Last weekend, I tackled the closet cleanout challenge for Slow Fashion October (you can see how far I got in my saved Story), and also posted on Instagram about having gone about 6 months without buying a single solitary garment or shoe — 100% unintentionally and unknowingly — and how since then (in the past 11 months total) all I’ve bought is four t-shirts and four pair of shoes, plus a piece of outerwear. (I guess I can use the word “vest” for it, but it seems so inadequate!) In thinking about that, I asked myself whether I was so content and oblivious because I was adding clothes to my closet through making instead of buying. We’ve talked about the fact that if you’re making your own clothes, it’s essentially impossible to acquire them at a typical shopping rate — it’s inherently slower. But looking back through the same period, I’ve knitted two sweater vests (sweatshirt vest and plum Anna) and a pullover, and sewn two sweatshirts (short-sleeved and long-sleeved, both not quite right!) and two pair of pants (recycled denim and natural canvas). If you count the outerwear vest and the yet-to-be-seamed blue Bellows, I’ve added a grand total of 12 articles of clothing to my closet in 2018. Add in the pajamas I made during Summer of Basics and it’s a whopping 15! I wish I had some way of knowing what my lifetime average was up until last year, but I can tell you it’s a long way from 1-ish garments per month. And yet, somehow, even this list of items seems almost excessive to the me I’ve gradually morphed into over the past few years. I find the whole thing mind-boggling.
And for the first time since beginning to knit, I’m taking as long to pick my next sweater project as it would have taken me to knit one!
Who am I?!
Last night I was reading this bizarre piece on newyorker.com that was sent to me by a #slowfashionoctober friend, about how Rent the Runway has pivoted from special-occasion wear to become a source of everyday clothes for tens (hundreds?) of thousands of women. The article opens with a sort of suggestion that it has something to do with the slow fashion movement, but I have a hard time seeing how a company that’s buying up thousands upon thousands of garments of questionable origin and shipping them endlessly around to one person after another after another after another (with dry cleaning in between each) is any kind of antidote to the ills of fast fashion. NEVERTHELESS, it opens with some mind-boggling stats: “Each year, as Hyman is fond of pointing out, the average American buys sixty-eight items of clothing, eighty per cent of which are seldom worn; twenty per cent of what the $2.4-trillion global fashion industry generates is thrown away.”
Sixty-eight items of clothing per year? As an average?! At my most gluttonous, I’m certain I never bought 68 items of clothing in one year. And obviously making anywhere near that number is hilarious to even consider. All of which brings me to my Q for You: How many articles of clothing do you add to your closet in a year? And what percentage of them do you make versus acquiring them through other means? I know not everyone is in the habit of assessing their closet in the sort of gory detail I do for this blog, so I don’t assume you know exactly, but what’s your best guess? Or a range. As always, there’s no right or wrong answer! I’m just. So. Curious.
I look forward to your responses, and wish you a happy weekend. I’ll be back to sorting through my piles if anyone wants to join me! I’ve got a really great closing interview lined up for Monday, and plenty more yarny posts to come next week!
PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: When do you give up on a WIP?
I average 15-20 new pieces a year, all hand made. I only buy leggings and socks these days, and I’m due to purchase both! 68 pieces is staggering… I think my entire closet is around 80 pieces, including outerwear & pajamas, and I worry that’s too much!
I am very satisfied with what I own and only replace things as needed. I only own things that go with everything. Almost all of my clothes are neutrals, so they are all interchangeable. I wake up in the morning and I never have to think what will I wear because I can literally chose anything and it all goes perfectly with whatever else I choose. I love not having to think about what goes with what. I do have color in my wardrobe, but they are mostly bold accessories. I absolutely love my clothes and I am so happy with my choice to be extremely versatile. My children and husband’s clothes done in the same way, it has saved my sanity.
There is no way I buy 68 items a year! Where would I put them? While my closet needs a clear out, I have managed to sort by sweaters/sweatshirts, a couple of dresses..(who am I kidding?) lots of jeans, because I live in Jeans and shirts. Again, a review is in order as I acknowledge 1. that there are some things that will never fit, and 2.I wear the same few pieces all the time and most of the rest, never.
68 items a year?! I’m quite shocked. Not even when I was buying clothing did I buy even a third of that. I didn’t buy much but I saved clothes forever and ever, even if I wasn’t wearing them. I used to have clothing that was 20 years old in my closet. But just over 3 years ago I got really fed up with my overfull and non-functional closet. I cleaned out and donated quite a lot of it and told myself I didn’t need to buy more clothing for a while (shoes not included). I was going to wear what I had each season and then make when I noticed if there was a hole to fill. At the same time I did the Wardrobe Architect and got a little more aware of my own style. Without struggling much at all I went 18 months without buying any clothing at all and then I bought a winter coat to replace the one that was going on it’s 14th year. A few months later I bought a pair of leggings as I was traveling and hadn’t anticipated the weather change. 3 years in I’ve bought about 13 items and 6 are leggings/tights in different colors/thickness that needed replacing. I’ve made some of what I need, t-shirt, dresses, I’ve knitted some sweaters. I’d guess I make about 12-18 items a year, which I still think is quite a lot! I’m still bit of a newbie when it comes to sewing so unfortunately all those items aren’t fitting correctly. I’m at a stage where I need to learn more about adjusting patterns as well as tackling bigger projects, such as jeans and underwear to replace the ones that are starting to wear out now. And I think this will also lead to fewer items being added each year.
I am also shocked by the idea of buying 68 items a year!! I don’t know that I have an average — I live in Mexico City at the moment, and the shopping is limited, which really affects my buying. I used to purchase mostly thrift clothes, and samples from my various gigs in fashion. Now I go to the flea markets in sketchy parts of Mexico City, and pattern and make my own clothes. I’m just getting back into the fun of dressing after more than 2 years of pregnancy and breast feeding, and my style has shifted A LOT since becoming a mom, so I’ve been making and buying more. That said, I probably acquire on average 2 pieces a month?
There’s a really great discussion about the mom/body transition on @slowfashionoctober if you’re interested and haven’t seen it.
I haven’t, I’ll go check it out, thanks!
I do not buy anywhere near 68 items a year. I have a very minimal mix and match wardrobe. This year my husband retired and I bought two tops to wear to parties in his honor. These tops also worked in my every day wardrobe so they have been good additions. I just purchased two new pairs of pants – navy and khaki – to replace two of the same. I knit one Icelandic sweater and a color work cowl for me. I did buy a new winter parka and a dress coat to replace worn out old ones. My “downfall” is probably shoes as I have a hard time finding ones that fit. When I do find them, I wear them out so I have to replace every season. This year during my clothing change out, I plan to get rid of all items that other folks have bought me that are not my style – hello! mom and friends who seem to feel sorry for me for not adding to my wardrobe. Maybe they are the ones buying so much!!
