My Year of Not Buying Clothes Experiment

Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

Last November, I bought myself a dress from Ovate, a small, ethical and sustainable clothing maker that I’d been following on Instagram for a long time. It’s absolutely gorgeous and makes me feel pretty every time I put it on, which is no small feat when you have arthritis and your legs have gone all lumpy.

I realized two things with that purchase: I want all the clothes I buy from now on to be ethically made and sustainable, and I have enough clothes to last me a good long while.

So I stopped buying clothes.

I mean, I didn’t really notice that I’d stopped at first. It’s not like it was a weekly occurrence before that. My days of shopping for sport are well behind me. But long about March I realized that I hadn’t bought any clothes since that lovely dress and I thought, hmmmmm… Could I last a year without buying any clothes and what would I learn if I did?

Even though I wasn’t a huge shopper, I did feel some kind of obligation to keep my wardrobe updated and “fresh”, a compulsion to check out every sales rack I came across in case there was a piece I could use to fill the gaps in my wardrobe. Because, the experts assure us, gaps in a wardrobe are a huge no-no. Like, if too many people have too many gaps, society will come to a grinding halt.

What I’ve learned is that those gaps are a total illusion. They’re self-inflicted. Nobody else notices that you don’t have the perfect tee for summer. Nobody really cares if you wear the same dress to every wedding for five years straight. You might get tired of it and that’s fine, but getting new clothes because ‘what will people think’ is totally unnecessary. People generally don’t.

I have one dear friend, a very stylish woman, and every time I see her, she compliments me on what I’m wearing and often says something like, “Another new outfit?”

She said to me one night at dinner that I’m always updating, that I always look stylish.

And I had a really good laugh because I don’t shop, don’t update. I’ve basically been wearing the exact same going-out-to-dinner outfit for the past two years. Apparently, I chose a good one because it gets a lot of compliments. People don’t remember from one visit to the next that they’ve seen it before.

So this year or so of not shopping will, if nothing else, let me lay to rest the specious notion that ‘gaps’ in my wardrobe must be filled, along with the idea that anybody really gives a crap what I wear.

I have given a bit of thought to what I might like to buy when this year or so is up. I’ll restock carefully.

I’m much more comfortable spending more money for my clothes. Knowing they’re sustainable and ethically made makes it worth the extra bucks. Especially if that money goes straight into the pocket of the person who made the garment.

I needed to step back and take a break to re-order my thinking.

I was raised by a very frugal woman at a time when sustainability wasn’t really talked about or cared about. So it’s been good to take this break and do some research.

Also, when you go a while without buying anything, without filling in those nonexistent gaps, you realize that there really aren’t any wardrobe emergencies. You don’t really need new clothes or very many clothes at all. It frees up your time, your finances and a whole lot of head space.

I’ve gained a new perspective from this experiment and I like it.

One of the things I’ve been doing with my extra time is writing over on Medium. It’s a subscription-based service but as a writer, I’m able to share my posts with friends so that they can read them for free.

In order to do that with you, I’ve launched a newsletter. It will go out twice a month and include links to my blog posts as well as highlights of my Medium articles. If this sounds interesting to you, you can sign up using the handy form below.

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