The Year Of Buying Nothing is not that far off over, I’m 5/6th’s of the way through and I’m hardly missing buying clothes. I am shocked at myself, if I was a clothes addict, then I’m finding withdrawal a lot easier than I expected. Here’s what’s I’ve learned.
The hardest bit to resist has been vintage sales -Hammersmith Vintage Fair I’m looking at you. Shopping for vintage clothes is all about discovering something special, a one off. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Missoni-like silk scarf looking a bit worse for wear in a jumbled emporium in Hastings or a beautifully laundered French overshirt from Su Mason Vintage, you feel that if you don’t buy it THIS MINUTE, you’ll never see anything so lovely ever again. I love that sense of search-and-rescue. Clothes from the past have huge charm and their absolute gorgeousness has been the toughest to resist. But I have. And it feels good to say, ‘No, I have something like that already’. Because I probably have.
I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my wardrobe properly. My knee jerk reaction to boredom, being miserable, being happy, scanning the web for inspiration, whatever- was to buy. I fall in love with clothes quickly and at the time of buying I’m certain that this new item will revolutionize the way I dress and instantly place me bang in the centre of any sartorial moment. I get a glorious rush of happiness at the thought. Shallow? Me? It’s been a bit flat without that buzz, but it’s made me look at my existing wardrobe and work it harder. I’ve loved creating new looks from what I’ve got and I’ve been inspired by Livia Firth’s excellent campaign to wear everything at least 30 times. Her work on Eco-Age and her inaugural Green Carpet Awards is making me embarrassed about how flippant I’ve been with my purchasing.
When I do start buying, I’m going to concentrate on catalyst clothes. Gaps in my wardrobe indicate my weakness to buy the same thing over and over again and NOT buy stuff that works like a catalysts in releasing everything else to work better. So simple tops, layering pieces, a good everyday sweater and necklines that don’t make me look frumpy. I do NOT need another statement jacket, white shirt or jeans.
I’ve learned to treasure what I’ve got. I’ve bought some fabulous things over the years, but I’ve been a bit lazy in making sure they all still ‘work’ on my now 50something body. At the beginning of the year I went through everything Kondo-style (but without the weird talking to my clothes thing) and looked at the fit and the condition of everything. I’ve sold/swapped/ebay’d/charity dumped everything I’d grown out of and less is definitely more. It’s easier to see what you’ve got and still love when you’ve ditched all the skanky t shirts and ‘things I looked good in fifteen years ago’. I now really love what I’ve got left and it’s a whole lot easier to get dressed in the morning.
Samples sales are another weakness. Margaret Howell, Egg and Dover Street Market sample sales, I’m looking very firmly at you here. When your fav shops reduce the price of their (pretty timeless) clothes to the point where you can afford to buy an armful (well, ok, two or three pieces), then that’s hard. I’ve had to delete some tempting emails very swiftly.
The buying-buzz has come in other ways. I’ve started sewing again and I am SO enjoying it. You’d be surprised how easy it is to lift a pattern off a pair of Dries Van Noten elastic waist trousers, his shapes are clever but simple. Just saying.
Clothes aren’t that great at the moment. I still love day-dreaming in Dries and Celine, but seriously, who can afford it? We’ve had Arket this year, which is good (in places) for grown up clothes lovers and of course we’ve still got COS, Winser London, Me+Em, Finery, Joseph and small independents to cherry pick from. But it’s not that hard to resist buying when you have to work so hard to find anything good. And let’s not even start on what’s happening at M&S or boring Boden (what happened there?) Jaeger’s gone (oh, what TWR could have done with that brand, given the chance), J Crew are in a pickle and GAP is going (or at least being wound down). I’m finding it surprisingly easy to hold off.
There’s always something more beautiful coming next. When I was at Laura Ashley, one of my jobs was to interpret for the retail teams what was coming up next from the design team. So the designers would talk me through the upcoming spring summer collections and then pepper the conversations with ‘well if you like this fabric/shape/colour, you should see what’s coming for next autumn winter, it’s even more divine!’ The lesson I learned was, there’s always something better coming around the corner. I’ve looked at every near-purchase this year and reminded myself of this. There’s always more lovely product coming, but the thing is, will I want to buy it?