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.