbury’s, Amazon, Matalan, Tesco and TK Maxx did fairly well with all ages. Seasalt, White Stuff and Joules were liked by women in their 50s and 60s; local stores were popular with older customers; 21% use charity shops.

A huge proportion do online clothes shopping, with nearly three quarters (72%) of the under 70s embracing it, and 52% of the over 80s. However, 67% of both men and women say they buy fewer clothes as they get older.

43% still wear clothes they’ve had for 30 years

For women, that might be because 42% can’t find what they want – which could be down to the demise of favourite shops like Debenhams, Wallis, Jaeger et al (some survive online only). Most of the shops left don’t bother to market to an older demographic, says Dr Mair. She works with high-street brands and says most assume their oldest customer is 44. ‘It’s ridiculous – I’m 67 and I still shop at these places. Some brands do have stock that older people can wear but they’re not marketing to us, so people may assume it’s not for them. There’s a huge gap in the market. You don’t necessarily want brands aimed at the over-60s – that would put me off – but inclusive brands who don’t divide people by their generation; they just sell well-made clothing.’

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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