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My year without clothes shopping

Shopping bags

A little over a year ago, the Hermes delivery driver turned up on my doorstep with a parcel of clothes for me. There was nothing unusual about that, but that was precisely the issue. I eagerly unwrapped a gorgeous new season skirt and a cute top to wear with jeans (we all need oodles of them, right?). Then I put them away in my wardrobe and carried on with my day. Little did I know then, that they were the last items to be added to my wardrobe for an entire year.

I’m no shopaholic. I’ve always been careful with my finances, and I’m not one to splurge. I’ve written plenty of magazine and online features about designer ranges and must-have pieces, but I’m more of a high street or indy boutique clothes shopper myself. I adore fashion and I scroll through endless insta feeds to devour the latest looks, and decide which ones work best for me.

So my decision to stop clothes shopping was not driven by the need to break a bad habit. I didn’t have a wardrobe full of unworn items and I wasn’t hiding my purchases from my significant other. It wasn’t that I was unhappy with the new clothes that arrived that day – quite the opposite, they were just what I wanted. So what happened? 

Why did I stop buying clothes?

2020 was an unusual and unpredictable one for all of us. It definitely was for me. I lost two work roles before we’d even started to lockdown as the small businesses that I worked with either folded or had to reduce their overheads. A couple of months into lockdown, another client decided not to continue our working relationship. Now that one hit really hard and rocked my confidence and security. 

Not leaving the house in lockdown made it easier not to buy new clothes. I didn’t need a ‘nice top’ to wear with jeans on a night out with friends. Plus, I had a new one that I hadn’t worn anywhere yet. I had no upcoming events, holidays or special occasions that warranted wearing something different.

The longer I went without buying new clothes, the more I realised that I didn’t really need them. I had plenty of clothes to work with already. I began to enjoy rediscovering older items from the back of my wardrobe or pairing items in different ways. And, being at home, I could rewear clothes time and time again without anyone noticing.

At first, I didn’t think about it much. I was tightening my pursestrings in various ways, so the clothing purchase amnesty was just part of that. The longer it went on though, and the more that my desire for something new increased, the more I made it a deliberate action. Once I’d gone from Spring to Autumn without a purchase, I decided to continue it for an entire year.

I’m very aware of sustainability and the environmental impact of the fashion industry, so I decided to turn a negative situation into something positive.

What did I learn from not buying clothes? 

  1. There’s a difference between want and need. Do you actually need a new top or do you just like the look of that cute one worn in your dream insta life?
  2. Be aware of your triggers. The times that I was most tempted to buy something new was when they were on offer. I’m a sucker for a sale bargain! I had to ask a friend to talk me down a couple of times when I was very close to clicking to buy.
  3. It’s good to reuse, rework and recycle. My mum was a big role model in this respect. She had clothes for years, and now I have some of her dresses that I absolutely love wearing. I enjoy finding different ways to wear old favourites – mixing new combinations or adding accessories.
  4. A considered purchase is a better one. Buying new clothes isn’t a sin, but I take my time to decide what to checkout with now. I add items to baskets but leave them there and come back later, just to make sure that I really want them. 

Last week, I made my first foray into clothes shopping in a year. I spent ages scrolling through websites and thinking about what I’d really like and need. I decided against purchasing from a fast fashion outlet with little conscience and opted for Nobody’s Child, a retailer with heart and good eco-conscious credentials. I will soon be in possession of a new Spring/ Summer dress – woohoo!

I have definitely learned from the experience, and I intend to be far more aware of future purchases. But right now, I cannot wait for that delivery driver to ring the doorbell with my much-anticipated parcel. It’s been a long time coming.

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