Friday, 22 August 2008

eight months of nothing new... my little experiment

So, here it is – my thoughts on my buy-nothing-new eight month experiment...

Back in early January this year, I made the decision to buy no 'new' clothing until August 15th. This is my fiances birthday, and, while I initially wanted to do this for around six months, I knew this was a date I wouldn't forget, and the extra time was just more of a challenge! By 'new' I mean first hand from the shops; op-shop goodies and occasional vintage treats were acceptable. I could also buy essentials, such as smalls and essential tights, brand new as needed.

I wanted to do this for a number of reasons, mainly ethical and environmental ones. For the year leading up to this I was already very conscious of these concerns, and was already shopping less and less, and of course avoiding shops I knew had dubious standards for their workers. I also used to love op-shopping when I was younger (back in London, where they are called charity shops) and I still really like a certain vintage and second hand aesthetic. Discovering the Wardrobe_Remix group on Flickr, and, later, fashion blogs from all around the world, gave me plenty of inspiration, and I knew this experiment was something I really wanted to do – and could.

So, for the next eight or so months, I went to lots of op shops, made lots of visits to Savers, and actually bought a couple of vintage pieces. I did not even go into other, new shops for the first few months; and then, when I did, I noticed just how bad the quality was. I obviously knew they weren't the best made garments, but even in the more expensive, upmarket high street shops, I though a lot of the clothes looked, well, tatty. Very little caught my attention, and this made refraining form new purchases even easier.

Of course, op-shopping is very different to the first hand kind. I never really went with something too specific in mind – that just leads to frustration and disappointment – and was just open-minded about what was there. An unexpected gem would have an outfit built around it, rather than a pre-conceived idea being bought, and then brought to life.

And I found lots of things I liked. Even shoes, which I thought would be impossible to find, were there, and, while I never found particular styles I already had in mind – such as chunky platforms with ankle straps! – I did find shoes I love, and will be wearing for some time.

I mostly bought second clothes and shoes, but I also found a few vintage pieces I adore. Now, I know vintage is an over-used word, and there is plenty of old tat being sold off as such. There is also some debate over what vintage actually means. I personally feel that it needs to be at the very least 25 years old, and usually more. This is not so much scientific accuracy as instinct, though I think it is based on something – cars? wine? – and, while arguable, it satisfies me. I also simply fell in love with the few items I have, rather than feel swayed by the vintage tag. It is the design, style and make of the garment that wins me, and a feeling of connection to previous generations that makes it all the more special, and a pleasure to own and wear.

During this time, I cleaned out my (already pretty small) wardrobe, selling a few things on ebay, but mostly donating it to Savers. (I want to spread the love!) For the last few years I have really liked the idea of having a small, high quality collection of clothing, like how I imagine a young woman in, say, the 1930s (I can actually picture a dark timber wardrobe, and a jade green silk dress) rather than loads of things I only sorta like. I also like the idea of having things of such quality (and unusual durability!) that I could pass them on to my children.

I found this experiment surprisingly easy to do. I broke my rules just once, to buy a pair of jeans that, having looked unsuccessfully for a similar style of pants for months, I felt were worth it. I wear them about once a week, and very happily so.

I do feel I 'missed out' on a couple of things... I really wanted to wear a beret this winter, and only saw a ratty, holey one in an unflattering shade of mustard for a ridiculously inflated price. (A good example of quite new tat being sold as vintage.) However, I know I can wear one – a nice one I love – this Spring, and that in this case a bit of patience is no bad thing – like Mick says, we can't always get what we want...

Now it is finished, I haven't felt like running out to shop like mad. I don't want to buy only new things now. I will keep op-shopping, treating myself to vintage treasures, and buying new things that I especially love, cannot find elsewhere and that will get plenty of use.

A side benefit of this is that when I think of where my clothes are from, such as when listing them in W_R, I often feel much happier about the thrifted items, and the vintage ones, than I do about cheapo (made and morals, rather than price) high street ones. Does anyone else feel that? I'd felt this for years, and for a long time told myself that this was just a form of snobbery, and to get over it. But it is not a sense of smugness about scoring bargains; it is a broader sense of happiness, which I hope I have managed to outline above.

Oh dear, this is rather long... well done if you made it all the way through! Thank you for reading.


Skye said...

I've thought about this experiment for myself (since virtually everything I wear is secondhand anyway) but haven't done it because I still buy quite a few new little dude clothes every season - so it would feel a little redundant for me to eschew new purchases just for me. I also get a little bit irrationally irked by some smug "compactors" I know.

I love the way you've articulated your reasons for the experiment and the results - a perfect mini thesis!

