The ups and downs of attempting to go a whole year without buying any new clothes...

...without becoming a naturist, as the title suggests

Monday, 4 July 2011

July - The Year is Up

So here we are, exactly 12 months on from the point where I sat down and decided to attempt a year without new clothes.

And wow, what a lot of unexpected changes there have been in my life in those 12 months!

So, I cannot admit that I stuck totally, 100% to my rules; I didn't. But what I can say, is that I spent £295.31 on new clothes in the past year. Which I have to say; I think is pretty impressive considering the circumstances. The breakdown of it is:

£114 two work dresses and wedding dress
£118.31 underwear - including leggings
£19 work shoes
£44 maternity tops

I can safely say that without being pregnant, I wouldn't have needed £44 worth of maternity tops, and certainly wouldn't have spent over £100 on underwear, seeing as most of the cost was due to stupidly overpriced maternity leggings and two bras which I wouldn't have otherwise had to buy. With that taken into account, I would only have spent about £150 during the whole year. 

I have mixed emotions about the 'year without clothes'. It has, without doubt, confirmed my view that people are crazy to spend hundreds of pounds every couple of Saturdays on things which will not last/go out of fashion/sit in their wardrobe, never quite fitting 'that' occasion. It just isn't necessary. I am only now coming up to an occasion where I genuinely don't have something suitable to wear; and that is simply because I have expanded to the point where I can't fit into anything which I would feel comfortable wearing to the church wedding that we have to go to in two weeks time. I can honestly say that during the year, there was not a single point where I needed something that I didn't have. I wore many of the clothes that had been sitting in the cupboard for months, unworn; some I felt awful in, so they were sent to charity, and in others I discovered new outfits which I had owned all along.

I did feel slightly disappointed that I couldn't give it a 'fair' go, and that being pregnant had 'mucked up my test' so to speak. But after some thought, I realised that in nearly every year there will be an event which requires specific clothes which you do not already own and perhaps cannot easily buy second hand. Whether that be a skiing holiday, travelling abroad in an extremely hot country, taking up a new sport that requires a kit; while you can get some things second hand, who wants someone's second hand long johns, football socks or cricket box!?

So perhaps this year has been more representative than I first thought. Which means that no... it isn't possible to be totally reliant on charity/second hand shops for clothing. You do need new underwear, and there will be times where you need something in a short time scale that just isn't available on ebay or in your local second hand shops. But I have worked, all year, as a well presented secondary school teacher. I have not lived in torn jeans and stained t-shirts. I have reached 30 weeks in my pregnancy. And I have done all this despite spending just less than £300 on new clothes and shoes.

But what is it that I am suggesting here? That everyone attempts to go a year with a budget of £300? Some people's initial response to that is that it would be an excellent first step to sorting out Britain's financial issues. But then clearly it would not. Imagine the scores of clothing chains which would collapse if Britain's clothes-shopaholics were to resign themselves to a £25 monthly spend. 

Nor am I naive enough to believe that, armed with their annual allowance of £300, the majority of the public would go to ethically minded companies, selling high quality products and purchase a selection of well made, coordinating garments to see them through the seasons. Rather they would be streaming into Primark to see just how many different items they could manage to afford with their meagre budget. That is certainly not what I want to promote.

There was never meant to be a moral, or a message, or even really a lesson as a result of this year (though I have learnt a few). But I feel that now I am here, at the end of the process, I do want to pass on some kind of message. Only I'm not entirely sure what it is. I suppose, in my unmistakeably un-succinct way, it is this:

Second hand shops have some amazing clothes, if only you are prepared to spend time finding them. Look again at your wardrobe; there will be combinations of things which you never considered before, but will now fall in love with. You might even discover that you have a talent for re-designing some of them with a bit of creativity and a needle and thread. Don't be too proud to tell well-dressed friends that you would love their cast-offs; even if you get one top from a whole bag, then you're winning. You do not need to spend several hundreds of pounds on new clothes every year; but make sure that what you do spend is spent wisely; with regard to where it is spent and what it is spent on. 

And that is the end of my year; on a personal note it has been therapeutic, not only to avoid spending money on unnecessary things, but also to keep this record of it. I hope that some of you have enjoyed reading it. I would love to hear your opinions; whether they be that actually spending £300 on clothes in one year is totally extravagant for you or that there is no way that you could go to an even wearing an outfit that you had been seen in before.

For me now, it is off to ebay to find something to wear to this wedding. 

Do you really think I would spend all that money buying something new which I won't be able to wear in another few weeks?! No chance...

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

May - Beaten by the Bump?

Important to note first of all, is that I have survived the wedding! Although things did get quite stressful in the last week, we had a fantastic day and everything went totally to plan - if not better.

All in all we managed to only go £80 over our total budget; spending £1,500 on drink, food, crockery, clothes, flowers, invites, rings etc. on top of the venue hire. 

I am massively impressed and have no idea why anyone would need to spend any more than that on a wedding - it was *perfect*.

And here we are, after the ceremony, tying the first ribbon to our apple tree...

