There are three weeks left of my three month ban on buying new clothes, shoes and accessories.
You can read about Slow Fashion Season and why I decided to do it here, and I will be doing a more comprehensive post about what I’ve learnt and how I move forward when it’s officially over. For now, two months in, I thought I’d make a point of putting fingers to keyboard on some of the things I’ve noticed about it so far.
In the grand scheme of things it’s the tiniest of changes, but it’s also been a genuinely interesting experience, and there were some very notable shifts in my mindset early on. In fact, these are all things I was beginning to realise towards the start of the year, when I was still buying new but on a reduced scale; Slow Fashion Season has amplified them further.
In taking part one thing I wanted to do was mull over my relationship with fashion, the new-new-new cycle, and social media, and that’s what these points are a result of. Clearly, I’m new to this, writing it on a blog full of photos of myself in new fast fashion purchases, so I’m far from qualified to talk on the sustainability and ethical side of the slow fashion movement. Instead, here are a set of rather personal side effects; happy reasons to lean in to slower, more considered consumption, from someone who is still learning.
I’ve realised what’s really missing from my wardrobe
When you’re shopping on a regular basis, there’s almost always a latest purchase – or a few of them – to draw you, magpie-like, to their shiny newness. This might not make getting dressed easier (I have ALWAYS been a ‘I don’t have anything to wear!’ person) but it certainly provides ever-changing items to fixate on, and a regular stream of wardrobe additions whose first few wears we eagerly anticipate.
Pressing pause on this carousel of new buys means you have to turn to your existing possessions and truly consider what you are and aren’t wearing – and why. This allows you to identify anything that’s genuinely missing; items that might open up so many new outfit opportunities, they’d be truly worth the investment. Spoiler; it’s probably not neon green cycling shorts. I would say that, of course, because neon green may be my most hated colour of all time and the cycling shorts trend makes my thighs feel personally victimised, but who am I to make such bold claims – perhaps neon green cycling shorts is exactly what you’re missing, and if you’re genuinely going to wear and love them for a long time, then why the hell not.
In my case, my much-loved but rarely worn shirts and blouses collection has finally highlighted my need to find just one pair of classic blue straight leg jeans that actually fits. Instead of repeatedly spending money on cheap or sale denim that isn’t quite right or doesn’t quite fit, I’m now on the hunt for a (preferably vintage) pair I can throw on without thought. So many favourite outfits from years gone by involved jeans which I’ve long ceased to be able to squeeze into, so I’m certain the styling opportunities that that single item opens up will give my existing wardrobe a whole new lease of life.
Paying more (for something I really love) feels a little less unrealistic
Before I get into this one, I should acknowledge that these experiences are my own; I’m lucky to be in a situation where ‘giving up’ shopping is even a thing, and I’m well aware that for many people, avoiding Primark wont mean that they can suddenly start spending on sustainable brands, which do tend to be more expensive and are therefore less accessible to those trying to make small budgets stretch further.
Even regarding my own experience, I can’t claim to have suddenly had an abundance of extra cash hanging around. Money has an annoying habit of being spent on some annoying life expense whatever you do, and while I’ll admit to having bought a lot of clothes in the past, I’ve also considered the likes of Topshop and River Island pricey and have more often frequented New Look or H&M. The problem was volume; I bought clothes regularly and browsed the shops every lunchtime, but I would never spend a great deal on an individual item, preferring to be able to pick up several things than to buy just one £60 dress.
What I will say, however, is that without the recent memory of other superfluous purchases still weighing on your mind, the idea of buying one thing you love that might have previously felt too expensive – £28 on a favourite foundation, in my case – starts to feel a whole lot more palatable.
Tied to this is the value we perceive our clothes to have; without buying multiple cheap throwaway items, I’ve started to appreciate each individual piece and the worth it brings to my wardrobe, house or life. Having gone months without a high street spree, treating myself to something feels like an exciting prospect, and the next item I buy new – which may well be one that I’d have previously perceived as too pricey – will be one that I truly value.
I’ve found out more about my ‘personal style’
I’ve always envied people with a really strong, clear sense of personal style, and assumed that such a thing was just not for me. I like variety! I would say to myself. I don’t just like one kind of thing! I’m not the kind for a ‘uniform’!
The reality was something more like this; I would get caught up in the very specific and undeniable pleasure of wearing something new, and confuse this feeling for genuinely feeling great in whatever item it happened to be.
Two weeks later, when the new-thing buzz had subsided, I’d sometimes be left with something that I didn’t feel good, confident, or even myself in. Stopping this cycle has shown me what I’m drawn to without the distraction of new-in, and helped me identify something a little more like a personal style that feels just that – personal.
Secondhand shopping helps with this too, since you’re having to define your own taste free from factors that surround your average shopping experience; there’s no FOMO from the insta-influencers flaunting the latest it item, or opting for the dress that’s in the header image of a fashion brand’s email marketing that season. It’s just you and a garment, and you’re left to interpret your own taste in what feels like a less well travelled but more authentic way.
I’d always felt that I knew what I liked and wasn’t fooled into buying things I didn’t, but staring down a rail of secondhand clothes and having to hone in on what I liked and didn’t without the usual reference points showed me that there’s more to unpick here than I’d initially thought. Varied although I’m sure it will turn out to be, perhaps there’s a more distinct and fulfilling personal style I’m yet to discover, and that feels quite exciting.
With that in mind, I’ve just signed up to Secondhand September – it’s not exactly a stretch, given that I’m already on a shopping ban until 21st of this month, but it extends my pledge a little longer and gives me a prompt to delve into secondhand more often. I’m by no means saying that I won’t buy new again, but in a world that’s producing more clothes than we could possibly need and far more than we can sustain, appreciating and valuing things which already exist feels like a step in the right direction.