That’s a hard one and has come up a lot on this year’s feed. I guess I’m lucky that almost nobody would ever try to give me clothes, unless it’s something they know I specifically want!
I have this rule of not buying anything I can make. I now only shop for underwear, socks, tee-shirts and leather goods like shoes and bags. We are lucky to still have few but great made-in-France brands, so it’s easy to find tees and socks, but I struggle a lot more with underwear. Italy, Spain and Portugal are not far, so well made shoes are not that expensive. The rest I strive to knit or sew, and since I’m a very slow maker, I do not add a lot in my closet (I add more in my fabric and yarn stash !).
I too was boggled by the New Yorker story but I suppose I assume there are people out there (especially in NYC?) who think they shouldn’t be seen twice in the same outfit or something like that?
This conversation reminds me once again that I need to figure out a remedy/preventative for ruined shirt/dress underarms—do any of you have one? That’s the primary reason I end up deaccessioning clothes. Bottoms I keep forever.
A remedy that works for me, but is labor intensive, is mixing hydrogen peroxide and baking soda into a paste and then leaving it on underarms to dry. Then toss it in the washing machine. It’s like homemade OxyClean. I’ve used it successfully on t-shirts and cottons and anything that can go in the wash, but I don’t think I’ve done it on handwash items.
If it really is just an underarm problem, consider changing antiperspirant brands. Some are better than others both for controlling wrt ess and discoloration on clothes. Also, for special items or times when you know sweating will be a problem, there are underarm sweat guards. Used them in my wedding dress, they work great.
The not-repeating thing is so bizarrely fascinating to me. I really want to know where/when that came from, but clearly there are a lot of people in the world who think it’s wrong to wear anything twice.
I don’t know about not repeating outfits for everyday clothing, but I can tell you that as a working performer (I’m an opera singer), people notice when you wear the same gown for multiple performances. And they’re not shy with their comments. Ridiculous? Yes. While this doesn’t stop me from wearing my performance clothing multiple times, I do like to have some variety.
I’ve gotten really good at combing thrift stores for formal wear, and I’ve made a few dresses for myself. There are also a couple of opera singers who started a website that allows singers to buy, sell and rent their gowns. Not only is this a god-send for the budget, it does make the whole thing more sustainable.
Hi! Long lurker of your wonderful blog here. I work in media in NYC and while I don’t use Rent the Runway, I have half a dozen friends who do. I think most feel relief to just have options that are well made, take them from work to evening functions, are appropriate for the season, and won’t sit in their closet forever. We have small closets in a city with temperatures that are vastly different in summer and winter.
I’m a mom—most of my friends are too—and I wouldn’t say we’re all fashionistas who never want to repeat an outfit. Most of us are shopping at J Crew. But the look here—depending on the industry you’re in—has to be spotless and stylish and professional. I often look at the silhouettes on many blogs in the sewing and knitting communities—and read these discussions about small wardrobes—and admire the looks but also think they wouldn’t suit the world I live in at all. There’s no wearing tunics over patched jeans here, except on Saturdays, no matter how gorgeous the mending. And so I wonder: what are professional women to do? What about women who need to wear suits every day? Or women like me, who are attending evening events with a lot of frequency, and are in a corporate environment during the day?
I try to buy very carefully, though I fail sometimes. I repeat clothes all the time, though I don’t want to wear the same dress to ten evening events in a row—where I’ll see many of the same people—no matter how much I love the dress. I love knitting and have made a few sweaters that suit my environment. But I can see how Rent the Runway appeals to my friends. It doesn’t feel as wasteful as buying loads of new garments every season, my friends feel good in the clothes, and it takes a lot of guesswork out of things. It’s certainly not as good as a me made wardrobe…but I think that wardrobe could be hard to pull off in a lot of professions here.
All excellent points.
Great point Helene. I also live in a city and whilst my workplace is not super corporate, the dress code is smart casual and I wouldn’t even wear blue jeans there, let alone mended blue jeans. And as I work full time ( and sometimes as weekends) this doesn’t leave much time for wearing mended old favourites.
I live in Eugene, Oregon, where patches and holes and repeat wearings are unremarkable, but I teach at a university and I sometimes do conferences and workshops, which all require meeting a generic standard of “professional” and I really struggle with this, as well.
My work around is to lean heavily on a few very generic pieces, like black pants, white or neutral shells button ups or shells, and a handful of neutral cardigans, all of which can be worn over and over again without drawing much attention while still meeting expectations of professional dress. I then have jewelry pieces that are cheap, can be exchanged and replaced for variety. I also throw in interesting tops, bottoms and layers whose effects can be toned down by combining them with some of the generic things I wear.
As for me-made, I think that the right fabric is what makes a minimal tunic or shell, tank top or skirt “fancy” or not. Like, I have this lime green silk broadcloth that I made a Grainline Hadley out of. Yes, the color is questionable, but the minimal lines, low neck and lack of sleeves helps tone the effect down and paired with white pants and a white jacket, turns it into a accent. But really communicates a professional look is the delicate sheen and slight stiffness of the broadcloth–it just LOOKS expensive and professionally maintained (courser silks are remarkably wrinkle resistant, I find, and actually very easy to care for). Ditto for this white linen shell I whipped up without a pattern–the linen is slightly transparent, but not inappropriately so, and this quality makes it look sharp, when it is ironed and paired with black stretch twill pants and a silver plaited necklace.
Elizabeth Suzann is great for slow fashion pieces that can be combined to dress up, down or for work. In particular, their pants are quite versatile, although I see they currently aren’t carrying the black stretch twill pants that I’ve worn for the past three years.
On the underarm staining thing… I have a trunk of my mother’s 50s dresses (mostly sewn by her, and therefore precious, hence keeping them in the trunk… I did wear some things for special occasions twenty-odd years ago but they’re too small for me now, but hoping my daughter might wear some of them again one day) and many of these have removable cotton pads tacked in at the underarms. They’re handmade. Just several layers of fabric, sewn into an oval shape, creased in the middle and tacked into the garment they’re designed to protect. Such a great idea!
This is so interesting. I kind of feel like my mind is in a bit of a slow fashion tornado – I want to clean out my closet, I want to place items in other peoples closet (I’ve started my own Clothing Rescue Foundation – rescue an item from my closet; seriously), and I just listened to the Love to Sew podcast about planning my sewing projects (which seem to multiply like bunnies). I think for a while now, I’ve been substituting buying clothing with buying supplies to make clothing. I listened to Love to Sew’s interview with you, and it kind of blew my mind in an unexpected way. Clearly I’m ready for a change. Okay, this sounds more like a blog post than a reply to a blog post – apologies, I’ll give the talking stick back in a minute. In the last year I’ve knit or sewn at least eight items, bought maybe three new “sporty” items, and thrifted a little. I don’t have the taste for shopping in the same way I once did.
