I thought I’d bought no clothing in 2.5 years but when I thought hard about it and went through my wardrobe to work out the percentage of secondhand clothing (about 80%), I realised that I have bought clothing during that time – I bought replacements for items that were beyond repair. Here are the details:
In 2015 I bought footwear:
- black heels to replace heels that didn’t actually fit me (they’ve gone to the opshop)
- sports shoes to replace a pair that were 6 years old and dangerously worn out
- 2 pairs of sports socks to replace the ones with gigantic holes in them
- flip flops to replace my one pair that broke (I tried to convince the shoe repair guy he could fix it, but alas, not so)
In 2014 I bought:
- 2 bras to replace my worn out maternity bras (long overdue)
- boots to replace irreparably worn out winter shoes (again I tried to convince the shoe repair guy he could fix them, but not so)
- 3 pairs of black socks because I had completely worn out my others
- one set of Winter pyjamas to replace ones that were so worn the material kept ripping (they’re now in the rag bag)
In 2013 I bought nothing after Winter so that brings me to the point 2.5 years ago when I splurged and bought some things to update my wardrobe. During that Winter I bought a jacket, scarf, 2 jumpers, jeans, and a top. I believe it was also early in 2013 that I bought two semi formal dresses for weddings and engagement parties. Prior to 2013, the details of my purchases are similar to that I have described already.
Evidently, I wear out my clothes and I don’t shop for much more than I need. This is because I don’t like materialism and consumerism and my self-worth is linked to much more than my appearance.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people express an authentic identity through their clothing – just as I am through my clothing choices – but I don’t think expressing yourself should mean a new outfit for each occasion, or the latest fashion in sportswear each year, or getting around in branded clothing. In fact, an obsession with brands says to me that your self-worth is so fragile that it must be purchased and approved by others. I find these people to be the ones who comment negatively on what others wear, subconsciously to reinforce the correctness of their own clothing choices. I feel sorry for these people.
The constant consumption of clothing, especially cheap clothing, is ‘fast fashion’ and it’s the result of capitalism; the idea that happiness comes from ‘stuff’ and that stuff represents success. The aim of capitalism is to make you feel self-conscious and inadequate so you buy whatever new thing is being sold.
“In a society that profits from self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”
When I came across this quote by Caroline Caldwell (aka @dirt_worship) earlier this year, I fell in love with it. On one level it describes, for me, the realisation that I must embrace who I am and stand up for what I believe in to be happy, even though this means being outside the norms of society. On another, it’s about appearances and liking oneself enough to reject fast fashion because you understand the true costs behind the profit.
Do you know the costs at which your clothes come?
The production of cotton and other materials are resource intensive and it might surprise you to learn that fashion is the second biggest polluter of our planet, after oil! These high levels of pollution affect people too.
Factory worker rights can be violated and child labour still exists. Minimum wages keep families in poverty forcing them into excessive overtime. With women making up 85% of garment workers, children are often separated from parents and sent to live with other relatives.
In Australia we consume so much clothing that only one third of the clothing we donate can be sold in charity stores. One third is exported to developing countries which destroys local trades, and the remaining third is sold as cleaning cloths or goes to landfill!
There is so much waste and so much destruction from fast fashion which is ultimately the result of capitalism. You need to know the problem to find the solution. I recently watched the May 2015 documentary The True Cost which hits home how deranged the system is. I won’t lie, I have a strong emotional reaction when watching the trailer for this film. The juxtaposition of two worlds is heartbreaking and I am disgusted.
“We must move away from clothing being made and marketed as a disposable good. We must account for the earth’s resources and we must dignify the life and work of human beings around the world” Andrew Morgan, Director of The True Cost.
At this point I must confess. I still have more clothes than I need. The excess comes from relatives who give me their unwanted clothing. I take what I like and give the rest to other people or to opportunity shops.
So in 2016 I will continue to like myself and rebel against fast fashion by:
- acquiring as little as possible – maybe nothing (refuse)
- personally finding new owners for the clothing in good condition that I will never wear (reuse). Maybe I’ll participate in a clothes swap or something similar
- making new clothing from the items I can’t find homes for so that I or another family member will wear them (upcycle)
- making into other usable things around the house (repurpose) e.g. cloth bags, dish cloths, rags, and creative projects.
I’ll document it all to see how I go and report back this time next year.
