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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Less is More project: Week 6 - The case of clothes

Jason Hargrove, Flickr


In Not Buying It - My Year Without Shopping, one of the first things the author, Judith Levine, falls for (hence breaking her rules) is a pair of high-tech, high-priced socks. Turns out clothes are a common vice, even for those who endeavour to buy less. I am no exception, as you will discover in today's confessions.

In 1993, after my first summer of working regular hours (as opposed to occasional babysitting), I indulged and bought myself a $140 sweater (around $200 in today's dollars). I remember my friend K's stunned reaction : "You really are going to spend that much on one piece of clothing?" My response was somewhere in the vicinity of "I love it, and I have the money, so why not?"

This was only the beginning of my relationship to fashion. 

In fact, it wasn't really the beginning at all. Years before, as I had entered - private - middle school, and influenced by my peers' take on fashion, I started insisting on my parents only buying me brand/designer clothes. Certain stores were to be avoided at all costs - I couldn't fathom being seen in "cheap clothes". The ideal article of clothing, in my young teenager's mind, featured a tiny embroidered horse or crocodile.

I was a total preppy... and proud of it.

I was also becoming dangerously snob. 

In the years that were to follow, I would often be found reading women's magazines, which in no way helped the situation, as you can imagine. I don't even think I had that good of a taste in fashion, to be honest - everything I wore was rather plain - but I definitely was looking for quality, tag, and price (the higher the better!)

Later on, when I had children, they became an extension of my fashion persona. Living in Montreal, I was surrounded by parents who treated their kids as a fashion statement. It just seemed like the thing to do. Drool and overflowing diapers were not to get in the way of looking fabulous. And all the children's clothes boutiques! How could I resist. We went shopping often.

Nowadays, living in the countryside (in the woods would be more accurate), and consuming significantly less media in general, I feel less pressure to look my best. Fashionistas do not abound here, and the ones who do have a sense of style promptly change into more comfortable clothes the moment they get back from work. Whenever I've gone to the playground wearing anything else but jeans and a t-shirt, I was greeted with a "Wow! You're all dressed up! Anything special going on today?"

I am not, however, completely cured of my "fashion addiction". As I discovered long-distance running and also started going to the gym on a regular basis, a new problem emerged: I became obsessed with workout clothes. I currently devote one very big drawer to them, and it is overflowing: I had to find some space in my closet for the thicker, cold weather running pieces. I could literally work out every day for two weeks without having to wash anything. Yet sport clothes still have an irresistible appeal - it is torture for me to not buy any new pieces. Why, oh why?


Perhaps it's because we don't, in affluent societies, relate to clothing as a basic need. Fashion is, by definition, the ultimate example of planned obsolescence. Trends are ephemeral. Following them is a status statement in itself. You are not buying clothes to fulfill a basic need (a couple season-appropriate pieces would suffice for that), but rather, you are buying clothes "because you can". You wear them not to cover your body, but to express your personality, your values,  your belonging to a certain group, your taste, and, in more cases than we think, your wealth - it takes money to replace your clothes before they even start wearing out.

In 1932's Scarface movie, Tony Camonte rejoices about being able to wear "a new shirt every day". Based on how common "wearing a new shirt every day" has become, one has to wonder what constitutes a need when it comes to clothing.

What's the problem with wanting to look good, you might ask. Well, there are a couple. For one thing, the creation of apparel has quite a significant impact on the environment. As Juliet Schor reminds us in True Wealth"it requires 2000 liters of water to produce one T-shirt and 8000 for a pair of leather shoes". That's just one example. And what about the social side of the question? Heard of the sweatshops lately? The conditions in which the garments we wear are created are often unacceptable from an ethical standpoint (click here for more info). Do we want to support that?

To borrow the words of Mark Boyle in The Moneyless Man"Most of us don't have the faintest idea that our daily shopping habits are so destructive".

To relieve some of my guilt, I have become an adept of thrift and consignment stores. If you have the time and patience, they truly are fun places to go, with the added bonus of being kind to your wallet. The next step, obviously, is to buy less clothes altogether. No new piece of clothing will enter my - already too full - wardrobe in 2015, but I need a plan for the following years.

