A New Year's resolution I actually stuck to… not to buy new clothes for a year

In January 2018 I tried to give up buying clothes. I lasted until about March 2018 when I was on holiday and couldn’t resist the beautiful beach wear. My love of a bargain continued for the rest of 2018, but I promised myself I would try again in 2019 with some different rules. . . 

  1. Second hand purchasing is fine – charity shops and eBay etc 
  2. Gifted/borrowed after someone else is fine, including clothes swaps 
  3. Underwear and shoes are exempt 

Why am I doing this?

“Fast fashion”, the notion of buying cheaply, wearing quickly and throwing away, is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, water and air pollution, landfill and often comes with poor working conditions for people, often women, making the clothes in other countries. I am also concerned by the process of importing “embedded” water from countries with serious water stress into the UK within our clothes. For example, it can take up to 3000 litres of water to make one cotton t-shirt and by buying it we are responsible for that water no longer being available for essential use in its country of origin. 


Did I manage it? Pretty much! For full disclosure, I had one totally weak moment when I needlessly bought a glorious pair of PJs that I absolutely didn’t need. I bought two other t-shirts this year, but I made a conscious and thoughtful decision to make those purchases. Both were band t-shirts for very long awaited gigs which I will treasure forever. I was also given 2 t-shirts for free at a sport events, which I had never considered weird before, but I do wonder how many “I completed a 10k” t-shirts we all have in the bottom of our wardrobes. This has to stop surely?! So in general I would say yes, I managed it. 


What would I say to someone who wants to stop buying new clothes next year?

  • You already have all the clothes you need. I’ve been to a wedding, birthday parties, festivals, weekends away, started a new job, been to posh dos and award dinners etc. You will probably already have the clothes you need for any occasion. In a previous year I would have bought new clothes for all those events.
  • Unsubscribe from all emails from clothes retailers. Also delete all sponsored ads on instagram and facebook and eventually the algorithm realised I don’t want to see them. 
  • Shopping is not a hobby. Do something more interesting. Don’t just meet your friends for a wander around the shops, find something you all love doing which doesn’t involve buying unnecessarily and contributing to the environmental problem. 
  • Notice when you are buying yourself something to make yourself feel better. Buying clothes shouldn’t be so cheap that you can use it to momentarily boost your mood. I guess it’s just like emotional eating, notice when you’re doing it and try to get to the bottom of why. 
  • Cut down your wardrobe. At the start of the year, I had too many clothes. I moved house this year and I’ve had huge sort outs and donated loads to charity so I have a lot less now. I can actually see what I have and can remember most of what I own, so that I don’t forget things lost in the wardrobe.
  • Clothes that are badly made don’t last a long time and I you go off them quickly. If you’re buying things to wear 100 times rather than 3 you will think about it differently. It’s less about buying something for an event or a night out, it’s about adding something long term to your wardrobe. I think the rule of not buying an item for a specific occasion is a good one.  
  • Don’t be afraid to be seen in the same outfit more than once – even on instagram. You are more than what you wear. I went on holiday this year with the exact same suitcase of clothes and swimming costumes as summer 2018…. I saved a load of money and no one cared. 

What’s next? 

2019 has seen the rise of the sustainable clothing brand. There are amazing options for ethically sourced materials and small independent clothing companies, produced in the UK. I am going to introduce some new purchases in 2020, but solely from companies I want to support and believe in. Yes, it is loads more expensive and more difficult to find, but I challenge you to work out how much you spend on the high street every month on £7 tops and £15 jeans and direct this to buy one quality item instead.