Last year I made a decision that has impacted my view of the clothing industry, my consumer habits and the consumer culture we're surrounded with, and unexpectedly grown my skills as a seamstress exponentially. In June of 2017 I decided to challenge myself to not purchase clothing for one year. I've tried to write an all encompassing blog to summarize the experience, but there was just too much information for one post so I'll break this up into three parts, starting with this: the why.
I have always been interested in fashion and while I've also always been very budget conscious, I used finding deals as an excuse to buy more. As a teenager I would save my allowance for months to be able to spend it all on all day shopping trips. As a young adult I've never spent outside of my means and though my shopping habits have significantly decreased, I still would find any excuse to buy more, never satisfied with what I have. When my husband and I approached a move last year I took a hard look at my closet, deciding what to pack and what to keep and I asked myself the question: what of this do I actually need?
With capsule wardrobes becoming an ongoing trend sites like Pinterest and Instagram I started to wonder if I would be happy living with less. I wondered why I never seem to be satisfied with what I already have when purchasing it seemed to bring me so much joy at the time. I wondered what the driving force was behind my seemingly constant need for more. Was the novelty of the experience pushing me for more or was there something deeper going on?
When I became honest with myself, really truly uncomfortably honest with myself, I realized that much of my drive for more began when I was very young. A kid with low self-esteem and tragically skewed body image, a new outfit felt like covering what I didn't like about myself. I could hide my body behind a new dress, be complimented and for a moment, just a moment, let myself be seen without actually letting myself be seen. Sometimes we know things about ourselves without naming them, because naming them can be so painful. I've worked so hard since my teenage years to value who I am as a person above how I appear as a person, but putting words around this realization hurt. But as with most things, good doesn't mean easy and hard isn't always bad. Sometimes old habits stick around without even noticing, but when they're names, once they're named, we can see them for what they are. We can change them in full view.
As I continued analyzing what I needed, why I needed, I started thinking more about where my clothes come from. Who makes them, who sells them, who's profiting and is it sustainable? I don't condone mindless consumerism, but lifelong habits are hard to break. So much of our spending IS mindless. How many times have we heard the jokes about going into Target for one thing and coming out with twenty? So I decided to take the mindlessness out of it. I decided to take one year and not go shopping.
During this year I explored my habits, the intentional and the unintentional. I explored their root cause and searched my own heart for ways I hide behind the exterior. I dug deeper into mass market industry and took notice of things we've let become the norm, to the great disservice of humanity.
In my next post I'll be discussing the parameters of the challenge I set up, how I stuck to them, what I learned, and a few of the surprises it entailed. Until then, I'd love to hear your thoughts, if you've done any similar experiment, or any questions you may have in the comments below.
The Year Without Shopping | The Why