Project 333 comes to mind. Have you heard of it? Its goal is to simplify your wardrobe to the point of using only 33 items over the course of 3 months. Interested? Click here.

In the weeks to come, I am also going to keep track of the clothes I do wear, vs the ones I don't wear. 

If you have any other tricks and strategies, please share!



WEEK 6 IN REVIEW


Temptations 

After the fourth big snow storm in 2 weeks, I have to admit I felt tempted to buy a snow blower. Luckily, we live in a close-knit community: 3 lovely neighbors came to our rescue on the worst of above mentioned storms. (Since the garden is buried under feet of snow, preventing me to offer homegrown foods in exchange, I paid them back in doughnuts.)



Donations


Nothing this week, but I have a feeling clothes are going to be tackled soon.



Observations


I realized that owning less is a great way to avoid purchasing things you don't need. This house is full of rolls of tape (scotch tape, masking tape, duct tape), and the reason is that I kept buying more because I had misplaced the ones I already had. Now that I am decluttering I rediscover a whole collection. No need to buy any tape in the years to come!



Cogitations


This post on fashion in general and clothes in particular is throwing me out of my comfort zone. I can resist a lot of stuff, but clothes belong to a different category. Not buying any might be one of my biggest challenges this year. I also feel like I should take inventory of the clothes I own, but I am scared of the results. Not too long ago, I noticed I own 5 pairs of winter boots. I still see a use for each of them. This is going to be hard...



What did you resist this week? Did you donate or get rid of anything? How did that make you feel? Please comment below! And...





41 comments:

  1. Clothes is an addiction I never developed. For which I am grateful.
    I wear clothes which are comfortable and functional - and wear them to death and beyond.
    Books on the other hand... And earrings.
    I have thrown out some tired clothes this week, and donated time.

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    1. Lucky you! But you have the books and earrings... none of us is completely immune, I guess.¸

      Donating time is the best!

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  2. If it's not comfortable I don't wear it. It it costs and arm and a leg I won't buy it, heck if it's half price I won't either. But I love material for projects, for clothing, just to have totes of. So for me not buy any new crafting or material or beads or glue or anything like that has been hard for me. And I have decided I will be going through my material and donating it to my friends church for quilt making. I really don't need 5 huge totes full. I have 2 blouses already cut out to sew.
    Good luck this week. We all have things to learn and teach each other.
    Blessings!!

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    1. Ah, I wish I was as crafty as you sound! That is a blessing!

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  3. I'm right there with you on the workout clothes (and clothes and shoes in general!!). I have to make a point to avoid the workout clothes section at Target because I always find a new jacket or something that I think I "need." I'ave only bought 1 new jacket since the first of the year so that is progress:)

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    1. Well, Kim, let's agree to never go shopping together! LOL

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  4. "wearing a new shirt every day"
    I hope that doesn't mean a brand-new-just-bought-shirt every day. Surely that just means freshly-washed-and-ironed-shirt-that-I-haven't-worn-since-last-week!
    A lot of my stuff is second-hand and even those things are old, I haven't been to a second-hand shop in years. I wear things until they fall apart, then I cut them up and use them to clean the shower, the floor etc.
    I do have a few new things. I needed shorts and there was a sale on, I got three pairs and a pair of long pants for under $50. They'll last me for years.

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    1. I think you might be right about the new shirts.

      You seem like a very reasonable shopper. I should follow your example.

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  5. I tried sooo hard to "do" fashion in high school, but I was utterly hopeless. By the time I'd spent a year abroad and made it to college I was completely cured of the fashion bug simply because I had concluded that I was genetically incapable of looking fashionable! And then when I got a "real job" hanging out with a bunch of hippies at a folk music school, everyone I knew shopped at the thrift store, and torn jeans with a tie-dye T-shirt was considered high fashion! At this point I've pretty much come to see the entire fashion industry as evil - it simply preys upon our insecurities and need to fit in.

