No New Clothes for a Year
By JoAnne McGrath
Forward by Tamra Wade
One of my life long friend, JoAnne, shared recently about the outcome of her 2017 New Year’s resolution to not purchase any new clothing for the entire year with me. What she described resonated deeply with me.
JoAnne is self described as a writer, actor, and a regular stand in on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. She is also a very accomplished and talented artist. JoAnne is an accomplished writer and has written and produced a play, The Late Great Sid Glick. Something that filled me with such happiness was to be in LA to see Jo’s play live and in person. She runs marathons to benefit Aids research. She is a girls girl and I am so happy to call her my friend.
Her post about her resolution not to purchase clothing is an important one. If only from the mindfulness of this action, but also the financial and carbon footprint aspect. Humans will trash over 11 MILLION TONS of waste next year in America alone! The average American throws away about eighty-two pounds of clothing per year, and along with other textiles, like sheets and bedding, the total comes out to 14.3 million tons of textile waste per year. That’s almost six percent of all municipal waste.
The documentary True Cost highlights more of the waste, “The world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. This is 400% more than the amount we consumed just two decades ago. As new clothing comes into our lives, we also discard it at a shocking pace. The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year. That adds up to more than 11 million tons of textile waste from the U.S. alone. Historically, clothing has been something we have held onto for a long time, but with cheap clothing now abundantly available we are beginning to see the things we wear as disposable.” You can watch the documentary on Netflix.
I will be following Jo’s lead in resolving for 2018 not to purchase new clothing. I haven’t set up my ground rules yet, as she encourages each of us to set your own realistic rules. I am going to give it a month at a time and evaluate at the end of each month to see if there are any course corrections that would help me in my efforts. I will share my progress on the blog and on our Paper Hope Podcast. We talked about fast fashion in an episode this year (2017), Shopping Hacks.
Please enjoy JoAnne’s story in her own words, No New Clothes for a Year by JoAnne McGrath.
In 2017 I made a new year’s resolution. I resolved not to buy any new clothes for a year. As I sat down to start writing this blog, I couldn’t quite remember why that was my resolution. But then it started coming back to me. It stemmed from the fact that my weight had been yo-yoing for a couple of years. For the most part, as an adult, I had maintained the same relative weight for about 20 years give or take 5-10 lbs. That said, my clothes and the silhouettes I wore were pretty standard; meaning, I knew what looked good on me. Well, with the extra weight, the old standards didn’t work. I used to wear some rather form fitting clothes. But suddenly, I wasn’t the biggest fan of my own form. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big supporter of body positivity. My body is beautiful, not matter what the size or shape. I just felt like it was no longer my body. I had lost control. So I found myself buying a lot of clothes to hide what I didn’t want to see. At a certain point, I started reigning in the eating and working out a lot. I lost almost 20 lbs and could start fitting into things in my closet that I hadn’t worn in years. It was like a shopping spree in my own home. I was finally myself again. With that, I donated all my bigger clothes to charity, vowing not to lose control of my weight again.
Then I started a new job on a TV show. If you’ve never worked in the TV or film industry, you may not know, but they feed you…they feed you a lot. I had a buffet of choices for breakfast and lunch every day. Occasionally I even had something they call “second meal”. After working a 12 hour day, the unions require the production company feed us again. Second meal is rarely a healthy option; usually pizza of some kind of fried food. This is all in addition to something called “craft services” or “crafty”. Crafty is a snack table on set that is stocked all day, every day, with anything from chips to muffins to candy. So in case you get hungry between gorging on breakfast lunch and dinner, you can, in fact, eat again. Suffice to say, I indulged. Slowly but surely over the season, my weight crept back up.
I didn’t get as heavy as I was but I was slowly sizing out of the clothes in my closet again. I remembered all the great clothes, already in my closet, that I could wear if I just got back down to my fighting weight. Then it occured to me; instead of buying new clothes to hide behind, get back to the body you want and all the clothes that you already have. The easiest way it seemed to motivate myself to do this was, to not allow myself to buy any new clothes.
Thus it began. I did give myself some “allowances”. Socks and underwear were allowed. If I needed new undies or got a hole in my sock, I was allowed to replace them. I even gave myself a vacation allowance. If I found myself in New York or Paris (both fashion capitals of the world) I was allowed to buy something amazing if I found it. But why on earth would I wind up in New York or Paris?
Honestly, the first couple of months weren’t that difficult. I feel like a lot of us can go a couple months without shopping simply because we get busy or we are watching our spending. I think the first thing that happened that made me “feel” the challenge was RSVPing to a wedding. I considered scrapping the resolution at that point. Who would even know? But I reminded myself it is a wedding and, as much as I wanted to look good, I would not be the person at whom anyone would be looking. Thus, I watched what I ate enough to squeeze into one of my cute dresses. And as I suspected, no one even looked at my dress as there was a much more impressive one on display that day. First lesson learned. That wasn’t THAT hard. I wasn’t wearing new clothes and still had a good time.
