Full disclosure time: Despite what the title of this post might suggest, I did not spend the entirety of 2012 in the nude. No one is more disappointed in that fact than yours truly. (But my little one more than made up for my own lack of nudity, so we’re all good.)
I did, however, spend the entirety of 2012 abstaining from buying any new clothes.
This is something that’s been on my Life List for some time; a project I wanted to undertake as a conscious and deliberate practice of reducing resource consumption. The idea, specifically, was to avoid buying new clothes and consuming new resources. Reusing and recycling (which, in this case, translates to thrifting) was allowed. As were a few other things. You can read the exceptions I made for myself in my original No New Clothes post, and see most of what I ended up purchasing over the year here. In addition to what’s shown in that post, I also bought two more used pairs of jeans (one to be made into a pair of cut offs, the other to replace the first pair of used jeans that immediately sprung a hole in the ass), two used embellished tees, and a vintage wedding dress. All fell within my rules, until…
That damned gay t-shirt. There was something of an historic election in Washington, with several big issues I felt pretty passionate about. The biggest of the big (in my humble opinion) was marriage equality, and I felt certain that I needed to have a sign in my yard proclaiming my support. I felt equally certain that the cost of shipping said sign was crazy high, and so I threw a campaign t-shirt in with my order. Somehow, shipping two items for that crazy high price seemed better than shipping only one. And thus, without even thinking about it, I bought a piece of NEW clothing. Fast forward to November after the initiative passed (WOOT!), and you’ll find me excitedly ordering myself a celebratory sweatshirt (it says “Love Wins” and has the outline of Washington state on it). I was drunk on victory and joy, people. I didn’t even think.
I can not believe I managed to stay true to this project EVEN WHEN IT CAME TO MY WEDDING DRESS, only to botch it on lousy campaign gear. Now, finally, there is something legitimate for which to blame “The Gays.” (I say this with my tongue deeply embedded in my cheek, obvs.)
Still, I am claiming the project a success. Those were not new shirts I bought; they were new political statements. Totally different.
At any rate, I didn’t want to leave this project in the dust without taking a moment to reflect on a year without (sort of) clothes. Here’s what stands out:
Timing! My wardrobe was already in pretty bad shape heading into the challenge. It needed serious updating back in 2009… but then I got pregnant and so all the “updating” that occurred included elastic waistbands. Then there was the nearly two years of nursing that followed (you’re welcome, kid) and the wrong-sized boobs that go with it. All this to say that by the time last year rolled around, I was already limping along a limited wardrobe of worn out and ill-fitting clothes. Nothing like adding a little extra challenge to my challenge.
Clothes that FIT. (See above.) I didn’t even care if I liked them, I just wanted clothes that fit me properly. That said, I was pretty desperate for jeans by the end.
Temptation removal. Every time I got a sales email or a catalog in the mail, I took a minute to remove myself from their mailing list. No more Rusche emails. No more Anthropologie catalogs. It was a lot harder to want things that I didn’t know existed.
Biggest (Practical) Lesson
I don’t have time to thrift. Heading into this challenge, I imagined glorious days spent digging through used clothes at various second-hand stores and consignment shops. Of course, in none of these daydreams did the reality of a toddler feature prominently. Thrifting is something that I adore, but something that requires a certain amount of patience and a certain lack of small children dangling from one’s waist. It’s just not something I can fit in right now. And that’s why Etsy is my friend.
I was prepared to give myself a small celebratory shopping spree in January after making it through the year without any new clothes. I marched myself right into Anthropologie (my one true love) and didn’t find a single thing I wanted. Shocking, no? More than that, the racks of multiple sizes of the same garment seemed… I don’t know… unnatural? I’d grown accustomed to the “one of a kind” appeal of vintage, and the “sameness” of Anthropologie felt foreign. I have no doubt that Anthropologie and I shall fall in love again, but in the meantime I ended up rewarding myself for a year of no new clothes by buying more old clothes. These shoes, to be precise.
I already have everything I need. I knew that, of course, going into the challenge. But knowing it and living it are different things. That’s not to say that I don’t like and want new clothes (or new vintage clothes, to be more specific), nor is that to say that wanting them is a bad thing. But want and need are not the same thing.
Now that this challenge is over, I am very much looking forward to shopping. I’ve already started, in fact. I bought two new pairs of jeans as soon as I could (I was down to precisely ZERO jeans that fit or weren’t riddled with holes in inappropriate places). I’ve got much needed underwear on the way, and bras are pretty high on the priority list (I currently only own one bra that properly fits my post-nursing boobs, which means that I’ve been wearing it pretty much non-stop for almost a year now). I also bought a (vintage) coat to replace a jacket that bit the dust last year, and a pair of (vintage) lace-up knee-high boots, and the (vintage) pumps I mentioned earlier. So, mini spree as soon as my shopping embargo was lifted? You betcha! BUT, I’m keeping it (mostly) limited to replacing items that I should’ve replaced long ago.
My wardrobe shall continue to embrace the four Rs: reduce, reuse, repair, recycle. In this case that means buying less over all, buying secondhand whenever possible, mending what I already have, and finding new uses for (or donating) any clothing that permanently exists my closet. In other words, while I’m lifting my new clothes embargo, I still intend to limit new purchases to the truly needed – or the truly special treat.