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Could you quit buying fashion for a year?

Writer, Emma Vidgen explains how the Marie Kondo movement inspired her to stop shopping

By Emma Vidgen

For the past five years I’ve been transitioning from being a full throttle maximalist to a reluctant minimalist. It started with wanting to reorganise my kitchen. I am a sucker for anything methodical (hello Virgo Sun and Capricorn rising) so when I heard about Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up, I was all in.

My clothes went next. At least 10 garbage bags filled with designer clothes, all banished to the Cat Protection Society op shop. It was exhilarating and scary and as I piled the bags into my car I laughed like a woman possessed. Throwing things away was so liberating! Why hadn’t I done this sooner? Why don’t we just throw EVERYTHING OUT ALL THE TIME!

I was sparking so much joy from the purge, I didn’t stop to think about the reality of what my minimalist wardrobe would be. Despite my new (and no doubt) insufferable rhetoric as a Kondo cult member (sorry workmates), the truth is, there was nothing conscious or mindful about it. I was, in reality, parting with bags and bags full of perfectly good clothes simply because they didn’t raise my heart rate.

Within a few months I realised the folly of my ways. Almost daily I would go looking for some nondescript item like a white t-shirt and realise it had been turfed, along with the rest of the “joyless” pieces in my wardrobe. I began replacing things almost as quickly as I’d ditched them.

A new start…

This year I am turning over a new leaf; instead of culling with reckless abandon every couple of months and then inevitably replacing some of what I have lost, I am going to abstain from buying any new clothes for the whole year. I’m calling it the Mindful Fashion Experiment. Over the next 12 months I’m going to explore how to make the most of what I already have and how to fall in love with the contents of my wardrobe.

Are we programmed to shop?

I’m intrigued to examine the urge to shop as it arises, why we feel the need to buy a new thing if we’re going somewhere special or when we’ve had a bad day, and why, no matter how many jeans I own, I’m still looking for the perfect pair.

Seeing the stats around the environmental cost of the fashion industry was what really sealed the deal for me. I knew it wasn’t a great scenario but I had no idea how bad it really was. Also, I’m studying to become a mindfulness teacher so I guess I’m in that headspace. There’s so much worship around the decluttering culture but not a lot of dialogue around mindful shopping – surely if we are more mindful about what we buy we wouldn’t need to purge so often?  The waste associated with this constant decluttering (and then often, repurchasing) is huge and something I’m keen to explore.

How I prepared

No, I didn’t do a preparatory shop before I started the challenge. I have two white t-shirts – one short sleeve, one three-quarter sleeve. Basics in general have never really interested me so I don’t have a lot in that department. I do have about 7 pairs of jeans though so that’s at least a bit of a fall back.

My wardrobe is split into three distinct sections – clothes that spark joy (generally completely impractical and totally out there), basics and clothes I’ve pinched – mostly from my husband and Sarah (co-founder of The Wayward) who gave me lots of stuff when she cleared out her wardrobe before she went travelling. I have a lot of really playful vintage stuff that brings me so much joy but isn’t necessarily everyday work attire so it will be fun to see if I can find a way to wear that stuff on an everyday basis.

I’m not anti-fashion…

I don’t want to quit fashion. Fashion has always been a joyful form of creative expression for me personally, and I have no intention of depriving myself of all those good feelings. Instead, I’m looking for a different angle.

My biggest fear is…

Not so much about attempting the challenge but documenting the whole process. I’ll be vlogging throughout the experience, talking to stylists, experts and friends about sustainability, ethical fashion and looking for alternative ways to get my fix. I was really hesitant about filming the journey because I didn’t want to fail in public but the more I thought about it the more I realised whatever happens – succeed or fail – I want to start a conversation around sustainability and our relationship to “stuff”.

If you feel inspired, join me on this journey and share your progress with me on Instagram or with the hashtag #mindfulfashionexperiment. If this sounds more like a spectator sport for you, well, wish me luck!

Emma Vidgen is a writer, editor and co-founder of The Wayward

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