Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012 Shopping Manifesto

Well howdy-do 2012. Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed some jolly holidays. Mine were filled with travel (London!), lots of food (lobster breakfast anyone?), The Killing (I just discovered Sarah Lund's sweater has its own website), sleeping in (up until 4 pm on january 1st, definitely a personal record) and spending time with loved ones. Oh, and some beautiful presents, among which a vintage Joan-esque dress and Hobbs gloves:

Tell me, do you have any big plans for 2012? An hour or so after the countdown to the new year, my friends and I found ourselves discussing New Year's resolutions. I can't recollect ever having made serious resolutions at the beginning of a new year, and Saturday night was no exception. I'm no out of control Lindsay Lohan, but I'm definitely not an epitome of self control either, so there just didn't seem a point, really. That's why I cheerfully omitted the poisonous cup of guaranteed failure without even thinking of sipping.

However! I've been thinking about committing myself despite all of the above. What I've been thinking about is not as much a resolution as it is a project or - put a tad more grandiloquently, as fits a grand idea (ha) - a personal shopping manifesto. Why the change of heart? Writing this blog makes me conscious of the way I buy and wear clothes. It presented me with some much-needed insights in my impulse buying, overspending and lack of consistency. It also made me take a closer look at other bloggers' shopping habits, some of which annoyed me to no end. The use of some terms, advice and general statements seriously got on my nerve. I won't bore you with examples, except this one:

Designer stuff is too expensive for me, I can only afford high street clothing.

I don't mean to offend anyone, but I. am. so. sick of this. This statement is usually embedded in an endless loop of H&M/Zara/Mango/F21/Primark-outfit pictures. If you have 40 pairs of cheap shoes and can afford to go shopping twice a month, maybe money is not your problem. Maybe (impulse) spending is.

Easily said, right? Hugh Latimer once stated: the maid's child is ever best taught. The man may have gotten burnt at the stake, but that doesn't mean he didn't have a point - or a distinct sense of fashion, while we're at it:

Puff sleeves! A collar! A baret! A sleeveless parka! If anything, he was man repelling. What Hugh meant to say is: it's easy to pass judgement on other people's behavior. It's easy to shout out criticism from the sideline. I know I'm pointing fingers, but I promise I'm just as critical of myself.

A dress for 150 euros might seem utterly expensive, frivolous, or even wasteful when you're used to spending somewhere between 15 and 50 euros on garments. Of course it does. But taking an honest look at our closets, most of us will probably have to admit that they are overflowing with stuff we don't really need. What would the cost of all that count up to? For instance, I would guess I have about 25 dresses. Except for one exception, none of them were bought for less than 20 euros. Some of them cost about a 100 euros. Say I have about 5 expensive dresses, 15 not too cheap but not too expensive ones and 10 that cost me anywhere between 20 and 30 euros. That sums up to a nice 1500 euros at the very least - surely a sum good enough to buy a number of well designed dresses made in good circumstances with durable and pleasant fabric.

Troughout my teenage years, I had a shopping budget of 25 euros a month. I never found myself able to build a wardrobe and was always wanting for new things, to fill some or other sartorial gap. I can easily afford to multiply that budget these days, and yet the time I spend thinking I don't have anything to wear has not decreased one bit. This is caused by two problems: lack of vision and fast consumption. It's a bitch of a vicious circle, basically. I buy things I like without considering how they can be incorporated into my wardrobe. As a consequence, I have to buy new things to be able to wear them. For this I often resort to cheap alternatives.

Time to put an end to this idiotic habit. The clothes we buy might come cheap to us, but this usually means they cost someone else a great deal. When we buy bad quality clothing, people - generally our mothers - tell us that we got what we payed for. As a matter of fact, it's much worse: we also made sure someone else wasn't payed properly for the job he or she did. I often wonder how the hell it's possible that chains can sell a pair of jeans for 20 euros. This means that after the cost of the material, labor, transport, rent, marketing and wages of personnel they still make profit. HOW on earth is that possible? Obviously costs are cut on two fronts:

- Quality and sustainability of materials
- The wages of the people making the clothes

Inspired by Lucy Siegle, this post and this article, I decided I no longer want to be part of blantant fashion abuse, be it ethically or ecologically. Following all that, my goal for 2012 is threefold:

- Not to buy anything from high street shops such as H&M, C&A, F21, Sacha, Zara, New Look, ...
- Only buy clothing produced within the EU. Exceptions can be made when good working circumstances are guaranteed (for instance fair trade products, local projects, etc.).
- Restrict impulse buying. Make sure that what I buy fits in with my wardrobe; plan what to buy; think more thouroughly about looks before going shopping. Spend more money on basics, less on frills.