Lol. I want to listen to that planning ep — I love those ladies.
The three things I buy, because I haven’t quite reached these points in my clothes-making journey, are plain, solid color t-shirts, jeans, and undergarments.
When I buy t-shirts, (because the ones I have have become swiss cheese or because they are so “ratty” that I can no longer wear them outside the garden) I tend to buy two or three at a time. This probably happens twice a year. I am big into layering and t-shirts are such a great foundation.
I only ever own one pair of jeans at a time, and they don’t wear out in cute spots like the knees or the back pocket, so I mend them as best I can to get as much life out of them as I can, but inevitably, I have to replace them. This probably happens once every 18 months-2 years.
Then there are bras and underwear. I replace these about every 5 years.
Other things I may buy on the rare occasion…. t-shirt at a concert if I want to support the band, pajama pants or a cozy sweatshirt if I’m being too lazy to sew my own and my existing ones have given out, and athletic socks. But these things get purchased in more like a 10 year rotation, so they don’t play into an annual average all that significantly.
Sooo…my annual average for purchased clothing is somewhere in the range of 8-10 pieces.
As for the clothes I make… I probably sew 1 dress and 1 top a year. And I am an avid knitter…so this is where I blow up my average. I probably complete 3-4 sweaters, 2-3 shawls, a few hats, 1-2 pair of socks, maybe a pair of mittens or a cowl, and maybe a couple baby things. Some of these thing are for my children and some are gifts for others…and the ratio of gifts to personal items increases each year as I need fewer pieces added to my wardrobe.
Sooo…my annual average when you include handmade for myself probably goes up to around 20 pieces.
That seems excessive. I should scale back!!
I wouldn’t count socks and accessories, and things you make for other people are a whole different story! Those are additions to their closet, not yours. ;)
68??? A year??? Every year???
Last year I bought some new white turtle necks because my old (ancient) ones were no longer white, and collar and cuffs were well- frayed. I still wear them on weekends. Underwear as needed, including tights.
I wear things until they die, which I am sad to say means I might need a new navy blue skirt soon. The one I have (more than 10 years old) has a tiny hole in the back. Not where I want a pretty, visible patch. I am thinking of using it for a pattern for a new one, I am feeling so bold about my sewing skills!
I do MAKE lots of things, mostly knitted items. This year so far it is several pairs of socks, two sweaters, and a couple of shawls. I have started up sewjng again, working on two 100 acts of sewing patterns, figuring out modifications to make them fit. That will mean I can make skirts, jumpers, and dresses. Then maybe I will risk the agony that is pants that fit.
The whole disposable fashion thing feels like something I enjoyed when younger but grew out of. First because it is so expensive!!! Then the realization of what is involved in the whole process. Now I am content with my old lady classic simple style. I’d rather spend my money on yarn.
Yes- this thread has made me realise if I have an excess of anything it is knitwear! And I can’t see that changing – so many beautiful yarns and patterns, so little time…
Lol so true!
That level of buying has never been on my radar. My whole (long) life and raising kids on a tight budget, clothes were purchases that needed to LAST. Possibly from my Mom who loved good clothes and the latest fashions: buy quality ON SALE, clearance preferably and wear them out. And I got pickier as clothes became more and more cheaply made. I shop thrift stores for the older, better made clothes on occasion, buy a new whatever when needed – I don’t buy much. I managed to tone down my love of shoe buying… :) Luckily my drive to MAKE can go to knitting hats and making art for our shop because I MUST be knitting or making something.
I wear a uniform daily…sleeveless tunic length top over pants of different shapes with a jacket, sweater or scarf/shawl over the top, depending on the weather and my mood. The tunic is my own design and I have made LOTS of them with different hemlines, pockets, side slits, etc. And out of all kinds of fabric, mostly woven but some knits. I shop resale for jackets and sometimes pants but only do that 2-3 times/year. I quit regular store shopping about 20 years ago…so time consuming and expensive. Now what I enjoy most is closet shopping, finding new ways to wear what I already own and making what else I need/want. I don’t keep track of my makes but in the last 12 months I’m amazed and slightly embarrassed to write that I’ve probably made 20-30 garments, mostly the tunics and various kimonos after my first Wiksten. I don’t like getting rid of garments because I often regret it later but I do have a young friend that I pass things on to if they no longer fit me or my style. Your blog has made me more conscious of my purchases but not so much my makes. Sometimes I just want to sew and the tunics and kimonos are fun and easy. And I seem to get bored wearing the same things (although not the same shapes!) all the time. At least now I’m making and not shopping so maybe that’s better? Thanks for helping me become more aware.
It is better in the sense that you’ve cut out the possibility of an exploited garment worker in the equation. And it sounds like you know what you like and wear and making use of your clothes!
Several years ago I started focusing on buying supplies to make things instead of buy things. I think it’s a step in the right direction, but most sewists have huge fabric stashes (and other notions) and where do those fabrics come from? Where are they woven? Are the workers in exploitative situations? Where and how are they printed? Are they using environmentally friendly process? Nasty chemicals in their finishing process? I don’t always have good answers for those questions, but I have found a linen source that I believe to be ethical and environmentally friendly.
oooh, can you share that linen source or does it need to remain your little secret?
I can share! Fabrics-store.com
Here’s the commercial: They don’t publicise where they dye and weave, but it was Russia and LA when I asked. They don’t use chemical finishes, but use calendaring and air fluffing. If you have a specific inquiry they’ll reply. One great thing about them is that their quality is good and consistent. You can buy cheaper elsewhere, but not for this consistent quality. Really the only downside is that not all colors are always available. If you fall in love with something and don’t see it later, email them and they could have some squirreled away. Swatches used to be free, but now cost and are larger (and worth it). I can’t tell you how much fabric I’ve bought from them because there has been so much.
Thank you!!! I will check it out!
68 is over an item a week, so I wonder how the number was generated. For instance, if a mom buys a 12 pack of socks for a ten year old, does that count as 12 of her 68? I’ve seen that kind of math a lot in clothing averages, where what a woman “spends” on clothing is actually for herself, and the children, and sometimes even for her spouse. If it’s an industry wide average of what gets bought divided by how many people buy them, it’s not a 1-1.
That said, I thought I hadn’t bought anything in months, then found receipts for three things, so clearly we aren’t always good trackers.