I am now 22 and a half weeks pregnant and, as everyone keeps pointing out, huge! Loads of clothes have already had to go away in the attic as there is just no way I can squeeze into them any more. I have even outgrown R's pyjama trousers, which I had resorted to wearing once mine became too tight!

I have failed miserably to find any decent maternity leggings in my size, so I am still wearing my old ones (luckily the elastic has seen better days!) and turning them down to minimise the tourniquet effect!

However, and this is where I feel I may have let everyone down, I have had to buy some new clothes this week. SHOCK HORROR. I can honestly say that I feel dirty and ashamed. I only have about 6 weeks left to go and I would have completed the year, but I think by then someone at work may have had 'polite' words with me about my attire.

I am managing fine on the bottom half with a couple of old wraparound skirts and the wonderful maternity linen trousers I was given last month... but up top was a different matter! I was having to stretch all of my tops ridiculously around the bump, and they were getting shorter and shorter and giving me sore red patches under my arms where the fabric was stretched so tightly over my (quite excitingly) bigger boobs!

So... justification over, I headed for H&M to buy a few simple tops so that I could appear decent at work. I would love to say that I am now the proud owner of a glamorous maternity wardrobe... but I am in no way proud and it is in no way glamorous. 

I did, however, find two minor positives in my shopping experience and they are that all H&M basic maternity tops seem to be a blend of organic cotton - which is heading in the right direction. Also that I managed to find nursing tops, rather than just maternity tops. This means they have an exciting 'easy access' cross over of material at the front, to enable you to whip out a boob, whenever and wherever you need. Although I haven't sampled this function yet, it does at least mean that the tops will last a lot longer, as I will be able to wear them after the baby is born, rather than having to invest in more unwanted clobber.

So I bought two vest tops, two t-shirts and one long sleeve t-shirt which, in total, cost me £44. Stupidly over-priced, but unfortunately very necessary.

I am now just willing the hot weather to return, so that I can take off my leggings and breathe easily! 

Now that I have more time, I am going to spend an evening hunting out second hand clothes on the internet, as I am still finding absolutely nothing in charity shops and I am guessing that the bump is just going to keep on growing... and I won't let it catch me out again!

Even though the year will be up in a few weeks, there is no way that I am going on a spending spree. I could quite happily go another year without wanting to go into another 'real' shop again. And hopefully, on maternity leave, with baby in tow, I will have far more time to trawl the charity shops and dig out the best deals for when I need something.

I've been looking at other people recently and thinking how interesting it would be to just find out what they have spent on clothes/shoes in the last month, and what they think their average is.

Anyone want to share...?

Thursday, 14 April 2011

April - Coping with 'The Big Three' whilst trying not to shop

Where have the last six weeks gone? We moved house in the last week of February and, despite feeling almost totally settled in, still don’t have an internet connection; hence the long gap in entries!

We did quite well in my book (and amazingly well compared to most people) in not buying new things for the house. We found a £30 futon on ebay which was, for the first week, our bed and is now the sofa. When we find a decent sofa on ebay, the futon will move upstairs and become the spare bed… so £30 very well spent I think! We were given a dining table and chairs and a freezer, which a friend was throwing out, and we haven’t replaced the curtains which, though not to our taste, are perfectly functional for now. With these bits and pieces, and the few bits of furniture we already had, we have only had to buy a washing machine and bed new. The bed is from a company which I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend, called Big Table; they are based in London, where they make their own mattresses and use sustainably sourced timber to create simple but beautiful beds. We even managed to get next day delivery from London to Bristol!

The smaller things which we don’t have, such as garden tools, a camera and some kitchen knives, have formed a sort of wedding list, for those people who don’t like our ‘no presents’ request and feel the need to buy something! The wedding is now only two weeks away and the last couple of weeks seem to have disappeared so quickly. I am feeling worryingly happy and relaxed with the plans so far. We have managed to make, find or borrow so much of what we need for the day and it actually looks like we might stay within (or very nearly within) our very ambitious budget.

I trawled charity shops last week to see whether I could find a ‘wedding dress’, though not the traditional meringue. After 9 charity shops and no dresses which were remotely promising, I resorted to ‘proper’ shops. Even then I had no luck as I felt really fake in all of the dresses I tried on in shops like Coast and Monsoon. They were lovely dresses, just…not me, I suppose. Eventually I managed to find a dress which I felt really comfortable in and was a good compromise between ‘me’ and ‘wedding glam’. I found it in an independent shop on
Park Street
, and although it is 100% silk, I was amazed at the price. More details on that and photos to follow after May 1st!

It is a huge relief to have found a dress, perhaps even more so than it is for most people, due to another dramatic event in our lives. As if buying a house and getting married wasn’t enough to be getting on with, I am also growing a small person inside me! Although I am nearly 19 weeks pregnant now and not feeling like it is so small after all - especially not when trying on posh dresses!!

I really had no idea that I’d be planning a wedding, furnishing a new house or preparing for the arrival of a baby when I started this year, however I am determined to stick to my plan, and buy as few new things as I can. Despite my ever expanding waistline. I only have just over two months left of the actual year, but I feel really motivated to carry on… if I can manage a year like this, I can manage anything!

