Twelve months of not buying new

My name is Becky and I run an Instagram account called @theniftythrifter_ where I share hints and tips on how to thrift on a budget whilst also highlighting the environmental and ethical importance of buying second-hand. Throughout 2019 I set myself the challenge of buying no new clothes. To be honest this started as a frivolous new year’s resolution but ended up being something that encompassed my entire approach toward the way I shaped my wardrobe.

My passion for thrifting began in 2018 when I had ordered a haul of clothes from one of my favourite fast fashion retailers. When the clothes arrived, nearly everything I had ordered was inferior quality, faulty or broken. It was only really then that I started thinking about why the quality was so poor, who was making my clothes and where had they come from. After doing some in-depth research into fast fashion I began to understand how detrimental the impact of the industry was to both the environment and workers’ rights. I was shocked. I felt so guilty and I knew that I could not carry on buying from these fast fashion retailers. There HAD to be a slower approach to fashion that did not rely on human beings working for below the minimum wage, in harmful working environments, and an approach that didn’t contribute to the emission of dangerous amounts of greenhouse gases.

I decided that for my New Year’s Resolution that I would not buy any new clothes in 2019. The only clothes I would buy would be second-hand (and I would only buy if I truly felt I NEEDED or perhaps DESERVED it)!  This is where charity shops came in. Ever since I was little, I have always loved rummaging through the treasures that charity shops have to offer. I worked in my local Cancer Research charity shop for over a year and it was this sparked my enthusiasm for all things old. Often there is a stigma that charity shop clothes are damp and dirty. This is simply untrue. I wanted to show throughout the year the sorts of pieces of quality clothing that can be easily found in charity shops and how I style my second-hand thrifts!

This is what I learnt from my year of buying no new clothes:

  • For me, charity shops are still the best way to find second-hand gems for affordable prices. I now buy most of my clothes from charity shops – I visit them more than online sites such as Depop or Ebay (although I still love these sites). I find the entire process of charity shopping rewarding and fun and I love making a day out of it by pairing it with a coffee and cake with a friend. Charity shops always stock good quality clothing that are reasonably priced as well as enabling me to try on the clothes to know if it is an item that I will get good wear out of. Using locally based charity shops more also means not having to pay for postage or think about the environmental costs of getting your item of clothing delivered.
  • Trends are cyclical. Any popular trends that I noticed through high street windows and magazines were always something I’d seen before. 70s flares were something popular in 2019 and I found mine in a vintage section of an Oxfam. It is important to mention that any trend that has ever been or will ever be on trend will return again and again – what comes around goes around – so why not look for second-hand.
  • By not buying new and only buying second-hand when I really loved something, I found I was much more productive with my time. Many a night I’d be scrolling endlessly through online shopping portals looking for something that might make me feel good about myself. Instead, I focused my spare time on activism or meeting friends or simply finding time for self-care practices such as reading a book or calling my mum for a chat.
  • I learnt that upcycling and fixing the clothes I already have was also a key way to reduce waste. You don’t need to be an expert with the needle and thread – you just need to know a basic stitch or two. Instead of throwing things out this year take time to fix those things in the back of your wardrobe and get loving them again!
  • ANYONE CAN DO IT. It takes determination and willpower, but I promise the freedom of overcoming consumerist pressures is an incredible and addictive feeling. It’s great to not have to keep up with certain fashions and create and then curate my own style instead!
  • Buying pre-loved clothes with their possible background stories and taking a non-materialistic stance for clothing items ended up making me feel just as happy – as cringe as it sounds some new clothes can only provide a temporary feel good factor as the next fad presents itself in the latest shop window display.

Now I am at the start of a new year I feel more motivated than ever to share the importance of charity shops and what they have to offer. I’m interested in challenging outdated stereotypes of second-hand clothes and replace this with a more progressive outlook.

Why not try a slower approach to fashion in 2020? If you don’t want to buy entirely from charity shops, there are wonderful upcoming brands that are transparent and care about the planet that can be found with a quick google search and a good read of their ‘about us’ page! If you know the where, who and what behind your clothes, this is a good start.

I am dedicated to sharing more about my thrifting tips this year and how to find what you’re looking for in second-hand clothes. Our outlook toward clothing is changing and as more people are looking to discover a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way to shop for their clothes, I want to be spearheading the fight for a more transparent, slower and more considered approach to fashion.

Out with the new and in with the old!

Love, Becky (ie @theniftythrifter_)

Rebecca Hughes is a sustainable fashion advocate and has not bought any new clothes in 2019, preferring instead to buy second-hand and vintage. Via her Instagram page @theniftythrifter_ she uses her hashtag #fastfashionrebellion to show how you can remain fashionable whilst staying conscious of ethical clothing choices. She also highlights the detrimental effects of fast fashion on both the environment and workers’ rights. Rebecca delights in sharing her thrifty tips on how to maintain a more sustainable and eco-friendlier wardrobe!