I definitely don’t think that stat was referring to undergarments or clothes for other family members. She was talking about what women buy vs what could be rented from RtR.
I agree that 68 items sounds like a lot, but what if that includes socks and undies (which many peeps won’t mend)? What if you’re a serious runner and you go through 3 pairs of shoes? Does this reflect buying clothes for kids i.e. per household clothing? I’m in no way sanctioning mindless (or even extreme mindful) consumption but maybe there are some other factors at work?
I’ve probably bought 26 garments in 2018 (2 pairs of jeans, the others don’t fit anymore or have too many holes to mend, 3 tops and 5 bras/10 pairs undies and 5 pairs of socks plus a new pair of runners), sewn 2 and knitted 25. I’m keeping 3 of the 25 knits. The rest were made from stash yarn as presents for friends at Xmas.
I buy practically nothing in the scheme of things and it was pretty easy to come up with 26 garments – all of which were to replace something or to enhance a wardrobe gap because I wear all of the things I own.
I should also say that some of the things that I bought I may have sewn under other circumstances but I was renovating / living in a rental for 18 months and I didn’t have my sewing things with me. (It wasn’t supposed to take anywhere near that long to complete the reno or I’d have brought my sewing room with me.) By the time I threw out my handmade lounge pants they had holes everywhere and were 3 sizes too large. And I resisted replacing them because I knew I could make them for myself, with fabric I already own.
I don’t have any way of verifying, but the stat was stated as *clothing*, so I don’t imagine it included undergarments or socks or shoes or anything like that.
It does add up surprisingly fast. I’ve counted recently, and was shocked to find my total clothes/shoes inventory in the low 300s. I know I don’t exactly have a minimalist closet, but it certainly does not feel like I have 300 items! But 68 a year is wild, though. I buy a set of underwear, basic tees, and socks a every few years all at the same time, they seem to wear at the same rate, and maybe I could have hit 68 in those years, especially when I was also really obsessed with sewing. Maybe.
It really is amazing how much you can have in a closet when you start to count it up.
68 pieces per year?! Like Jessica, above, I question the math and/or statistical jiggering that led to this number.
Myself, I rarely buy anything new – mostly shopping resale (and that’s rarely), or making. Every few years I replace underwear/bras & try to buy those that are well-made and well-fitting so they last and are comfortable.
Shoes? I rely on just a few pairs and replace/repair as needed. I try to buy high quality so they last, but am happy to relegate worn walking shoes to garden work when that time comes.
No cheap fashion for this girl, though. I’d rather have a few well-made pieces than a closet full of crap.
I bought a pair of jeans, a lightweight down jacket, 2 solid tees, 2 pairs of sandals and a pair of boots in 2018. I sewed 2 dresses. I refuse to buy any sweaters. That said I’ve made over a dozen sweaters since Jan. 2018. Do I need 12? No, but it is also my daily retirement hobby and happiness and I end up giving some away, some as gifts.
Methinks they’re counting things like socks and undies in that claim of 68 garments per year, but I haven’t read the article.
In the past year, I’ve purchased one bag of a dozen crew socks, a pair of Keds, and some cotton undies. Total garment purchases, if counted per pair=23. If counted as a category? Three. See how those numbers can be massaged?
Next year, I’ll probably be looking for a pair of Oxfords and some new bras. Everything else I add to my wardrobe will be made by mine own hands.
Side note: If you’d asked me this same question ten years ago, when I was neck-deep in businesswear, I’d’ve been able to come up with a number around 68 items. Ridiculous.
I can’t say for sure, but given the context and the woman’s fixation on data, I think it was strictly clothes, not accessories or shoes. I wish I knew the source of the data point.
Well, unlike the rest of the “commenters,” I have come very near the 68 items/year average. Started keeping track of clothing expenses in 2009 as I felt I was over spending. I now have my spending under control but continue to track expenditures. For the record, over the past year I have purchased: 24 tops, 4 pair of boots, 2 sweaters, 2 scarves, 10 pair of shoes, 19 bottoms, 4 pair of shorts, 1 pair of pj’s, 2 bras, and 1 jacket. Total: 69 items. $5735…12% of my income.
My knitting has been limited to gift items and accessories and I’ve sewn only 3 baby quilts YTD.
I would call that 49 articles of clothing and the rest is shoes and accessories. I used to keep track of spending like that and hadn’t done it in years. Funnily, I had started a page for it in my bullet journal earlier this year and even then didn’t notice that there was nothing to write down!
I apparently can’t decide whether I think pajamas are “clothes”!
I dont own 68 garments in all. Let alone buy so much per year.
I have a big problem with how the narrative of sustainability is being painted by the bloggers. Its become all about the brand you buy from making it an elitist cause. Its become all about decluttering (making it an elitist cause.) Owning less and buying less is far more important considering we use up 1.7 earths per year. Sustainability is responsible consumption so that we do not hurt the future generations. I wrote this post :
I think I wear out about 5 garments per year and add around 12-15. It’s been this sort of number for the past 3 years. Prior to that, I used to buy how much ever my budget allowed for. Making an inventory of what I owned has changed my habits. I publish my list every year. The thought of talking about sustainability and owning a bigger closet are oxymoronic. It keeps me in check.
I think small and sustainable tend to go hand in hand, but I also think it’s possible to have, say, a large collection of vintage clothes that you’re keeping out of the landfill, and if you’re taking responsibility for them there’s nothing counter-sustainable about that. But I take your point! I just don’t think sustainable automatically means small.
Absolutely ! It isn’t as simplistic as I paint it to be but the intent has to be : ‘want less’.
68 ON AVERAGE! Wow. I admit to first having been shocked, but then started thinking not about the maker community or those interested in living simply and sustainably and came to the conclusion this is probably the case.
There are bloggers who post their “hauls” of clothes regularly. and those who recreationally shop every week. Even if you buy only one or two items a week (those don’t have to be substantial pieces, $10 t-shirts count) that is 52 or 104 items a year. Small numbers can add up.
Yeah, when you think about that it’s 5-6 pieces per month, it’s easy to see how the average American hitting up the mall as their form of recreation on the weekends could easily get there. I’d say there were plenty of months in my life where I acquired 5 or 6 pcs, especially in clearance-rack season, but I still don’t think there would have been a single year where that was every month and added up to what she’s saying is the average. I’m trying to imagine how many garments the high-end of the buying spectrum brings home each month!
keeping track of what i purchase/return/love or regret has been one of the most valuable exercises in learning about my closet. in 2017 i purchased 50 items excluding undergarments; plus 13 things i returned. of the 50, i rated 8 as poor choices, 12 so-so choices and 30 good choices – things i wear regularly and still like. 2 of those “good choices” have needed repairs already..also helpful to notice. this can feel like a really heavy, judgey topic or unattainable goal for many people, including myself, and keeping track of what i bring in and use over a year rather than day by day has proven to be a manageable approach for me.