Pollito Moreno said...

Hey! I just came across your blog and read your post on second-hand shopping, and I can really relate to that. I'm a natural-born bargain shopper, but I get a special satisfaction finding things I like in thrift shops. It takes a lot more patience than grabbing what you like at a regular store, but I happen to like the thrill of the hunt. Good job keeping up with the experiment, and may you find that fabulous beret you've been looking for.

Grant said...

Esme, you've inspired me! I am currently working out the rules of my own little clothing manifesto for the rest of the year. I'll post it on my blog when I'm done for you to peruse.

I tried something similar a few years ago, trying not to purchase anything manufactured in China. As a nation, China really revolts me. But then my experiment prooved to be nigh on impossible, and as a friend pointed out to me: my not buying things in China would only affect myself at best, and those impoverished citizens of china whom I pitied at worst. So I gave that up rather quickly.

Love this post darling. Xx

jef said...

Hej Esme,
thank you for your experiment and this inspiring post! I got infected by the vintage virus when I discovered that my wardrobe was filled with h&m stuff and that I knew their collection so well I could recognize their stuff immediatly on others - and even tell the price. When I started thrift shopping seriously, I discovered that most of the times you pay much less for much more amazing clothes, it only needs more time to really search.
I never considered the ethical aspects of it, so thank you for making me think about that!

a cat of impossible colour said...

An inspiring story - thank you for sharing it!

StrikeMatch said...

Quite the thoughtful post. My family and boyfriend thinks that it is hilarious to ask me when was the last time I bought something 'new'. Half the time I can't remember...
The things I do buy are things that I really love, not just impulse buys that negatively effect the plant. I'm so glad your experiment worked out and I hope that you inspire others!

Mila said...

Wow, i really loved reading it!
I am already thinking about buying more secondhand, but i have to be honest by saying in the city i live in are not much charity and secondhand stores that really sell nice things. It's mostly old, dirty stuff from people over 70 years old (maybe they died..?)

However, i loved reading your reasons to do this and i feel kind of proudd on you that you succeeded the experiment.

It definitely made me think again about buying new stuff (a lot sometimes..) and the reasons for buying more secondhand in the future. That means visiting Amsterdam a lot more! :)

Thanks a lot for sharing this..

x Mila.

esme and the lane way said...

Skye: thanks. I've seen some of the vintage goodies you've found for the little dude, never buying new would have to be impossible! I don;t know if it is an irrational irked-ness, the smug compactors sound really annoying.

Pollito Moreno: I love the hunt, too! Thanks, but I do think it might be a new beret! :)

Grant: thanks! I am interested to read yours...

jef:thanks. When I had local H&Ms I shoppped there all the time too, and now I miss it so much! I know what you mean though. I'm glad if I raised a new point for you, b ut I don't want to sound preachy! :)

a cat of impossible colour: thanks – I'm actually amazed anyone could be bothered to read it. Big blocky text! :D

StrikeMatch: you always have such amazing stuff, I really admire your finds. I am wary of sounding preachy, though, I hope no one thinks I judge them!!!

Mila: thanks very much! I am quite surprised anyone read it all, though of course pleased. :) The 70 year old stuff sounds amazing more interesting than the 5 year old stuff that I often see! Have fun, oh I loved Amsterdam, maybe you could take pics if you go?!

Super Kawaii Mama said...

Congratulations, what an achievement! It is an interesting bonus that shopping this way made you see just what poor quality clothing is out there at present. It is appalling the level of quality that is being sold for RRP. Often times it looks no better than landfill as they are putting it out on the racks.

On the Vintage issue, I wrote a post about this too the other day that you may be interested in.

Mila said...

I tagged you, love!
I hope you like it...visit my blog to see what it's about!

Have a great day..

x Mila.

esme and the lane way said...

Super Kawaii Mama: thanks! And it's true, some things look like rags on the hangers! I did read that post, it was very interesting, and very informative.

Mila: cool, thanks! I will do it tonight. :)

Ali said...

wow, interesting! I agree with you though, I come home from an op-shop feeling happy about what I've bought, but whenever I buy new stuff I come home feeling guilty.
just discovered this blog so I linked you on mine!

Miss Lady Finger said...

Hi Esme,wow your sentiments are bang on!I achieved this too,last year for about 6 months.Although not quite as extreme.I swore off all clothing not made in Australia or New Zealand(luckily I work for a locally made fashion boutique!).I only bought Natio/Innoxa makeup&good quality leather/canvas shoes.Now my experiment has finished,I found I've not given up this new found way of life!I'm not quite so strict now of course,but have found myself being very very careful about where I shop and what I buy.I do not 'splurge shop' anymore,and never ever go to the mall for a bit of Sunday afternoon therpy at all these days.Good for you for doing it too!It'll stick with you for life now I think!Hmmmmm,this whole topic is a good discussion start point for my blog!Maybe I'll tag you when post about it,and hopefully you can comment in!I love a good discussion :) x

Rachael said...

