A Year of Second Hand Clothing

Ahh the things you learn when you step outside your comfort zone. I used to be a shopaholic – I’ll be the first to admit that.

I used retail therapy as exactly that- therapy. I used the comfort of purchasing new clothes and the way it made me feel, to fill whatever emotion I was experiencing.

I then just flat out became an impulsive buyer. Right up until Jan 2021 when I found myself in a dreamy little boutique in Peregian Beach on the sunshine coast, buying $500 worth of clothes I absolutely did not need and could not really afford (thank you Afterpay). I left the store with an ‘oops, you probably shouldn’t have done that’ feeling in my stomach, when I remembered that a good friend of mine had just told me about how she went a year with only buying second hand clothes (thanks for the inspo @notorious.v.e.g).

I set myself a small goal of 3 months to begin with, because the thought of a whole year terrified me – what would I wear to the pub or on a night out with the girls? What if I couldn’t find what I wanted secondhand? Nope, a year was far too much of a commitment.

But it was actually super easy.

And not only did it get easier the more time went on, I actually began to think more consciously about all the times I would have just bought without thinking. I had told myself I was able to buy bikinis and activewear new, because my job required both, but I then realised that a whole 20x20cm box full of bikinis and a wardrobe draw dedicated to activewear was probably enough….

I then began to delve into it more, I committed to myself that when my year was over, I would only buy clothing that is high quality and made to last. Which then of course made me question how companies could sell items so cheap. It made me think about all those dresses I wore once because I got on sale for $20, but shrank the first time I washed it so I gave it to charity or threw it in the bin.

Now I began wondering, where did the clothes come from? Who made them? Where did they go after they magically vanished from my life? I had never thought about it before. Gone from my sight, so not my problem, right? Wrong.

Very much my problem if it’s damaging the earth for my generation and the ones to follow.

I noticed other weird things that had never met my attention – those charity bins sure are full, surely they can’t all be decent? What happens to the ones that aren’t? Where do they go? Answer? Most likely landfill.

In Australia alone, more than 500 million kilos of unwanted clothing ends up in landfill each year. The amount of clothing purchased globally has doubled from 50 billion to 100 billion in the last 15 years, with a lot of it discarded after a couple of years.

There is literally a giant dump in Chile dedicated to clothing that will not be accepted by other dumps, as the fabric doesn’t biodegrade and/or contains chemicals (see image below).

I could go on and on, spitting out facts and telling you more on what I’ve learned since my year of second-hand-only, but I feel like I’ve kept you long enough. All I recommend is thinking about what you buy, before you buy it. How many times will you wear it? Will the fabric last if you choose to pass it on, or sell it second hand once you’re done with it?

I’m now 6 weeks past my year, and still finding it really hard to walk into a shop and buy something. I find myself googling the brand and researching their ethics and sustainability. If the brand mentions nothing on either, I don’t buy from them. Simple.

A few brands I do love though, are:
@herponythelabel – my beautiful friends company, who I am also lucky enough to work for

Plus… Vinnies, Salvos, Red Cross, @prelove, Depop and Facebook Marketplace – you won’t believe the goodies you find on there. Good On You is also a really good index for finding sustainable fashion brands.

My one word of advice if you don’t listen to anything else – question cost and go for quality items, not quantity. An item may be cheap, but at what cost? What conditions are the makers working in? What are they paid? What harmful chemicals are they being exposed to? What resources is it drawing from the earth? It can take 2,700L of water to produce one cotton t-shirt.

I’m not telling you you now need to go out and do year of not buying new clothes, I just thought I’d share a little on how much it helped me become more aware. If this blog makes even one person begin to question what they buy before they buy it, I’m happy.

It’s opened my eyes up to what consumerism in all of it’s forms is doing to the environment. I believe that many people making conscious choices to support the earth, no matter how small, can make a difference.

Billions of people making even one active change to support the environment, is better than billions of people doing nothing at all.

Image: Textile dump in the Atacama Desert Chile, South America.

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