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A Year of No New Clothes

July 6, 2016

Sarah Randall

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Y E A R of no new clothes

The Beginning

This journey of mine started on accident. It was fueled by frustration, really. I was sick and tired of feeling like I needed a new outfit for every outing. There was a sense of irony in staring at a closet full of clothes and having “nothing to wear.” I felt extremely unsettled by the fact that I was a part of the wealthiest 1% of the world and couldn’t even be content with my own wardrobe. Do I really need more clothes? The answer is no. 

I’ve always been one to enjoy a challenge, so I decided to make it official: 1 Year, No New Clothes. I wanted to see how creative I could be with the things I owned. Considering the fact that we think of ourselves way more than others think about us, I had a feeling no one would even notice. Can we really tell when someone is wearing a brand new blouse versus something they bought two months ago? Six months ago? I don’t think so. 

At the time of my soul-searching, it was April. I realized that I had already gone since January without purchasing any clothes. I figured, if I had already gone a third of the year, what was another two thirds? There was nothing to lose, really. I would train myself to become more resourceful, save a pretty penny, and start to cleanse my mind of the American obsession for more.


I made it official the same way we make all our experiences “official” in these modern times: posted about it on Instagram. The response was positive: friends were inspired, people reluctantly admitted to buying new pieces each week, and others who had been trying to do the same thing but gave up expressed the desire to start again. I felt a sense of camaraderie – that deep down, a lot of people want the same thing I do- to be free from this cultural nonsense. Free from the need to be constantly buying, from the desire to impress others with their wardrobe at every social event, and free from the lie that we’ll never have enough. 

When I made this decision 1 year with no new clothes, I never intended it to be more than just a one-year personal challenge. Little did I know, it would turn into seven months of research on consumerism and the U.S. fashion industry, a shocking moral and ethical dilemma, and a full-fledged conversion in the way I buy. 

Heart Changes

I’ve had to give up trying to impress other people all the time. I’m not focused anymore on what I’ll wear to every fancy event. I just pick something from my closet that I feel good in and go with it. I really think this has helped me to take the focus off of myself. So far this year I’ve been invited to eight weddings (plus the bridal showers) and traveled out of the country twice. In the past, I probably would have updated my wardrobe for each of these occasions. This experience has changed my philosophy. Exciting event no longer necessarily means new clothes.

I went to one of those weddings last weekend. I had seen most of the people there before within the past year or so. But I can honestly say that I have no clue what everyone was wearing at the last function. I truly don’t believe people think about us as much as we perceive them too. And there is an amazing amount of freedom in this realization. 

Second, I no longer think that more is better. I’ve realized I’d rather have a dozen things that I love and trust than a hundred things that half fit and are threadbare after ten wears. When this year comes to a close, I’m already planning to make wiser purchases: to spend more money on high quality items from companies who are responsible (click here to read about a couple favorites). 

If this challenge seems a little daunting, try a simpler version: One Month, No New Clothes. Not only will this decision benefit the environment and help slow down unethical trade, I’m almost certain you’ll find it also grows you as an individual! 

Go check out to learn more about ethical fashion!


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