Could you go a year without buying new clothes?
This year I jumped on the “no new clothes” challenge in a bid to nurture better buying habits and ease the affects of the fashion industry on the environment.
Given the average Australian consumes about 27 kilograms of new clothing each year, I saw this as something I could do at an individual level to actually make a large-scale impact.
While I have so far succeeded, I fully acknowledge COVID-19, working from home and a series of cancelled events (☹) has given me a slightly unfair advantage.
Despite the unfortunate edge, this challenge hasn’t been easy. Here are my tips for seeing it through if you’re tempted to take the plunge in 2022.
Start with what you have
If your wardrobe is anything like mine, you’ll find most of your clothes fall into four key categories:
- High rotation
- Worn once or twice
- Tags still on
- Stained or broken
Without the luxury of new clothes coming in, I was forced to breathe new life into the clothes I’d previously forgotten about and fix the ones that had fallen victim to a spaghetti sauce or clumsy night out.
In Australia, about six tonnes of clothing and textiles are sent to landfill every ten minutes. That’s the equivalent of 360 baby elephants forming an elephant pyramid in our dump sites every hour.
It’s important to remember that everyone is too busy caring about themselves to worry about you wearing an outfit twice. Repeating, repairing and repurposing the clothes we already have is the best way to reduce our impact and contribution to this leaning tower of metaphorical baby elephants.
Get your fix of the new stuff, from the old stuff
While I’m not buying new clothes, I’ve found a number of places I can still get a good fix of new-to-me clothes.
Borrowing from your besties is a good place to start. But if want to prop up your own supply, dig out your eBay password, sign up to Depop and start joining the Buy, Swap and Sell sites for your favourite brands. Op-shops can be hit and miss, but they’re a great place to source near-new exercise clothes at a bargain price.
Clothes hire websites and Instagram pages are sprouting up everywhere, offering the perfect solution to those one-off outfits you’re unlikely to ever wear again. The dry cleaning is usually covered for an added bonus.
Every single wear adds up! If we can double the use of the clothes already in existence, we can collectively reduce our environmental impact by about 44 percent. That’s a big reward for relatively low (read: miniscule) effort.
Change your mindset
Whether we like it or not, our clothes have become and important part of our identity and the way we present to the world. Couple this with the invasive forces of a capitalist, social-media driven society and it’s a recipe for a fast-fashion fuelled disaster.
With a challenge like this, it’s our mindset and habits that require the most change. Eliminating temptation is crucial – delete all the clothing brands you follow on Instagram and any influencers that make you feel inadequate.
Avoid stepping foot into retail stores in the first place and stop looking at clothes and consumer items as a “treat” or a “reward”. You’ll find much more enjoyment investing in a nice meal, some self-care or a weekend getaway instead.
When new clothes are back on the agenda, be conscious in your decision making and where your money is going. Consider spending a bit more on sustainable brands, natural fabrics, and environmentally friendly packaging – if you have to have the packing at all!
Ultimately his challenge is all about reducing consumption and the amount of clothes and textiles that get sent to landfill. This is crucial when you consider some polyester clothing can take up to 200 years to break down.
By reframing our understanding of the word “value” and looking beyond price, we can make lasting changes to our consumption habits, get more from the clothing already in existence and give less effs about what our choice in clothing says about who we are.
If the environmental benefits haven’t got you convinced, throw in some extra pennies, some extra time and a whole lot of extra space and you’ve got yourself a New Year’s Resolution that’s hard to beat, but easy enough to achieve.
Clothing Textiles Waste Roundtable and Exhibition – Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. 3 October 2021, from https://www.awe.gov.au/environment/protection/waste/product-stewardship/textile-waste-roundtable
Coming full circle on fast fashion for a sustainable future – Monash University. 31 March 2021, from https://lens.monash.edu/@environment/2021/03/31/1382982/coming-full-circle-on-fast-fashion-for-a-sustainable-future
Australians are wearing half of what’s in their wardrobes – Marketing Magazine. 26 April 2021, from https://www.marketingmag.com.au/news-c/australians-are-wearing-half-of-whats-in-their-wardrobes/
Stanes and Gibson (2017). Materials that linger: An embodied geography of polyester clothes. Retrieved 2 November 2021, from https://ro.uow.edu.au/