11 things I’ve learned from not buying clothes for 11 months

learned from not buying clothes

On July 1 2017 I set myself a challenge to not buy any new clothes for a year. I’m on day 326, my 11th month without buying any clothes. There’s been a hand full of times when I considered buying new clothes. I wanted a new outfit for a job interview, but I looked at my work clothes and realised there were plenty of very acceptable outfits.

The end of the challenge is in sight. I’m wondering how much longer I could go without buying new clothes!

Here are the 11 things I’ve learned from not buying clothes for 11 months

1. No one cares what you wear

You know what you wore yesterday, but you’re probably the only one that remembers! The people who you see at school drop off, the supermarket, work, the cafe, they don’t notice what you wear. You could wear the same outfit three days in a row and unless you make money from your appearance, I’m guessing not a single person would notice.

2. You can wear the same dress twice

I’ve often fallen into the trap that I need a new outfit for each event I attend. Clearly, that’s wrong! The girl’s were baptised during this challenge and turned one! If it weren’t for the challenge I suspect I would’ve been dress shopping. Instead I shopped my wardrobe and found a dress I love but that I had worn less than five times. If it’s good enough for the Duchess of Cambridge, it’s good enough for me, right?

3. The high of buying new clothes is short

There’s no denying that buying new clothes gives you a rush, but it’s a seven second high. You might have a funky new jacket, but you also have less money in your wallet (or more debt on your credit card).

4. Avoid temptation online

An email lands in your inbox, the store is having a sale, with free delivery if you spend a certain amount. Before you know you’re adding items to your virtual cart. Because you don’t touch the clothes, it’s almost like you’re not spending real money. It’s a seamless, almost abstract, yet expensive hobby.

To avoid that temptation, I’ve unsubscribed from many store emails. The ones I haven’t unsubscribed from I tend to delete without opening them, which makes me wonder what the point is!

5. Don’t shop!

Obviously it’s impossible to avoid shopping completely. Kids still need clothes, you have to buy gifts. But it is relatively easy to avoid the walk through the women’s section in David Jones. You just need to plan ahead a little. You don’t need to go into Country Road, Witchery, Cue or Seed. If you do, because you’re looking for other people in your life, put your blinkers on, go in with a plan and get out. Do not let your eyes dart to the sale or new arrivals racks.

learned from not buying clothes

6. Exceptions are necessary

When I set myself the challenge to buy no new clothes for a year, I allowed some minor exceptions. Those exceptions included shoes and underwear. The only things I have purchased is one pair of stockings and a pair of black heels, both for a job interview. Those purchases were a matter of necessity. The shoes at least will be something I get plenty of wear from.

7. You become more creative with what you’ve got

I’m genuinely surprised that I am not utterly sick of my wardrobe. Perhaps that is because when you can’t buy new things you shake things up with what you’ve got. You try different outfit combinations. Accessorise more.

8. It’s really not hard

It might sound impossible, the task of not buying new clothes for a year. It’s truly not hard. Perhaps the most difficult part is biting the bullet and making the commitment to not shop.

As Ann Patchett said in the New York Times –

It doesn’t take so long for a craving to subside, be it for Winstons or gin or cupcakes. Once I got the hang of giving shopping up, it wasn’t much of a trick. The trickier part was living with the startling abundance that had become glaringly obvious when I stopped trying to get more. Once I could see what I already had, and what actually mattered, I was left with a feeling that was somewhere between sickened and humbled.

9. The desire will pass

Imagine you’re scrolling through Instagram and you see someone wearing a gorgeous new jacket, or a beautiful dress. A feeling that you must have that item takes over. But if you really want something, challenge yourself to wait a while. Delay the gratification. The chances are the desire to buy the new thing will pass.

10. Who makes your clothes is important

My year without buying clothes has made me assess what I will do when I allow myself to buy clothes again. I’ve come to realise the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion. I’ll be steering myself away from fast fashion and thinking about my clothing purchases, from both a need and a consumption perspective.

