A Quick Guide to Giving up Clothes Shopping

Do you rememer the last time you bought a piece of clothing?  What was it?  Why did you buy it?  Where did it come from?

I realised the other day that I can answer exactly none of these questions.

The weird thing is, I haven’t been making a concerted effort to avoid clothes shopping; it just sort of happened.  One minute I was entranced by the idea of hunting out retro-looking garments in unsuspecting stores and the next minute… well, I wasn’t.  In fact, these days, my idea of clothes shopping looks a little like this:

Shopping in Bits

I call it ‘shopping in bits’. Or ‘shopping for the extreme future’.  In the image above, you can see a pussy-bow shirt, parts of two dresses and the planning stages of three more garments.  In fact, I’ve already assigned some fabric to the dress in front and am formulating plans for a bold exposed zip as we speak.  (Actually, now I think of it, I should check the pattern and make sure it calls for a centred back zip and not a side one, or my exposed zip plans may be in ruins.)

All talk of zips aside, somehow I’ve turned into someone who’s determined to make everything she wears, with the notable exception of shoes.  My hand-knitted socks are slowly taking over my sock drawer and my hand-made garments will soon be doing the same to my wardrobe, thanks to my Delightful Dozen Project.  My hand-knitted cardigan and cotton top will presently be joined by a new cardigan and I even have plans to delve into undergarments (sewn, not knitted), what with an op-shopped book about making your own lingerie and a pattern for undies.  I’ve even bookmarked a Craftsy class on bra making, which I’ll buy the second it goes on sale.*

How did it come to this, though?  I thought I’d share some of the ways I’ve managed to change my mindset in the space of a few months, just in case you’re tempted to join in.

1.  Develop a healthy dislike of your local shopping centre.

This has been made even easier than normal for me, thanks to extensive building work going on at our nearest shopping centre.  The carparks are filled with crazy people and walking there takes forever.  I don’t like shopping centres at the best of times, but this one has become roughly a million times worse.  The way I see it, if you’re not in a shopping centre, then you’re not being tempted by things you probably don’t need.

2.  Learn the difference between want and need.

This can be a tough one.  Sometimes, I’ll convince myself I absolutely need that new basket for my bike or the companion book for the Great British Sewing Bee, but when I really sit down and think about it, I realise I just want them.  A lot.  It can be very hard to say no to yourself at times.

3.  Have a wardrobe that’s too full to fit anything new.

Obviously, this isn’t an ideal situation, but it certainly helps when trying to hold yourself back from adding items to said wardrobe.  I seem to have been on a subconscious mission to fill my wardrobe over the past few years; now I have grand plans to get rid of most of it.

4.  Take up hobbies that cut into shopping time.

Sewing and knitting are good ones, for obvious reasons.  There are plenty of things I’d rather do than spend an hour or so in the shops, up to and including having pins stabbed in my eyes.  Fortunately, I tend to choose more enjoyable pursuits such as getting lost in a good book or going on a random adventure with the Chef and my camera.

5.  Wear a garment that is made to fit you and you alone.

Seriously.  It’s a revelation.  A waist that sits on my actual waistline?  A dress that fits without being either too big or too small in one place and the opposite in another?  You’ll never go back to ready-to-wear after that; it’s like putting on clothes that have been made for someone else.

That seems to be how I’ve fallen into this habit of not buying new clothes.  Complete clothes, at least.  I’m still spending money on clothing components and have proven incapable of resisting the siren call of Spotlight’s three-patterns-for-$10 offer.  It’s such a bargain, though – at least two of the patterns in the photo were over $20 each at normal price.  Yes, it all means I have to wait a lot longer for a new dress, but the closet hipster in me loves being part of this slow living movement.

Meanwhile, my cats saw me taking photos for the blog and couldn’t understand why my subject was lacking in cat.  They fixed this error for me.  So helpful.

Shopping in Bits Bonus

Cats always know best when it comes to sewing.

What do you think about the idea of sticking to op shopped or handmade clothes?  Let me know in the comments!

 

* In a weird coincidence, the bra making course went on sale today, which inevitably resulted in my spending money just after writing a blog post about not spending money.

0 thoughts on “A Quick Guide to Giving up Clothes Shopping

  1. If I had the sewing gene I would love to make my own things. Alas I did not inherit my mothers skills in that area. I’ll continue to just appreciate your nice dresses!

    Also – I was up at that shopping centre today… Never again…. That car park was truly terrifying for me and my nice new car.

    1. It’s absolutely awful. People are fighting for parking spots and driving like idiots but if you just go up one ramp, you have your choice of spots. We parked right near the door, once we escaped from the morons on the level below.

      I’m not sure I have a sewing gene as much as an ability to occasionally overcome my amazing procrastination skills. Plus, even though it takes a bit longer to make things myself, it sometimes used to take me that long to shop for a dress that fitted me properly, so I always come out ahead! In theory, anyway.

