Last year, at the beginning of the year, I decided that I would refrain a whole year from buying clothes unless absolutely necessary. I gave myself a few exemptions. Things like tights and seasonal accessories were allowed although I think I made those purchases twice that whole time. I could also utilize thrift stores, which I usually do to my best ability. The only thing I purchased from a thrift store that year though was a beige oversized cardigan for 25 cents that I still wear and love. Also, items for special events were allowed, the one new dress I bought the whole year was for a friend’s wedding I sung at, it cost be less than 15 dollars and I promptly spilled bleach on it accidentally the next week in some sort of weird cosmic sign.
Why was I doing all of this? Believe me I had several people ask me odd questions or tell me I was silly and some ask if I was afraid of looking poor. No lie. No I’m not afraid of reality and since I had no shame in being or looking poor, I could care less. We live in a very materialistic culture, America more so than many other places in the world. The American dream of bigger, better, more and more is pretty ridiculous in my mind, especially because most of us are in so much debt that we put all these “dream” purchases on credit and further snowball ourselves into debt oblivion. Two years ago, I realized how much money I spent on clothing, it was a substantial amount every month. Back then we were a “two income” family and money was spent a little more freely. Flash forward a year and we as a family had made decisions to close a business, become a “one income” family, homeschool a child, look at getting our finances in order to purchase a home, spend more time on faith and less time on the distractions we each faced, such as shopping (for me). The least important thing in our lives at this time was whether or not we had new outfits every time we went out. Don’t get me wrong I love fashion and I love clothes, so so much. If I was wealthy, I am sure I never would have gone through this experiment because the necessity and drive would not have been there. This was a decision out based out of need and not because I was trying to prove anything to anyone. It did have it’s added benefits of helping reevaluate materialism in our home. Also, just because I didn’t buy new clothes for over a year didn’t mean I dressed like a homeless person every day (hopefully my friends can attest to this). I am big believer in mixed separates and making old things work in new ways, it helped me keep my sanity and never feel like I didn’t have anything to wear.
So here is what I’ve learned over the years, during my “Clothes free” year and after, I hope it helps anyone else:
1. You can definitely get by on less and still look nice, the way you want to look too. Budgets are important regardless how much money you make. I always hated those fashion on a budget shows because the woman we’re always dressed like tennis playing suburbanite Moms. No offense if that is your style but there are ways to look good while making a budget and planning for your outfit shopping. Just because its on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it. If you buy an outfit every time just because it is on sale that surely adds up cost wise and you may be making purchase that you don’t really really love.
2. Make a plan for your Wardrobe: Standards, Basics, and Trends are the three things you need. Standard items are things that are timeless and that always go to, for me it’s a cardigan sweater, I feel comfortable in cardigans, it is my go to piece. Everyone needs basics, and it helps to do mixed separates when you have several affordable basics, my go to basic is a black v-neck it is very versatile and I can mix with everything. Do not fill your closet with trendy outfits, I’m talking a million neon tops or 50 maxi dresses, the time will come when you hate those things and you nix them for the next new trendy pieces, save yourself money and headache by not buying a plethora of these items. If you have a plan for your wardrobe and the standards and basics as strokes you will only need to add a few trendy items of your choice yearly.
3. Utilize thrift stores. It’s cheaper and everything comes back around. I thrift and vintage shop for my family. Be smart, every past style is not a good one. Be Frugal, just because it’s thrifts does not mean you throw abandon to the wind and buy things you don’t need.
4. When you add trendy, add it sparingly and cheaply. You can buy trendy items at budget stores and not break the bank. Also, like I said, everything comes back around. Try thrift stores for trendy items. I went to high school in the 90′s and what the kids are wearing now is exactly what I wore in high school. My style in high school was Daria meets The Babysitters Club’s Claudia Kishi. I’m not saying you as an adult should dress like you did as a teenager but for those trendy items you can definitely find them in thrift stores and budget stores. Don’t dress trend from head to toe, that will definitely date you and make you look like you are trying too hard. Trendy budget clothes are usually cheaply made but usually with last as long as that particular trend lasts so don’t worry about expensive trendy pieces, save in this area and invest in long lasting standards.
5. Dress for your body. I am Plus size and not ashamed of that fact and have learned what looks good on this body and what doesn’t, I don’t always succeed but I try. If you know what looks good on you, you won’t be bogged down in the many clothing choices and trends. Let’s face it, certain styles look absolutely dumb on me, they are for tiny bodies and not my shape and I should definitely not try. There are other styles that look great on me and not on others. Every body is different. I try to stray from the Stuffed Sausage look but am much happier with an Hourglass shape, so discern based on your body shape. This will help you from buying anything on sale. Make rules for the types of outfits you are looking for prior to hitting a sale rack. Also find places online that make clothes that fit you well and pay attention to those sales instead of settling on the local sales all the time. I have two or three stores online that I pay attention to and watch the sales because I know the clothes fit me well and the style is what I am looking for, plus the local plus sales racks leave a lot to be desired.
6. Stop saying you have nothing to wear unless you live in a nudist colony and actually do not have anything to wear. Be content with what you have and what has been given to you. Be wise stewards of your words and your resources. Clothing is a necessity but it should not be a burden. If you have to buy a pair of shoes to make yourself feel better about yourself there is something seriously wrong. There is no judgment for those that spend a lot on clothes but for those that know that this isn’t a sustainable activity or budget friendly don’t be tempted to keep up with anyone. God made you naked from a babe and I am pretty sure he doesn’t care what you choose to cover your body with. If you complain about money on the regular but spend money consistently on frivolous clothing or accessory purchases maybe it is time reevaluate.
Let me say this in closing, we choose how we will live, what is important to me is not important to others. We are the only ones that can make decisions for ourselves and our families and there isn’t any judgement in the decisions we make and the things we do.