a year of not buying clothes

I’ve had a few slow hours at work today, waiting for the phone to ring or emails to arrive, with literally nothing else to do. Since I’m quite sure my boss, who sits right next to me, is not ready yet for me to pull out my knitting on occasions like that, it gave me an opportunity to go through some old blog posts from my favorite bloggers. One that I’ve had bookmarked for quite a while now and keep going back to is Kate’s report on her year of not buying clothes.

When I first stumbled upon this project, I was fascinated. For the duration of 2008, Kate decided not to buy any clothes. This doesn’t mean she wasn’t allowed to get any new clothes in the year, just that – if she wanted something – she had to make it herself. What an adventure! I definitely want to do something like this soon, especially as I’ve found lately that I usually come back home from my shopping outings quite disappointed with what’s on offer, carrying a new book in my bag instead of the dress I had set out for. I think I need a bit more stability (location-wise) and skill in sewing (my peak at the moment is sewing on buttons!) before I embark on this, but it’s on my ‘some day’ list.

What I like about Kate’s approach is that she recognizes that making your own clothes can very much be a luxury in terms of both material and time. Every knitter knows that non-knitters are usually shocked when told how much yarns can (and do) cost. But even if you do manage to acquire cheap materials, both knitting and sewing take time. Not everyone has this time to spare, and I know best from the example of my Mum, who is usually so exhausted by her job (which is manual labor), the commute, taking care of the house, doing the odd job on the side to make some extra money, babysitting grandchildren, etc., that it can take her a few weeks to sit down for half an hour and mend my sister’s pants. Therefore I really appreciate the recognition that making your own clothes can be more of a luxury than a cheap way to get clothes.

What do you think about this? Could you do it? Have you ever done a similar year-long project? I once did a year of not drinking any Coca-Cola products. I had read an article on corporate crime shortly before the new year and was so impressed by it that I decided to boycot Coca-Cola (the company, not just the drink) for a year. It was harder than I thought it would be – because I found out very quickly that, beside the usual suspects of Coke, Fanta and Sprite, many of the juices I had been drinking in cafes (like Cappy fruit juices, Schweppes, even some bottled water brands) were owned by Coca-Cola. Like Kate mentions about her project, doing something like that definitely makes you open your eyes more and inquire and think about where the things come from, who makes them, who profits off of them. I had no idea for years that some of these juice brands were owned by Coca-Cola! If you’re wondering how it went, I’m proud to say that I made it through the whole year. I’ve since gone back to drinking Coke, since my main aim was to test myself and my willpower, but I think I made a little point on the side. :)

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About fridica

I started knitting completely by accident, when I was visiting my parents for a holiday in 2008. On a boring Sunday afternoon, I decided to dig through their stash of books to see if there was anything interesting to take back to my apartment. A knitting manual happened to be one of the books I found. I got curious, my mom immediately dug out her old needles and yarn stash (which she hadn’t used in a decade at least), and in a few minutes we were both casting on - she by memory, I by following the instructions from the book… :) Since I normally prefer learning from books, this was ideal.. I took the book home with me, and very very soon - I was an addict.

11 thoughts on “a year of not buying clothes

  1. Ah, so interesting. I know exactly what you mean about coming back from the shops disappointed – I pretty much hate clothes shopping and would rather buy things online anyway…the whole process of rooting through racks of identical clothing, queueing up to try something on only to find someone else’s makeup smudged on it, being forced to listen to pounding music (or indeed any music that I don’t like)… I find it incredibly stressful and unpleasant. I am in fact the world’s worst clothing shopper – and a terrible shopping companion! but making things really appeals and I would love to do something like this too – so much more individual, and it’s, I’m sure, such a valuable experience to find out what goes into what we wear. The people who make so much of the clothing on the high street, who we are happy to rip off (well, I don’t consider myself happy, but am certainly guilty of buying more than one £5 top…) are using skills that 99% of us in this country lack. It’s horrible to think of, really. Your coke year is such a good idea too — and yes, when you start looking at the labels there’s all manner of surprising information to be found! I dont eat eggs any more and am constantly surprised by what has dried egg powder or something equally strange in it. We know so little about what we use every day! But yes, I definitely need to learn to sew before I undertake any such creative endeavour, heh….

    • The worst thing is that I actually do (or used to, at least) like shopping for clothes! I’ve always been picky, but I don’t recall coming back home so many times empty-handed. It might be that I’ve grown up in the meantime and don’t like it anymore. In my opinion, if there’s one place in the world to put you off shopping for the rest of your life, it’s Oxford St :D

  2. I’ve not bought/consumed (except VERY rarely and usually by accident) anything made by Nestle whether obviously branded Nestle or not, since 1996 or maybe 97. it started in a humanities lesson and learning about Nestle trade ethics with coffee growers, but branched into knowing about their baby milk policies as detailed on http://www.babymilkaction.org

    As a jeans and tees girl, I don’t think I could make my own clothes, but understand the frustration of shopping!!

    • That is impressive! I do remember that when I saw that article about Coke, Nestle was very close by on the list of corporate criminals. Luckily I don’t like their chocolate anyway :) The baby milk issue is terrible!

  3. I honestly can’t see myself doing this. For one, I don’t sew and don’t intend to learn. For two, I just have time enough in the day to knit and no way am I giving that up to learn how to sew, LOL!

    That being said, I find that idea really cool and definitely commendable. What an intriguing project! I love yours too about boycotting Coca Cola (though I don’t think I could do that either)! I’m not sure if I could ever aspire to such an endeavor for a whole year, but I’m currently on a self-imposed no new yarn for at least 3 months rule. And that’s a pretty hefty goal for me. Not as cool or as statement-making as yours, but it takes a heck of a lot of willpower, I can tell you that! :)

    • I think it’s interesting to challenge yourself like that every once in a while, doesn’t matter for how long or with what – you know best what suits you :)

  4. Thanks so much for the link to Kate’s post as well as your own thoughts. I don’t think I will do this, though I don’t buy clothes much anyway. I’m another shopping-hater.

    My daughter Meg (the dyer from Twisted Fiber Art) has borrowed by sewing machine for the nonce – I didn’t use it much anyway, and never well. Where Meg is going is that she is buying used clothing and then remaking it to fit her or her eight-year old daughter Hazel. I think this is in general cheaper than buying new fabric and does take less time as well. What it requires is creativity, of a kind I’m lacking in.

    I’ve done a few small boycotts in my time, but the big trouble there is that so many companies deserve to be boycotted. And purchasing only raw ingredients just isn’t practical most of the time!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking topic.

    • The thing about boycotting companies is that it doesn’t really do much. These things can only be solved by the workers that are being exploited taking action themselves, unfortunately. Still, doing something like this provides an interesting opportunity to raise a little bit of awareness among your friends, because you definitely get questions after they notice you’re avoiding something. :)

  5. An intriguing idea! But, although I only rarely manage to find clothes that I like and can fit into (preferably combined in one garment), my sewing skills include sewing on buttons and making a straight seam on a sewing machine. But, and this is a great but, I’m starting a sewing course in September. And I can’t wait!

    BTW, I don’t know how I managed to miss the information that you’ve got a job :-/

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