When I was in my teens and through college, I would spend any spare money I had on clothing, shoes (a big obsession) and accessories. Anything I could afford was made mine, which mainly consisted of cheap Primark sales items. I would buy every colour, style and texture under the sun, as long as it was £1/2 , just so I could buy 𝐐𝐔𝐀𝐍𝐓𝐈𝐓𝐘.. but I never bought 𝐐𝐔𝐀𝐋𝐈𝐓𝐘.
My style also wasn’t cohesive at all. How could it be? I based a purchase on whether I could afford it or not or if it was on sale, not if it suited me. AS you can see from some of the photos below, my style wasn’t really there at all. It was a bit of a mess. I went through a vintage phase in 2012/2013 when I got my first retail job in a vintage shop in Galway City. Shortly after that was when I discovered all the charity shops around Galway and realised how much further my money could go when I bought second hand (it wasn’t about the environment at the beginning). Then moving to Limerick City to complete my degree in Fashion Design, I discovered a whole world of second hand, vintage and charity shops. I wasn’t totally anti fast fashion yet though, but as I worked for 3 years in a high-street clothing store, it began to sicken me just a little bit.
During my 4 years in Art College, I learned a lot about climate change, feminism, consumerism, human rights, fast-fashion, slow fashion etc.. Art College will have that affect on you 😛 Those really were my formative years. I went in in 2014 not really thinking about my place in the world and the impact that just one person can have, and I emerged in 2018 very much informed by the people I met, the protests I took part in, the classes and talks I attended and everything in between. I was buying second-hand, gave up eating meat and was addicted to my re-usable cups and tote bags.
Our teens and twenties are the perfect time to experiment with fashion – I just wish I had discovered my love for second hand fashion earlier so that my experimenting wasn’t affecting the climate or those involved in the production of fast fashion quite so much.
Fast forward to now, and I have about a quarter of the clothing I did then, way fewer colours, prints and textures, and everything is in a style that suits me, suits my body, fits me, and is good enough quality to last multiple wears and washes.
This has made SO much of a difference to my life, because I’m no longer spending all my excess (or sometimes not excess) money on fast fashion. I buy books, I go out for coffees with friends, I go on trips away, I save up and invest in quality pieces that excite me, I buy house plants, and most importantly I’m saving for my future.
How to Break the Fast Fashion Cycle:
Follow accounts on Instagram that inform you of the effects of fast-fashion, from climate change to human and animal rights. Some great accounts are: @goodonyou_app , @slowfashionseason, @ethical.fashion.guide, @fashionourfuture, @thefashioncommonroom, @FashionRevolution, @SustainableFashionForum. Once you gain a bit more insight into what goes on in the fast-fashion industry [from slave-labour, inhumane working conditions, abuse of human rights, animal cruelty, harsh chemical use, extremely high levels of water usage, rivers and seas water contamination, to name a few] you won’t want to support such an industry anymore. Having this knowledge base is crucial because if we don’t know the kinds of practices we are enabling and supporting, how can we make a change?
Un-follow triggering accounts on social media.
I un-followed all accounts that promoted buying new a lot and that would trigger me to want to shop. I un-followed fast-fashion brands on Instagram too. I also unsubscribed to all marketing emails from shops that notified me of sales or new-ins or if I was browsing and I ‘forgot to checkout’. If I want to shop it will be because I thought of it myself, not because I’m being constantly reminded.
Get an accountability buddy.
This tip works for a whole range of new habits. If you have someone in your life that may also be willing to give up on fast fashion and turn their wardrobes into something more manageable and sustainable, then maybe suggest becoming accountability partners for each other. You can even help each other clear-out your wardrobes, which will make it a lot more fun. You can go second-hand shopping together too, if you’re both new to the idea. You may already have a friend that is super into sustainable fashion, charity shopping, depop shopping or all of the above. Enlist their help, as I’m sure they would be glad to impart some wisdom.
Learn to shop Second Hand.
