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What I (finally) learnt from not buying clothes

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Happy new year to you and congratulations to me. I can now buy clothes again. Hooray! It was on the 1st January 2017 that I committed to no shopping for one year. I have now completed the challenge. Not only did I not purchase clothes for myself, I bought very little of anything at all, as I avoided going anywhere near shops. My poor boys have been wearing the same clothes all year (They don’t mind, I assure you).

The first couple of months were hard as I had to break the shopping habit. To wean myself off I treated myself to a couple of books and a few earrings that I purchased online from Australian designers (Thanks Emeldo and ColourWork). Just in case you’re wondering, jewellery wasn’t part of the deal, so I didn’t cheat, okay? The middle of the year went by with hardly a thought of shopping, but being winter I was in semi-hibernation mode. Towards the end of the year, it started to get difficult again as the social calendar ramped up and I actually started to wear through some things. Thankfully I was the recipient of some pre-loved clothing from family and friends which saw me through. And the best news of all: I saved thousands of dollars. Hooray again!

So what did I learn? Well, firstly that most shoes aren’t made for walking. After having all my shoes resoled at the beginning of the year, most of them died a pitiful death. At one point I wondered whether I would have to wear my gym shoes into the office. But fortunately I made it through. Here I must digress slightly to shout out to my favourite pair of boots that resolutely stood by me until the end (c/o Bared Footwear): “I couldn’t have done it without you Boo(t)!”. So ladies, don’t’ skimp on shoes. Spend at least $200 on a good pair of shoes and you’ll be saving money in the long run. Be sure to let your husbands know.

Secondly, I learnt that I don’t need new clothes to feel good. Before every major event (of which there were many in 2017, including my brother’s wedding) I would have a moment of panic whereby I would throw my hands in the air and exclaim that I have nothing to wear (pretty standard right?). In previous years, I would have rushed out to buy something new that no one had seen me wear before. As that option was not available to me, I would retreat to my wardrobe and inevitably find something to wear that was perfectly fine, in fact, maybe even really good. Each time I discovered anew that I have quite a few clothes that I really like, which is no doubt why I purchased them in the first place. I was forced to be more creative with the clothes I already owned, and believe it or not, I received more compliments than ever before. Ok, so perhaps my friends just felt sorry for me, but either way, I was happy and ready to party. In the end, I always found something to wear that made me feel good, without spending a cent on new clothing. The moral of the story is don’t rush out to the shops- be more creative with what you have.

So what now? Well, to welcome in the New Year, I did a massive clean out of my wardrobe. I’d been holding onto every single item of clothing (faded, stained, stretched or otherwise) JUST IN CASE for over 12 months. Along with the hand-me-downs I’d received during the year, my wardrobe was busting at the seams. It’s hard to believe but nonetheless, I managed to fill two large garage bags with clothes to give to the Salvos. I then took stock of what I had left. I noted a few gaps (E.g. the forsaken shoes and some worn out basics like t-shirts and singlets) and then set off in search of these specific items with my new set of shopping 'guidelines' in hand.

As I counted down the days until the new year I started browsing online and considered how to make good shopping decisions. I decided to set some ground rules for myself. Some of my new policies are no impromptu purchases, and targeting ethically sound retailers. Others considerations are more practical such as only settling for things that fit perfectly and are comfortable. Had I implemented some shopping rules many years ago, I could have saved myself lots of money and pain (i.e no heals over 8cm and no fake leather). Let's just say, I'm a slow learner.

My shopping spree yielded four pairs of shoes, numerous basic tees and singlets, two skirts, one jumper and one pair of pants. Having sufficiently replenished my wardrobe after a week of solid shopping on foot and online, I’m now implementing a strict one for one rule. For instance, if I already have a perfectly fine pair of black skinny jeans (which I do) then I won’t buy another pair. If, on the other hand, my favourite little black dress is stained and has been dry-cleaned to within an inch of its life (true dat), it’s time to invest in a new one. However, I must invest wisely, for if I make a bad purchase decision I’ll be stuck with it until death do us part…. or more likely, I accidentally spill red wine on it. Either way, I’ll be forced to wear it if I want to buy a replacement. This year’s new resolution: “No more buying clothes that I never wear!”

With this new considered approach to buying clothes I hope to reduce not only the impact on my wallet but also the environment. Perhaps next year’s resolution can be to purchase only second hand clothing for one year…sounds like fun. Compared to 2017 it should be a breeze.

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