Fashion editor and writer, Hannah Rochell, is taking a big stand: a ban on clothes shopping for a year. Here, she details how to make your wardrobe work harder and how to love your clothes longer.
I’ve given up shopping for a year. I’d been thinking about it for a while, but it wasn’t until I told other people last month that I became bound to my pledge and it became real. I’ve been a fashion writer for 12 years, and I’d become increasingly uneasy about making a living from pushing newness and trends onto readers, being part of the fast fashion machine that’s always encouraging people to buy buy buy, when in other areas of my life I was making changes to be more sustainable.
I recycle furiously. I buy dry goods and refill my detergents and shampoos at a zero-waste shop. I’ve ditched cotton wool in favour of washable cotton pads. I’ve tried every palm oil-free toothpaste under the sun (side note: many of these are disgusting). But what good is all of that if I continue to buy dresses made from polyester, which is basically plastic? What good is that if I write articles with headlines like “12 Must Have Summer Blazers”? And what good is all of that if I show brand new items on my Instagram feed every week?
Now I find myself with a wardrobe that won’t change for 12 months. Of course, my love of fashion and the very nature of my job means that it is a big wardrobe - I appreciate that I am in a fortunate position in that respect - but my aim with this journey is to change my attitude towards clothes and shopping, and hopefully influence the buying habits of some of my audience, too. As a society we’ve started to treat clothes more like food; as something we consume, rather that something that we own and cherish. I want to get back to the way I felt when I first started working in fashion: I did it because I love clothes. Not trends, not newness, but really lovely items.
Luckily, I’d never fully lost that mindset, and as a result I know there are certain pieces in my wardrobe that I will reach for again and again because they are brilliant classic garments I’ve had for ages. I’ve even started listing on my Instagram pictures how long I’ve owned everything I’m wearing and roughly how many times I’ve worn it, which has made me stop and think about the things I really love and appreciate them, rather than lust after something new.
The response has been amazing, both from the readers of my blog and from brands that I now have to work with in a different way. It has made me feel more positive about the future of my industry, which is currently the second biggest polluter in the world. So if you’re thinking about doing something similar (and I know there will be lots of you - I’ve heard from dozens of people on Instagram who have also given up shopping for a year), here are my top 5 tips for making your existing wardrobe work really hard.
1. Get your wardrobe in order
It might sound counterproductive, but I had a huge clear out just before I embarked on my spending ban. As a result I know there is nothing in my wardrobe I have forgotten about, and everything is easy to find. Sometimes I think the urge to buy something new comes from feeling overwhelmed with what you already have. Getting dressed is so much easier when you know you like everything on offer.
2. Be confident in your personal style
Instagram and magazines can make you feel like you really need that new season silhouette, or colour, or shoe. But when I evaluated the things I tend to send to the charity shop most often, it’s always the impulse buys that are out of my sartorial comfort zone. So instead of having my head turned, I’m going to enjoy wearing the vibe that I come back to time and again - Britpop tomboy with lots of colour. Ask yourself what you feel most comfortable and confident in, and be happy wearing that. Because nothing says stylish like a woman that really owns her look.
3. Repair, don’t bin
Not having decent sewing skills is no excuse for not trying to mend your clothes when they start to wear out. Ask a friend or relative who’s nifty with a needle if they can help, or try your local dry cleaner. And a quick online search will help you find anything more specific, like someone who does visible mending - a decorative way of dealing with moth holes. Once you’ve found someone you trust, think about adapting pieces you might have donated to charity into something else that will work better for you.
4. Hold your own styling sessions
Are there new ways of wearing your old clothes? Find time to lock yourself in your bedroom just to try stuff on. Maybe invite some friends and involve a bottle of wine. Save pictures from Instagram, Pinterest or magazines of looks that you really like, and see if you can recreate them with stuff you already have. Perhaps it’s just a case of layering, or adding a belt, or clashing a couple of prints that will totally transform an item you thought you were bored with.
5. Take care of your shoes
When did dirty shoes become shoes beyond help? There was a time when people really took pride in caring for and cleaning their shoes. Invest in a good shoe cleaning kit which should last you for years: I would recommend a soft suede brush, a coarse brush for removing dirt, a universal clear polish, suede and leather protector, and a trainer cleaner like Crep Protect. You can also whack canvas trainers like Converse in the washing machine in a pillowcase on a low heat. They come up a treat, and it’s strangely satisfying!