When we shop second-hand, we are saving vital resources that would otherwise be used up in the production of new clothing; water. The production of fabric can cause a huge amount of harm to the land it is grown on because of the use of pesticides. This also contributes to water contamination, which in turn harms the people who rely on the water to drink. I personally LOOOOOOVE shopping second hand because I love the thrill of searching for what I want. I could spend hours on Depop searching for really specific things like ‘black sleeveless high neck
Shopping second hand not only saves the planet and vital resources, but it saves you money! If, like me circa 2014, you have very little to spend on clothing but you still manage to spend a LOT because you can’t seem to give up, I urge you to make the swap to shopping second hand. It’s a great stepping stone to giving up on fast-fashion and shopping altogether. If you buy from charity shops you can release your guilt from spending money, because it will be going towards a good cause. Having guilt around spending money will have the opposite affect of saving money, and will ensure you repel money even further. (LOA 101!)
Learn how to sew.
Making your own clothes might seem out of reach for you if you don’t already know how to sew. However, with so many Sewing & DIY videos on YouTube it’s so easy to learn to sew from scratch or to upcycle some clothing. This can be really useful when you want to alter vintage or second-hand items, or give something you already own a bit of a fresh look. My favourite DIY accounts are: With Wendy, Coolirpa, Rosalie Apparell, Tint of Mint (you can buy her digital patterns, and she also has her own handmade brand @mogisue). I also recently set up a second YouTube channel for my own sewing and DIY projects, @GemmaDIYs / Gemma DIYs. If you didn’t know I have a degree in Fashion Design and have been sewing since I was about 9 or 10, so sewing is in my bones at this stage. My Nana was also a seamstress, so I’m pretty sure I get it from her 🙂 Learning some simple sewing can also be useful for repairing items in your wardrobe that may have lost a button, broken zip, tear in the seam, need to be hemmed, want to make it sleeveless etc. Hand-stitching can sometimes be enough for these simple repairs.
Build a Capsule Wardrobe
Once you reduce down the amount of clothing and accessories you own, it kind of sets you on a path of no return. By that I mean, once your wardrobe is clean and organised and you love everything you own, you generally won’t want to mess that up by hoarding again. I made a video HERE about How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe, and I also have an eBook with a step by step guide on how to figure out what to include in your very own Capsule Wardrobe. Some great inspo accounts for building and maintaining a Capsule Wardrobe are Signe from Use Less (Scandi & Minimal), The Anna Edit , Jessica Harumi, Audrey Coyne (Timeless Style), Lee Vosburgh, Jess from StyleBook App, Carina from CarinaStyle (over 50’s style), Louisa Hatt, A Small Wardrobe, Eunice from Fashionenth, and these are just a few of the accounts I follow to keep me inspired.
Curbing my ‘𝘢𝘥𝘥𝘪𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯’ to shopping and spending and consuming wasn’t a straight road. There was always relapses, and multiple de-cluttering sessions over the years, but it’s a process.
I’m really happy to finally say that fast fashion doesn’t have the same hold on me it used to. I can still see something and think “𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵” but my mind then thinks “𝘺𝘦𝘩 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰𝘯𝘵 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘵, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘸𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘪𝘵, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝘪𝘵, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮??” Sometimes my mind pisses me off and I’d just like to indulge but I know better now, and there’s no way to switch that conscience off 😜
If you feel like you’re a little bit too addicted to shopping and you want to stop, or you spend more than you can afford to on clothing and shoes, or you simply want to find more peace in your wardrobe, I have an 𝐞𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐤 all about building the perfect 𝐂𝐚𝐩𝐬𝐮𝐥𝐞 𝗪𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐫𝐨𝐛𝐞 for you.
Once you create a more minimal, thoughtful closet, it will make you a little less likely to want to buy loads more ‘𝘴𝘵𝘶𝘧𝘧’.
Breaking old habits take time, so be gentle with yourself during the process 💕
Further reading to help break your bad shopping habits: