Guest blog: I didn’t buy clothes for a whole year, and I was totally fine.

Guest blogger and striped-shirt addict Anne Cottier shows us all how to embrace a slower, more sustainable wardrobe.

And it's all about setting simple goals and doing more with what we already own.

Here's Anne...

I didn’t buy new clothes for a whole year… and it didn’t really affect me. I was just fine.

It all started with a bet.

I REEEEEAAALLY wanted a new dress, you know, that 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 but back in my finances, and booking a trip to New York City for a month, I knew I couldn’t afford it.

I complained to my boyfriend of my struggles, and suggested that maybe he could buy it for me. It was a firm no, but how firm is a firm no really, I mean, he wants me to be happy, right? I came up with an idea: “What if I don’t buy any 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 that can afford her own clothes but also likes to hold onto her 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 until we leave. If you win the bet, I will buy you the dress.” I knew I’d get him eventually.

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 2 pairs of shorts, 2 summer dresses that weren’t too dressy for everyday wear and a giant pile of striped t-shirts. But I was determined. I had to win the bet.

Anne now gets so much more wear out of the items in her wardrobe.

I looked at my clothes and my calendar and I decided that it would be just fine, I could manage with this and I also had plenty of warm clothes for our trip. I didn’t need anything new.

So, I stopped buying clothes, just like that. And I won the bet! And I didn’t get the red, star patterned, Instagram famous dress, 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 trend.

Fast forward 12 weeks, I’m sitting in our AirBnB in the Lower East Side, two days before Christmas, looking at what fun things there were to do in walking distance of our apartment when it flashed up, Reformation, my favourite brand to perve on Instagram, was on the same street as I was. It was a dream come true!

I suggested that maybe while getting coffee the next day we could go and check it out and I could choose my winner’s Christmas dress from there. And I did. And it (plus another one because, when in Rome…) were the last pieces of brand new clothing I bought for a whole year (except for my work uniform which was forced upon me after a hefty discussion).

On January 1st I said, “I think my resolution will be to not buy any brand-new clothes for a whole year, only second-hand and only if I need it.
No ‘clothes shopping’.”

It seemed so obvious that it was good for my wallet but also good for the environment.

I’ll be honest, I was met with some serious doubt and some big laughs, straight to my face, 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 or try on clothes or spend extra money for an already expensive event. Three things I really despised were no longer a problem for me.

The best part was, the clothes I owned got so much wear. My Reformation dress 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 which in turn made the dresses look even better. I just loved wearing them!

I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days when I looked at my wardrobe and said, “I actually have nothing to wear” but I have never got so much wear out of my clothes.

I pulled out clothes I hadn’t worn in years and started wearing them or altering them to suit my current style. 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 is important to me to know that no one was in danger, harmed or ill-treated in the making of my clothes and that the people who do make my clothes are doing so in safe and fair working conditions. Transparency is key.

I’m not suggesting that winning a bet has led to me become the most sustainable fashionista on the planet, but it has impacted the way I shop and the way I view and value clothing and, most importantly, the way I will buy my clothes in the future.

Anne Cottier is a marketing a PR professional living on the Gold Coast, Australia.

Have your own experience to share? Get in touch to contribute to the Shift community!

Anne in her Reformation Christmas dress.


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