Have you heard of the No New Clothes movement? The concept is simple: do not buy any new clothes for a year. Think you could pull it off? Why not start now, in the thick of COVID-19! There’s nothing to do or nowhere to go so it should be relatively easy, right?
Everyone who started No New Clothes in 2020 must be cheering. COVID has kept us all cooped up inside wearing soggy greys, stained trackie dacks, oversized tees and robes for almost six months. Ol’ Rona quite literally threw away the keys — to the city, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, music festivals, events and anything else we’d get dressed up for — along with our sense of style. The thought of wearing a little black dress, wobbly heels and “festival fashion” seems a lifetime ago.
COVID forever changed the world. Rapidly and without remorse, the year 2020 shined a bright AF spotlight on our collective darkness and unconsciousness. What we can do, however, is use the momentum of 2020 to change our habits, starting with our wardrobes and our incessant obsession to spend.
Say hello to No New Clothes.
Girl, you look so fly
TV presenter and radio host, Jan Fran, has been doing No New Clothes for almost a year. For Jan, buying no new clothes has opened up a new avenue for creativity and style. “I love it. I can wear whatever I want. I can wear this ridiculous ‘80s jacket that has massive shoulder pads that I found in an op shop because that’s where I buy my clothes now,” she reveals. “I am licensed to be creative in a way that I wasn’t before, which has been one of the most surprising and joyful things for me. Buying no new clothes is so fun and creative.”
Jan also lives near op shops and has the time to rummage through mountains of clothing, which means subscribing to this movement is quite accessible. Another reason why it’s been easy for Jan to stick to No New Clothes is because she’s a small size.
“The truth is, if you’re a bigger person, you’re not going to find as many options in a second-hand store as you would in a new outlet,” she shares. She also notes that finding corporate clothes can be tough. “If you’re someone who has a corporate job, you might be really limited in the types of clothes you find in op shops that you can wear to work.”
Find your why
If you’re thinking of joining No New Clothes, it’s important to find your why. Perhaps you want to save money? You despise shopping? Or, even better, you’re horrified by the gross amount of textile waste going to landfill.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one Australian buys an average of 27kg of new textiles each year and discards approximately 23kg into landfill. Of that, two thirds are man-made synthetic fibres that may never break down. Never. Break. Down. Which means your great, great, great, great, great (if humankind makes it that far) great grandkids could dig up that shitty polyester dress you bought from a fast fashion outlet way into the future.
Need another “why”? Did you know that Australia throws away about 6000kg of clothing every 10 minutes, 85 per cent of which winds up in landfill? These facts were revealed by War on Waste, an ABC three-part documentary that aired in 2017. Explicitly branded sustainable or otherwise, clothes thrown away contribute to the extravagant amount of waste polluting the earth.
“There is something about the cheapness of and accessibility to clothes that makes us not value them very much,” Jan says. “We don’t really value where they come from, how they were made or what happens to them when we throw them away, which is a huge issue.”
Joining the No New Clothes movement has helped Jan to think of fashion as “circular rather than in and out. I buy my clothes from op shops and then they go back to op shops, or I swap items with friends for other garments. Either way, my clothes end up being circular rather than linear,” she shares.
“You can still have exciting outfits and wear fashion that feels new and fresh; you just avoid contributing to the wastage,” Jan says, going on to share her latest find: a bright red velvet vintage dress she’s craving to wear out in the world.
When it comes to No New Clothes, you don’t have to be an all or nothing person. “Start by finding something in an op shop, renting a dress for a particular event or keeping an eye out at the markets for second-hand clothes. Give it a shot and see how you go rather than saying ‘okay, I’m not going to buy any new clothes for a whole year’,” she says.
Create a capsule wardrobe
A capsule wardrobe is a mini wardroom made up of versatile and good-quality pieces that you love and don’t change season to season. Usually it contains basics like a black dress, a tailored blazer, a few classic t-shirts, casual shirts, a few tailored pants, your favourite pair of jeans, shorts, a few skirts, a knit and versatile jacket.
Educator, speaker and capsule wardrobe lover, Alexx Stuart, says, “Creating a capsule wardrobe has freed up time, funds and the comfort of not over-buying clothes anymore. A wonderful side-effect will be that you put a lot more care into what you replace things with.”
If you segment your wardrobe into occasion-based clothes, you eliminate the stress about “not having something to wear”. Alexx says you not only avoid stressing and frantically trying things on and removing them to try something else, “but you also save money and the planet precious resources and micro plastic dust”.
Because the No New Clothes initiative is relatively new, there are still a number of barriers to it. “I really hope that the more demand for it, the more supply there will be. It’s not fair that because you’re a smaller person you have more vintage clothing accessible to you, but that’s the reality of vintage shopping,” Jan says.
How to buy No New Clothes
- Visit op shops and second-hand shops
- Rummage through vintage shops
- Swap clothes with friends, online marketplaces or your local community
- Mend and repair your clothes
- Tailor clothes to breathe new life into them, such as taking up the hems on dresses or skirts
- Rent clothes through companies like GlamCorner, Your Closet or All the Dresses
- Buy pre-loved clothes from Worn for Good, a social enterprise that gives 100 per cent of its profits to charity
- Borrow clothes from friends and family
Break the rules
- It’s okay to buy new delicate garments like underwear, bras, socks and stockings
- It’s hard to find second-hand yoga tights or exercise pants so buying good-quality tights that will last for years is okay
- Basics like second-hand tees and singlets are hard to find
Take a peek inside Alexx’s capsule wardrobe
The speaker dress
I wear the one dress, time after time, for every speaking gig until it dies. The current one is on 32 wears with no signs of wear and tear yet.
The casual coffee meet/school drop-off/working-from-home/out-and-about clothes
Two pairs of jeans: 1 light, 1 dark
1 pair of cotton pants, easy-wear, mega-comfy
4 t-shirts and 4 long-sleeve shirts
2 pairs of socks
2 pairs of slip-on sneakers in different colours/styles
The workout option
2 pairs of bottoms
2 pairs of gym socks
1 pair of trainers
The posh do or smart meeting
1 short-sleeve knee-length dress with a matching cardie
1 long-sleeve silk dress
The casual summer situation
1 maxi dress
2 short dresses
2 light cardies
1 denim jacket
1 pair of sandals
The beach get-up
2 pairs of bathers
1 throw-over-bathers cotton beach dress
1 pair of rubber flip-flops
The winter outfit
1 black coat
3 wool-based jumpers
2 light cotton jumper/sweatshirts
1 pair of tracksuit pants
1 pair of ankle boots
1 pair of knee-length boots
1 pair of Ugg/indoor boots
1 PJ pants
1 PJ top
I use the tracksuit pants from winter to double-up here on super-cold nights as well as a long-sleeve top from casual clothes if needed, rather than buying extra bed clothes.
2 winter scarves: 1 neutral, 1 bright
1 summer scarf, neutral