Challenged by her attitude towards clothes, Ruth Koch decided not to buy any for a whole year. She tells us in her own words how she got on.
I started my clothes fast nearly a year ago and have been on a bit of journey with the idea ever since. It all started when I was involved in a campaign my church ran encouraging people to buy ethical clothing. I realised that I tend to ‘treat’ myself to some new clothes when I’m feeling down and on these occasions I tend to fail to consider the ethical implications of my impulse purchases. Ultimately I wanted to try and break this cycle of ‘treating’ myself. So I decided to go a whole year without buying any new clothes or accessories.
The year started well. I had a nice stock of clothes that were in relatively good condition, the sun was shining, and I had sandals on my feet. However, as the change in season approached, things became a little more difficult. With cold winds came a draw towards shop windows and sales. Never one to turn down a good bargain, I found myself mindlessly wandering into shops and gazing wantingly at the rails until I remembered my pledge. I resigned myself to the fact that this year I definitely wouldn’t be wearing the latest trends.
By the time winter came round I didn’t even notice I hadn’t been shopping. It was easy to wrap myself up in layers and warm clothes but as the spring came, things became a little difficult again. Those old faithful pieces began to wear away, holes were appearing and shoes were leaking. Evenings were spent sewing and attempting to patch up holes.
I quickly learned that it’s all about quality over quantity and when you have a large quantity of cheap clothes it isn’t good. By spending less time on shopping I had more time to get creative. I’ve learned how to patch, to cover up my holes with accessories, not to wear my holey boots in the rain and even started an evening class learning how to ‘make do and mend’. I’ve made my first ever piece of clothing from scratch and plan on making a dress next.
I found other ways to refresh my wardrobe. On a number of occasions my generous of friends let me rummage through their charity shop bags and my pregnant sister loaned me clothes that she could no longer fit into. I enjoyed a fair few Swishing parties where I was able to swap what I had with others. One of my favourite moments was when a friend surprised me with a packet of socks, which I was desperately in need of! I also noticed that I only really wear a few favourite items and the rest of my slightly excessive wardrobe was a little redundant.
I might look a bit of a scruff at the moment but I know that my identity isn’t wrapped up in what I wear. I’ve only got one month of the clothes fast left to go. I’d like to say that when June comes I will continue the fast and just make do, but in reality the holes are beginning to get out of control and I’m a little tired of having wet feet. But when I do start shopping again my purchases will be a bit more carefully thought out and from ethical sources. I’m pleased to say my habit has been broken. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Ruth Koch works at Tearfund, lives in Lincoln and loves baking cakes, quirky junk shops and country life.