Buy no more… can I do it?


Happy New Year, folks! I’ve set myself a rather bold goal this year, among other sewing goals which shall be in a different post, but here is the main one (which I feel a bit nervous to actually announce but here it is):

Do not buy any clothes.

Eep! That’s right! I have been thinking about this for a while, when I realised how few items of clothing I actually bought last year, and thought I could actively try to stop buying any altogether. (Disclaimer – I will still buy shoes, underwear, and possibly swimwear. I’m not quite ready to commit to making those things, but baby steps!)

The main reason for this is the ethics. I am becoming increasingly aware of just how long it takes and how much it costs to make a garment, and there is just no way that most of the clothes I can afford to buy are made in fair conditions. There is so much to learn about “slow fashion” (Google it!), and I barely know any of it, but I understand that the overall aim is to design and create fewer clothes of higher quality, better longevity and less waste. In other words, making my own clothes means I can choose good quality fabrics and make good quality garments that won’t wear out after one wash. (On a side note, sourcing sustainable and ethical fabric is another important angle, but for the moment, I’m choosing my battles.) I also really don’t want to be contributing to any part of factories burning down in Bangladesh. While I’m at it, here is an interesting article about ethical clothing in Australia.

Making my own clothes also means I need to think more about what I actually need or what would be useful and long-lasting additions to my wardrobe, rather than buying stuff because it’s fashionable and cheap. The aim here is to end up with a functional and timeless collection of good-quality clothing. Over time, I will continue to discard clothes that I’ve bought that don’t fit me or are worn out or I just never wear, with the aim of dramatically decreasing my wardrobe size, and ultimately replace any essential or frequently-used item with a handmade substitute. In the meantime, I will keep wearing my RTW clothes because I simply haven’t made enough replacements yet, but will try to do so less and less. As for special occasions (I have a handful of weddings to attend this year, and a first anniversary of my own!), I intend to make myself a new outfit if I really want one, rather than buy it.

All of that being said, of course I have some clothes that I don’t intend to get rid of, like a leather jacket and a big woolen duffle coat and a duck-down snow jacket – these are big, expensive and long-lasting items that I’m not prepared to replace with handmade versions (yet 😉 )- but largely, my clothes would be easily replaceable.

And of course, as any dressmaker or sewer knows, another reason to make my own clothes is that I know they will all fit me, they will all flatter me, they will suit my body shape and they will, literally, be made for me! No more frustrating fitting rooms for me!
So, wish me luck in this endeavour. I know the concept is nothing new and I’m not the first person to do this, but it’s the first time I’ve seriously thought that I might be capable of it. Now, I’m off to plan a wardrobe!

5 thoughts on “Buy no more… can I do it?

  1. This is so fantastic, and very inspirational. I really gotta get my sewing machine fixed … I was telling someone the other day how neatly put together you always look because of your perfectly fitting clothes! xx

    1. Gosh, really? I certainly don’t feel like that all the time! But yes, def get your sewing machine fixed!

      I’m glad you liked it. It just makes me sad that clothing is so disposable.

  2. Good on you, Katy!
    Interesting reading, that Choice article. However, I assume it refers to full-price clothing only, What about that $3 t-shirt in the end-of-season throw-out bin at the door? Is that being sold at below-cost because the shop just wants to get rid of it and $3 is better than $0? So maybe sometimes buying super-cheap stuff does not mean a textile worker is being underpaid.
    In general, the worker probably _is_ being underpaid, but the system is more complicated than even the article describes.

    1. Even if it is talking about full price clothing, you can get a full price dress from some mid-range fashion shops for say, $100. Suppose Australian textiles workers are being paid the minimum wage of $17 an hour like the article quoted, that gives them less than six hours to make that dress. And that is just the cutting and sewing and lining. They are probably very efficient sewers, and maybe it does only take that long, but what about the cost of designing that dress in the first place, and producing patterns to allow it to be made in multiple sizes? (Computers do that part now, but still). What about the copyright of the design? What about the profit that the brand needs to make? What about wages for the people that stand behind the counter and sell the dress? And rent costs for the shopfront? And the cost of the actual materials? I’d like to see how much it costs to export Australian cotton, have it spun overseas (as there are no commercial cotton spinners in Australia anymore), have it dyed and woven and sold by the meter and then transported back to Australia where it’s sewn up into fashionable designs for $17 an hour…

      T-shirts that are on sale for $3 probably only cost that shop $2 in the first place. Higher-end clothes shops simply don’t sell their things that cheaply.

  3. Point taken. There’s a lot involved. As you say computers minimise the wastage and can cut out many patterns at once, but it is still a very labour intensive industry. That means that people like you find it really difficult to get customers to pay what it really costs to produce a nice item of clothing.
    Thanks for bringing that article to my attention.
    (Notice the link below – I have been re-inspired by my two favourite bloggers to join the fray!)

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