First published November 2020
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, myself and three of my friends (Dawn, Jenni and Zoe) 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 for them, and whether they had any tips for how readers of this blog might do the same in 2021.
I started off by asking how everyone had found the year so far.
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!
However, the virus also made it harder. Zoe spent the beginning of lockdown at home with not much to do, so was tempted to look at online shops. Jenni also spent more time at home on her laptop, and so was seeing a lot of adverts for clothes on social media.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Both Jen and Dawn talked about needing comfier clothes for working or working out at home due to Covid-19. Dawn bought a top and Jenni some trousers for those scenarios, and neither regret those choices as they were carefully chosen purchases, rather than impulses which would end up languishing at the back of the wardrobe.
As the year went on, it got easier for all of us to eschew new clothes.
Zoe said, “I’ve found a rhythm, and I hope to carry on.”
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 say no to, while Zoe (right) used some of the money she had saved by rejecting fast fashion to buy a jack 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 about the rules we had set for ourselves and how easy it was to stick to those rules.
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 too full. As she said, “My brain tells a story about how this particular item would be perfect in this particular scenario” - and then it’s 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 the clothes 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 wants to shop at places like ASOS again (see the issues with them here) - and 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.
Dawn agreed. “While I didn’t start this for environmental reasons, I know that fast fashion is really bad for both the environment and workers.” Therefore, she’s going to stick to clothing companies like Lucy and Yak or buy second hand from now on. One exception might be clothing stalls at festivals, although she plans to ask friends for their honest opinions about whether she really needs certain items, rather than listening to the friends who tell her she looks great in everything!
Jenni said that she worries it will be difficult to carry on, but that 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, so I know I will find it hard to say no to them, but I’m going to try to stick to second hand or ethically-made trousers from now on.
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 tempting 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 finding herself addicted to saving her money instead, 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 - and again, this is easier this year than it might be next year - 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, West Bristol 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 committee members Grant and Julie 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 I've worn holes in them. At least 400 wears and counting, each!"
Grant watched the documentary The True Cost, which is available on Amazon Prime. He says, “The True Cost makes clear the consequences of Western clothing supply chains seeking out the world’s cheapest labour. It focuses on women, their working conditions and the social and health implications inflicted upon communities from appalling working conditions and a lack of environmental and health protections. The juxtaposition between these women’s experience working with clothes vs. the Black Friday madness in the West, vlogging about shopping sprees and general over consumption was sobering, important viewing.”
Have you tried to go without new clothes? How have you found it? Let us know in the box below.