Meaner Greener Me: ‘Vintage’ fashion for 2014

I have decided not to buy any new clothes for myself for the whole of 2014.

There, I’ve said it!

It easy to write but how easy will it actually be to execute?

For some time I’ve become increasingly concerned about the ethical issues involved in buying clothes. No doubt I don’t know the half of them, but those I am aware of are bad enough and include:

• The negative environmental impact in producing clothes (e.g. the harmful dyes used), the pollution created in transporting them around the world and their disposal at the end of their lives.

• The human cost of making clothes which has been, in some cases, shocking. There are some terrible working conditions for employees in clothing factories throughout the world and, as the incident in Bangladesh in April highlighted,  this can even result in workers tragically losing their lives.

• Participating (unwittingly or otherwise) in the unethical government policy, workfare. Now clearly my categorisation of workfare as unethical is up for debate depending on your political stance and moral compass, but I am referring to the fact that there are some benefits claimants in the UK who work for no wage, in order to claim their welfare payments. Some major chain stores that I buy my clothes from are supposedly involved in this. To find out more which companies are allegedly part of this problem please see Boycott Workfare.

Those issues have been niggling away at me for some time and, although I admit that it is relatively easy to ignore them against the backdrop of my busy life, it suddenly struck me that I probably have enough clothes to last me a year. On that basis, I will step back and take some time to consider how I choose to participate in the clothing industry from now on.

Admittedly I am not removing myself entirely as I have growing children and I will continue to buy clothes for them, but I will buy less and choose more carefully on their behalf.

It’s fair at this point to credit Jen Gale from the blog My Make Do and Mend Year for me even considering ‘opting out’ of buying clothes. I have never met Jen, but (as many of you already know) her blog is hard-hitting in a very accessible, light-hearted sort of a way.

Jen and her family decided that they had enough ‘stuff’ and stopped buying anything new – opting, as her blog title suggests, to make, make-do and mend instead. I often think of Jen’s posts in my day-to-day life – in terms of challenging myself on whether I really need something or when considering if an item can be fixed instead of simply being thrown out. Make, make-do and mend are ridiculously straightforward concepts but we live in a consumer society and I for one got used to buying things for the best price (as opposed to the best quality) and replacing them when broken.

No more! The other day I sewed up a seam on a well-loved dress so that it was wearable again. I had to buy thread and spent about 10 minutes figuring out where the best place to stitch was to keep the repair invisible, but I did it! As I’ve documented on the blog before, I am rubbish at sewing and it’s not ‘my thing’. I am however now becoming conscious that reducing waste and being environmentally friendly is ‘my thing’ so I bloody well got on with it and instead of putting that fabulous dress in the rag bag, it was worn on Christmas Day. It made me realise how stupidly wasteful I’ve been in the past!

What will I do if there is something I need that I don’t have in my wardrobe in 2014? Well, I will either try and borrow it from a close friend or family member or buy it second hand from a charity shop or internet site such as ebay.

In order to prevent any of my current clothes wearing out (and there’s a pair of my favourite jeans threatening a hole at the knee!) I’ll be more careful about what I’m putting on around the house. A ‘hierarchy system’ within the wardrobe may extend the shelf lives of the pieces of clothing I need to last the year, so I’ll need to get into the habit of ‘lounging’ in track suit bottoms and old tops, saving the good stuff for the big nights out the nursery run.

I am looking forward to this challenge. As well as a clearer conscience I am hoping to save myself time. Already I am not opening emails from shops which are advertising their fashion sales and, earlier today, I was at my local shopping centre buying paint. Usually I’d take a quick look around the clothes shops but instead I avoided them. Although looking at clothes is a pleasure for me, it was liberating not to battle through sales shoppers. My children will be delighted that they don’t have to endure the obligatory lap of the women’s clothes department for a whole year whenever we’re at the shops. I remember from my own childhood just how crushingly boring that was…

Money-wise, I’ll make a saving too. Buying clothes and enjoying fashion is something I indulge in but I’m not sure how good I am at ‘being fashionable’. I quite often go off clothes after a few months or realise that I haven’t bought a size that works for me. It’ll be refreshing to save the money instead.

