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A year of not buying clothes – how did I do?

Not buying clothes

Could you go a whole year and not buy any clothes? That is what I set out to do at the beginning of 2017. It was prompted by reading a friend’s blog on Fast Fashion, the exploitation of workers in the rag trade and the amount of clothes going to landfill So how did I do?

I already have a pared down wardrobe having adopted Project 333 a couple of years ago. My husband and I share a small closet. It has a three foot rail for the clothes we hang. We have four under the bed drawers, one each for clothes we fold konmari style, a third for spare bed linen and the other for holiday packing. And that is it. So, not many clothes in this household.

Photo by on Unsplash

The results

I bought no clothes at all for the first six months of 2017.

And then…..


A dress from Toast online. £26.99.

I bought it for two wrong reasons. Wrong reason number one; it was on sale at less than half price. The rule for sale items is to ask yourself ‘would I buy this if it was full price?’ If no, then don’t buy it. Wrong reason number two; ask yourself this, ‘will it be good value; what will be the cost per wear (CPW)?’

More on the CPW formula later.


Tee shirt, limited edition designed by a friend. £20

I now have two tee shirts in my wardrobe.

Comfortable and very dull bra. £9.99

Bought because I hurt my ribs in a fall.


Running socks from Aldi. £3.99

Bought because the trainer socks I have slip down and are uncomfortable and five of the seven pairs of everyday socks I have now have holes in them. I was on a get fit mission so that is how I justified this purchase.

Workout outfit from Primark. £16.00

I had started Pilates and yoga classes (part of the get fit mission) and had no workout gear. Possibly the worst purchase made if I was serious about not buying Fast Fashion. I did look at other brands but as they were all made in the same country and possibly the same factory, does paying more for some lycra leggings and a top make a difference to the person working in that factory? I don’t know. Probably not.


Fake Sketcher shoes £9.99

My others had worn out. I was off to Rhodes and wanted light shoes for wearing with jeans. Again a poor Fast Fashion choice.


Real Sketchers from TK Maxx £40.00

Because the fake ones were clearly not enough…. but they are rather lovely and sooo comfortable.


Long sleeve summery dress via Amazon £14.99

Dressy flat sandals via Amazon £14.99

Cosy fleece leggings from Aldi £5.99

Jeans – charity shop £3.99

The dress and sandals were bought  because I was going to Marrakech and wanted a long sleeve dress for modesty reason and sandals that would go with more dressy clothes. Before this purchase I only had one dressy dress and that is ten years old. My dressy sandals, also 10 years old, had been donated as they were heeled wedges and I cannot walk in any heels now.

The leggings because it was cold. We had ice and snow. The jeans are identical to my only other pair that I live in, and they fit me.

Could I have avoiding buying any of these clothes?

Yes. As you can see I have justified every purchase. Because that is what we do to convince ourselves we need it. Turn a want into a need.

I don’t like the Toast dress that much. I fell for the ‘on sale’ marketing ploy.

The tee-shirt is useful but I did not need one.

The workout gear, I have leggings and a tee-shirt. While the leggings have seen better days and yup I have only one tee-shirt, and that is enough.

The socks, I have socks. Not many since the sock cull, but I have socks.

The bra – all women need a comfy bra. We do. I hate it. It is so mumsy and practical but after the fall and not being able to move around much nor dress myself for a few days, much needed at the time. Now lingering unloved.

Shoes and sandals – I have practical walking sandals but none that went with dressy dresses, and all other pretty but impractical ones had been donated. the comfy Sketchers go with jeans, dresses and shorts and are great for city walking. But I could have managed without all of the shoes. Because I had shoes and sandals that were just fine.

The summer dress. I had only one posh frock to wear to dinner or weddings, it was 10 years old. The one I got was more casual and appropriate for a holiday in Marrakech as it covered my arms. I think it will pass the CPW (see below) test.

The jeans and fleece lined leggings will get a lot of wear as these are staple items of my Project 333 capsule wardrobe. The jeans were from a charity shop so my Fast Fashion guilt was eased. The leggings are warm and my rule is to rug up and layer up before turning the heating up. I am happy with that purchase too.

Cost per wear

The CPW ratio is something that I use all the time to decide whether a clothing item is worth buying.