  2. I don’t much like clothes shopping. My dearly beloved has commented that he’s never known anyone to hate clothes shopping quite as much as I do. It is the ready to wear thing – I’m sorry, they just don’t fit properly. But more than that, there’s all the ethics around fast fashion. The more I read about it, the more I find rack upon rack of the same thing repulsive.

    1. The ethics of fast fashion are definitely a factor in my reluctance to buy new things, even more so after watching Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion and seeing that this so-called ‘living wage’ goes absolutely nowhere for these over-worked and exploited people. When you know exactly how much hard work goes in to making something from scratch – and how long it takes! – it becomes impossible to be part of the process that keeps an unfair system in place.

  3. I love clothes shopping and, sadly, before I used it used to be my only hobby!!! But fast fashion really does depress me these day and I’m trying to learn fashion for myself instead of pleasing other people. Doing a complete wardrobe cleanse helped me see how much money I wasted on clothes I never wore! and helped me see what I needed.

    I love fashion and sewing has helped me love it as a creative outlet rather then just as a consumer. I hope to create a mostly handmade wardrobe and am focusing on sewing basics that will be very wearable but I’m still a beginner and sew too slow. I’m now shopping in charity shops and secondhand places and trying to be more conscious of ethical shopping.

    Also, spending too much money on sewing stuff also helps me stop spending on clothes :p

    1. At one point, I quite enjoyed the hunt for the perfect outfit, too. I’m not sure how I managed that, given that I still couldn’t really standing shopping centres, but I think I enjoyed the challenge of finding items that suited my developing sense of personal style and that somehow allowed me to screen out the more annoying aspects of shopping.

      I sew slowly, too! It drives me crazy sometimes, having to wait ages for a new dress, but I’m hoping to channel this into inspiration to learn how to become a more efficient sewer. It’s a theory that has yet to be tested… In the meantime, op shops are great places to fill in any gaps!

      The only problem is dealing with the fact that spending has simply been directed elsewhere (or so it seems, at times). I’ve tried popping into Spotlight “just for a zip!” so many times and every time, I’ve come out with something extra. Something necessary to the sewing process, yes, but extra nonetheless. If you work out how to deal with that little issue, let me know!

    1. Luckily, I’ve been able to resist the lure of online shopping because the risk of things either not fitting or not suiting me always seemed too great. I can’t even buy fabric online – touch and feel is just too important to me! None of this stops me from being tempted, of course.

      No-one should give up clothes shopping entirely – not everyone has the time (or inclination) sew and the economy still needs money flowing through it. I think the important thing is being aware of where things are coming from and what we can do about it. It may sound silly, but I think that teaching people the difference between ‘fashion’ and ‘style’ could make a world of difference. And since you have your own sense of style, I think you’d approach clothes shopping differently from someone who is motivated purely to buy what’s new.

  4. I like #5 the best. I realized long ago that I didn’t like clothes shopping when I would look at rack after rack of clothes and think “can I make this better and/or for less money than this?”. Usually the answer was “YES!”. Recently I am just fed up with RTW clothes that do not fit. Clothes should fit me properly, when they don’t it is a waste!

    1. And we can make things that are unique! I honestly think number five is the biggest motivating factor for me, too. After making and wearing my first dress, I went from someone who accepted the less than perfect fit of ready-to-wear dresses to someone who couldn’t stand them seemingly overnight. No longer do I have to put up with dodgy waistlines and even dodgier manufacturing processes – I can do something about it!

  5. It is quite easy. If I had the least bit of patience enough to get along with the sewing machine I would certainly make my own clothes. Mum was quite a whiz with needles, thread and sewing machines so my sister and I grew up with the idea of wearing similar dresses, cardigans, trousers etc. Even when mum was very sick she sat by the sewing machine, making hems on curtains. Maybe there are a lot of emotions involved which makes me hold it at arm’s length.

    The option is to go shopping with Trinny and Susannah telling me what to wear and not to in order to look smashing. If they can squeeze me into their busy agenda. I am in total agreeance with you there, it is rather hopeless to find garments that actually fits! Once I find something in the right size and venture off to the fitting room, the clothes have actually shrunk in the meantime. My mind boggles…!

    Lovely pic of the cats, obviously they think it’s about time they made their presence known to the world. 😀

    1. It’s amazing how emotive the act of making clothes can be. Whenever I’m sewing, I can’t help but remember when my mum was teaching me, or those nights sewing on my dad’s old green Elna (the light on that used to get very hot). Once upon a time, such a skill was a necessity; now that it’s no longer so vital, it somehow becomes more meaningful.

      Clothes shopping is a sure-fire way to suck the fun out of getting dressed! I always used find it so frustrating when I picked something off a rack that I thought would suit me, only to discover I was so very, very wrong. And don’t get me started on sizing!

      My cats are convinced the world will be a better place if they could be in every photo on this blog. Pickle in particular is notorious for appearing in shot almost as soon as I’ve taken the lens cap off.

