Could you go a year without buying any new clothes or are you a fast fashion addict? Are you okay with hand-me-downs and second-hand clothing from charity shops or does the idea freak you out? Did you know that reducing the amount of new clothes you buy is actually an eco-friendly way to live?
Well, my family of 4 made 2019 the year of no new clothes and we survived! In fact, it was easy and fun!
So why did we make this decision?
For starters, we are very focused on reducing our impact on the planet and wanted to set a meaningful challenge for the year. Then I did some reading about fast fashion and realised just how scary and pointless it is.
I think there is a misconception that the only reason fast fashion is bad is because it’s ‘fast’ – that people only wear an item a few times (or only once!) and then discard it, so it is wasteful. But there are so many other reasons why fast fashion is not a planet-friendly choice.
Let’s run through a couple quickly before we get onto our year without clothes (ooh, saucy!):
- A lot of fast fashion is made from polyester which is derived from fossil fuels. This is bad because fossil fuels aren’t renewable, they contribute to global warming and polyester sheds micro plastics when washed, which end up in rivers and oceans.
- The dye used for fast fashion clothing is often toxic and pollutes waterways.
- Even natural fabrics like cotton need a huge amount of water and pesticides to be produced. This can affect local environments, soil quality and water quality.
- The whole nature of ‘fast’ fashion means that corners are often cut to make sure clothes are produced quickly. Land is cleared, chemicals used, waste is discarded improperly, etc.
- There is a serious human impact with fast fashion; underpaid workers in unhealthy conditions living without basic human rights.
- And yes, there is a HUGE landfill problem caused by fast fashion. It is just so cheap and accessible that people literally wear things a handful of times and then throw them out.
So, I don’t think I need to elaborate on why we decided to forgo new clothing for a year (and into the future apart from necessities) but the question is, how did we go?
We started by setting some simple rules for the year; we could buy underwear, socks, kids’ shoes and uniforms new if we absolutely had to buy them.
We are a family of 2 adults and 2 kids and one of our daughters started school in 2019 so we did buy new uniforms for school, but did the right thing and bought them extra huge so they will last for years and look super-cute on the first day of school. Disappointingly, our school doesn’t sell second-hand uniforms.
Other than uniforms, the only clothing we bought throughout the year was a second-hand black shirt for a school dance performance. That’s it! The kids didn’t even grow out of their shoes!
So how did we feel?
I can honestly say that for the most part, I didn’t want to buy new clothes at all. The only thing I felt the pull to buy was new gym tights as mine started losing their elasticity and I had to keep pulling them up, but I waited and bought myself some for Christmas. My husband could have done with new gym shorts too, but he stuck it out and exercised in shorts with fraying seams.
And I could have replaced my holey socks earlier… but I kept them going until 2020 too.
And the kids?
They couldn’t have cared less. The only time my daughter asks for anything new is when we are in a shop, so easy fix, she wasn’t taken into any clothing shops.
So to wrap up, here are some key takeaways from the year of no new clothing:
- Our family doesn’t care much about new clothes and are really excited to get second-hand clothing as it is ‘new’ to us.
- You can go a whole year without wearing everything in your wardrobe (especially if you work from home like me so don’t need to wear any of your corporate clothes).
- People don’t buy clothes out of necessity anymore, they buy an image/idea/identity and it’s an extremely wasteful way to live.
- If someone in the family needs an item of clothing for an event, borrow it! I have borrowed dresses for weddings a few times and I love the fact that I get to feel like I’ve got a new dress, but don’t have to buy one!
- Clothes worn repeatedly for a year, do wear out. I have to get more of a rotation system happening…
- I didn’t record any financial information from previous years, but at an estimate, we saved at least $1000 not buying clothes.
- We have begun as we plan to go on; we will buy less and when we buy, we will choose eco-friendly brands and wear everything until they are falling apart.
- Go through your wardrobe and see what you actually have; you might be surprised at what you find. I loved pulling out items that I had bought and hardly ever worn. It can be fun putting different combinations together.
- The difference between WANT and NEED. Most of us have way more clothes than we need or could ever wear out. Imagine if everyone only bought what they needed!
So there you have it. If you are wanting to make some lifestyle changes for the planet, I can definitely recommend cutting out new clothing as much as possible. Go through your wardrobe and find all the gold hidden there and start wearing it. Get creative and work out different outfits. Hit the op shops if you need something and get into the habit of borrowing, sharing and passing on items of clothing amongst friends and family.