The formula is cost of item/times worn. Say you buy a cheap top For £10 on Saturday for a party and only ever wear it once, the CPW is £10.Iif you buy a swanky dress for a wedding and only wear it once the CPW is high. I paid £60 for my ten year old posh frock and I wear it about five times a year. It packs well so it comes on holiday with me almost always, and if I go out for dinner somewhere dressy, I wear it. CPW therefore is 60/50 =£1.20. If I had worn it only for the wedding the CPW would be £60. When I bought it is was high fashion and now ten years later it is ‘vintage’. And I never see anyone else wearing it.

The jeans I got for £3.99. The CPW is 79p and I have only had them a week.

That dress I got for Marrakech. CPW of £2.99 in one month.

How much did I spend?

Total expenditure on clothes in 2017 £166.92.

The equivalent of £3.21 a week. I could have spent less.

How to avoid buying things you don’t need

Don’t go shopping. It is not a pastime or hobby. It is not entertainment. Most of us shop and buy to self soothe. Had a crap week at work, go shopping. Just got paid, go shopping. You work hard, you deserve to get something new.

Manipulative marketing

The shops lure you in with offers and sales and the magazines tell you what THE must have look is this season. And it is all a great big marketing con to part you from your cash. By not having the latest fashion you must be out dated. They want you to feel bad about yourself, to have low self esteem. Then you will spend money to soothe yourself.

Understand how shops and online retailers up sell to make you spend more. A dress will be accesorised with a scarf and shoes in the hope you will buy all three, when you just went for dress. Online, you will be told that other people who bought this bag also got the matching purse. Look for it next time you shop or browse.

And do you notice if you have been browsing in an online store, you start getting ads for that item on everything you look at on the internet? Google is clever. It knows where you have been looking. All designed to make you click and buy.

Block the ads

On line, in the magazines and on the TV. I no longer have mainstream TV so never see TV advertising. I don’t buy magazines so I don’t know what is fashionable and what is not. And I now block ads on social media as much as I can. If I had done it earlier I would have saved myself some money by not buying that Toast dress I hate.

Pause buying

If you see clothes in a shop, don’t try them on, wait a week and then see if you want to go back and buy it. Is it worth the journey?

If you like to buy online, put it in the online basket and wait a week

Is there a downside to not buying many clothes?

For someone with an already small wardrobe, yes. I have holes in my socks (perhaps I need to learn to darn) and one pair of my leggings are very worn. But I have managed. And socks are on the Christmas list.

Also, I did notice that in the first half of the year, while not buying clothes, I bought lots of other stuff. It was almost if I were addicted to buying. And we are, many of us, addicted to buying. We get a rush as we click and buy and get the parcel the next day. Or hand over our cash in the shop and get a shiny carrier bag of goodies. And yet. This adrenaline rush lasts seconds. Do you have clothes you have never worn. Bought things you never use? Stashed them so no one knows?

What I was buying was things for the house, shiny Joseph Joseph kitchen things for my new kitchen. Because a basic wooden spoon is not adequate to stir a sauce.I also bought  travel must haves, like a flat wash bag and an RFID blocking passport holder. Because in 45 years of travelling these are what have been missing from my life.

I stopped clicking.

And still did not buy clothes. I think in the past 12 months I have been to my local city, Birmingham, four times. When I visited Winchester, Chester and Ludlow, places that have some of my favourite clothing retailers, I went to look at the clothes. I may have stroked some. I did not try anything on. And I left empty handed. I knew I had to avoid the shops as this could weaken my resolve. So I did.

Why did I not stick to the not buying plan?

The guilt of the first purchase was overwhelming. I hid the dress. Classic clothes hoarder behaviour.

And then I found reasons to need items, the workout clothes and the dress and shoes. My latest purchase, the jeans, I think I would have bought them at any point in the year, because they were not new, and the cost per wear ratio was good.

What next?

The not buying clothes was not a New Year’s Resolution. Because I don’t make them. It was to see if I could, a personal challenge. And a response to the environmental and political issues of Fast Fashion.

What I have learned, by examining what I did buy and why, was that I can do without. I bought because I could. The cost per wear ratio has to be my guide. There are some clothes I am wearing that are ready for the rag bag. I have also seen the gaps in my capsule wardrobe. If and when I buy it will be to fill them.

Next year my challenge will be to reduce my use of plastic and reduce the waste in my home – food waste, trash and reduce what I recycle. Recycling needs to come last after refuse and reuse. I need to work on that.

Because while this is a personal challenge, I do it because I care about my planet. We have become a disposable society. And I think it needs to stop.

Could you change the way you shop? What did you spend on clothes last year? Do you even know?


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