“6 months into my shopping ban on clothes, this is what what I’ve learnt”

Could you survive a 6 month shopping ban? Hannah Rochell did, and her wardrobe thrived. 

In the middle of 2019, I made a decision to stop buying clothes for a year. It obviously wasn’t a new year’s resolution (I was a bit late for that!), but I know plenty of people will have made the same pledge this January as a thoughtful way of kicking off 2020.

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And it’s not surprising; 2019 was the year we all became acutely aware of the impact our everyday actions have on people and the planet. From hearing statistics like how much of all of our clothing is actually plastic (60%) or the amount of water it takes to make a single cotton T-shirt (2,700 litres), to the global climate strikes led by youth activists, we’ve been given an impetus like never before to try and take control and make a difference in our own lives. Simply buying less stuff, particularly clothes, is a great way of doing just that.

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So if you too are embarking on a shopping ban this year, here are some of my top tips to make the whole experience run as smoothly as possible.

Be realistic

I’m the first to hold my hands up and say that I started this journey from a very privileged position. I was a fashion editor for over a decade and as a result I had a big wardrobe of clothes to begin with. So unless you’ve already got everything you need (that’s need, not want – an important difference), set yourself a realistic target. Perhaps it you might want to start with a three-month shopping ban rather than 12, or you could limit yourself to only buying pre-loved clothes. Maybe you’ll avoid fast fashion and instead buy anything you need from brands with top environmental and working standards (the Good On You app is a brilliant way of checking this). 

The most important tip from me though: check you have enough decent underwear to last BEFORE you start your ban! I have a couple of bras that are only just hanging in there…

Be kind to yourself

It sounds obvious, but a shopping ban is going to be really hard if you keep going into shops. I made a point of changing the routes I walk to work to avoid the temptation of glossy window displays inviting me in, and it really worked. Another good idea is to unsubscribe from brand emails – I couldn’t believe how many I’d signed up to over the years, and when you consider it’s estimated that a typical year of incoming mail can be the equivalent carbon footprint to driving 200 miles in car, there are clear added environmental benefits, too. 

Follow like-minded people

2019 was also the year I fell back in love with Instagram. What had become an ever-tempting stream of new clothes being digitally dangled in front of my eyes became an invaluable tool for sustainable fashion ideas, because there’s a fast-growing community of second-hand shoppers, sustainable label champions and ethics experts to choose from. 

My favourite accounts include @laurenbravo (whose new book How To Break Up With Fast Fashion is also a must-read), Canadian minimalist @candicemtay, and vintage queen @emsladedmondson. Following hashtags like #oootd (old outfit of the day) and #slowstyle is another great way of discovering people who are doing clever things with stuff they already own. I’ve also found organisations like @fash_rev a great reminder of why I’m going to all this trouble, with easy to digest statistics that are good to pass on to friends when they ask you why on Earth you’re doing what you’re doing. 

Experiment with capsule wardrobes

You might think you’re already limiting your wardrobe enough as it is, but I’ve found capsule wardrobe challenges a brilliant way of thinking outside the box when it comes to reimagining old clothes. I love Gillian from @uncomplicatedspaces and Jade from @notbuyingnew; both limit themselves to around 30 items of clothing per season. Jade sparked a movement called #iworeitagain in the summer, which encouraged people to play a sort of game of fashion consequences, where you carried one item of clothing through to the next day for a week. I found it encouraged me to think of wearing items in new ways – such as tucking a dress into a skirt to make it into a top – which in turn means you’ll make the most of everything in your wardrobe.

Start a clothes count 

It’s estimated that most items of clothing are worn between four and seven times before we throw them away. And most of those items then end up in landfill where, if they are made from a synthetic fibre like polyester (which 65% of the world’s textiles are), they will outlive all of us by hundreds of years. 

So something I started doing along with my ban was logging how long I’ve owned items, and how many times I’ve worn them (I have a VERY good memory, so I start with an estimate and then add one on every time I wear the item). It’s really helped me appreciate my clothes and understand my own style better. You clearly see the types of items you wear the most, as well as colours and prints, which in turn will mean you make better decisions about anything you buy in the future. If your memory isn’t like an elephant’s (or mine), there’s an app called Stylebook that will help you figure it all out.

I’ll be totally honest – I didn’t struggle nearly as much as I expected with my shopping ban. It’s been so much easier than I ever expected, and I’ve actually really enjoyed it. I don’t feel deprived of anything; I enjoy my wardrobe in a way I never have before and if anything, the experience has enriched my life enormously. I can’t recommend it enough. 

Follow Hannah Rochell’s fashion journey here

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Images: Courtesy of Instagram


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