Buying Less: New Year Rules For Clothes

Michelangelo Pistelotto at The Venice Biennale

Not wanting to start the year with too much self-celebration but…small drum roll here please…I did it! A whole year of buying Nothing New. I didn’t buy any new clothes in 2017, despite a late trip to (very tempting) India and save for a couple of birthday presents from middleagedad and my lovely sis, I’ve happily made do with what I’ve already got in my (admittedly extensive) wardrobe.

And it was SO much easier than I could ever have imagined. I wrote a post here about the hardest bits and how it had changed my thoughts, but I enjoyed the challenge so much, I wanted to set myself some follow-up goals.

I know everyone’s banging on about buying less stuff now, but I can honestly say it feels BETTER with fewer clothes. I’ve not just been holding back from buying, I’ve been thinning out my wardrobe too. Anything that didn’t fit, looked scrappy or hadn’t been worn for over two years was ditched and everything else has to fit on two small rails, with two small suitcases for storage.

It’s also been really thrilling to hear how many of you were inspired by this project to limit your own buying, or re look at your wardrobes and take stock of what you already owned. This was really unexpected and I get a real kick out of hearing from friends and from our comments section how you are all doing. We could start a movement!

So what now? Working on the premise that I need absolutely NOTHING, I don’t think I’ll slip back into my old ways, but I thought I’d set some rules for future buying just in case I’m tempted. so here they are;

One out, one in.

I really don’t want to end up with so many clothes again. Rails and cupboards STUFFED with hardly worn clothes are stressful! And its hard to make your wardrobe work properly if you can’t see/remember what you’ve got. So now I’ve got it to about the right size and it’s so easy to get dressed, I’m only allowing a new item in if I get rid of something.

30 times wearable.

New clothes must meet the 30 Times rule that Livia Firth suggests we all follow. I admired her eco-age campaign of buying clothes that are not made in sweat shops or anywhere that have a dubious origin (follow her on Insta and she will keep you on track). She advises not to buy anything you wont wear at least 30 times and frequently appears at red carpet events wearing clothes she’s inherited from her mum. So no more regret-the-next-day, impulse buys.

No bulk buying the same thing

One thing I’ve learned about my old habits is that I buy the same thing over and over, in a slightly different variation. From white shirts to jeans to Chinese jackets, I seem to drift into buying lots of the same thing. Before every new purchase I’m going to make myself ask ‘how many of these have I already got?’

Who gets my money?

One of the reason’s I stopped buying clothes was because I didn’t like what was happening to fashion retail, where big organisations were making shed loads of money off my purchase to fund yacht collections and treat their employees badly. Now, no one’s getting my cash unless I like the sound of the brand. Where possible I’ll look first in second hand or charity stores (although I love doing this so it’s hardly a strain). We should all weaponize our purchasing power, if we want to see change, we can just stop giving badly behaved brands our money.

So, after a whole year of not buying, do you want to know what was my first purchase of the new year? And how it felt? I’ll tell you in my next post…


  • Mrsbris says:

    Brilliant post! These could be rules for pretty much everything we “consume.” I’ve been inspired by your buy nothing for a year project and am going it try this year.

  • Claire B says:

    While I agree with everything said, and admire you hugely for not buying any clothes during 2017 I just wanted to make a couple of points. I think when you don’t have the budget in the first place to “invest” in really good clothes, the tendency is to buy more because you’re constantly chasing the perfect piece. And yes of course if you didn’t buy all those things you could purchase the investment piece, but it’s having the funds to do that in the first place, usually lots of cheaper clothes are bought over a longer period of time.
    And secondly if you have a mum who wore lovely designer pieces it’s no hardship to wear them for events, but if your mum bought most of her wardrobe from M&S it’s not quite so easy! Just saying!
    But I do agree with all the sentiments expressed in the piece, and again, take my (fairly cheap!) hat off to you! Love your blog, thanks for brightening up my mornings!

