My Year Not Buying New Clothes

My favorite second-hand purchase all year from Boden on eBay. I later found it also in brown and snapped it up for less than a tenner!

A whole year of not buying new clothes!

I’m writing this on New Year’s Eve 2019. I’m quite astounded and just a little proud of myself to report that I’ve succeeded in not buying (nor been gifted) new clothes for an entire year. I had no idea it would be such an easy thing to do and how setting this goal at the beginning of the year would radically change the way I view shopping and clothes in general.

I was first motivated to try this when I saw Stacey Dooley’s documentary about the impact of the fashion industry on the environment. It was shocking and a real wake up call showing in stark detail how our desire for cheap fast fashion in the West is destroying whole countries in other parts of the world. Stacey showed us a lake in central Asia which had completely dried up because of water being siphoned off to factories downstream, to feed our desire for cheap cotton. I’d always thought cotton was one of the more environmentally friendly fabrics. How wrong I was.

I decided I could no longer justify buying clothing I didn’t really really need. And let’s be honest, what more clothing do most of us we really really need? I moved countries with only a rucksack worth of clothing and other items in my youth! This aim was of course made easier by me now being a 53-year-old woman and having a wardrobe of items that fulfill all my requirements. I have party clothes, casual clothes, professional clothes, sport clothes, climbing mountain clothes, wedding and funeral clothes, all climate clothes – heck I even have ice grippers to put over my shoes.  I also have one very glamorous dress that I wore to an awards evening. So I do not need any more clothes.

not buying new
I spent the year stocking up on second-hand red clothes (red being my Magnificent Midlife brand color you see!) This red dress is from Seasalt and worn at our London Magnificent Midlife meetup.

This year I have bought a tiny bit of new underwear (rather than a new bit of tiny underwear) and a couple of heavily reduced pairs of shoes (and new running shoes cos the old ones were 3 years old – full disclosure), but no other new clothing all year. I decided I could get away with buying the shoes! And who wants to wear secondhand underwear?

Do I feel deprived? Not at all. I used to be the kind of shopper who spent hours online checking out the new season’s clothes each change of season. I’d buy a few items in the spring/summer and a few items in the autumn/winter. I’ve never been a big clothes shopper but I’d like to ring the changes each year to have at least a few new items.

Not buying anything new was my goal but I didn’t set a time limit on it –  I was up for seeing how it went.  How long would it be before my buy something new impulse kicked in? I am fortunate enough to now have a wardrobe of clothes I really like, so I knew there was plenty there to keep me going. Since I had my colors done three years ago I’m also much more circumspect about what I buy. If it’s not my color and a hell yeah, I don’t bother anymore.

Discovering used clothes on eBay!

The Boden dress I took up in the middle.

At the beginning of the year as the season started to change, I found myself getting itchy fingers to buy something new.  I received loads of emails I’d signed up to from my favorite stores promoting their wares often with a nice discount. So I unsubscribed myself from all those, and as I knew I couldn’t buy anything, I stopped browsing for clothes too, which saved me so much time as well as money!

It was shocking to realize just how much time I had wasted looking at online shopping sites. It was my go to relaxation/procrastination technique. And I was still sorely tempted to buy something to feed my desire for something new in my wardrobe. But then, when I talked about what I was doing in my private Magnificent Midlife Flock group on Facebook, one of the members suggested I try buying second-hand clothes on eBay and setting up searches for my favorite brands on there. What a revelation!

I’ve never liked shopping for clothes in charity shops. I can’t explain quite why. I know some people really love it. Similarly I don’t enjoy shopping in big bargain shops like TK Maxx. I think it’s having so many different items all bundled in together that puts me off. I don’t like spending time searching. I’d rather walk into a shop and see something that immediately catches my eye.

The Boden red coat. Not the most flattering angle but it’s lovely and warm!

But the idea of being able to search for used clothes from my favorite brands on eBay in my exact size seemed perfect. So I set up a number of searches on eBay instead. My new favorite relaxation/procrastination technique became browsing the search items on eBay! The search would come in on email too, so every day I would have hundreds of red dresses size 12 to rummage through, metaphorically of course. I’ve managed to wean myself off doing that over the course of the year too fortunately. Otherwise I’d never get off eBay!