I’m hoping that by this time next year, I’ll be looking forward to buying clothes from ethical consumers and that I’ll have learned much more about them.

Fingers crossed those Hogmanay mince pies tomorrow don’t push my dress size up…!

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20 thoughts on “Meaner Greener Me: ‘Vintage’ fashion for 2014

  1. Good for you! I wish you success with this… and remember to wash things less and more gently – the roughest treatment our clothes get is, often, in the washing machine! I can highly recommend Eucalan for wool washing – just soaking, no rinsing or agitation required.

    • Funnily enough my resolution for January is to cut down on the amount of washing I do! I’m so guilty of washing things when they aren’t dirty but have simply been worn, even if only for a few hours.

      Reckon I could save my clothes and the environment if I change this habit 🙂

  2. I don’t like buying clothes – too expensive (That t-shirt for 30 euros? I can make it myself for 5 euros!) and I don’t like a lot of the clothes, and it’s also not that easy to find clothes that fit nicely. Luckily I can sew and I do like shopping at the fabric market, though I’m also actively going through the stash of fabric I still have from previous projects (and fabrics I got from other people who don’t use them anymore).
    I do expect to get a lot of new clothes next year, but all of them handmade OR secondhand. It will at least skip the step of being-made-by-poor-people-in-China or somewhere else… Even though the fabric is not organic cotton or such, as that’s a bit above my budget at the moment! I do try to use cotton thread instead of polyester whenever possible, and I like linen/cotton fabrics better as well, so I buy those whenever possible (though when I made a swimming suit skirt this year, I did use lycra with polyester thread :P).

    • That sounds like an amazing way to acquire clothes. I’m not at all crafty but I like the thought of being able to use a sewing machine and make something just the right size and style!

  3. This is actually going to be one of my new year resolutions too. I had a sort out of my wardrobe earlier and have bagged up quite a lot to take to a charity shop next week. I have plenty of clothes and am quite a competent sewer so I should be okay.

    Good luck to you and don’t forget if your jeans do get a hole in the knee, Jen has a few posts on patching on her blog 😉

    • Fab! It’s great to have some company on this one! I could do with a big wardrobe sort out too. I have quite a few things I like but never wear because I’ve not figured out ‘how’ to wear them, what accessories etc!!

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  5. Best of luck with your resolution. I have a very different lifestyle to yours, but thoroughly recommend the clothes hierarchy. My respectable clothes stay respectable when I only wear them out in public, and I need not worry about my work clothes getting filthy if that’s all they’re being used for. I actually even have a hierarchy within my hierarchy – work clothes for wearing around the farm here, and ones for if I have to work elsewhere and someone might see me!

    • Love it! I already wear some ‘interesting’ stuff around the house, depending on what’s cosy or to hand but I can add stuff that’s got paint on it or about to wear out – I’m going to embrace this!

      As for the washing, you’re right and I don’t know how good I’ve got it. I can definitely cut down! I’ll think of you and if I’m in danger of failing, I’ll cut the power supply from the machine 😉

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  7. Good luck!

    As you mentioned on twitter… should be easy, for the first few months at least 🙂

    Funny… Since writing my post on doing the two month no clothes challenge, my other half has already mentioned I should get a new suit this year as we are attending a few weddings. I had to point out I have a perfectly fine suit which I have probably only worn about 20 times in my life!

    It’s funny how we think we just need or deserve something new every once in a while isn’t it, when really if we thought about it, we totally don’t.

    • So true. It has taken me the whole of January to stop linking dates in the diary with needing a new outfit! Just cos I have a night out or a weekend away shouldn’t mean I need something different to wear…!

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