Good on you for doing this! Very inspirational, I wonder if I could do it. But you say only necessary tights, that would be my downfall...

Hammie said...

What a lovely post. And it articulates how I have been feeling for several years. Retail is very inflated and in Ireland there is a very poor service concept (just security guards and cashiers really in most stores) so no real encouragement to go through racks. I also hate the way the clothes are presented in stores like H & M. Okay, we know they came out of a cardboard box, flat packed in celophane, but how about a little finesse before hanging? Some of their jackets and suitings retail for over €100, and yet are presented with packing creases; grrrr. Rant over.

Like Skye, I do buy retail for my Little Boo, but I have given it up for myself. And it is only when I gained a little weight recently that I had to go retail, for nice fitting jeans. (in H&M, hence the rant)
That is the only drawback of Thriftage (my word for stuff under 20 years old) People mostly donate nice clothes when they grow out of them as they can't bear to look at them I guess. So if you keep under a size 10-12 then the pickings are good. I have an embarrassingly large collection of size 30 - 32 levis 501's, for this exact reason. All customized and cut up.
Get a little snug in the Tush zone, and you have to go retail- at least until you tone up again.
I like hearing about Savers; is this a charity shop re-vamp that I havent heard of, like Vinnies?
And finally, I try to follow the 3 Rs in shopping for clothes. Reduce, Re-use (customize) and Re-cycle. So If I do buy new, it has to be fabulous and well made (and preferably on sale) Re-use is easy, you can adapt and mess around with stuff that cost 5 bucks, and Re-cycle? I keep my wardrobe karma good with Feng Shui. By sending it back out into the universe (clearing out stuff that is nice but I don't wear/am fed up with) I think you can attract a designer treasure back towards you.
thats my theory anyway.
Lovely to meet you. And you looked great at your tea date and party.

Keshe said...

This post is so like how I think, it's scary! Determined to not give in, I also spent the first 4 or 5 months of my experiment avoiding shops where I could be subjected to temptation. When the temptation feelings began to subside I started going into stores, telling myself I was just going in to get fashion inspiration, inspiration which I could use for thrifting! I THOUGHT I would be sorely tempted.. but I haven't been. You're right, new fashion is so poorly made nowadays - it's so sad. And the prices are unjustifiable!

esme and the lane way said...

Ali: thanks! I'll visit you in a sec...

Miss Lady Finger: it is interesting how much it changes your feelings on shopping... I'd love to read other peoples' thoughts too, so I'd love to be tagged!

Rachael: it honestly was more fun than hard... and when I say necessary tights, I do mean in every shade I need!!! :D

Hammie: thank you. I agree, the state of shopping is so often just disappointing. Unfortunately most of the thrift clothes I see are huge – size 20 plus, but sometimes they are smaller, which is good! Savers is a charity shop warehouse, they buy up stock from other op shops, and proceeds go to charity... it's great, but it means it does take a while to shop there! Thanks very much for your comment :)

Pretty Pirate said...

wow, good job. I have been thinking about doing this. I haven't bought any "new" clothes for a few weeks now and that is really good for me. Your stint was really impressive, I wonder if I could do it!

The Collector said...

Well done with this. It must have been tough, but now you can enjoy yourself.
I couldn't do it, as I have an aversion to second hand clothing, but I have decided to have a very strict budget for this Summer. Things got a little out of hand for me this Winter and I need to tone it down a little.

esme and the lane way said...

Pretty Pirate: thanks! Do you know, it really wasn't that hard. :) But it is good to be 'back' with full shopping power!

The Collector: thank you. It does feel nice not to be restricted. Good luck with the smaller budget, but winter is surely meant to be more expensive, with coats, jumpers and the like! And you've got some very lovely things :)

leah said...

Oh my, I did exactly the same experiment! Since last November and have cracked once to buy a pair of sale sunglasses (that was last week) and essentials. It is actually very very easy! And I completely agree with you on noticing the appauling quality of high street goods.
I opted for secondhand/vintage and hand making or refashioning items. A bit of DIY is fabulous for creating what picture in your mind!
I'm really glad to see that it's not just me who's been thinking/doing these things! :D

esme and the lane way said...

leah: since November?! That IS impressive! I am glad I'm not the only one, too – sometimes I thought I might have gone a bit strange... :)

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