Guilt Is So Not A Good Look

I write about my current obsessions but one thing should be clear. They don’t pass. They fade. I may not be obsessed with an item I have acquired anymore, but I still like it, and I always like it enough to not get rid of it and just move on to someone else. I only ever buy things I like enough to wear for a long time. I’m not a “disposable-fashionista” in the slightest.

I don’t high-street shop a lot. I went shopping three times in a fortnight not long ago, and that was pretty much my shopping done for the whole year. I probably won’t hit the high street until Christmas at the earliest, and even then I doubt I will buy much. I don’t really like the physical, beyond-my-desk-chair kind of shopping. It’s tiring, drains my bank balance considerably, and can be stressful if I'm looking for shoes. Also, it tends to make me feel guilty.

I’m an educated, socially and politically aware person. I have no excuses. I know about sweatshops. I know about organically grown cotton. I know that Primark and Topshop have been featured in the news for continuing to use factories with poor working conditions. I haven’t shopped at either for years, but to be honest, until recently my main reason for avoiding them is that I actively hate almost every item of clothing that they produce each season. I’ve never been into Urban Outfitters, because I know people (from the craft forums I frequent) whose designs have been ripped off by them. I've learnt that you can't just trust the high street. Every store you ask will deny being involved in sweatshop production at the very least. Even if one avoids the less ethically-conscious manufacturers and stores, they can still be, when buying new clothes, be engaging in “fast fashion”, which damages the environment and wastes resources. I was much better at this last year. I signed up to a Buy Nothing New campaign, inspired by The Compact, that was running in one of my favourite forums, and joined Wardrobe Refashion for six months. But I’ve fallen behind. Shiny and new is distracting, but like I said before, I have no excuses for allowing that distraction. Back on the wagon I go! It's a simple, three-point plan.

Shop ethically, and treasure our purchases.

Ethically means organic and Fairtrade. It is harder to find items that fit into both these categories – so I will also look for handmade and organic.

By treasure our purchases, I mean to say that we should look after them properly, check for repairs that need doing and do them. Darn our socks, sew up our hems that have fallen loose, mend the holes in our jeans and get our shoes re-soled. This is far cheaper in the long run than buying new items. Learn how to do it, it’s not difficult or time consuming. I recommend mending clothes as soon as you discover they need repair, otherwise you will put them back in the wardrobe, forget, and then either find yourself unable to wear them the next time or will go out, with, for example, a hole in the crotch of your jeans. Classy. No, I've never done that, but people I know have! If we no longer want items, we should pass them along to a friend or relative who will use them, or to a charity. Which brings me perfectly to my next point:

Shop second-hand, and donate unwanted items.

This means vintage and charity shopping (or "chazzing")! This is better for the environment than buying new, even organic items. They have already done all the damage they can do, and buying from charities actually helps the world. Purists would argue that this does not include vintage which has travelled between continents to fetch a higher price, because it has acquired yet another carbon footprint in the journey. But at least it's avoided the landfill. Find your nearest second-hand or charity shop here. My parents' town has seven charity shops just on the high street, it's brilliant. I love to tour them all, the staff are lovely and the Oxfam specialises in books so it entertains my literature-loving side as well. The best thing to do, however, is:

Buy as little as possible.

To just not go shopping unless we have to. To make do with what we've got and to create and reconstruct our own clothing. Okay, this isn't possible for everything. For example, I can't knit tights, can't create my own shoes, and I lack the millinery skills to make hats. But I can alter the t-shirts I'm bored with, turn dresses into skirts, and decorate anything too plain for me to enjoy wearing. I can knit, I can sew, I can change buttons and I can bead. I just need to do it more often, and shop less.


  1. I really like this post, Ms Julianne! I've just included it in a list of posts which I've recently come across that are helping me decide on the best way to use a collection of vintage buttons. You can find it here.
    Your post has really called me out on my rather hypocritical shopping habits. I like to think that I'm an ethical person. Certainly, when it comes to food shopping I make sure I buy local, organic or fairtrade. But when it comes to clothes I just love a bargain, and often find myself slinking back into Primark for a rummage. Reading your post has strengthened my resolve that I really need to change my ways. I love vintage clothing, and I enjoy making my own things and customising my basics. I need to embrace that part of my wardrobe, I think, and try to become less consumerist in my habits. Thank you for such a thought provoking post!

  2. I'm delighted to have inspired you, Amy Palko! I already have ideas for follow-up posts, so stay tuned (as it were).

    I look forward to reading your blog, I am jealous of your collection of vintage buttons already!


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