“Treat yourself”; those two little words have brought me great joy over the years, and every time I use them, an ASOS delivery is promised to land at my door the following day. In that one moment, it always feels a little reminiscent of Christmas morning. A gift from me, to me. As someone who spends an embarrassing amount of time perusing fashion blogger accounts, reading clothes magazines or filling my online shopping cart only to inevitably click off the page when my conscience reminds me I need to be saving, I am no stranger to treating myself. In my mind, the clothes I wear and the identity I wish to portray have naturally found themselves intertwined. Whether it be the band tees I rocked at fourteen years old that visually announced to every passer-by my love for You Me At Six or All Time Low, or now when I find so much joy in matching outfits together. When I love what I’m wearing, I feel so confident and therefore, over time my purchasing habits have been seemingly justified as they are presented as a well-deserved method of self-care.
On occasion, I have even found myself longing for the time to come (away from being a student) that I can fully embody what I believe to be my “true self”. As if I am not full until I can match my outside persona to the inward vision I have of myself. In all honesty, this does not just refer to fashion alone but the tattoos I wish to have, the piercings I plan to get and the hair colour I long for. Like most people, I took some time in the new year to reflect on my goals for personal development in 2020 and with that, I began to analyse the impact this thought process was having on my mental health. Despite claiming my style embodied my identity, I could no longer ignore the sustainability issues I had battled with in relation to my creating a personal style. Could I really claim to be a sustainability activist if I was basing my self-worth within a consumerist act? I had to reason with myself and conclude that just because I adore a good charity shop rummage, does not mean I was genuinely addressing my innate desire to consume.
Back in January, I placed myself on a spending ban. Inspiration for this move came about when I was packing up my life for a year abroad. Everything I needed for the whole year comfortably fitted inside two suitcases. When I arrived, I soon realised despite bringing an abundance of clothes, I found myself repeatedly gravitating towards a select few of my favourite outfits. Three large bags hoisted to the charity shop later and my environment felt cleansed. That is not to say there weren’t a few wine-fuelled late nights scouring Urban Outfitters or & Other Stories, but I remained strong and the tips below definitely gave me a helping hand to do so. Hopefully, they will for you too.
1. Inspiration over Replication
In a world dictated by Instagram, most of us have our favourite bloggers whose outfits we can’t help but lust after. For me, the holy trinity comes in the form of Grace Victory (@gracefvictory), Jess (@sunbeamsjess) and Chloe Plumstead (@chloeplumstead). Throughout the month, instead of seeing their posts and jumping on their affiliate links instantaneously, I took to my closet and attempted to re-work the items I had already collected. Taking an afternoon to properly delve inside my wardrobe quickly reminded me of hidden gems I had gathered overtime which already held the essence of outfits I wished to recreate. In addition, by using pieces you already own, you begin to create a greater feeling of your own style without merely copying that of those you admire.
2. Throw a Clothes Swap Party with Your Housemates
I am very lucky to say all my girlfriends are extremely fashionable and we are even more privileged to be similar sizes to one another. A sustainable girls night which is bound to make Greta Thunberg proud is a clothes swapping evening: A Spotify playlist, a few homemade cocktails and your housemates with their pre-loved wardrobe goodies. It really has the same effect as stealing from your sister’s wardrobe, but this way it’s guilt-free! Sharing clothes, including having a dig through your mum’s closet or keeping your boyfriend’s favourite hoodie, is a clever and social way to keep your purchasing to a minimum.
3. Get Crafty
Ribbon, lace, enamel pins; all fun ways to spice up an old denim jacket. If you live with them, now is the time to sit your mum or grandma down and ask them to teach you how to sew. Small rips or imperfections are no longer a sound excuse for throwing away a perfectly good top.
4. Prioritise Personal Style before Trend Pieces
As tempting as it can be to nab those embroidered jeans or bright animal print shoes, anyone with a picture of themselves wearing a skater skirt in 2010 will tell you that trends come and go. I do love a trendy pick, but it’s more important to invest in key pieces that are timeless and embody your own personal tastes than jump on the bandwagon. Afterwards, adding a trend piece here and there can save rapid shopping and disposing of clothes that don’t appear to be “in” style anymore. In reality, trends are redundant and if you feel great in something, that’s as fashionable as it gets.
As the month drew to a close, I felt my relationship with consumerism had changed. My clothes, as pretty as I think they are, do not dictate who I am or the image I put out into the world. By limiting my purchases to feel more inspired to repurpose my clothes and appreciate the items I already own, I feel more deeply in touch with my own style and sense of self. Though the postman may still drop me off a little self-care parcel every now and then, my conscience is a little lighter and my mental health a little sounder knowing the parcel is not solely responsible for portraying my self-image to the world.