As a data junkie myself, I love that you’ve gone to that level of detail in what you’re tracking. I might do the same!
While 68 sounds like a lot, I think it might be true. I’ve been thinking about keeping track of what new clothes I buy for the next 12 months, mostly as a check-in with my shopping habits… and I also LOVE data. Also, I’ve been tracking “fashion fasts”days for a few months and it has really helped me to back away from impulse shopping, which is a huge downfall for me. If I don’t purchase a clothing item I get to fill in a square in my bullet journal. August and September were fully marked in. :) Woo Hoo!
I would say that i have probably acquired 20-25 items this year (. That number includes probably 50% thrift store items, 15% brand new “fast fashion” items (I put this in quotes because although they came from fast fashion brands ie; levi’s and gap, I wear things for a long time…), 35% clothing swap/hand-me-down/somehow scrounged from the world/handmade items. I guess that feels like a lot compared to some of the other commenters here. At the same time, I consider that during these 11 months, I have changed jobs/fields (literally, from smart casual non profit work to farming and food service) and climates (to a much colder northern clime). I still have some items on my list that are getting quite urgent, namely a warmer winter coat and three season rain boots. Overall I think this is fine. I do my best. I think if I felt more financially secure I would like to be buying fewer, higher quality garments (ie; break up with value village). But the cheap thrill still gets me. So here I am, haha!
Again, there’s no right or wrong answer! We all have different lives and needs and circumstances, which is what makes the conversation interesting.
I haven’t tracked all incoming garments this year, so let me take this opportunity to count it all up.
Sewn Items: 12 finished and regularly worn garments
New RTW: 1 technical rain jacket; 6x underwear from locally queer-owned business with ethical practices; 5x shoes (two handmade bought directly from the craftsperson) all for specific wardrobe functions and high durability
Thrifted RTW: 20-25 mostly tees, sweaters, and cardigans. About half from the Eileen Fisher Renews Imperfect sale.
Total: 50ish items
That’s more than I would have figured. It adds up quickly! But I feel fine about it. I was intentional. I filled wardrobe gaps. I bought the best quality I could afford. I replaced items that were trashed or no longer fit. I’m using everything. I intend to wear it all into the ground. It suits the transitions in my life and body.
I feel less fine about my incoming fabric, which should count. I was deliberate about the 6 pieces I paid for myself. But I got a ton of yardage via gift certificates, gifts, and second-hand swaps. It’s a little overwhelming.
I’m hoping next year I will have fewer wardrobe gaps to fill. I’d like to track more intentionally. And I’d like to come up with strategies for managing the rate and quantity of incoming gifted fabric.
Sounds like you’re on a great track!
OK, wow, 68 sure is a lot. I can’t even decide if I find that or the fact that 80% are seldom worn and eventually unused and thrown out more shocking….
I would estimate I buy about 3 new pieces of clothing each year, plus ~ 5 second hand pieces, 1 pair of shoes and new underwear whenever the elastics stretch out or the socks have more holes than fabric.
I make…. around 15 new pieces each year. There are months when I don’t make anything at all and then suddenly I’m bit by the sewing bug again and make 3 new tops and 2 dresses in in a month. I always plan for the season ahead, but only make a fraction of all the pieces I would theoretically want to make – so I guess 15 pieces a year comes quite close to reality.
So if I add it all up, there are quite a few new clothes coming to my wardrobe each year, definitely more than what I thought! There are always things leaving, though, either going to friends/family, are donated or sold; so overall the amount of clothes I own does grow every year, but very slowly. I should keep better track, I’m super curious now what the actual number is and how it changes/stays the same each year!
I always find it fun to keep track of stuff — what I eat, what I buy, etc. I do it intermittently but always learn something.
As someone who makes their living in data, I am deeply skeptical of this sort of context-free number. The New Yorker’s fact checkers are legendary, so let’s stipulate that it came from *somewhere*, but who knows where. Sure it’s easy to read this in context as some sort count of non-basic clothing, but that’s not what was printed — the number is cited as “items of clothing”. It’s not clear whether the reporter had a source other than the subject of the profile, who is an expert marketer. Faux precision (68! Not 67! Ahem, where’s the standard deviation on this measurement?) and the appearance of being “data driven” is part of the schtick these days for businesspeople running in the sort of circles Hyman appears to. It really (really!) doesn’t mean you can take the numbers they spout at face value.
I share the qualms others have pointed out about how the methodology makes the answer here (what’s clothing? What’s an item? Is this really per person, or per purchaser — definitely not the same thing! Etc). I’d like to add that the concept of the “average American” can also be dangerously misleading. Averages are a poor way of summarizing lumpy or highly skewed distributions. It’s entirely possible to calculate a number like that and have it actually apply to almost nobody. On its one, it doesn’t tell you anything about what “most people” do. This is usually surprising to hear if you aren’t well-versed in some of the deeply unintuitive ways statistics work.
I’m most interested in the people here who have been meticulously collecting their own data, and using it to guide their own choices. Self-reported data from memory is notoriously unreliable (and also where a lot of these stats like the 68 number come from…), so I applaud the rigor and empiricism! I guess in the end I see passing around shocking, vaguely sourced stats as a form of gossip and gossip is fun and human 😁 But I’d feel the same caution as with any other gossip — the information should be taken with quite a few grains of salt, and the activity can often be an excuse to feel superior, which I can’t really get on board with.
Thanks for mentioning this, Julia. This number 68 has no clear methodological documentation. As you say, it might not be accurate. That’s what I struggled with in adding up my pieces. 50ish pieces. It feels too close to 68 for comfort. But it’s comparing my choices against an arbitrary benchmark devoid of context. I can use that comparison to derive value statements. Like, oh,”I’m well below 68, so I’m not part of the problem.” Or, “I’m too close to 68; I’m consuming too much and should feel ashamed.”
My number seems high, but it doesn’t give any context. It doesn’t account for how my personal habits may have evolved for the better over time. It doesn’t show the quality of the pieces or the durability. Data without context is useless. I agree, using that data to feel superior or ashamed isn’t super productive. Anyway, when we look at global textile consumption (or any sustainability issue… or any social issue, really), individual habit change is only part of the solution. Individual changes are great but there still have to be systemic, collective changes. There’s value in each of us reflecting on our own choices. There’s potentially even more impact by collectively advocating for big changes. Such as worker rights, environmental protection laws, etc.