Then out of the blue a friend contacted me to see if I wanted to do a “bit” about gingers with Conan O’Brien on Andy Cohen’s show? What? Yes!!! As a fellow redhead, Conan is one of my heros and I couldn’t imagine saying. “no.” Wait…what was I going to wear? It was Conan. It was live TV. That was it, I had to get something new. Unless… I looked in my closet and thought about what I wanted to wear. I wanted to wear green. It’s Conan. We’re gingers. Gingers look great in green. I have a beautiful green top. I was a little casual. I usually wore it with jeans. What if I paired it with that leopard pencil skirt? Wouldn’t you know it? It looked fantastic. Threw on some heels and some jewelry. Looked great, felt great, spent nothing.
The next challenge was when I would happen into a store. For instance, I would be going to a store like Target, looking for something else entirely; food, toiletries, etc. However, Target also sells clothes…affordable clothes. The new spring and summer clothes were everywhere. I found myself browsing and picking a few things up to try on. Some things looked really cute (What am I talking about? Everything looked cute. I mean, I hadn’t shopped in months). I continued to make my way around the store with the items I had selected in my cart. As I did the math on the amount I would be spending for what I would be gaining (I mean these weren’t special occasion clothes…it was Target. These were most likely some cute t-shirts and blouses. And I already had a closet full of t-shirts and blouses). I stayed strong. I reracked every piece of clothing I had put in my cart and checked out with only the items I came for. I felt a mini victory.
Remember the allowances I mentioned earlier; specifically, the new York shopping allowance? It turned out I did make it to New York for another wedding. As for the wedding outfit, I wore the dress I wore to my Christmas party the year before. The party was in California and the wedding in was in New York. I didn’t even have to worry about running into anyone who had seen me in the dress before (not that that is a valid worry, but still). But even with the allowance, I did not find something so amazing that I had to have it. So, I didn’t use my allowance.
At the 6 month mark I felt quite accomplished. Half the year was over and I was doing fine. At that point some of my weight had crept back on but the additional clothes from my closet were mine for the taking if I shed those pounds. I pressed on.
Another wedding was coming. That was enough. I went 8 months with no new clothes. That was pretty impressive. And this was a very fancy wedding. I really needed to get a formal gown for this one. I mean I didn’t want to be the one person underdressed at this affair. Then again…I only had 4 more months to go. And again, no one would be looking at me. Took out one of my old dresses and jazzed it up with some sparkly baubles. Bam. I was still on track.
The toughest challenge happened when I came across that item I had always been looking for. A few years earlier I had borrowed this beautiful, camel-colored, leather jacket from a friend. I just loved that jacket. I bought something similar in pleather which served me well for a couple of years, but pleather doesn’t really hold up well over time. I finally had to let it go. I would see other jackets that were similar but not quite the right color or maybe the cut was off. I was always keeping my eyes peeled for that jacket. If I saw it, I was just going to snatch it up. Then in my year of “no new clothes”…I saw it. It was beautiful It was my size. It wasn’t real leather so it was also a steal. It was in my hands. I had wanted it for so long. It was worth breaking my streak over…wasn’t it? “Deep breath. Stay strong. Put it back.” And with that, I walked away from the beautiful coat.
One of the last hurdles I remember was hitting some vintage stores with some friends that were shopping for Halloween costumes. They were doing the 70’s thing. We walked into this great shop with a beautiful fitted trench coat in leather patchwork. It looked brand new. I was just having fun. So I tried it on. It was a one of a kind vintage jacket. How likely would it be that…”IT WAS THE PERFECT SIZE!!!” It fit like a glove. It complimented my hair like a designer had specifically made it for me. As I slid it off and put it back on the rack. My friends were shocked, “You’re not getting it?” “Nope” I was too close to the finish line.
Halloween came and I recycled a costume I had worn a few years earlier. Thanksgiving passed with a casual friends-giving. Jeans and a sweater were fine. The wrap party for my TV show came, I just wore a cute dress that I’d worn in the past. Then we threw a Christmas party. I was so close to the end. My weight was up a little again. I thought about getting something new and just calling it a Christmas present to myself. Then I popped my head back in the closet and found it. You’ve got it too. You know…that dress with the price tag still on…that you bought last year and never got around to wearing. Mine was a green, velvet, backless number. Where better to wear that, than a Christmas party? That party was 17 days from 2018. At that point, there was no reason not to finish the challenge.
As I write this, I have 3 days to go. I have to admit I faltered once. Our landlord hired a painter to paint the bathroom (we only have one). I was coming home after a busy day and really needed to go. But rather than interrupt the painter, I decided to do a target run and pick up a few things. I figured I would use the restroom there. This found me amidst a bunch of new clothes and I was going out to a bar with friends that night. I cracked. I bought a shirt and wore it that night. Had I not worn it, I would have returned it the next day to keep my resolution. But my integrity told me not to do that. Weirdly I haven’t worn that shirt all that often., It was a real eye opener in a year where that was the only new item in my closet. It makes me wonder how often I buy something and then just don’t really wear it.
It has definitely been an exercise in self control. But like all exercise, it gets easier the more you do it. I WILL be buying some jeans in the new year as the jeans suffered the most in this experiment. It did save me a little bit of money. But the main thing I gained out of this was an appreciation for what I already have. I learned break out the shoes I never wear, change up the accessories and making brand new outfits out of clothes I’d never put together before.
I encourage you to try it for yourself.
Let your creativity run wild. Don’t be too hard on yourself. (Hmmm…That just seems like good advice for fashion OR life).
Happy New Year, JoAnne