UPDATE 20/02/2017: I’m pleased to say I did all of these things without even noticing. I did not buy a single piece of clothing which makes it 3.5 years since I bought something other than footwear and underwear. I did, however, acquire 4 items of clothing from someone else cleaning out their wardrobe. BUT I reduced the items in my wardrobe by half by personnally finding people that wanted to wear it – I didn’t just take it to the op shop. It still amazes me that my wardrobe can be so full from living off other peoples excess clothing. I’d have to say, the biggest learning for me in 2016 was that I don’t have to take on other people’s waste. I was accumulating those clothes because I didnt want to see them wasted, but in the end, they were being wasted in my wardrobe because I wasn’t wearing them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still happy to have the opporutnity receive unwanted items from other people but I no longer feel the need to ‘save’ it all.
Be a rebel too:
- Build resilience skills and like yourself enough to reject messaging that you are inadequate and must fill a need by shopping for more.
- “Buy less, choose well, make it last” Vivienne Westwood, Fashion Designer.
- If you must buy, buy secondhand.
Together our decisions will make a difference.
Here is another documentary on the clothes the West throws away.
Oxfam Australia – Naughty or Nice
I’m really interested to hear your comments about this post. Do you have way more clothes than me, way less? Could you shop as little as I do? What happens to your clothing?
This is good article to think about! I don’t follow fast fashion. I have 3 month old baby – she has lots of clothes (in my opinion) from her sisters (3 year and 1 and half year old). I will donate them :). I have small wardrobe and 80% of my wardrobe is secondhand.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you. I don’t follow fast fashion either but I still have a bigger wardrobe than I’d like, and so does my four year old daughter. For both of us it’s the result of hand-me-downs which we love but even then there are just so many clothes. I pass her clothes on to younger nieces too which results in them having excess. It really shows how many clothes people buy!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Love it! I learned a long time ago it is very false economy buying ‘cheap’ clothing, especially shoes. I tend to have things go through levels of use, good stuff as it wears goes to round the house stuff, that then goes to yard stuff which then goes to painting stuff. Eventually it gets to chuck level which goes to op shop for scrapping or I cut it up and use as garden ties etc.
LikeLiked by 1 person
That’s basically the system I use too. I just find with all the clothes I get given, I end up with just a few favourites that I wear all the time and the others probably should be finding new homes. I guess though, if I continue to not buy any clothing I should eventually get round to wearing them.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I have also unsubscribed to ‘fast fashion’ and even refused to allow my Nana to buy me a new jumper I didn’t need for Christmas, because it was from a popular chain store (made overseas from polyester). There are times I look at how my trendy sisters dress, and long to buy myself a new trendy top or shoes. The satisfaction I get in voting with my wallet and buying locally made or from a sustainable business wins out most times.
Thanks for your blog, its a great source of support and inspiration!
Thank you for the feedback, I’m glad to hear you are finding it useful. I think we all occasionally feel like that when we see something we actually think is beautiful. I’ve learnt to admire those things from afar and think about how not spending money on the item of clothing would allow me to do something more fulfilling. Keep it up!
I do love clothes, but recently, I decided to cut down on buying and try to find new ways of wearing what is in my wardrobe. It’s working! At work, someone asked me “Have you been on a shopping spree? I like what you’re wearing lately”.
LikeLiked by 1 person
That’s cool! I’m not very good with mixing and matching clothing but I’m going to try a bit harder this year. I found a sewing group that helps each other to upcycle clothes. Can’t wait to see what I can do.
Hi Tammy, I’ve just embarked on this trip to 0 waste life, and frankly I think it is good fun 🙂 Lots of work but so interesting. I like this post in particular as I used to be a comfort-buyer when it came to clothes. And in the end I’ve finished with three wardrobes full of stuff I have barely even worn, not to mention forgotten! Truth be told I live in UK and space is a real issue here, so my house would be cluttered with these only, not to mention the rest of the stuff.
I thought it would be hard to give up that habit of collecting but thanks to some of the ideas you’ve given here, it too is becoming a lot of fun. Even though I am still in the process of deciding what to give away and what stays 😉
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m so glad you’ve been able to get something out of this post and that you are enjoying the process so much. Thanks for commenting because other people’s stories are uplifting for me too. It’s very freeing to let go of old insecurities that keep us buying things. All the best Tammy
Thanks for the update! I have just finished the first phase of a wardrobe cleanse and cleared so much stuff that was excess to our needs. We gave a really large bag of items to the opshop (would have been better to rehome them, but that task was a bit overwhelming and I felt a bit better than I was only donating clothes in good condition) and another even bigger bag of clothes really only suitable for rags (we kept two sets of clothes each suitable for yard work etc- we have a small garden I couldn’t justify keep 20 ‘raggy’ shirts in the wardrobe) I will keep about half of these for cleaning rags and give the rest to H&M that recycles the fibres. I haven’t bought new clothing in over a year now and even resisted buying a dress from the opshop when I was dropping clothes off. Making progress…
WELL DONE! Sounds like you’ve put in a big effort. It feels so good to get everything under control, doesn’t it?