Meaner Greener Me: Slow fashion

For me, clothes are important. When I select an outfit from my wardrobe in the morning, it needs to ‘feel’ right. Some of my clothes fit better than others, and some are more…well, complementary. I have days when I can carry off a bright colour, or a tight fit, and other days when I just need my long sleeved black t-shirt and my favourite jeans.

Despite how highly I regard clothes, since 1st January I haven’t bought any for myself. None. Not even when holes have appeared, nor when I’ve been invited to special occasions.

The reason for this is that I pledged not to buy any new clothes for myself for the whole of 2014. This post outlines the reasons why, but basically I wanted some time off from contributing to the unethical practices that are involved in the production and supply of much of today’s fashion. I wanted to use my year to explore other options for sourcing clothes, so that when I’m finally allowed to hit the shops again, it can be with a clearer conscience, and better sense of what I actually would use – as opposed to hastily selecting what takes my fancy.

For months now, I’ve been meaning to write a post to update on my progress but I haven’t got around to it. In my defence, because this challenge involves not doing something, there isn’t actually terribly much to report!

However, last month Zoe from Eco Thrifty Living got in touch with a few sustainable bloggers to say that she was doing a slow fashion challenge and asking us if we would like to join in in some way. Her post about it is here. Because my challenge fits in nicely (how could my fashion be any slower?), now is a good time to post my findings on life without new clothes.

So, what can I actually report? In all honesty, I’ve got only good things to say about this challenge. Admittedly, I was fairly sure that I had more than enough clothes to see me through the year, and cover most eventualities, but so far it’s been a skoosh*!

The best thing so far is that I have saved lots of time and stress. The time I spend in the ladies’ department in clothes shops is now zero. Although I’m partial to a bit of window shopping, I’ve discovered that when you’re actually not allowed to buy anything it’s best to keep away! I no longer squander my precious time browsing – plus it’s vastly reduced the time my kids are able to hide themselves in rails of clothes! Admittedly I am depriving them of heaps of fun, but I don’t miss those moments of heart-stopping terror when I can’t hear the giggles and wonder where they’ve gone!

No longer do I waste energy pondering over what I’ll wear to special occasions. No more squeezing shopping trips into a busy schedule for me! Now, I simply delve into my wardrobe, knowing that whatever I’m going to be wearing is already in there!

Obviously not buying clothes has saved me money. I’m not sure how much, but a good way to tell would probably be to add up my Hobbycraft receipts! (Buying craft materials for card making is my new guilty pleasure…) In the past though, buying clothes was my main personal indulgence, so cutting out clothes has definitely freed up some cash.

Lastly, a small but, to me, significant advantage of this challenge has been that it’s reduced the waste I generate from packaging. If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that I’m gearing up for Plastic Free July (as is Zoe) so not having to refuse plastic carrier bags, coat hangers, tags or labels is making things easier for me as next month rapidly approaches.

After listing the advantages of a challenge, I’d normally outline the disadvantages (and sometimes I don’t hold back!) but the only thing that springs to mind here is that quite a few of my socks have holes in them. A year ago, I’d have stuck them in the Rag Bag and bought some new ones, but what I’m actually going to do is get out my needle and thread and mend them. I’ll do this with all my socks (even when my year is over) until they are beyond repair and, then I’ll just keep wearing out all of the socks that fit me in the house! Although having to mend is an inconvenience, the whole point of what I’m doing is to make the most of what I have thus avoiding the waste, pollution and exploitation that happens within the clothes industry. Mending is therefore a good thing!

Part of Zoe’s slow fashion challenge is to create new clothes and looks from things that you already own. I haven’t done this yet, but perhaps I should… I have to admit that I am bored with some of my clothes – I can’t blame that on my challenge because I have plenty of clothes to rotate. I have simply been guilty of making poor purchasing decisions. One stripy t-shirt in my wardrobe is fine, but I have at least four, none of which is a particularly good fit. While taking responsibility for my carelessness, I also blame the fact that fashion is so inexpensive on the high street. I have often bought things I don’t love or that aren’t a perfect fit because, if they transpire to have been a mistake, it hasn’t been at great cost to me.

I have thrown together a few new outfits by combining stuff in my wardrobe and I’m happy to report that I’ve had a buzz from mixing things up. Maybe I should get experimental with accessories, or personalise some of the clothes I don’t especially like by…er…I dunno, sewing on some ribbon?! Or maybe not…

Anyway, no doubt I’ll do a round-up of my own challenge at the end of the year. However, if you would like to read more about slow fashion then there is of course a hash tag #slowfashion (I lurve Twitter!) Do also please check out the others who are joining in with Zoe’s challenge – Emma blogs at Mommyemu and has written this post (at least) on the subject, Nancy blogs at Mummingatmumra and has written this post, The Green Family blog at Myzerowaste and have made this video about their efforts and @sathlondonshona has pledged to wear a combination of only 5 items plus one pair of shoes for the whole of June, and advised me two nights ago that she is going strong.