  6. Last year, I made a concerted effort to buy only from eBay or op shops, with the exception of track pants, underwear and if I couldn’t find what I really wanted.

    1. This household has a name for Chadstone – Hell. This may or may not have come from the fact that The Mister worked there for 2 years, but nevertheless it’s a name that’s stuck.
    We only go to shopping centres if we absolutely have to.
    Also, isn’t it funny how Chadstone Shopping Centre has become a destination and the last two words of its title are dropped? Chadstone is actually the suburb in which it is situated. It was Melbourne’s first suburban shopping mall, and signified the change of pace and prominence of the auto-mobile in post-war Australia. (Looks like my 4 years of studying urban planning have paid off 😉 ).

    2. I’ve got this uncanny habit of not buying myself something even if I need it. I feel incredibly guilty. I’ll wear my underwear until the elastic is practically falling out of its seams. The Lady Peggy dress The Mister insisted I purchase at Ballarat Beat was met with me almost in tears telling him I didn’t need it, no matter how much I wanted it. In the end, I purchased it mostly because I accidentally stood on the inside of the dress therefore soiling it, but also to get him off of my case. She is beautiful though, and while I am glad he persisted, I still feel awfully guilty.

    3. Our wardrobe is awfully small – we share it. I have a policy of I must not buy any new item of clothing unless I’ve gotten rid of at least two things. Even then, refer back to number 2.

    4. Blogging, uni, job hunting (no money for shopping of any kind), and possibly soon a new small business project. Time? What time? 😉

    5. I’m hoping that once I get a job I will be able to afford to purchase a sewing machine and start making. I should probably start learning how to read a pattern before getting a machine. I remember how to thread the bobbin and the reel from school sewing days, and while I am sure that each machine is different, fundamentally that task will be the same.

    1. I have a morbid fear of Chadstone. In fact, I’d have to be bribed with something pretty amazing before I’d set foot in there again. And I’m talking something like world peace or a cure for the common cold here – that’s how strongly I feel about the place. On the other hand, I was amused by the no-nonsense security guards standing at the doors to all the fancy-pants shops, judging you as you walked by.

      It’s so good to know I’m not alone in feeling strangely guilty for buying things! I recently made a significant purchase and it’s taken me two days even to take it out of the bag.

      I do hope you are able to buy a sewing machine soon! Once you have one, there’s a fantastic free course on Craftsy about sewing machine basics, which I watched before getting to grips with my machine. It definitely helped me sort everything out before I threw myself into making my first skirt in years!

  7. haha the rent a cops that tell you if you can or can’t go in there! I laugh at them too!

    If all goes to plan it may even be classed as a business expense, that illustrious sewing machine! I am too scared to visit Craftsy! I have the app on my phone but worried it will get me hook, line and sinker!

    1. It is very tempting to buy all of the courses because they all sound equally amazing. Luckily, I manage to restrict myself to putting them in my wishlist and only considering a purchase when they’re on sale. It’s a true test of my will-power, though.

  8. I loathe, detest, and revile clothes shopping outside op shops. I recently needed to spend ‘real’ money on some trousers, which involved getting into town, being in town, dealing with all the things town inflicts on a person, and trying on clothes made to fit some non-existent idealised human. It was traumatic!

    I’m so accustomed to buying trousers someone else’s bum has stretched into shape for me. :/ And buying said trousers amidst the pleasure of fossicking through the discards from other people’s lives. Trouser-shopping-as-therapy versus buying trousers and rushing home to hug cats in a foetal position wrapped in a blanket.

    Alas, the best I can do with a needle and thread is fix a split armpit seam. And I can’t even do that much without stabbing myself.

    1. I think part of what makes Op-shopping ok is that a) there are a larger range of different cuts as they represent a bunch of different fashion cycles, and b) We have a lower expectation about the stuff we try on being perfect. We know it’s hit and miss so it doesn’t feel so bad if it’s a bit more miss. Buying ‘new’ everything is presented and showcased as a perfect package… which then you discover just isn’t for you.

      1. You have a very good point there. It’s quite frustrating when the clothes don’t look as spectacular on you as they do on the mannequin but there’s a very good reason for that: they were actually designed for the mannequin. In an op shop, you always have a much better chance of finding something unique, instead of blending in with the crowd.

    2. If it makes you feel any better, I stab myself all the time when I’m doing the hand-sewing parts on my dresses. And my knitted items, too. There’s a bit of my DNA in pretty much everything I make.

      I hope I’m able to go a very long time without having to do any clothes shopping because your scenario exactly describes my experiences. Thank goodness for cats and tea, is all I’ll say. (And an understanding Chef who knows exactly when I need to be removed from a shopping centre for my own sanity.)

      The replies to this have really warmed my heart. It’s lovely to know there are so many of us out there, fully embracing the op shop life. There’s hope for humanity after all!

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