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?
I’ve been so looking forward to this post since you promised it a while ago. Well done on the holding firm.If you’re in your 50s and shop, the stuff does tend to mount up if you don’t cull regularly. & I always feel slightly ill if I start adding up the cost. Do you think that buying good quality expensive stuff is the way to go for longevity? You are lucky that you can sew, very envious of you. I’ve got so much taking up my time at the moment that I haven’t had time to shop recently, maybe just as well as I can usually find something if I look.
I have been following your lead, and although have bought a few things this year, it’s been considerably less than usual. I have also halved my wardrobe, reimagined various outfits and now find it so much easier to dress with the edited selection.
I have been so influenced by your year of non clothes purchasing. In my midsixties and fashion has always been my passion and always will be, however, I have tempered my sartorial addiction.
Thank you for such as interesting post. I both sympathise and empathise with your buying dilemmas. I think though that having parameters does result in a more creative approach. Wanting a ‘look’ and finding a way to create it from your existing wardrobe can be both fun and inventive especially when you include the element of making or customising your clothes. Our elastic wardrobes are a direct result of the ever expanding clothes market. Whatever your budget it’s possible to feed your habit in ways that were impossible fifty years ago. The whole notion of best clothes comes from a time when ordinary folk had work clothes and one or two garments for Sunday best and perhaps a party outfit if you were lucky. Now clothes are cheaper than chips. Go into any supermarket and you could come out with a complete new outfit including underwear for less than thirty pounds. I’m not saying that’s a good or bad thing but the reality means that people do buy loads more clothes than they need or could even wear, me included, so it’s good to have a timely reminder from you.
I too have hardly bought anything this year (not for any green motives although I salute you for doing that) but because I agree shops just aren’t that great right now. I think Cos has lost it’s way a bit while And Other Stories has also gone downhill with lots of items appearing to be made from very cheap fabrics that won’t last likewise Zara.
Totally agree Faye, when will brands realize what we want?
Jan, we do get sucked into the cycle of buying, I agree. I’ve actually thought more about clothes this year because I’m being more considered about them, if that makes sense. I hope I can keep a sensible head on when I start to buy again! Ax
Rhiannon! so pleased to hear this, would love to know more about how you get on, how are you coping? Ax
J, less is more, right? Axx
Sue! I DO feel investing in quality fabrics is a good way to go, but this doesn’t mean buying expensive stuff, I think if you get to know fabrics a bit, you can cherry pick the good stuff from places like COS and Uniqlo. I still have some wonderful Marni+H&M collaboration items that were made in lovely fabric, and some of the original Jil Sander for Uniqlo clothes which were also brilliantly made. And sewing is easy, join a club when you have more time! Ax
I am in awe of your ability to stop buying clothes. I have had a commitment to not buy clothes for 3 whole calendar months during 2017 (I know – nowhere near as impressive as a year..!), and while it has been hard, it is great at making me realise how much I browse online just SEEKING something to buy. It is a sickness. But I also think it is linked to what you say about it being hard to find great things to buy – so I feel like I need to keep my eyes peeled constantly in case I miss a non-polyester, flatteringly sleeved, midi/maxi length beauty. I am in mourning abut Jaeger – remember Jaeger London and Jaeger Black? Feels like that quality and that price may not ever happen again. Jigsaw has picked up (along with the prices), Cos I still have high hopes for, there is the (very) off gem in Whistles, and a few choice items from Modern Rarity. It would be great to have more options to choose from, but maybe narrowing down is for the best. Does shopping begin on January 1st? Well done you x
Thanks for the update, and your wise musings. I am impressed by how disciplined you’ve been. You’ve done better than I have, as I have bought replacements for things that had worn out, plus a couple of things that I fell in love with, (and were what you rightly call catalysts). I am sure I will think far more carefully in future before buying something and it is liberating in a weird and slightly worrying way. I’ve been knitting rather than surfing – more relaxing, cheaper and I still end up with clothes or presents at the end of it.
You’ve done so well, Amanda! I lasted until mid-September when I visited the UK. Might have managed if I’d stayed home in Switzerland, but could not resist Joseph and Modern Rarity. Still, not shopping for a while made me consider my purchases much more carefully based on what I actually wear so hope I learnt something.