I’ve always been someone who loved fashion. As a kid, I would pick out my own clothes, for better or for worse (special shout out to my cheetah print bucket hat that I wore everyday in 2006). I love the expression that personal style has, being able to show who you are without having to say a word is so powerful to me. The right outfit can change my confidence, my mood, and how I’m perceived.
It’s like you can become a different person depending on what style of clothing you decide to wear. Working? Some power pants and a nice shirt make me feel more professional and qualified. Going to a gig? Put on my most hipster outfit to avoid the stares of the indie scene.
I had a HUGE vintage phase in high school, and managed to accumulate a lot of clothes. Both good, and… not so good. I feel into the trap of “one day I’ll alter this and it’ll be perfect”. And then forgetting to ever alter it, so it sits untouched for years. Then, I entered my broke Uni stage, where I bought nothing unless it was on sale at Valleygirl for $5. Having no disposable income meant my closet turned into a mismatch of old vintage finds, and new poor quality junk.
So, at the beginning of this year, I decided it was time to clean out my closet (literally). Something about turning 22 made me feel like I was entering a new stage of my life, where looking my best didn’t mean going in for the cheapest stuff. Quality mattered now. Unfortunately, quality does not come cheap.
My solution? Embark on an epic, six month journey of no shopping. I’d also become tired of the fast-fashion industry, and was sick of mindlessly consuming because that’s just what companies wanted me to do. My actions weren’t sustainable. Going into a shop “just because”, and grabbing a sale item that was cheap solely for the price tag was getting old. Especially since I would hardly ever wear the item. Even though I would give the item away to a charity shop, it still felt like I was making a global problem worse with my actions.
As of January 1st, I made it my goal to not buy any clothing. I excluded shoes and accessories because I knew I needed new shoes (my old ones were falling apart), and I never really bought accessories anyway. What the challenge did include was all clothing – online shopping, in-store purchases, op-shop finds. Everything from jeans to pajamas to underwear (I really didn’t need another $10 Cotton On bralette to add to my growing collection) was banned.
Throughout the challenge, I decided to make a few goals to help me stay motivated.
Firstly, I wanted to change my habits to become a more conscious consumer. I often found myself scrolling through online shopping sites mindlessly because I was bored. And inevitably, I’d find something fairly cute, and put it in my cart. Then, I’d find another three cute things, and add them to the cart. Soon, I’d realise I had $300 worth of clothing in my cart, exit out of the webpage and realise I’d just wasted an hour. So no more mindless scrolling for me.
Secondly, I wanted to put an end to impulse buying. Cotton On was my most dangerous store. I often walked past the mega-store on Queen St, and whenever they had sale signs up (AKA all the time), I’d wander in and end up buying something because it was on sale. This was NEVER something I actually needed. It was just cheap and cute and so often Id never even wear it. So I wouldn’t even let myself enter the store, in case I was tempted. A few times, I’d find myself about to walk in , then remember I couldn’t buy anything anyway and turn right around. Habitual behaviour is so dangerous!
Finally, I wanted to construct a wardrobe that actually reflected me, and own things that I loved to wear. My wardrobe was full of things I;d had since high school, random impulse buys, and a few items I loved and wore over and over again. I was sick of looking at my closest and not finding something to wear that I really liked.
At the beginning of the six months, I decided to do a big clear out. I had three piles – definitely keep, maybe keep, and donate. Everything in the definitely keep pile had to be things that I wore regularly and felt great in. Anything that I liked, but didn’t really wear that often went into the maybe pile. This stuff was stored under my bed, and if I didn’t miss it/take it out to wear it after the six months were up, it was to be donated. And the donated pile, included everything that didn’t fit (even if I was telling myself to keep it JUST IN CASE I lost weight and magically fit it again), stuff that fit but I didn’t feel my best in, and stuff I hadn’t worn in at least six months.
This process left me with a severely cut-down wardrobe of things I actually loved, a box under my bed full of maybe clothes, and a big pile of clothes to donate. It felt so good. Whenever I looked in my wardrobe, I felt like the clothing really represented who I was and how I anted to look. Now for the hard part, not spending anything.
And you know what? It really wasn’t that hard. I would see something cute in a store and then think about how much I really needed it, if I had anything similar, and if I’d actually wear it. And most of the time, I’d realise I didn’t need it after all. And, if I did think that I wanted/needed it, then I’d write it down in my bullet journal. I formed a list of things to buy in June, that I knew I definitely needed. Not impulse buying really helped me pick out the things my wardrobe was missing, and identify what my personal style looked like.
There was only one time that I “cheated”, but I can honestly say I don’t regret it. It was nearly the end of May, when my six months were coming to an end, when I saw merino tops in Glassons that were exactly what I’d been wanting for at least a year. They were on my ‘to buy’ list, but they were selling out fast. I knew that they wouldn’t be in stock when June came around, and that I wouldn’t be able to find anything similar. So I got my partner to buy them for me, and withhold them until June came around. I then paid him back and got to wear them once my six months were up. And I’ve worn them every single week since then, so I don’t regret that little transgression.
Now, my wardrobe looks a lot thinner. I’ve started buying the items of my ‘to buy’ list, and each item I’ve worn multiple times, so I know that they were good choices. It felt good being able to shop again, but I can’t say I would have really cared if the challenge had gone on for longer. I realised just how little I really need. I owned way too much stuff before this, and now I’m trying to cut down even more. From now until the end of the year, I’m tracking what clothes I wear, and what I don’t touch. I’ve turned the coat hangers in my closest around the wrong way, and whenever I wear something, I turn it the right way. Through this trick, I can tell what I’ve worn, and what I haven’t. In January next year, I’ll see all the things I haven’t touched and do another big clean out.
Okay this post has been super long, so I’ll wrap it up now (good job if you managed to make it all the way through this!). Long story short, I really loved this challenge. I feel like it helped me refine my personal style, and figure out what I wear regularly, and what was just taking up space in my closet. And at the same time, I opted-out of the unsustainable fast fashion cycle which I’m really starting to hate. It was a win-win all around!