Thank you for pointing this out. I have yet to experience anyone knocking on my door and asking me how many garments I’ve bought in the last week/month/year…
Well, I certainly don’t mean for anyone to feel judged or guilty or anything else. As I’m always saying, I find it interesting how different we all are and enjoy hearing different experiences and perspectives. I’ve pointed out that I’ve been all over the map in my life and spending and the situation described above is an anomaly and anecdote offered a conversation starter. Nobody is being rounded up or punished for anything! It’s just something fun and interesting and thought-provoking to talk about. Apologies to anyone who might have taken it as anything other than that.
I certainly didn’t mean my comment to sound like I felt judged. It’s just that I get annoyed with statistics about women’s weight, spending, etc., and wonder where all the numbers come from. I also used to make my living from data and know it can be used to prove just about any point one wants to make.
I found your question and the resulting comments intriguing. No apology needed.
Thanks so much for this great comment, Julia.
There is a lot of self-righteousness in the comments here which I find kind of sad. But there’s a lot that is interesting as well.
I keep track of my purchases as much as possible, including amounts. I am aware that I both buy a lot of clothes and spend a lot on them. I try not to beat myself up about either, though I am always trying to “do better” in all the ways that most people here are, too. Clothing has always been a source of joy to me and I want it to continue to be, though the specific ways I experience that joy is always evolving.
My totals for the past year: ROUGHLY 50 garments purchased, plus a few made (1 sweater, 1 hat, a couple of sewn garments). I say roughly because this includes things like workout gear and underwear, which I try to keep track of in total/general but not per item. It also includes accessories and shoes. Just about all of these are items I saved for, thought carefully about, wear, and delight in. In terms of other stats that are relevant, I am a 38 year old woman, living in Oakland, California. I’m a lawyer, I exercise almost daily, and I find that my life requires everything from very casual to quite formal clothes–so my purchases/makes from this time include include everything from jeans and Ts to soccer/running gear to work blouses to a suit to a very dressy vintage coat for going to the ballet etc.
The main clothing acquisition habit I would like to change is buying a greater proportion of what I do purchase secondhand. It demands a lot of time!
Thanks for starting this fascinating conversation, Karen.
I don’t really know what I was buying annually at the height of my shopping years, because frankly, I thought nothing of it at the time. So while it is very easy for me to judge the claim that the average is 68 items a year, I also think I would be totally shocked by whatever my annual number was too. And frankly, I suspect that any guess I hazard would underestimate it because I want to believe I spent less, and was less thoughtless and frivolous. I was a Jcrew addict 2015 and before, and I actually logged into my account to see if I could still pull up my order history to find this out. Sadly, I couldn’t find it. Too bad – short of sorting through old emails to try to piece together electronic orders, I think that info is sadly lost.
But I did go back through my emails to piece together my shopping from this year (only 1 was an in-person purchase). I’ve purchased a total of 15 items so far this year, 4 of which were undergarments, and I’m anticipating 1 more shoe purchase this year. This still feels high to me, but I was happy to go back and confirm that I am still pleased with each of those purchases and the companies to whom I gave my money. Interestingly, however, my fabric/yarn/craft purchases were much greater than I thought, and certainly outpace my sewing/knitting output. It makes me wonder how much I’ve replaced a clothing shopping habit with a craft materials habit to a lesser degree. I still think that my acquisition rate is far better than when I was thoughtlessly purchasing fast fashion clothing, but it certainly gives me pause and something to consider going forward. I think I’m going to start tracking all purchases like this – it is so interesting to face what you’ve spent and rumble with it.
Very good point.
I came to realize that I wasn’t being as conscientious with my yarn purchases as I am with my sewing choices. For sewn garments, I buy what I need for a specific garment. With yarn, a lot of it was, “Oh wow it’s gorgeous I have to have it!” And then I’ve got all this yarn that sits there and sits there…
Recently, I made the decision to be as careful with my yarn buying as I am with my fabric buying. Which means that, no matter how beautiful they are, if I don’t figure out what to do with Harrisville’s Nightshade yarns, I don’t get to buy any. So I’d better have a reason better than “I want.” It’s a more liberating mindset than I thought it would be.
As you say, the stats are interesting, especially when we as individuals try to gauge how typical or not our making/buying habits are around clothes. I have never in my life bught sixty items of clothes in a year. But…I have gained a lot of weight over the last few years, with some fluctuation back down to my “original” size, and I foolishly have purchased about three pairs of very nice and expensive jeans and an expensive Mossino skirt in sizes smaller than I currently am, and I have hardly worn them at all (the skirt never, because I can’t even fit into it!).
I feel like I have bought a lot in the last year – I’ve gained weight (menopause) and rather than beat myself up about that I’ve replaced key items. I went into my closet – for the purposes of this thread and not counting underwear replacements- and totted up 11 purchases; a dress for a wedding, 3 day dresses, 4 blouses and 3 pants (black jeans, blue jeans and yoga pants). Sadly I have no talent for sewing so all store bought. In addition I have knitted myself 5 cardigans since October last year ( which did come as a bit of a shock as I’ve also knit for family and friends). One raincoat. Two pairs of boots and a pair of Birkenstock’s. I buy a pair of Birkenstock’s every year but they last forever so I now have a dozen pairs – I guess that’s a yearly habit I should break.
So in conclusion I’ve had a big year clothing wise and have still only managed to buy 15 items.
“I guess that’s a yearly habit I should break.” Ha — seems like you could maybe go to every other year? ;)
Yes – at the very least. I think I could go 10 years and not be short of a shoe! As I operate a one in, one out policy and I love all my current ones this should be easy.
I am (pleasantly) surprised that so many here are questioning the 68 items per year figure, which seems absolutely spot on to me in relation to the shopping habits I observe around me – if anything, on the low side. 68 items per year means just over an item per week. Most women I know shop for clothes nearly every weekend. So… Yeah. Seems like a conservative estimate.
Me… It’s difficult to calculate an average, because my shopping habits are irregular. I tend to wear the same things for years and buy nothing, then wear out/ destroy several crucial items out all at once and frantically shop to replace them, only to be dissatisfied with the replacement and have to look for another. So for example, I bought 4 pairs of trousers this year, but zero pairs of trousers in the 2 years prior. That sort of thing. So is that 4 pairs in a year year, or 4 pairs in 3 years? I guess it depends on how the survey is phrased.
Taking all that into account, I would estimate 12 items per year for me as far as purchases, including shoes and outerwear, and including both new and second-hand. And a further 12 handmade, which are mostly knitted sweaters, dresses, and socks. It adds up to a lot now that I think of it, but I am going through a wardrobe/style transition at the moment, and so these numbers are consistent with that.
I love your comment about everything wearing out at once, and the rushed replacements being unsatisfactory. I think that is the story of my clothes habits.
