I have always been a bit of a shopaholic and a bargain hunter when it comes to clothes.
A few years ago I spent a year not buying new clothes – there’s a little about it on my separate (now discontinued) blog https://prelovefashionandrecycling.wordpress.com/
That time my challenge was to only buy second hand clothing for a year. Excluded from this were shoes and underwear, and things bought with birthday gift vouchers. As I went through the year I found I couldn’t get leggings second hand so allowed these new (loosely under the underwear category since I tend to layer them under dresses).
Actually the challenge was far easier than I expected and by the end of the year I had amassed loads of “new to me” clothing, along with far more new shoes and underwear than I possibly actually needed. And I felt good because I had spent lots in charity shops. Although I went back to buying some new clothes, I continued to get well over 50% second hand.
Back in September last year I signed up for zero waste week and shortly after decided that perhaps it was time for a new clothes related challenge. This time I was not just going to not buy new clothes, but not buy, or acquire, any additional clothes, shoes or underwear, whether new or pre-owned ( with one exception – see below). Because this was a tougher challenge ( certainly one my husband thought I had 0% chance of sticking to), I set a more modest timescale – until Christmas, and set myself one exception which was a pair of specialist shoes needed for an arthritic toe as the old pair had started giving me blisters.
Actually I had only bought one item of clothing since July – a second hand dress which turned out not to fit and was donated back to charity. So effectively my challenge began in July.
Allowing myself an exception for shoes in advance was perhaps not such a great idea as I quickly ordered a pair online (mistake to browse ebay after a glass of wine – I should know better) . In the end I didn’t keep them – my old boots turned out to just need breaking in again for the winter and soon became comfortable again, and the new shoes didn’t really fit so after a few weeks I listed them back on ebay and sold them on.
Christmas came and went. My only challenge really was a Christmas do at work which required a posh outfit. I already had a gorgeous black satin fishtail wiggle skirt from Coast in the cupboard, picked up in a charity shop a few years earlier and never worn as I had struggled to find any shoes to go with it that I could actually walk in (I’m usually in either summer Birkenstocks or clumpy MBT boots). A friend came up trumps with a pair of flat pointy court shoes she’d picked up in a charity shop which she lent me for the evening. And my auntie lent me a lovely black lace top and a silver scarf (since we had a black/white/silver theme). My auntie is a bit skinnier than me so the top was a bit on the tight side but altogether I was really happy with the outfit and I could even walk (and dance) in the shoes which friend now has on standby for me to borrow again should the need arise. And I had a lovely evening.
So, I made it until Christmas, and do you know what, I still couldn’t really think of anything I needed or even particularly wanted by way of clothing. I unexpectedly received a gift voucher from work for long service and really struggled to spend it. After buying some things to help with my zero waste journey such as lush deodorant bars and storage tins, a loofah, a soap dish and replacing a really scratched wok with a hopefully longer lasting enamelled one, I could only think of looking for clothes for the remainder (I was limited to a specific shopping centre) but really wasn’t inspired by anything so aside from a nightdress ( as I had got rid of 2 just before starting zero waste – as my mending efforts had failed) I bought some “functional” items – a thermal underdress, a pair of leggings and a couple of pairs of bamboo socks. Aside from those I have still not acquired anything new, or even second hand.
At the start of this I shared my challenge with the folk over at the Zero Waste Heroes Facebook Group to give me some motivation. Someone commented that I would learn to really love the clothes I had. I wasn’t sure, I thought I might get bored , but actually they were spot on. I have culled quite a few things I wasn’t so keen on ( to charity shop) and most of my wardrobe is now things I really like (including the purple woollen dress in my post from a few years back).
So, my challenge has extended to cover 9 months, and I have to say that it has really changed my attitude towards buying new clothes. I found that:
1) I already owned way too many clothes
2) I could donate some and still have more than enough
3) Asking whether I need something really helps, and has extended way beyond clothing
4) Because this attitude has extended beyond just clothing I have saved an average of £250 per month on my personal spending. Considering I was mainly buying cheap second hand clothing to start with that is a phenomenal amount!
Going forward I will continue to ask myself how much clothing I really need and when I do need something be sure it is something I really love, and which fits me really well. I like the recycling element of buying second hand so will continue to do this but where I do need new I am going to focus more on buying such new items from ethical companies – it may cost more, but I will be buying fewer items.
I have been invited to a charity clothes swap party next week (arranged by the good friend who kindly lent me her shoes). So I am going to have a day off, at least, from not acquiring anything new to me. But I am determined that I will bring home fewer items than I donate to the swap. More about that in a future post.
I am still sorting out items to swap but so far have picked out 2 coats, a pair of velvet trousers (freshly dry cleaned and embarrassingly still unworn from the last clothes swap a couple of years ago) and a skirt to go:
What is your approach to buying new clothes and how often do you clothes shop?
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