Blue fabric on a sewing machine.

My year of not buying new clothes

Gillian has given up buying new clothes for a year.

We asked her why she did it and how she is getting on.

Gillian, can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to stop buying new clothes for a year?

I’m a 30-something mother of a toddler. I work in the sustainability sector so I try to be conscious of who I spend my money with. The Love Your Clothes campaign struck a chord and gave me the impetus to do this.

High street fashion is so homogenised. You see people wearing such similar things and then this changes so quickly. When you hear the statistics about the quantities that end up in landfill or aren’t even worn, it’s quite shocking.

Another reason was the creative challenge. I wanted to improve my sewing, and customising – making new from old – is cheaper and easier than making a garment from scratch. I enjoy crafts and have probably got back into them more since having a little one.

Cost was another factor: like many people, I need to be frugal with having a little one and also needing to spend money on the house. I’d dabbled at charity shopping in the past; as a student, for a fancy dress outfit, and also while pregnant to try and find some temporary large clothes. All of these fed into me realising that wearing second-hand clothes is ok.

The timing in my life was right for this. I feel now that I don’t need to be quite so fashionable so I’m stepping back from the shops to realise how silly it all is. But I still like the buzz of putting an outfit together with clothes that are new to me, so had to keep my hand in somewhere – I couldn’t go a whole year and not buy ANY clothes!

What rules did you set yourself?

I would stop buying new clothes for the calendar year, January to December 2015. I kept my existing clothes and I allowed myself to buy new shoes and underwear. Other than that, I cannot buy anything new: so “new to me” clothes come from charity shops, eBay, Facebook selling pages, friends and family. I can buy second-hand clothes either to wear as they are or to customise.

Does it help that you know how to sew?

My mum can sew, so I’ve had a tutor when needed and I think I picked up more than I realised as a teenager on dress-making techniques. I would describe my skill level, though, as enthusiastic, rather than technically accurate. I can’t/don’t use formal patterns. I usually make clothes from existing items that fit me already, or make adjustments to existing clothes by pinning and measuring to fit.

While I would like to improve my skills, I’ve struggled to find an appropriate evening class. So with the range and quantity of tutorials available online (for free) I figured that practice – trial and error – was the best way to learn.

How has it gone so far?

There have been a few challenges along the way: I had three weddings to attend during the year and I couldn’t buy a new outfit!

But mostly it’s been a very positive experience. I’ve heard people talk about how we can recreate the buying buzz with second hand clothes: I found I got double the buzz due to the cost saving and creative challenge. It’s nice not to have the pressure of going into new clothes shops and deciding what to buy – and all the promo/sales emails can just be deleted!

Blogger Gillian