  • Caroline says:

    Great post. Do you mind if I ask if you kept a tab of what you might have spent if you’d still been purchasing? Just wondering…

  • Jan says:

    I applaud your sentiments exactly. Clothes should earn their place in your wardrobe on a cost per wear basis. Even if you have shed loads of money there’ no point in buying clothes that you rarely wear and that never see the light of day. I appreciate Claire B’s thoughts but would say that many, many women don’t inherit their mum’s clothes beautiful or otherwise. I think a significant factor in this conundrum is that clothes are now so cheap and readily accessible. You can buy a supermarket brand pair of good quality jeans for £10.00. They might not suit a label chaser but I’d defy anyone to tell the difference when worn. I’m not convinced that people but too many clothes because they are searching for the perfect piece I think it’s more that every blog comes up with a new ‘on trend’ must buy item several times a week. The fast turnaround fashion chains will offer these to you at an amazingly cheap price. If you want a long, floaty romantic dress this week and then an androgynous trouser suit the next you can do it on a limited budget. And, presumably, if you are a trend follower you won’t want the clothes to last. Charity shops are full of cheap end clothes that have barely been worn, some with price tags still attached.

  • Sarah says:

    You inspired me, and made me more thoughtful. I didn’t buy anything new last Jan/Feb – so nothing in the sales. The rest of the year was more mindful. I don’t need more going out clothes. The last thing I bought was a lipstick – it brightens up everything, and before that, earrings. They take up no room!

    I agree about subsidising billionaire tax dodgers. I’d rather find a women’s collective (East had a good one) or something individual from an indie shop. I found a pair of grey, wool, lined, wide-legged trousers in a charity shop last year, have worn them to death so far this winter.

  • Amanda says:

    Womenfolk, your brilliant, intelligent, challenging, witty and informed comments are one of the reasons Jane and I write this blog. We have the most amazing readers, and hearing what you all have to say is always the best thing in my day. Thanks so much for these great observations.
    Sarah, thanks for reminding me of East’s collaborations, I think we’ll see much more of this going forward as we all look to buy from better behaved brands.

    Jan, completely agree with you that you don’t need to buy expensive jeans! Often the expensive ones are made in the same factories as the cheap ones, although often the fabrication is different. What we need to do is look harder at our purchases, so search out great fabrics/fit and make from the cheaper high street brands, be super critical of each item we consider from more expensive brands, is that extra amount REALLY worth it?

    Caroline, good question, I know how much money I made from selling on ebay and at Portobello (just over £700) but I didn’t keep a tab of what I would have bought, because for the first six months I kept out of the shops to stop from being tempted!

    Claire B, very interesting points on consumer purchasing behaviour. I absolutely fess up to being lucky to be able to buy mid market to lux end clothes (always in the sale though, rarely buy at full price) because when I look back at my wardrobe, it’s the better fabric and make that have lasted in terms of style and quality. Margaret Howell, Casey Casey, Winser, Joseph, Sophie D’Hoore, bucket loads of vintage etc. BUT also Uniqlo, Finery, COS, so it’s about buying better from where ever you shop, high street store do some great quality stuff, you just need to look harder. Totally agree about having a mother with a designer wardrobe, BUT I for one love vintage M&S, anything from pre 1980 is always worth looking at in any vintage sale because the style and quality was often wonderful. I doubt many will be saving the current collections.

    Mrs Bris, good luck!

  • LMG says:

    Well done Amanda, you really inspired me this time last year to be much more considering of what I buy and I now have far fewer clothes I really like, and gave away a lot of things I didn’t wear. Didn’t quite manage to buy nothing though – I started filling in some gaps in September!

  • This is such an awesome post. You are such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing the post.

  • Louise says:

    I was inspired to follow your example in 2018*, after a year of trying to buy more mindfully (in 2017 – I spent the same as I would have if I’d been buying the way I usually did, but I had less pieces to show for it, and those that I had were much nicer quality). It is hard, especially in the sales, but I have to remind myself that I don’t want to buy trend-driven clothes, and the clothes I want to invest in will be around when my clothes-curfew is over. Even though it has only been three weeks, I notice that I am much more aware of the clothes that I have, and conscious that I want them to work hard for me. At the same time, I did a quality cull, and passed-on all the cheap and cheerful wardrobe-fillers.

    I would love you to do a round-up of brands producing clothes in an ethical and sustainable manner. Last year I tried hard to research where I was buying from, but I am sure there are so many more labels out there; if I am buying less and paying more (even if it is gifts for other people), I really want to know that my custom is being put to good use – and I am happy to reward craftsmanship and principles.

    One of the things I am enjoying about this rather masochistic exercise, is the way that it makes me think seriously and reflectively about the way we consume clothes, and how that affects the waywe present ourselves.

    *I cannot buy myself clothes, although others can (apart from two pairs of cotton or linen trousers in the summer, if necessary). Footwear, and underwear do not count as clothes, in this instance.

  • Rohit says:

    Thanks for sharing ……

  • Ray Mickel says:

    Such an interesting post thanks for sharing.

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