Friday, 30 December 2016

My Year Of Not Buying New Clothes

At the beginning of 2016,spurred on by some major life changes I decided to stop buying fast fashion.
For many people this doesn't sound like such a big deal, but as a style blogger and clothes obsessive I can only compare it to when I decided to quit smoking-I knew it would be good in the long term but I dreaded the withdrawal.
Keeping up with trends, scratching the style itch had become so much a part of my life I worried that I would somehow lose my identity (and be really badly dressed) if I stopped being a "dedicated follower of fashion" Regardless of this slight sinking feeling, I also recognised that wearing outfits created in poor working conditions, that were ultimately ending up in landfills was in complete opposition to my changing values so a switch had to be made.
I'm nothing if not a realist and from the offset realised that buying nothing wouldn't work. Instead I decided to buy as much second hand clothing as possible, to only buy new clothes that were created in a more ethical sustainable way and of course rework as much of my existing wardrobe as I could.
This pink skull bag is one of my best Charity shop finds. £1.75

The most obvious challenge I faced when I started exploring the world of charity shop and vintage clothing was my dress size. As a plus size 18-20 I was already familiar with a high street that rarely if ever stocked much that would fit over my head so I was fairly sceptical when I first set off on my chazza quest.

This black pinafore was on my "want list" and although it was originally faded a quick wash with some Dylon and a customised patch and it felt like new and has been worn to death.

I'm not going to tell you that every charity shop I entered was bursting with clothes in my size, it really varied. Some of the bigger more switched on charity stores like Oxfam are amazing (the Brighton one is just ridiculous) whilst some would contain a few bobbly Primark jumpers. As with all second hand clothing hauls you just have to dig deep to find treasure.

This entire outfit was from a local Help the Aged store.

I quickly realised I needed a strategy when shopping in thrift stores. Working with my existing wardrobe I created a list on my phone which reminded me what I was after. A camouflage jacket, a denim mini skirt, a good quality long sleeved black top. Becoming more focused meant I made fewer mistakes and also gave me room to root out some real gems.

This F & F dress was one of my first pre loved buys of 2016 and remains a real favourite.

 Whats really interesting when you start clothes shopping in this way is how patient you become. I still devour fashion blogs and magazines and try and incorporate current trends into my wardrobe each season but its in a much less frenetic way. I know that it might take me three months to find a black and white striped Breton tee-shirt to indulge my Justine from Elastica fantasy or that a soft non wool non bobbly cardigan in moss green might elude me for a while, but oh when those items land at your feet (and in some charity shops they quite literally might be in a crumpled pile on the floor) how victorious you feel.

This tee-shirt may have belonged to Marcel Marceau

Embracing "Slow fashion" has taken me back to my late teens/early twenties where lack of funds, lack of online and lack of sizes meant that each item in my wardrobe was quite important. I can still remember each and every item of clothing I owned at university and how precious they were, how they helped me shape my outward identity. I hadn't realised that there was actually something rather nice about having a smaller but more well loved closet. I had swallowed the lie that "more was better" but as I discovered this year for me at least that isn't the case.

This dress was faded and unloved but still a great shape- a quick redye and it was as new-something I wouldn't have dreamt of doing a year ago.
Buying less clothing also reinvigorated my old love of customising and personalising clothes. This year has seen me screen print jackets, dye dresses, sew on patches and actually repair and mend items. Its easy to feel that buying lots of clothes is what makes you stand out and be individual but yet again, in a surprising turn of events I found this to be untrue.
This jacket was screen printed with a hand drawn design my Nicky to breathe new life into it-having totally fallen out of love with it, it then became the main thing I wore last summer.
I look back to 18 months ago when my clothes rail groaned under the weight of items worn maybe once or twice and feel slightly stunned at how causally I tossed things aside. On a psychological level I think the sheer amount of clothes I owned often left me feeling a bit empty, slightly joyless. Sure everything was "nice" but rather like a small child on Christmas day ripping open a present only to shout "next",  the fact that something new would be replacing my latest acquisition in mere weeks made it impossible for me to really fall in love with anything. 
Now when I spy a dress featuring a beautiful embroidered collar or a Punky Green and black jumper I get an immense feeling of happiness. A genuine ripple of excitement that deliveries from Asos never created.

Proving that in charity shops you really do need to rifle-this camouflage jacket was hanging with the men's jackets-it fits perfectly and was exactly what I was after.

 But what about fashion? Did all this searching for items, reworking existing clothes rather than buying what I really wanted new affect my style mojo? Well at first it did sure. It took a while for me to find my fashion feet.

Is there anything cuter than a striped jumper? Another Oxfam find worn with a cord M & S skirt via ebay

 I would sometimes see an item of clothing and covet it so much and know realistically that it was unlikely I would find something similar  and it would slightly bum me out. I felt like my decision to stop inhaling new clothes like Michelle Pfeiffer snorting coke in Scarface must mean my days as a fashion blogger were over. How could I possibly be relevant if I was no longer working with brands, no longer being sent samples, no longer attending previews of new collections.
I feel like an ice cream in this dress-only £4 from a Hospice shop

Slowly though I realised that if you replace the word fashion to style you give yourself permission to slow the hell down a bit. To see your wardrobe as an ongoing project. Full of cherished items which with the addition of some accessories or one or two new additions grows only more wonderful.

This pink dress by Oxfam is so pretty-I feel quite ethereal in it
 I also love that I now own some outfits that are totally unique to me. A 1980s blue dress with Russian inspired ribbon detailing, a Kate Bushesque pink frock which may or may not have been a nightie but with the addition of  a belt is just boho perfection. Clothes that feel unique and special.

If this dress could talk-I'm sure it seen some stuff

I really feel like I have found the right balance now when it comes to fashion. I still want to evolve my looks with the seasons but I'm happy that I do this in a slower more considered way.

Pastel Goth Realness provided by a jumble sale skirt and braces

I understand that  some readers of my blog may miss being able to go and buy similar items but, there are plenty of amazing bloggers out there who provide great fashion content fresh from the catwalks. Instead I hope to offer ideas and inspiration and  show that you don't always need lots of money or access to the latest trends to put together some great looks.
Here is to another year of slow fashion. 


Brand New "Dead Curvy" Design  over at  Nicky Rockets

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