Last year I successfully changed my consumption habits, cutting my clothing buying down to just two new items and six items of second-hand clothing in a whole year. The experience changed how I interact with fashion in a positive, exciting way. In this article I’ll give you some tips on how to manage if you’re thinking of cutting down on your clothes shopping.
1. Improve your wardrobe
As you won’t be buying any new gear for at least a couple of months, it’s important to start with good foundations. Clear out any old or unworn clothing and set aside a pile for cleaning or repairing. If you’re missing an essential item – like a white t-shirt or jeans – then get a high quality option before you begin your shopping ban.
A good basic wardrobe will help you make better choices because it’ll have all the foundations you need, and will mean you’re less likely to ‘buy to solve’ a fashion problem during your period of shopping abstinence.
2. Tidy up your clothing space
A messy wardrobe or drawers will make it difficult to see what you own and therefore you’re more likely to buy items you think you need when secretly they’re hiding in the back of a cupboard. Give your clothing space a good clean inside and out. Arrange hangers properly, fold jumpers, and sort your shoes so you can see them.
WRAP’s 2012 report shows an embarrassing number of the clothes in our wardrobe – about 30% – haven’t been worn in the last six months; have a clear out and you might find something you’d completely forgotten about.
3. Put together example outfits
This is a fun activity but also very useful. After you’ve improved and tidied your wardrobe, spend time laying out outfits of different clothing combinations. Photograph or document the outfits, and keep the information handy; it’ll prevent you from thinking “I have nothing to wear with X” which can lead you down a path to purchase.
It’ll also start to focus your personal aesthetic and identify which items of clothing are going to do the most work during your shopping ban.
After tackling your physical possessions, it’s time to look at those less tangible things which influence our buying behaviours. Unsubscribe from all marketing communications from fashion brands. You have to go cold turkey here; those brands will send you sales materials and they will tempt you into buying.
Sales-related marketing often comes via email newsletters – but you might have to cut yourself off from Instagram too, and ignore those tiny Facebook ads tempting you from the sidebar.
5. Avoid shops and fashion magazines (to start with)
This seems extreme but if you’re taking your shopping ban seriously, you only need to avoid clothing stores and fashion magazines for a couple of months. Like any marketing, store layout is designed to encourage you to buy, and magazine editorial is designed to engage you (often leading to purchase).
My biggest blip last year happened when I started reading fashion magazines again, because it inspired me – and made my current wardrobe look boring. Build up your willpower, then pick up Vogue.
6. Spend time with your clothes
During your shopping ban, you’ll be spending a lot more time with your current clothes than you probably ever have before. Look closely at your garments: where were they made, when and by who? How does it feel when you wear them? Take time to appreciate each piece of clothing as fully as possible and you’ll want to wear them again and again.
If you’re keen to change your relationship to fashion, this quality time is a good place to start. Stop looking at your clothes like they’re disposable, and start seeing them as indispensable.
7. Don’t panic if you do buy
When I bought a second hand item last year, I freaked out a bit – I thought I had failed. But this is your personal challenge; if you renege and end up buying something, that’s ok. Think about why you did it, and if you can avoid doing the same thing in the future.
There’s no shame in buying things, and there’s no shame in enjoying it. The idea of a shopping ban is to shock yourself into new habits, but don’t punish yourself if you don’t quite make it.
At the start of last year, I would’ve found the idea of spending only £80 on pre-made clothing over the next 12 months laughable. But my experience showed me you can change your consumption habits, spend less and enjoy fashion even more than when you’re buying tons of stuff.
Try out these seven tips if you’re thinking of taking a break from shopping, and let me know how you get on.
Read my experience of 2016’s shopping ban: What’s It Like Not Buying Clothes for A Year?
WRAP. 2012. Cited in Breyer, M. 2012. Unused Clothing in UK Closets Worth $46.7 Billion, Report Finds. Treehugger. Available on: http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/unused-clothing-worth-46-billion-report-finds.html