If you want to join in officially, then read Zoe’s post and please tweet or leave her a comment. If you want to join in unofficially, choose whatever works for you! As well as saving the planet, this is a great opportunity to socialise through social media  #fun 🙂

*A Scottish word, loosely translated as easy peasy

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23 thoughts on “Meaner Greener Me: Slow fashion

  1. This is a great post. After a trip to Africa in 2012 I have had a no new clothes pledge that was solid for a year. Since then I’ve only bought three new items which were all extremely ethical. I’ve reduced buying much of anything else new and I completely agree that it’s had lots of fringe benefits. Well done!

    • I really admire that, how inspiring!

      I think that I’ll only need a few basics at the end of the year. I definitely want to buy everything as ethically as possible. Part of the problem is doing the research and finding out what’s best.

      • Great post! I’ve challenged myself not to buy any new clothes this year and like you I’m finding it quite easy and I’m loving the fact that it’s freed up so much time. I have snuck in a few careful charity shop buys so I like the idea of upping the challenge and buying nothing. Good luck!

  2. I’ve never heard of skoosh before – I like it 🙂 I totally agree with you about not buying clothes being really easy – I much prefer not going clothes shopping as I used to find it quite stressful. I have been doing clothes swapping though, which means I haven’t had too much of a chance to get bored of my ‘new to me’ clothes so far. If you are bored of your clothes and aren’t feeling too creative, I really recommend swapping clothes with a friend – it is the easiest, cheapest and most effortless way to get a whole new wardrobe full of clothes! I should have included clothes swapping in my #slowfashion challenge really!

    • Swapping clothes is a good idea. I do have someone I do this with every now and again and it’s really good fun. Also we’ve been known to raid each other’s wardrobes if we need something for a night out.

  3. I hate clothes shopping too as I can never find anything I like that fits. But I don’t know if I could do what you are doing and not buying any clothes for a year.

    • I think it depends on a few factors such as how many clothes you start off and the variety you’re likely to need during the year. I have quite a lot and really don’t need more than casual clothes with the odd thing for a night out. What you are doing on your blog is great, love your slow fashion stuff!

  4. Super post (and I love the word skoosh, too)! I totally agree, the best way to avoid being tempted is to not browse and there are certainly many better things to do with our time!

    My approach is slightly different. I decided to stick with the Wartime Wardrobe Challenge that I initiated with Nik (http://www.littlehouseintown.co.uk/) last year for a total of four years. Let’s be honest one year of living with constraint is easy. This year I have added the twist that I have to make at least half of any new items that are permitted under the rationing scheme – that is my take on ‘slow’. In practice it means that like you I am getting my darning needle out a lot and even knitting my own socks.

    I don’t know about you but I actually take delight in wearing an item till it is barely fit for rags. And when my cottons and woollens are beyond that state, I cut them up and put them on the compost heap. Simple pleasures 😉

    • Wow, well done!

      I agree that a year of constraint (for something like this) is easy! My plan is to go back to buying clothes at the end of the year but I know I’ll feel differently about the whole thing than I did at the start. Hopefully my purchases will be more ethical and I’ll buy on a ‘need’ instead of ‘want’ basis!

  5. I didn’t buy any new clothes either yet this year (I hardly ever buy clothes anyway…), though I did buy some fabrics to make clothes with. One of my goals for this year is to use up as many left-over fabrics as possible, but sometimes I need to make a specific kind of clothing for which I do need to buy a bit of fabric (for example, a tight sleeveless shirt for which I needed stretchy fabric, but most of the time I only use non-stretch fabrics like linen and cotton (so I didn’t have any left-over stretchy fabric), so I went out and bought some stretch-cotton at the market). If possible I also put some embroidery on the clothes, as I also want to use up all the left-over embroidery thread I got from my mother and from a friend!

    • I’d love to be able to make my own clothes. I don’t have the time just now though and I definitely don’t have the skills! It’s a great way to opt out of the clothing industry and re-use what you’ve got already.

  6. This is great! I think it’s so easy sometimes to overlook things you own, and trick yourself into thinking it’s easier to just buy something new. Good luck with the rest of your challenge!

  7. In about 2011 (I think) I did a similar challenge for myself and for only one year I found it fairly easy. I think I had an emergency exception for work attire since I was working somewhere which required the occasional ubersmart meeting wear and if I’d ripped my suit I might have had to replace it. But it never happened and I went through the whole year fairly ok

    My big tip was to ruthlessly declutter at the same time. I found sometimes that I wanted to buy new clothes, but partly it was because I saw something old, torn, stained etc. hanging in my wardrobe. If I mended it or otherwise took it out of sight so my wardrobe just looked fresher then the desire to buy something new often went away.

    • That’s a great tip! I feel quite proud when I’ve mended something and it makes me want to wear it.

      I’ve also learned that even if you think you really want something, the urge usually passes quickly if you walk away!

      • True enough – the desire to buy buy buy is often transitory and for me linked to feeling bored or a little blue. Getting up and doing something else instead often works wonders!

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