I earned a bit more money than I was used to during my summer internship, and put all that money to use filling up wardrobe and shoe collection. Of course, I am now back to the stipend of a graduate student, and need to break this habit, fast! Three weeks back into the old lifestyle, I find myself excited about updating my cold-weather essentials and maybe overspending a bit. To keep myself more accountable, I’m unsubscribing from (most) vintage Instagram sellers and mailing lists, making outfit plans to get excited about all my options, and doing more introspection and writing here about my style and wardrobe to maintain mindfulness.
What I Have, So Far
According to my wardrobe spreadsheet, I’ve acquired about 100 items in 2017, not including intimates or essential accessories (hats, scarves, etc.), which is almost 2 items a week. Some of these were only worn once: wedding guest dresses; online secondhand or amazing sale deals that didn’t work for me. Some of these I haven’t worn at all: a winter coat it’s not cold enough to wear; a secondhand dress that is clearly a winter piece I got in the spring. Some of these were great, useful purchases that have already earned their keep: a secondhand Kowtow drapey cardigan that I keep at lab for when I get cold, my CYG sweatshirt that I wore to yoga all winter, my Uniqlo wide-leg pants that were such a hit I bought them in two more colors.
More importantly to me, 52% of my purchases this year were either secondhand or from a “responsible” retailer (this ranges from an independent, locally sourced designer to popular retailers like Everlane or Grana). The most effective way for me to reduce my environmental impact is to reduce my purchasing power. But when I do need to make a purchase, I like knowing that my money is either going towards supporting an independent, responsible retailer or not contributing to the fast fashion cycle at all.
Some Slow Autumn Guidelines
For the rest of the fall season, I’d like to spend time on this blog thinking about my spending habits, appreciating things that are used and understanding things that are not. I’m hoping spending more time with the things I have will be an effective way to redirect the energy I would have put towards shopping, and give me more insight into consuming less next year.
To that end, here are some guidelines for my slow autumn:
- Wear what I have: put items to use that I wouldn’t easily reach for. Concretely, increase the number of wears for items that I can plausibly wear in autumn.
- Toss anything doubtful: Donate or sell anything I feel wary of; make space to appreciate the things I love and ruthlessly cull anything I don’t.
- Use the fabric I already have: Did you know this is in part a sewing blog? I have loads of fabric from older projects, half-completed projects I’ve put aside, etc., and I can easily redirect the time I would have spent hunting for deals on sweaters towards mending and hemming. I don’t think it counts as a new purchase if I already bought all the fabric and notions, so this is a nice cheat code to keep around if I get a “new item itch”
- Keep a wish list, edit often: I don’t keep up with this enough, but a formal fast may encourage me to maintain a shopping wishlist. I like to list the item and the date I started wanting it; if, after a few days or weeks, I don’t want it anymore, it goes off the list! Theoretically, anything I buy should have sat on the list for a few weeks, but it odes not always an out that way.
- Purchasing one black mockneck sweater during the November sales is allowed. I have been dreaming of the perfect chunky knit for winter, but haven’t yet found what I’m looking for (I think it’s too early). I don’t plan on looking too hard, but if I find something obvious during the November rush I can give myself a pass on that one item.
I may revisit these goals over the course of the season, but I am excited to end the influx of packages and receipts and improve the cost/wear counts of the items in my spreadsheet. One of the main reasons I shop and organize and think about my wardrobe is because I love getting dressed and working with what I have, and I’m excited to reduce the decision fatigue and add some appreciation to this activity I love.
10x10s (and other number games), themed weeks, and other gamification
I’ve done themed weeks (wear navy for a week! skirts every day!), but never a 10×10 or other “make outfits from a capsule”-style themes. Part of my hesitation is that they don’t seem very natural to me: 5×5 or 10×10 makes sense if you are traveling or living within out of a suitcase, but otherwise just seem like an excuse for Instagram- or Pinterest-bait content, not really a usual mode of being and wearing. But in efforts to keep my interest in what I already have high, I may consider one of those kinds of gamified ideas. I have some 3-day trips coming up, but I’m not sure I can pull off a 3×3 on a work trip…
What do I hope to learn?
My primary goal is to stop buying things! I think it is natural to purchase and donate over the course of an evolving style and wardrobe. But, while my eye towards quality has increased the value and cost of the items I acquire, the frequency hasn’t reduced commensurately. Including retired items, in 2016 I acquired maybe 10 more pieces than I did in 2017 so far? But the value of 2017’s acquisitions is certainly higher (although much of it is secondhand). So, I’d like to take a step back and see what I’m actually using and buying, which brings me to my second goal:
Learn what pieces work best for my current style, body, and lifestyle. Getting dressed every morning at the intersection of these three points fundamentally means that some items work some of the time, some are aspirational and I should try harder, and some I’ve outgrown physically, emotionally, or have just actually worn out. Slowing down on the consumption will hopefully lead me to introspect more on what my clothes are doing for me.
Have you ever done a shopping fast, or worked to reduce your consumption or waste? How did it go?