11. You’ll learn the difference between need and want

When you have the ability or means to buy new clothes, you see the latest style of jeans or boots and need it. When you’ve stopped buying clothes for a year, your mind shift changes. It’s like an awakening. If your favourite cardigan gets a hole in the sleeve, you might want a new one.  But immediately you realise you don’t need a new one. You can wear it with the hole, or fix it. There’s something strangely liberating about that. You’re no longer controlled by what you think you want.

That’s what I’ve learned from not buying clothes for 11 months. I still have plenty of clothes. And I appreciate there’s a massive distinction between not buying things and not being able to buy things.

Have you ever done a self-imposed shopping ban? Is there anything you learned from not buying clothes?

Linking up with Kylie for #IBOT

14 thoughts on “11 things I’ve learned from not buying clothes for 11 months

  1. I tend to only buy clothes when something wears out. Mostly because I just don’t like going clothes shopping!! The problem with doing it that way is that you’re under pressure to replace it ASAP so I’m actually trying to remind myself to shop more often. I fall between plus and non plus so it can be really hard to find the size I want in an item, let alone liking the fabric and cut and price. I don’t have a problem knowing what I want, but finding it on all criteria is hard.

  2. I am not a huge shopper but I go in stages… and when I am buying – I am buying. I like being creative with what I have. Sometimes I challenge myself to pick the worst and the best thing and match them.

    1. I found it hard, when I’ve been of a buying spree, to stop! I love that you give yourself little wardrobe challenges.

  3. Oh congrats Claire! I so needed to slow down new clothes purchases which were necessary initially and then became ‘short times of thrills from the chase.’ I actually needed a complete replenishment of every item I owned as I had lost so much weight (it has stayed off thanks to challenges in eating) nothing fitted me but I also was bogged down mentally by apathy. Once I decided I “could” look OK, then I started small with bra sizing and purchases..it had been years! After that, as I slowly needed more to wear, it was a pleasant outing. My husband has told me how much I have spent and even though I have bought almost everything at reduced prices it is a low 4 figure amount and on our small income, that cannot continue. Now, I am more likely to be creative with what I have.
    Denyse x

    1. Thanks Denyse, there has to be some perks of the not eating! Hopefully now you have enough clothes that fit and you can start being creative with them!

  4. I’ve never been huge on clothes shopping, although I’ve had to buy a few maternity items this year. I can think back on a few things I’ve bought and didn’t really need though!

    1. Shopping for maternity clothes is a whole different ball game, especially when it’s your first baby!

  5. We watched The True Cost a few months ago and it’s completely changed the way I think about and buy clothes. I’ve piled on the pounds recently and now have a self inflicted capsule wardrobe with a limited number of items that fit – it’s made me realise how few clothes I really need. I’m actually loving my limited wardrobe selection because I don’t have to worry about what I wear – there’s not that much to choose from and I know that I’m getting great value and good wear out of clothes that look good and I like to wear. Will you buy something on day 366?!

    1. There’s something to be said about capsule wardrobes! I don’t think I will buy something on day 366, I’m tempted to see how long I can continue with the challenge.

  6. Those are some great lessons right there! I think the one about being mindful about what you actually buy and investing in quality pieces that will go the difference is a very good one!
    #teamIBOT

    1. When I eventually start buying clothes again I am going to make much more conscious purchases, both about what I need and who has made my clothes.

  7. I think you have shown yourself to be a woman of enormous privilege by being able to do this by choice. I am on a very limited income and buying clothes is just not an option. I’ve gone years without buying clothes and survived. Shopping is no longer a leisure activity for me, like it seems to be for so many people. I only shop for kids’ clothes when they outgrow what they have, or for school uniforms. It is very rare for me to buy something for me and only when absolutely necessary.

    1. Thanks for your comment Dorothy. I’m certainly aware that being able to do this as a challenge by choice makes me privileged. As I wrote in my original blog piece about this –
      ‘I’ve no doubt many people in the world would go much longer without new clothes, through circumstance rather than choice. It is indeed a luxury to have a wardrobe full of clothes and not actually need new clothes. A luxury afforded to very few.’

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