Wednesday 6 October 2021

My Experience with #NoNewClothes and Slow Fashion Season

The beginning of October marks the end of a long season of slow fashion after the combination of #NoNewClothes, Slow Fashion Season, Secondhand September, so it's time to discuss my experiences with them this year.


Seeing as I don’t buy loads of clothes anyway, I set myself the target of not buying secondhand clothes either. A complete ban. There were some caveats: I could swap clothes, I could be given them by friends/family, and basically as long as I didn’t buy them it was fine. And for the most part that worked out pretty well.


For the majority of the ban I didn’t acquire any new clothes at all. For the whole of June and July, I got nothing new. I hardly thought about new clothes, apart from when the odd ethical sample sale would come up on Instagram and I had to remind myself there was no point clicking on it ‘just for a browse’ because I couldn’t buy anything anyway. Then, at the beginning of August, a friend of mine who is starting at uni . In the end I took 3 tops (one of which was a vest top to go underneath another one which was mesh) and used the rest as part of a donation drive a refugee support organisation I work with was running at the time. They are now loved in new homes. 

Near the end of the month I then acquired 2 t-shirts new and for free, each through my involvement with an activist/voluntary organisation. This technically breaks my ban as they were both brand new, but I received both within a few days of each other at the very end of #NoNewClothes and. I’ve already worn my Green New Deal Rising t-shirt several times both as part of actions (challenging Kate Osborne MP and Chancellor Rishi Sunak) and in my day to day life – it’s a great top! These t-shirts do make campaigns, actions, and spreading the word about these organisations so much more effective and will definitely make the most out of them. 

Going into the last month of Slow Fashion Season and Secondhand September, and I was pretty set on not getting anymore. But then I got invited to an event by ethical and sustainable brand Birdsong (many people have sung their praises, including Aja Barber, whose opinions we know I trust probably more than anyone in slow fashion circles), to celebrate the launch of their new website. The event was so lovely, not just for the very cool people I met there but also the lush clothes I got to try on. I fell in love with 2 garments in particular: a t-shirt and some gingham trousers. The event attendees received a code to get a free t-shirt from Birdsong so of course I was going to get the one I tried on. After about a week I ordered it, expecting it to take about 3 weeks to arrive (as stated on the website), so I would be technically out of Slow Fashion Season by then (I know, stretching the rules to the max) but it ended up arriving at my house a few days later instead. I have worn it several times already and absolutely adore it. In fact, I’m wearing it as I write this. It’s so soft, comfy, and goes well with lots of garments I already own. It’s definitely one for the long haul.

Later on in the month I took home 2 items that were overflow from a refugee support project I volunteer with. We had way too many clothes than needed and were diving up the leftovers to donate to other charities who may need some. I loved 2 items: a top and a jacket and asked if I could take them home with me as they weren't being used. It's safe to say I have worn the jacket most days since I got it and have worn the top several times too. 


So altogether that’s 8 garments I acquired over the course of four months: 3 given to me secondhand by a friend and 2 new given to me by organisations I work/volunteer for during #NoNewClothes, and then another (ethically made) top I bought during after being slightly obsessed with it at a PR event and 2 secondhand items I also got for free during the Slow Fashion Season/Secondhand September. 


I may have technically failed these challenges, but to me they are still certainly a success. I reconsidered every time I had the thought of buying something new, thought over my relationships with my clothed again, and rewore some of my absolute favourite outfits. I also found new ways of wearing garments I love and want to make more use out of - like a black mesh drress I adore but want to wear in more casual ways. Turns out it looks great under a pair of green trousers I wear loads! Considering that the average person buys at least one item of mid-priced clothing a week, I have certainly succeeded in drastically lowering my contributions for the linear economy. 

The whole point of these challenges is to get us to look more closely at our clothing consumption and to reconsider if those consumption levels align with our values and how we want workers and the environment to be treated. They’re a means for us to step back and look at how capitalism affects our day to day decisions, and how we perceive our desires and what makes us satisfied. We’re constantly told that commodities will make us happy and the vast majority of the time that is a lie – books may be the only exception here, but that’s just me – and initiatives such as #NoNewClothes are a great way for us to rethink what we’ve been told since birth and find out what we really want/need. 


In her book We Need to Talk About Money, Otegha Uwagba discusses how capitalism and patriarchy intersect severely through the beauty and fashion industries. She highlights how ‘[m]odern consumer culture is sustained by a mixture of aspiration and dissatisfaction with the status quo, and the belief that this product or that brand is capable of transforming our lives; capable of making us happier, sexier, richer; capable of allowing us to self-actualise’ and that this was the ‘unsolvable lack’ as described by Anne Helen Petersen. Initiatives like #NoNewClothes teach us all about how to love what we already have and feel great in old clothes. I know having learned about slow fashion for several years now, I now value any clothes that I acquire much more highly, whether they're second or new, they will be cherished so much more now that I'm much more selective with the clothes I own and wear. To me, learning to love the clothes you already own is a great way to loving yourself more, and feeling better in your own skin by rediscovering clothes that make you feel great or trying out new outfits from clothes. It shows us that we can be content with what we already have and that supposed ‘lack’ is not, as we are told constantly by capitalism, ‘unsolvable’, but that it never actually existed in the first place. 

If you like my work and have learned something from it, please consider helping support me (so I have more time to write posts and articles like these!) by buying me a virtual cuppa



No comments

Post a Comment