I didn’t buy clothes for a whole year and I was totally fine
It all started with a bet.
I REEEEEAAALLY wanted a new dress from a new brand all the cool girls are wearing. But I couldn’t justify spending $250+ on a dress that probably wasn’t going to be worn more than a couple of times. Having just taken a step forward in my career (and a step back in my finance), on top of my recently booked trip to New York, I knew that I just couldn’t afford it.
I complained to my boyfriend and suggested that maybe he could buy it for me. It was a firm ‘no’ from him on that one. However, I came up with an idea to turn that firm ‘no’ into a ‘yes’: “What if I don’t buy any new clothes or shoes until we are on holidays? Then will you buy it for me?”
At this stage I feel it’s important to point out that I am a fully functioning adult who can afford to buy her own clothes, but I like to hold onto spare cash in times of need.
He looked at me, shocked, and said: “I bet you that dress that you can’t not buy clothes for the next 12 weeks. If you win the bet, I will buy you the dress.”
That, my friends, is how to turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’, appeal to someone’s competitive side.
As the 12 weeks went by, and winter turned to summer, my jeans became too hot for comfort. My obsessive wardrobe clean-out had already happened at the start of winter. I was in big trouble. I had two pairs of shorts, two summer dresses that weren’t ‘too dressy’ and a giant pile of striped t-shirts. But that didn’t matter, I was determined to win this bet.
I looked at both my clothing selection and my calendar and I decided that it would be just fine. I could definitely manage with what I had, I’d just have to get a little creative.
And just like that, I stopped buying clothes. And I won the bet! I never did end up buying that Instagram famous dress though, because the more I didn’t buy clothes, the more aware I became of how frivolously we buy and dispose of clothing. Having a keen interest in sustainability, I immediately realised how wasteful I had previously been. I decided instead I would use the prize as my Christmas present and find a dress by a sustainable brand that would outlast the trends.
Fast forward 12 weeks, and there I was, sitting in our AirBnB in the Lower East Side, two days before Christmas, looking online for things to do in the areas when it flashed up, Reformation, my favourite brand to stalk on Instagram. Funnily enough, the store was on the same street that I was on. It was a sign!
The next day I went to claim my prize and ended up buying two dresses because ‘when in Rome’ and those were the last pieces of brand new clothing I bought for an entire year.
"I looked at both my clothing selection and my calendar and I decided that it would be just fine. I could definitely manage with what I had, I’d just have to get a little creative."
On January 1st, I made a resolution to “not to buy any brand-new clothes for a whole year, only second hand and only if I need it.”
It would be good for my wallet and for the environment.
I’ll be honest, I was met with some serious doubt from those around me but the further through the year I got, the easier it was to just wear what I had, borrow, or source second hand. I never had to go to the shops, try on clothes or spend extra money for already expensive event. Three things I really despised were no longer a problem for me.
The best part was, the clothes I own got so much wear. My Reformation dresses that might have only been worn once or twice instead got so much air-time that I started loving outfit repeating. The compliments on the dresses were flowing in which boosted my confidence. I just loved wearing them!
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days when I looked at my wardrobe and thought, “I have nothing to wear. I neeeeeed new clothes,” but I just pushed through. I started looking at my clothes differently. I pulled out clothes I hadn’t worn in years and started wearing them or altering them to suit my current style, or I repurposed them as cleaning rags or accessories. I also donated them, traded them with my friends or in the case of excellent quality pieces, I sold them.
The year is up and I have already decided that I will carry my resolution over but with a few minor changes. I will allow myself to buy pieces of clothing that I can’t stop thinking about after one month, that are sustainably created and that are made by brands and parent companies who practice transparency. It’s important to me to know that no one was in danger, harmed or ill-treated in the making of my clothing and that the people who do make my clothes are doing so in safe and fair working conditions.
I always try to buy Australian and from small business in other aspects of my life so I will carry this over to my wardrobe and I will only buy materials that don’t contain plastic micro-fibres or synthetic dyes. Linen, Silk, Cotton and Hemp are easy to get locally. If I can’t buy Australian I will properly look into the carbon footprint that will come from ordering from overseas.
I’m not suggesting that winning a bet has led me to become the most sustainable fashionista on the planet, but it has definitely impacted the way I shop and the way I view and value my clothing.
Anne Cottier is a PR and Marketing Executive living on the Gold Coast. She is passionate about fashion and sustainability and is mildly obsessed with her puppy, Parker. E-mail her here or stalk her @annebridgette.