As we’ve seen in a recent blog, fast fashion is extremely bad for the planet. It can also be bad for your wallet, and for the available space in your house.
With this in mind, three of my friends (Dawn, Jenni and Zoe) and I pledged to avoid buying any new clothes in 2020. As the year came to an end, I had a chat with those friends to find out how the challenge had gone, and whether they had any tips for how readers of this blog might do the same in 2021.
Perhaps predictably, we agreed that coronavirus had made it easier not to buy new clothes; we weren’t going out, so didn’t need to get dressed up… plus the shops were shut for a lot of the year!
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
However, the virus also made the challenge harder. Zoe spent the beginning of lockdown with not much to do, so was tempted to look at online shops. Jenni agreed that she was spending a lot more time at home on her laptop, and so was seeing a lot of adverts for clothes on social media.
Both Jen and Dawn talked about needing comfier clothes for working or exercising at home due to Covid-19. Dawn bought a top and Jenni some trousers for those scenarios. However, these were carefully chosen purchases, rather than impulse buys which would end up languishing at the back of the wardrobe.
Zoe and I both bought some second-hand clothes; I found a dress in a charity shop at the start of the year which I couldn’t resist, while Zoe used some of the money she had saved by rejecting fast fashion to buy a jacket from Beyond Retro.
“I spent more than usually would because this was a retro item and a good brand,” she said.
Photo by Scoundrel Eye Photography
We talked how easy it was to stick to the rules we had set for ourselves.
Zoe and I were happy to buy second hand clothes from charity shops, eBay or Depop, Jenni was trying not to buy any clothes at all, and Dawn was trying to cut down her consumption of everything, as her house was getting cluttered. As she said, “my brain tells a story about how this particular item would be perfect in this particular scenario” - and then that item was in her house.
I almost managed to stick to my simple ‘No new clothes in 2020’ rule… the only new items I’ve bought in 11 months are some new undies as my extra lockdown pounds meant the old ones weren’t fitting any more. I’ve decided I can live with that slip up! Dawn’s rule of not buying anything new until she had had a clear-out of what she wasn’t wearing motivated her, while Jenni said that she had to set herself the very strict rule of no new clothes at all (new or second hand) as she knows herself well enough to know that if the rules were more flexible, she would have broken them too often.
Will this challenge have an impact on our behaviour next year? Zoe was clear that she never again
wants to shop at places like ASOS, which
have a terrible environmental record. She feels confident that this is a habit she has broken. When Zoe does buy clothes in the future, she knows they will make her feel good as they will have been ethically and/or locally made and will have had a guilt-free journey to get to her.
Photo by Shanna Camilleri on Unsplash
Dawn agreed. “While I didn’t start this for environmental reasons, I know that fast fashion is bad for both the environment and workers.” Therefore, she’s going to stick to ethical clothing companies like Lucy and Yak or buy second hand from now on. One exception might be clothing stalls at festivals... although Dawn plans to ask friends for their honest opinions, rather than listening to the pals who tell her she needs everything she tries on!
Jenni worries that it will be difficult to keep avoiding the shops, but she’s going to remind herself that she wants to put money towards exciting holidays or a new place to live, rather than clothes she doesn’t need.
I personally have an addiction to unusual flares which will be hard to resist, but I’m going to try to stick to second hand or ethically-made trousers from now on.
Photo by Maude Frédérique Lavoie on Unsplash
Finally, I asked my buddies what one tip they would have for readers of this blog who want to rise to the challenge and attempt No New Clothes in 2021.
Jenni said, “Unsubscribe from all clothing company emails telling you about sales, and use the settings to try to convince Facebook that you don’t want to see clothing ads - if it’s not in your face, it’s much easier.”
Zoe’s top tip was to get into the backs of all your drawers and wardrobes to fish out the clothes you haven’t worn in a while. You might find some gems you’ve forgotten about.
Dawn suggested finding another way to get that dopamine hit that shopping can bring. She’s now addicted to saving her money instead of shopping, but suggested you could try going for a run or doing some knitting or cross-stitch instead, so that you can feel good about not buying clothes.
My own suggestion might seem obvious... but I’d suggest just not going into clothes shops, even if you think you’re just looking. If you don’t look, you can’t find that one item that you never knew you needed.
Meanwhile, as I mentioned in last month’s blog, our sister group Clifton Climate Action are setting a series of eco-challenges for the next 12 months. As luck would have it, this month’s challenge is about clothing. I asked Grant and Julie from CCA to tell us about how they’re finding the challenge so far.
Julie said: I'm doing the 'repair' aspect of the clothing challenge this month, inspired by a massive success some years ago when I fixed 17 items of clothing in a single day - hemming, repairing holes, sewing buttons on, taking things in, getting shoes resoled, the works - bringing back an estimated £500-worth of clothing back into action. This month I'll be patching my two favourite sweaters, both of which I've worn so often that they have holes in them. At least 400 wears and counting, each!
Grant watched the documentary The True Cost.
He said: This documentary reveals the consequences of seeking out the world’s cheapest labour, listening to women who are working hard to graft a better life for their kids. Women who were beaten when they tried to unionise and improve their conditions, and effects even worse than that. The film contrasts this real and current suffering with people in the west, whose cultures have led them to You-Tubing about their shopping sprees and giggling that they “probably won’t even wear this one".
Could you take the challenge and buy no new clothes for a month - or even a year? Comment below to tell us your tips or what you might find difficult about avoiding clothes shopping.