What I’ve learned from ‘no new clothes for a year’

What I've learned from no new clothes for a yearAbout a year ago, I wrote that I was going to buy no new clothes for a full year. My motivations were to save money and to move towards a more sustainable, ethically-minded approach to fashion. So how did I go?

Well. I, uh, still bought clothes. So, I guess that didn’t work out like I’d hoped.

I could tell that my grand plan probably wasn’t going to work too well when I still hadn’t broken old habits a month into my self-imposed challenge. It was a steady downward slide from there on.

However, I was definitely much more conscious about what I was buying, particularly when my wardrobe space shrunk and so did my available spending money. I made far fewer purchases over the past year compared to my previous habits. I’ve also shifted my focus towards retailers who scored favourably on the 2015 Australian Fashion Report.

So what exactly have I learned from all this?

Ultimately, I continue to buy more than I actually need. I mean, I have clothes for work and clothes for weekends. I have clothes for exercising and for the beach and for dressy nights out and for lounging around at home. I have clothes that keep me warm in winter and clothes to wear in the peak of summer. I have a lot of clothes that I love wearing and feel fantastic in every time I put them on. I am spoiled for choice and extremely fortunate.

Why, then, do I always want more? I think it’s a combination of still being very much a part of consumerist culture, coupled with my personal love of novelty. I love new things and new experiences, so I’ll always be seeking something fresh and exciting. The key is to try and shift my focus towards investing in experiences, not things.

It’s OK to love fashion. It’s OK to find enjoyment in piecing together an outfit that you love to wear, and using clothing as a form of self-expression. But our relentless pursuit of bargains and buying things for the sake of a sale is not OK. This inevitably leads to overstuffed wardrobes full of clothes we don’t like, which is why there are zillions of articles spread across the Internet about how to organise your wardrobe, how to declutter your closet, how to cull your overwhelming collection and jettison huge volumes of clothing simply because our overconsumption has become a burden to our lives, just as much as it’s a burden to the planet and to many of its people.

Have you ever considered just how much of a first world problem we’ve got when we have so many clothes that we’re advised to ditch bags full of them simply because we’ve grown bored? Or have only worn things once or twice but never again? Or have so many options to choose from that we find it difficult to dress ourselves because we can’t even see the full extent of what we own?

There seems to be a new narrative emerging, a counterpoint to the consumerism and materialism that we’ve been immersed in for so long. It’s the idea that we will be happier with less stuff and a simpler life. Minimalism is nothing new, and neither is sustainable living, but it certainly feels like both philosophies are having a moment right now. We’re urged to suppress our knee-jerk instinct to buy more stuff in favour of owning less stuff.

But getting rid of half our wardrobes, either by donation or disposal, seems incredibly wasteful. I think the best way to honour those who made my clothes is to wear everything I own – and wear it often, until it’s too faded or stretched or full of holes. To not throw out a shirt simply because I’m bored of it after one or two wears.

This will be my new focus from now on: to make good use of what I currently have, to gradually downsize as things get worn out, and to keep new things to a bare minimum. That’s something I know I can actually stick to.

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2 thoughts on “What I’ve learned from ‘no new clothes for a year’

  1. This is a really interesting experiment, Emma. I whittled down my wardrobe to the bare minimum earlier this year as I needed to fit everything I owned into my backpack, in preparation for a few months of travel and an international move. It was hard having only a few items to rotate, and I was often left feeling like I was wearing the same thing every three days or so. But it was also nice to not feel weighed down (both figuratively and physically) by carrying around more clothes than I needed! I’ll admit I jumped into purchasing some new dresses as soon as I arrived in New York, but it was interesting to see that I could go without buying new things for a few months!

    • Thanks Ashlea, I’m actually quite envious of those who can whittle down their possessions like that. It’s so hard to imagine going from a modest studio apartment’s worth of things to just taking a backpack! But I imagine that it would also be incredibly freeing, especially when it means travel becomes much easier and more achievable. I’m definitely reconsidering a lot of my buying habits!

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