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…!