I also quickly found that I loved the auction aspect of buying things on eBay. Goodness me, I’m late to that particular party! I discovered that if I waited until the last minute to put in my highest bid I could often buy something at a very low rate. I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than £25 including postage for any item all year including a lovely woolen red coat from Boden.

I’ve even rediscovered some long-forgotten sewing skills and have adapted a couple of items I bought. First was a Boden dress that was a bit too long and skinny across the middle. I managed to take up the middle section giving it a more modern shape that looked way better on me. It took me three attempts to get it right but it pretty much works now. A blue Fat Face tunic was just too long for me reaching mid thigh. It did nothing at all for my large backside. So I bought myself some hemming tape and sewing clips, having decided that might be a quicker option after the three attempts with the dress, and shortened it to the top of my thigh. Altogether far more flattering!

A White Stuff tunic unaltered. I’d always wanted a tunic so I was very pleased with this one.

Because I know what colors suit me best, I’ve restricted my searches to my top colors and have succeeded in buying some excellent items. And I’ve been really impressed with the quality. I decided I’d only look at brands I knew would generally hold their quality better. I’ve only purchased two jumpers which were less than £5 each, as I know jumpers can look old quicker than other items. I haven’t yet bought any trousers because I can’t better what I already have. But shirts, jersey tops, dresses, tunics and a coat have all served me very well indeed.

I’ve also rediscovered clothes in my wardrobe that have rarely seen the light of day. And now I know what colors suit me and go together, I’m also more adventurous about putting things together in different combinations. I reckon I have a lot more fun with the clothes I already have as well as finding some great new second-hand bargains to help ring the changes over the year.

You can find anything if you look hard enough!

My castle wedding dress – with the bride and another guest. And yes it was even red again!

There was a moment when I thought my plan had fallen apart. I was due to attend a wedding in a castle in Massachusetts (as you do!) and the dress code was medieval. I forgot my pledge and went looking on Amazon for a dress to wear. I found one and ordered it for delivery from China. Then I realized my mistake! I couldn’t possibly wear that one. I’d got as far as November and didn’t want to break the whole plan now. So I emailed to ask if I could cancel the order. They very kindly said yes! So then I went back to eBay and found the perfect second-hand costume to wear!

Yesterday I found myself on Oxford Street in London and I went into the main branch of Marks & Spencer. When I was younger, going to this flag-ship store would’ve made me very happy. I’ve been trying to wean myself off Marks & Spencer‘s for years, but there’s usually something in there that catches my eye. Yesterday I found it an entirely different experience. I really wasn’t bothered. I just walked through the store and out again.

I’ve decided I would much rather work with what I have, add to it with excellent value and good quality secondhand clothes, and do my best to reduce the quantity of new clothing being produced on the planet. I no longer want to feed the monster of consumerism. It has been a truly transformational experience!

Top tips for not buying anything new

  • Get your colors analysed – preferably by a professional but here also is a fun starter quiz.
  • Go through your wardrobe and categorize items by type and color so you can clearly see what you have available to work with.
  • Unsubscribe from any fashion emails you may receive including all the special offer emails.
  • Set yourself up with an eBay account and set up a few used clothes searches for your favorite brands in your size. These will come to you on email unless you tell eBay not to. It’s a good way of starting to see what’s available on eBay but can be a major time suck!
  • You may also like the app Depop which is similar to eBay but just focused on fashion. My stepdaughter introduced me to this. I haven’t bought anything on there yet but it seems quite good.
  • Have some fun bidding on eBay items. Set yourself a  spending limit for each item and don’t go over it unless you really really want the item – otherwise you can get very sucked into the bidding process.
  • Check out your local charity shops if you think you’d like this way of buying clothes. Depending on where you live, you can find some great things there.
  • Enjoy your new second hand clothing items!
  • Feel great and rather smug about not adding to the rampant fashion consumerism destroying our planet.

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