    But I do have occasional "issues" when it comes to bike clothes. I have an entire drawer just full of bike shorts & knickers. It's not so much motivated by "fashion" per se, because really, I don't think it's possible to look good in shorts that resemble a spandex diaper! But somehow I'm always convinced that if I could just find the "right" pair, I could power up those hills, and last for miles and miles without ever getting a sore butt! In my defense, one does need rather specific clothing for long distance cycling - especially in different types of weather, but enough is enough, so I'm trying really hard not to buy any more. I even got some iron on Lycra patch material to fix a few spots where they've gotten snagged. I did cave in a few weeks ago and bought a few pairs of Smartwool socks that were on closeout for half price - I'm rationalizing this because I wear them every day and my old ones were so worn they almost had holes in them - but strictly speaking, I didn't really "need" them.

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    1. What you say about the fashion industry is pure wisdom!

      As for sport clothes, I agree... somehow we feel that they will make us "better"... well, maybe that applies to clothes in general.

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  6. It took me several goes/years to pare down my clothes. I'd amassed loads over the years, despite not really being in to fashion, and most of said clothes weren't actually that flattering.
    I'm trying now to buy clothes only when something wears out, and to buy from companies with a decent environmental/ethical policy. I realised that I only wear one pair of 'fashion' boots, so I got rid of the rest. Most of my shoes are now walking boots/trainers/trail shoes.

    I've not spent money on much this week...other than vaccinations for pets at the vets!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Isn't it funny that we hold on to clothes that aren't even that nice to begin with. I can relate.

      Trainers and trail shoes are the best. They should be the new urban trend.

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  7. ahhh I love my clothes.
    less the new and trendy and all all all the memory laden ones the CHILD Now loves too.
    Im struggling :-)

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    1. Let's struggle together! We can make progress.

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  8. I did have to give in and buy a new steamer. I like the electric models because they don't tie up a burner. I did however, shop around to find the best price and I did buy a different model because obviously the one I was used to didn't hold up well (it was the third one that I just got rid of).
    I'm not tempted by clothes but office supplies and cooking equipment (although I really don't care for cooking that much...odd) temp me. I've been really good since you got me started on this BUT if we ever get that condo I'll probably go crazy lol.

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    1. Shopping around to find the best option is good... plus, it gives you time to ask yourself if you really need the item. :-)

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  9. lol! It's funny what we find when we clean out the closets! (physical and mental)

    I haven't needed to buy clothes often. Wearing scrubs helps with that. This last year I got a nice sport coat and pants, some shoes, maybe a tee-shirt. If I was female, I would have lost my woman card!

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    1. Some types of professions do make it easier! I certainly own more clothes now that I work outside the home. Maybe I should teach in scrubs? ;-)

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  10. Well I have to say the older I get - the more I go in for comfortable clothes and more importantly comfortable shoes.

    I no longer panda to the fashion masses like many do .... and good luck to them. What is ok for me might not suit my neighbour.

    I also think less is definitely more....... but there are a lot of women that couldn't cope with that.

    What I enjoy these days is 'treating' the grandchildren to a new outfit or toy ... but always after consulting the parents as I may just buy the wrong thing!

    Your posts on 'the less is more project' are proving very interesting, thanks

    ........ and I hope you are fully fit now after last weeks bug.

    Take Care and .....

    All the best Jan

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    1. Comfortable shoes are a must!

      And I'm sure the parents are appreciating that you consult them before buying. :-)

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    2. I no longer own any high heels, as I never wore the ones I owned, and thus gave them away. I realised that I never picked heels to wear for weddings etc, as I wanted to be able to enjoy myself without sore feet. Comfortable clothes and shoes are the best!

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  11. Delighted to come across your blog! I actually did a sort of a Project 333 but it wasn't intentional at the time. We moved and I was left without most of my wardrobe for six months. Now I do more regular clear-outs but because I don't buy much anymore it takes less time! It feels good to know what you have (and know that it fits!). Carmel

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    1. You put it well: it does feel good to know what you have. I'm sure you did great without most of your wardrobe!

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  12. This is all so interesting - I've found that buying of clothing is now just a habit for many. We live in a world of throw away clothing - it's cheap, doesn't last long and therefore becomes a quick fix in someone's life.

    I easily would fall into the "less that 33 items" rule! I change my wardrobe around each season and only have in it what I wear. I try to buy mix and match items. I also try to buy quality (classic) styles that last through many years. I have two tops that are still in great condition and still look good on that are well over six years old!