I spend most of my working days in uniform and this has had a huge effect on my clothing consumption. I only need a couple of each garment type, although I did struggle during the hot spell this year when I went away for a week. I plan to make a few more hot weather garments that mix and match for travel. In terms of what I have added this year so far, I have made 4 garments, bought a padded anorak from a charity shop and purchased a new pair of boots. I also need a new pair of shoes for work as mine are beyond repair. I thought I wouldn’t like wearing a uniform, but it’s so time and money saving I would seriously consider creating my own if I ever change jobs.
I’m always fascinated by people who create their own uniform — especially women in professional settings. Rachel Maddow might be one of the most prominent: She wears a black blazer and camisole (or something under there) every single night. So she not only doesn’t have to think about it, there’s nothing odd — you just know that’s what she’ll be wearing. And I’ve read about lots of other examples in recent years. I think I would almost have to do that if I worked in a dressy professional setting — just think of it like the men and their suits — because I wouldn’t like the clothes enough to enjoy having any more of them than I had to. Which I imagine would make me that much more determined to be really really myself in my not-work clothes.
It does depend on the setting, I think. I work in healthcare and instead of making me more focussed on the garments I wear outside work, I’ve become less so. I do think a lot about what I want to sew, but I’ve become ruthlessly practical. I sew to fill gaps, as pretty party dresses would go unworn. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy your blog – I believe you’re someone else who creates for the life you have.
In my world, clothes shopping is recreation. Even if I don’t succumb to buying when I am with my friends, I get pulled into online shopping when I get on the Internet. If you don’t pay attention, it’s easy to buy 68 garments per year-heaven forbid you wear the same thing to yoga everyday!
I used to do that a lot — late nights cruising the sale section at J.Crew etc.
If nothing else, this Q has inspired me to track my clothing purchases/makes for next year, because now I’m curious! Irregardless of the validity of the statistic, I’ll be very surprised if I’m anywhere near 68 items. I know I knit 20ish items a year, but lots of them are gifts, or socks that wear out relatively quickly (compared to a sweater or shawl). I have started to curb my yarn purchases, and am learning I can go to a fiber festival and enjoy the inspiration and company without having to buy a ton of stuff – my ONLY purchase at Rhinebeck this year was some Nightshade (Fever Dreams!) for an Anna vest, and that’s going on my needles as soon as it arrives.
Ooh that sounds like an excellent choice! ;)
Love this discussion! I never considered myself a shopper, but I think I do impulse buy. I keep my clothes forever (my daughters have made me purge once or twice) but never have really thought of why I buy what I buy and what my style is. I worked in health care before I retired so never really had to buy clothes for a work environment and live on a working farm so I have specific needs for part of my wardrobe. I sewed many of my clothes when I was younger but that changed to sewing for my girls when they were young. I am now trying to get back to sewing for myself. Most of my knitting has been for gifts but am also trying to start knitting for myself. This discussion has prompted me to start by taking a hard look at my current closet and what is in it, probably do a good clean out and then take my time filling in the gaps.
I’ve found a way to “relieve” that “impulse-shopping I-want-it!” feeling by “virtual shopping” via Pinterest. I’ll exhaustively peruse the… Zara website, for example… and Pin everything I “want” onto a (secret… definitely secret) Board. I also take note of the $$ total were I to actually purchase such haul from Zara… and No-Way can I afford! Binge shopping and reality check all in one. Also, I can do this in my PJs, over coffee, hair still in need of washing, and not spend a dime on gas.
Pinning like this is quite handy, actually, as a way to record my fashion “aspirations” (colors, styles, shapes… if perhaps not Quality), to refer back to when planning a sewing or knitting project or a trip to Thrift Town.
Or, “Binge Pinning” maybe is a better descriptor : )
That sounds like a great way to get it out of your system. And if you never find yourself fixating on any of it for any extending period of time, then you know you would have regretted or tired of the purchase!
This year I’ve only bought a tee shirt from an ethical company, a handmade dress from Etsy, and two pairs of sandals. Most likely need to buy another pair of shoes before the year is out (some black oxford or bootie). I’ve sewn one dress (that I wear all the time!!) and would like to sew more but I have a baby and am in the throes of moving. Hopefully finish my cardigan I am knitting for myself. I have been busy knitting for my babe and getting all prepped to sew for him and my older boys as well. I have what I need, although not my ideal wardrobe..I am content (most of the time). I am trying to focus in on #stashless and use what I have. I have purchased fast fashion garments for my boys though…having a hard time with kids clothes.
Definitely need to start some bujo tracking pages!
I’m thinking of a few for 2019 as well! Maybe even Lee Vosburgh’s wear count idea.
This blog is very inspiring to me to look at and change my wardrobe shopping habits. I wish I was in the majority of responses that were shocked with the purchasing of 68 clothing items a year, but I am afraid I would fall in this “average American spending” category. Something to work on for next year.
Now, when I start to think about my problem of buying too many cloths is the fact that I really like colour. I am attracted to new colours and shapes that I could add to my wardrobe. Consequently I fall into a trap of purchasing new items to go with my new colours. Since I live in the cold climate, I need to dress in layers, so I end up buying new sweaters, shoes, perhaps a jacket and all accessories etc. I am finding that my summer wardrobe is much simpler both in colours and numbers. May be this is how I am dealing with the challenge of long winters here. ;)
Another challenge is that wardrobe consisting mainly of neutrals would not be exciting for me to wear. So I would really need to start planning and limiting my choice of colours. Just stick with a few favourites colours and add some neutrals to pair them with. And keep my winter jackets and shoes for several seasons. Uff, I have got myself a plan. Hope I can stick with it, just give me a year to work on it.
That sounds like an excellent strategy! And just remember it’s a slow and gradual process.
Thank you for referencing this article – I found it fascinating. My overriding response which is supported by many comments here is that the majority of this community is already very aware of their garment purchasing behaviour. I have not purchased a single new item of clothing this year (unless two pairs of shoes and two pairs of socks count). BUT when I am honest in reflection I realize: My problem is fabric. I sew for myself and my family, and although I try and buy only with a particular garment in mind, I often buy three of four pieces at a time. This adds up to an average of about 5-6 pieces of fabric (garments) a month. Which comes very close to 68 items. I had not actually quantified it until this point and am ever so grateful for the realization that this has brought. It is time to recalibrate on another level. Sigh. :/
I’ve purchased 12 garments, including pajamas and work out clothes, in the last year, and 5 pairs of shoes, including workout shoes and hiking boots. I’ve made a pile of accessories, many that I gave away. Do those count as garments? They feel like they’re not- more like decorations. I definitely would not have bought comparable items if I wasn’t a Knitter. I’ve knit one cardigan- the comfort fade cardi which I absolutely adore and want to wear everyday, one Carbeth pullover which I’m saving for cold weather, and one summer tee. Most of my knitting is smaller items, as I have a lot of single skeins constantly calling my name. Counting shoes, that’s 20 items.