I will allow myself one exception to these rules, being pantyhose. I only own two pair of pants, so I need plenty of pantyhose. I always stick to the same brand (Cette), because in my experience, they're the only ones that aren't too short. (A length of 6 ft comes with its own costs.) I'm not quite prepared to give them up. If anyone knows where to find great pantyhose for tall women, I'll be happy to hear about it.

So that's that. I'll post further thoughts and findings here, if only to make myself stick to the plan. I have to admit, it's a little exciting, the whole resolutions thing!


  1. Groot gelijk heb je! Vroeger kocht ik echt veel kleren bij H&M, maar dit jaar kan ik bijna op één hand tellen wat ik er gekocht heb. Als ik even nadenk komen mijn kleren meestal van UO, Monki, Mango, T2 Vintage en heel af en toe Zara. Succes in ieder geval! Of zoiets mij zou lukken weet ik niet. Ik beperk de aankopen in ieder geval tot een minimum.

  2. Hm - had ik dan toch de bon voor een kast-opruim help oefening moeten doen?

  3. Happy New Year! Good to see that I wasn't alone in thinking about New Year resolutions the moment the clock ticked midnight...Mine were a little bit more 'basic' and on the healty living front (personal evergreen NYRs are 'going to the gym on a weekly basis' and 'don't eat cookies after dinner'...Now, my NYR is trying not to abandon the above mentiones ones in February...)

    I think you made a very good point and to me the quality of clothes is of paramount importance. If I don't have the budget to afford certain things, I prefer to wait and generally I carefully consider what could be a good investment piece, which I would like beyond the trend of a season. Actually, since I started my blog, I somehow reconsidered H&M and Zara. I wouln't shop there on a regular basis, but they do have certain lines (like Zara Studio and H&M Trend) that offer clothes of better quality and cuts.

    Looking forward to hearing the other NYRs...Have a nice evening!

  4. Kast is opgeruimd!

    NJAPD: Haha, those are the traditional ones, aren't they? I'll cross my fingers for you! As for quality, yes, you can totally tell your strategy from your outfits. You've got some amazing investment pieces. Maybe I should make an inspiration board and put you on there. :)

    Marijke: Dankjewel!

  5. I am so glad I am not the only one waking up to the horrible nature of 'buy it cheap then throw it out' fashion! Maybe together we can create a sort of fashion revolution lol.

    Would you believe I am also reading Lucy Siegle's book right now! I only discovered it AFTER I did my original post, I think that is a sign that we are onto a good thing.

    Good luck with your shopping manifesto, I will definately be following your journey.

  6. Dan hoor ik graag wat de kleuren zijn waar we in het vervolg voor jou moeten op focussen :)

  7. Great post. I have also switched to shopping ethically and have ordered Lucy Siegle's book which I can't wait to read. I have trouble with buying tights ethically too though.

    I wonder if you would be interested in joining a community I have set up for those that want to minimise the impact of their fashion. We have a forum and do monthly outfit challenges and DIY/ upcycling rounds ups.

  8. Hear hear! This year I'm doing my best to give up H&M, F21, etc. The exception for me here isn't tights but accessories... If it's on my list and it's there, I'll pick it up. Not the most ethical of solutions, but I suppose it's on par with people's resolution for "meatless Mondays"...Accessories go in and out of style so quickly, and outside of jewelry, it's hard to find a permanent place for them in my wardrobe.

  9. Great post!!

  10. Very interesting post ! I never thought about buying my clothes in such a wise way but I must admit that I do pay attention to not buy too much at Zara or H&M (which doesn't mean I don't have anything from these shops), that is why I spend more time on internet looking for interesting sites where to shop.
    I must also add that one thing I am definitely proud of is that I only buy clothes if necessary ( I am impulsive only for jewellry :P), if I need new pants, new sweaters or new shoes this trait of mine has helped me up until now not spending too much money. When I am saying that I mean when I buy as I don't go often shopping, I tend to choose better quality clothes eventhough it is not cheap or I wait for sales when I have seen something I need to buy.

    I don't know if I have been clear, anyway your post definitely invited me to be more self-conscious about what I'll be buying !

    Shug'A'Very from Incognito