The Year of Not Shopping: Updates and Inspiration

BlogHer Original Post

Is 2010 the Year of Not Shopping? Not at my house, no, but for other women bloggers, the answer is yes, and they're finding creative ways to go about giving up their retail therapy.

In the wake of revelations that fast-fashion giant H&M is destroying unsold clothing, it's hard not to think more carefully about what we wear and where we buy it -- and why we shop. I'm a long-time proponent of shopping your closet (back before the economy collapsed and frugal was fashionable) and I am continually fascinated by how women who are shopping their closets reinvent themselves and their wardrobes.

Rachelle Mee Chapman, author of Magpie Girl, swore off shopping for an entire year; she has enlisted friends and readers to stop shopping with her. Recently, Vivenne McMaster wrote a guest post at Magpie Girl, describing her own not-shopping experience:

For me this is about being more present in my life and to appreciate what I do have. Who would I be if I wasn’t wearing the fanciest new thing from Anthropologie or the coolest artful jewelry or scarf that everyone is wearing. In fact I already have a closetful of such things. I am enough and have enough. This has become an adventure in digging deeper into who I am, of making room for more deep breaths and less stress.

I love that idea, that shopping less gives us more. McMaster is very persuasive, yes?

Not everyone who has stopped shopping has done so to find inner peace; for other women, this is an exercise is avoiding commercialism, but not necessarily in skipping new stuff. Vancouver artist Natalie Purschwitz is making all of her own clothes for one year -- including shoes and underwear. She is chronicling her outfits and her project at MakeShift; her biggest challenge so far has been the shoes.

For some reason, making a new pair of shoes has proven to be really difficult. Pictured above are my only secondary pair of shoes, the infamously stapled together Clog Boots. While they do have a certain appeal to them, they are not the most practical shoes for everyday wear. One major hindrance is that I can't go up steep inclines when I'm wearing them. We have a very steep driveway leading into/out of the parking garage in my apartment building and one day as I was trying to take a short cut to the trash (while wearing the Clog Boots), I decided to take the ramp. Much to my embarrassment/chagrin, I couldn't make it up the hill. Not even sideways using the cross-country ski hill-climbing technique! The thing that I don't understand is that before I started this project I was able to climb hills, run, jump, skip and dance in a regular pair of Dansko clogs. I am actually quite determined to make a pair of funtional clogs so I've started another pair.

I cannot even imagine making my own shoes -- it's all I can do to keep mine polished -- but I am fascinated by this project.

Finally, there is my favorite not-really-shopping project, The Uniform Project: Sheena Matheiken is wearing the exact same dress every day for one year. Unlike Mee Chapman and Purschwitz, Matheiken's still shopping, but her project is still a study in doing more with less. Her daily photos are a constant source of inspiration to me; Matheiken restyles her basic black dress in ways that are both pragmatic and fantastic.

Matheiken's project is designed to raise both awareness and money; to date, she has raised over $50,000 for school children in India. Recently, she posted a charming and moving video of some of the kids who are benefitting from her project.

A Message From The Kids from The Uniform Project on Vimeo.

I like to think that fashion can change the world; each of these projects, by taking our interest in clothes and redirecting it to something else -- is indeed serving as a catalyst for change. But in order to create change, it is important to think carefully and critically about what's in our closet and how we're making it work -- or not work -- for us, and for others. 

What's your fashion project for 2010? How is your closet changing the world?

Thinking about instituting your own shopping embargo? Andrea at Inside the Fishbowl has some guidelines -- follow them whole, or use them to map out your own stop-shopping plan

Susan Wagner writes about pragmatic fashion at The Working Closet and chic suburban living at Friday Playdate. She is photographing what she wears every day in 2010; you can see the photos at Flickr.

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