It's night-time, and I'm walking my dog. Slowly. Past the clothes shops. I take note of the pink jumpsuits available for both adult and child fashion lovers. I approve of the pleated skirt with an athleisure trim, purposefully slung for maximum eye-catching temptation. Then I go home, check the price of the skirt online, think of five reasons why I loved it so much, and then turn off the lights. Welcome to my year of not shopping.
I challenged myself to buying nothing because I wanted to do something that made a difference. I wanted to focus less on my feelings of environmental helplessness and channel my belief that one person matters. A year came and went, and not shopping got easier. Here’s what I learnt:
I wore what I had, and felt less guilty
According to website 1 million women, Australians wear clothes seven times before discarding them. I wonder how much of what goes on sale in my local op shop has been worn that much. Clothes that are cheaply and badly produced, often don’t inspire loyalty. The trousers, tops, and dresses that I wore over and over again this year surprised me. By only working with what I had, I appreciated my clothes more.
By wearing my clothes more, I loved them more
Without any new competition, my statement skirts got to speak and my rocking t-shirts saw the light of many days. Vintage dresses that I wore pregnant, fit differently now, cinched in with a belt. Dresses from before I had kids, which I fall on like old friends at an airport, hugging them close and promising to never lose sight of them again. Two pairs of jeans which I repaired three times this year, patching up the seams, stitching the pockets that slit as I sat down. Time for less latte.
I was honest with everyone, including myself
I told people that what I was trying to do, and I was surprised by how supportive people were. Thank you to my friend Fiona, for offering to buy me a skirt that I couldn’t stop talking about. After asking myself ‘Why?’ five times, I realised that what I really wanted was to look like the model in the pictures. I signed up for the gym again, and I felt better.
I realised what my personal style was
What I love is wearing something uniquely mine. Exploring my own wardrobe brought about some gems from yesterday that I’d still wear today, exactly because I’m the only one wearing them. Fast-fashion works by feeding our desire for new with affordable, pretty things, with the effect that many people will have the same item. For me, uniqueness came from not buying new.
I enjoyed everything about clothes, without buying new ones
Deprivation doesn’t work for me. Instead of saying, “You have that already!” when I was tempted, I told myself “You have lots of gorgeous clothes at home.” I enjoyed books about clothes, talking to my friends about what they liked, and I dedicated energy to grabbing something special out of my wardrobe and wearing it, even just to strap my toddler into the cart at Coles.
My patience rewarded me
There were items that tested my fashion pelvic floor this year. I’ve survived. Fashion is cyclical and repetitive. Leopard print might be displaced by snake print for a season but reigns supreme in the background. I realised that I was always tempted by the same things, and that I’ve always bought the same things. Vintage-style dresses that work for my shape, black T-shirts that make me feel like a rock chick, glittery faux sportswear just because. I was shopping on repeat and only noticed by pausing.
I’ve become a circular shopper
I give things I’d like to wear, but don’t, to the op shop. While I’m there I’ve bought things for myself, using what’s already in our system to get that dopamine hit of new, exciting clothes. I’ve also bought vintage-style floral dresses (of course) from New Zealand maker, Rhiannon Larsen. Her brand, Toast Clothing Studio, uses reclaimed bedsheets to make cool clothing, with zero guilt.
Australians buy 27 kilos of clothing a year. I feel glad that I’ve consumed less. It’s not the solution to everything, but it is something.
Fernanda Fain-Binda is a freelance writer.