The year I stopped buying clothes and sewed myself a new wardrobe

A year ago I publicly pledged to give up buying clothes for a year, a move prompted by finding this article in a newspaper left on a train and by the Rana Plaza clothing factory disaster. My rule was no new clothes, shoes, underwear, hosiery and no 'new' second hand or vintage purchases. Basically to STOP buying! If I wanted new stuff then I had to make it myself.

Handmade clothes by Ivy Arch 16 May 2013 - 16 May 2014
The clothes I made between 16th May 2013 and 16th May 2014

The first few weeks were strange. Like most people if I'm told I can't do something I want to do it even more so I positively craved the smell of clothing shops and the thrill and discovery of trying on new (or second hand/new) clothes.

When passing clothes shops in town I felt a pang of longing. So much so that I started completely avoiding them and this included going to cafés near clothing shops. Saturdays had often been my day for a bike ride to a destination where I could browse shops and drink coffee. To adjust to not-clothes-buying I changed my routine so that I was just doing the bike ride part with the destination being a museum or gallery, or a remote spot outdoors. Then the dressmaking bug really set in and Saturday mornings are now set aside solely for sewing for myself and my daughter while listening to Sounds of The Sixties - afternoons we're currently rehearsing for Worthing Community Play.

Five months into the challenge Gudrun Sjödén invited me to become an ambassador for the brand, a role which would involve no obligation on my part but would give me the opportunity to sometimes try out their products. I mulled this over and consulted friends for their opinion as I wasn't sure if it was a conflict of interest with my 'no buying new clothes' declaration. As a long-time Gudrun Sjödén fan and an erstwhile customer with several of her designs in my wardrobe already, I found it impossible to say no. However, when I have been lucky enough to chose one of Gudrun's garments to write about and wear I've picked things I couldn't make myself (due to lack of skills and equipment) like this raincoat.

I can happily report that the experiment has been thoroughly habit-changing for me. A year on, the smell of clothes shops repels me and now that I'm free to spend my birthday money have found that nothing fits as well or looks as good as handmade. I can't see myself ever going back to buying dresses from the high street and pledge to try to only buy new clothing when my own clothes (knickers, socks) are beyond repair, and then only if I can't make it myself. The days of scooping up three cheap tops from Primark for an instant fashion fix are over.

An unexpected development in my year of giving up clothes shopping is that my wardrobe has GROWN! It's now full of beautiful, bright handmade clothes in fabrics I've chosen in combinations of my own design. I wear at least one garment I've sewn myself every single day and feel this is the ultimate form of self expression.

Sewing notions with Omi's mushroom pincushion
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