transformation month

I Didn’t Buy Any New Clothing For a Year — And It Completely Changed My Wardrobe

published Sep 20, 2022
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Back in 2020, I made a New Year’s resolution not to buy new clothes. After learning how devastating fast fashion is, I knew I didn’t want to contribute to the problem anymore.

I’d already been dabbling in buying items at consignment stores and on apps like Poshmark, where people can buy and sell clothing. For my resolution, I decided I’d shop for used items first, then rent for special occasions. I’d keep my new purchases to socks, underwear, and necessary footwear.

I had no idea how easy the shift would be. With everything closed and nowhere to be in 2020, I wasn’t tempted at all. I just bought a couple pairs of gently-used leggings and some easy-to-wear shirts that looked professional enough in my video calls. Then I continued into 2021 and 2022.

That’s not to say I never bought new, but I greatly reduced my consumption compared to previous years. I bought an adorable jumpsuit and staples like a pair of jeans and some T-shirts. I also bought my wedding dress new (but not for lack of trying to find used).

The experience of not buying new clothes taught me some lessons about creating a sustainable wardrobe I love:

Know what styles work. 

Before the challenge, my closet was filled with things I never wore because they weren’t flattering, or I didn’t have the right shoes or bra to make it work. You can’t alter items you rent for a weekend or a month, so if it’s not a style that usually works for you off the rack, skip it.

It’s disappointing to get a rental box of six items only to find that some don’t work at all. Case in point: When I rented for a beach vacation and two of the sundresses were too long for me to walk in — even with my tallest wedges. Now, I’m more conscious of what styles and colors work for me, and double-check measurements.

Plan ahead.

Before an event-packed week, I’d make a list of what I’d need. For example, one fancy dress for a wedding, one casual dress for a midday brunch, and a couple fun outfits for dinners and gatherings with friends. Knowing what was coming gave me time to find pieces that would work and let me fill in the rest with rentals.

Check listings carefully.

When buying off sites like Poshmark, read the description carefully. Some people snatch up coveted items from stores like Anthropologie, then sell them for a profit. I fell for this and bought a shirt NWT (new with tags), which totally defeated the purpose of what I was trying to do.

Credit: Liz Calka

Rent for vacations. 

The floral dresses I love on a Maui vacation don’t work for my regular life in Minneapolis. So instead of buying clothes for a vacation, I rent. I like Nuuly, where I get six items to use for a month. Then I can put the subscription on hold until I need it again.

Pass it on.

The experience has made me more thoughtful of what earns a permanent spot in my closet. I bought a used dress on Poshmark to wear as a wedding guest. Even though I loved it, my need for strapless gowns is infrequent. It made most sense to re-list for someone else to use. I even passed my wedding dress on to another bride.

I also cleared out clothes that didn’t fit right or that I no longer needed. I still have more than I need, but at least I know everything in my closet fits my body and my lifestyle (well, mostly anyway).

Recycle the rest.

Minimizing the contents of my closet meant my clothes started to wear out. You can recycle many fabrics even if your clothes are torn or stained, and some retailers (like H&M) accept old clothes for recycling. You can also check with your municipality for drop-off locations — I like Ridwell recycling boxes.

This piece is part of Transformation Month, where we’re showing off amazing home makeovers, brilliant tiny tweaks, inspiring before & afters, and so much more. Head on over here to see it all!