    I like the idea of shopping in thrift shops too - I've not done this but it is so popular now. Reading through you post today makes me think that indeed I am more organised that I thought - I have a labelled box for all "tapes". Great to know where they are when you need some!!

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    1. Your organization (clothes, tape) is inspiring! I will try and follow your example.

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  13. I have been shopping at thrift stores for years now. When I started, I realized that I got more compliments on my thrift store clothes than store bought new clothes. That is when I decided to make the shift to complete thrift store shopping (with the exception of intimates or shoes). You are so right that thrift store shopping is fun. I agree that I tend to over buy sometimes, but if I find a piece isn't right for me, then I just return it, with no guilt, for someone else to use.

    P.S. I have also found really, really cute exercise clothes at thrift stores.

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    1. You just reminded me that one of my most fashionable acquaintances shops only at thrift stores. Her style is fabulous. You would never know it's all second hand.

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  14. I know I sound like a broken record here, but I won so little that temptation isn't even an option for me. I wear the same shirt and shorts to workout in almost every day. I hand wash them in the sink at night.

    I wear he same 'round the house clothes 7 days per week. I wash them maybe once per week. That's plenty.

    I even reuse my floss-picks.

    I'm probably not going to win many dates like this, but f-it, it's who I am.

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  15. I always feel like I need more clothes, but the truth is I just need to do laundry more often. I am SO lazy when it comes to doing my laundry that I often end up with 6 loads of dirty laundry, looking at my closet thinking I have nothing to wear. Reality check, thanks!

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  16. I love what you said about the environmental impact of clothes and fashion.

    I didn't get the chance to get 'into fashion' as a teen. Most of my clothes were hand-me-downs from cousins. I do sort-of wish now that I had a bit more clue about how to dress well. I would have developed that with more access to original clothing choices. Overall, I am happy not to be too torn by clothing choices.

    I think I have about 40 main pieces of clothing now. That's not really enough for work & casual. I need a few more dressier things!

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    1. You seem to have a balanced approach to clothing! I am trying to go in that direction too. Thanks for commenting.

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  17. I pick a number, like 31 tops (one for every day of the longest months), and when I buy something new, something old gets donated. Plus, I only shop at thrift stores, except for undergarments and shoes. I like numbers. It gives me an easy to remember guideline to not over-buy. I like my minimalism over-easy. :D

    Great post! :)

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    1. It makes total sense to get rid of one piece every time you acquire a new one. That could apply to pretty much everything! I like it.

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  18. I struggle with exercise clothes too. I have a basket full of stuff, and now that I have a top and bottom for every kind of weather, I'm done looking at exercise clothes! Plus I don't want an overflowing basket or a second storage location so hopefully that will discourage me from buying more.

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    1. Storage can become an issue, yes. And not looking at exercise clothes in the first place is probably the best way to avoid buying them!

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  19. My wife and I have so many clothes that they fill up 4 large closets in our house. It's okay for my wife since she still works. I avoid buying new clothes these days. What I do since I don't go out that much is I keep myself clean and wear the same sweats around the house during the week (unless I'm doing some kind of exertive or dirty work) and I throw on clothes when I have to leave the house. Since I usually only have them on for a few hours at the most I can wear the same clothes again on another day. When I'm out I always look clean and neat--far more so than a lot of people I see. I am amazed how slovenly so many people look when they go out. Most of the time even at my most casual I look like I'm in formal attire compared to a lot of the other people I see around me. Maybe it's because it's California? I doubt it.

    We try to make runs to Goodwill every 3 months or so. Need to declutter a lot more though.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. For some reason, in our culture, we are expected to change clothes every day, and make sure to wash them every time. This might not always be necessary. Thanks for mentioning it!

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  20. I'm resisting the urge to buy new outfits since I have plenty already and I'm am doing a 6-month shopping ban to practice not spending mindlessly. Other than clothes I feel pretty content and nothing other than the ordinary household goods has been able to tempt me lately. I do have a slight problem with getting rid of clutter and donating. I have good intentions when I pack things up but I never get around to dropping it off at the donation center. So next month, I’m looking forward to challenging myself by going through the entire house and getting rid of excess clutter.

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    1. We have a similar plan then! No buying for an extended period of time. And I feel the same about donating: I have boxes here that are ready to go, but until now they have been cluttering the house! LOL

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