I think about this a lot, as a knitter, am I making things that I wouldn’t actually buy? Certain sweater patterns or shawls that look fun to knit and gorgeous in the context of Ravelry, but if I saw them in a store would I even try them on? I can’t help but wonder if knitting has added more stuff I don’t “need” to my closet. Trying to focus my creative energies on more basics rather than another gradient shawl isn’t impossible but it is less exciting :/
Thank you for broaching such an interesting and thoughtful topic. I tend to agree with you about abstaining from the fast-fashion economy, but your questions about making our clothes have sent me into a hour-long introspection. It’s very interesting because I also just listened to the most recent episode of Love to Sew podcast with Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic. I believe she said that she makes upwards of 50 garments a year, and that for her, it’s the outlet for her creative expression. I think her analogy of an artist who paints is apt in a lot of ways (I think you are uniquely qualified to judge)–does anyone question a painter who produces many canvases in a year, especially when their work is thoughtfully produced? Should we as knitters, crocheters, and sewists hold ourselves to a more austere standard? Is it because we tend to create only for ourselves? I defintely fall somewhere between 15 and 50 garments, but I do try to be as thoughtful as possible in my personal work. It’s not just about making garments to cover myself… It’s about allowing something inside of me to come out.
This is a wonderful topic Karen and so many threads keep popping up. Like k above, knitting is my creative outlet and I did think about painters and canvases.
Awhile back we brought up all the emails for clothing deals, sales, to get one to buy. Yarn is almost similar. How many of us buy yarn in a impulse when we see an email with *sale* or beautiful patterns. Some stashes are as full as an entire closet. I have to consciously refrain from temptation and buy for a specific project. Do creative folks get a pass because this is also their artistic outlet?
A review of my purchases shows that this year I bought 6 undergarments, 3 dresses, 5 pants, 1 sun shirt, 2 t-shirts (on vacation, to support a local artist), a bathing suit, pair of shorts (my only pair), a couple socks, and a pair of boots. This is a lot for me, but I wear these things constantly. I wear t-shirts until frayed, then sleep in them until they completely give up. Some t-shirts got turned into t-shirt yarn after that.
I’ve always worn and bought minimally, first because it’s what we could afford, then because I prefer the simplicity. My mom taught me to buy quality on sale, except when it comes to shoes. If you know you’ll wear them to death, spend the cash if you can.
One of my shopping strategies has long been to carry around something I like before committing to it. Sometimes I even put it back and, if I still want it a few days later and it’s available, I buy it. This had saved me from bad/unnecessary purchased many times. Less so in the digital realm. For me, the thing is to be mindful. To buy quality when I need it, or if it’s only a want, then only if I will truly wear it.
A few years ago I had to make a change in my usual wardrobe and it took buying quite a few different styles to figure out what worked for me. Even in that time I never got close to 68 garments a year. I find that the clothes I can wear don’t last as long as those from my old style. I hate that. I do buy second hand when I can. I will buy something like a fast fashion dress in a pinch (I just went on vacation to a humid climate and realized I would be miserable in some of my usual clothes; photos show the rest of what I wore was the same as the last time we went 4 years ago). I used to buy a few cheap t-shirts every 4-ish years, but the ones from my usual source now don’t last for more than a year or so. I made my first t-shirt this year instead!
My big challenge is costumes; I make them for myself and others. My closet is more than half full of them. I will rewear and remake them, wear some pieces as everyday wear, give them away or sell them, but they take up a lot of space. I recently gave away about 12 bags of long unworn clothes/costumes. It was a long overdue purge. I try to buy fabric and notions only from ethical sources and not more than needed, though I do accept fabric people are giving away.
Thanks for your post. I need to get back to being more mindful in all my textile purchases.
If I had to guess I would say 10 or 12 but I took a moment this weekend and counted. Since January I’ve acquired 22 articles of clothing! That’s 2 things I’ve made, 4 things a friend made, 3 items brand new and all the rest were 2nd hand purchases from a local consignment shop (where I’ve sold my own things). The number doesn’t surprise me so much as the fact that I was so unaware. I used to buy a lot more when I was shopping, but I’ve become more thoughtful about what I need, where my money goes, and spend less time shopping for clothes in general. I have noticed that a lot of my shopping (time and spending) has transfered to fabric and yarn. I try to be thoughtful about what I need and who I support there too!
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Almost 100% of my clothes come from thrift stores with a couple homemade items added each year (both sewn and knitted). Very rarely do I buy used, recent fast fashion items. Most are from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I can’t guess how many things I buy a year, it all depends on what I find at thrift stores and how often I go. As all thrifters know, sometimes you find a lot and sometimes, nothing. I like to thrift for fun and usually do not go with a certain item in mind. I will buy an occasional t-shirt, socks, and underwear at Target when I need to replace a basic in my wardrobe. So far this year I have purchased new one long-sleeve t-shirt, sweatpants to replace the ones with a huge hole, and 2 new bras. The rest was all used. Is my clothing consumption better because it is almost all used? I am keeping things from landfills and shopping local but I also have a lot of clothes including things that I don’t wear often but still like. And I am certainly buying things I don’t need.
I would say I am much more intentional in my making of clothes because I do not have much time to create right now. When knitting I tend to choose garments that will be timeless in more neutral colors. When sewing I mostly work from vintage patterns found, you guessed it, at thrift stores.
I would say your consumption is definitely better for being almost all used. Like you said, you are keeping those clothes out of the landfill and reducing the demand for new ones.
such a nice discussion .
When I was working and blissfully unaware of how damaging my habits were, I shopped weekly at places like Ross and thrift stores and probably surpassed this average. In late 2015, I quit fast fashion and started a log of all clothing and accessories purchased, where I bought them and how much each cost. Excluding accessories which are in smaller numbers anyway, I bought 30 items in 2016 (4 new/26 thrifted), 71 items in 2017 (8 new/63 thrifted), and to date this year 43 items (3 new/40 thrifted).
In these numbers there were definitely poorly thought out purchases for things under $5 in thrift shops that went back without much use, but a lot of it was a shift from a corporate job to SAHM life, breastfeeding, weight fluctuations, finding my style in my new lifestyle, etc. I’m very satisfied with my closet right now and expect these numbers to continue dropping significantly as time goes on. I’m considering the French 5 concept which would be 10 items per year and pair reasonably with my goals for shifting to more handmade.
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