So; this month’s shopping update!
I have discovered that charity shops don’t ‘do’ maternity, and despite the fact that I have grown out of at least half of my clothes, I have managed really well so far. I have been given a black wrap-around dress and maternity linen trousers (both great for work). I have only needed to buy one maternity bra (£12). I have invested in two ‘bump bands’ (£9 for the pair) which are stretchy bands to wear over trousers or skirts with zips undone, so that I can still wear some of my old things. I also had to buy a pair of pumps (£19) as it has become too hot for my work boots, but sometimes too damp for my work sandals! So I have had to spend a disappointing £40 on new clothes this month, but I suppose considering the circumstances that isn’t too bad.

On the baby side of things, I have already acquired a huge selection of newborn clothes, thanks to a very generous friend with a 6 month old baby! Due to lack of internet and so much wedding planning to do, I haven’t had much opportunity to do as much research as I would like to have done, but I have found a cloth nappy company which I really like. This, perhaps is a topic for a new blog (or am I just getting carried away now!?) but I am going to try to buy the nappies second hand – why stop at clothes!? We are also going to try to find a second hand birth pool to buy/borrow, as we have decided to have the baby at home if possible.

But yes, I will stop with the baby talk now before you all stop reading this! It isn’t due to appear until September, so all research and preparation is now postponed until after the wedding and if I feel the need to ramble on about it, I promise I will create a separate blog!

Hopefully I will be able to post a ‘Wedding Special’ at the start of next month, with plenty of photographs and a breakdown of how to have a beautiful day on a budget. For now, I am going to go and make some (more) bunting to adorn every inch of the wedding venue.

Whoever invented pinking shears has my respect…

Monday, 14 February 2011

February - Another Creative Success

The daffodils are well and truly up and the snow drops are all out in force... but it's still not quite warm enough to throw out more winter clothes yet... is it?!

I think the changing season gives me more desire than anything else to have (another) total wardrobe clear out. I have been holding out though; we move house next week and so that is definitely a good excuse to make some more space!

I have to admit to some purchases this month; all 'legal' though. I bought 4 pairs of pants for £5 and a bra for £20, both from Marks and Spencer, and some tights for £7 (ridiculously expensive and when they ladder it will be time for bare legs!). But I have also been given quite a few things from cousins and friends. They are:
Two vest tops
Four t-shirts/long-sleeved t-shirts
A skirt
Three dresses
A pair of leggings
A long knitted cardigan.

So, despite all of my clearing out, the wardrobe is probably more full than it's been for a while!

I have also been particularly creative this month. Which I am very proud of!

I found quite a good deal on Dylon machine dye on ebay and so spent a weekend with the washing machine on almost constantly to produce two bath towels, one hair towel and two hand-towels, all a very bright 'Bahama Blue' which will certainly cheer me up more in the morning than their previous, slightly grubby, white did!

I also used 'Burlesque Red' (which is a gorgeous deep red-wine colour) on two vest tops and a duvet and pillowcases. At first this wasn't so successful. The vests were the colour I expected (though annoyingly were stitched with white polyester thread, which hasn't coloured) but the duvet cover and pillowcases were much lighter than I expected. When I checked the label I discovered they were 50% polyester - I had presumed that bedding would be 100% cotton. So there is my first lesson of dyeing - ALWAYS check the fabric label first; even if you think you know what it is!

After my initial disappointment and having slept in it for a week, I have come to love my 'blackberry stained' duvet cover and pillowcases and have decided that a deep red would have been too overpowering on such a big scale... maybe.

In other creative news, I have been experimenting with crocheting a rug out of old t-shirts. I wasn't sure whether it would work but it is going brilliantly and soon I am hoping to have a really decent sized rug to put by our bed in our new house. I was surprised by the amount of fabric it uses up without growing quite as much as I had expected, but now that I have got a little further on I can see that it is becoming really thick, which makes it feel much more substantial than I thought it would  be, which is a bonus. Unfortunately progress is going to have to slow down this week, as I have reached the end of my old t-shirt supply! Either R is going to have to have a clear out of his clothes or I might have to find a jumble sale. Anyone is welcome to send unwanted t-shirts this way!!

Here is a picture of progress so far; as you can see, it is only about 5 inches long at the moment, so still has a way to go! I have used two t-shirts and a pair of leggings to get this far.

Today I am sending off our wedding invitations, which I made out of scraps of fabric, sewn (with a machine) onto the card to create a line of mini-bunting. I am really proud of the overall effect, and the responses I have had so far have been really great. It is quite a simple design and used hardly any fabric but looks very impressive (if I do say so myself!)

Perhaps later in the year when things have quietened down, I will be able to add bunting cards and crocheted rugs to my etsy site! 

My next project is to felt the brown jumper from the Christmas market and see what I can make out of that. It might be getting a bit late in the year for wrist-warmers, so I'll have to see how much fabric there is one it is felted and experiment a bit.

I have loved being so crafty this month and feel really inspired to make more things. I just wish that I could devote more time to it.

Now I'm going off in search of more signs of Spring to convince myself that the cold weather really is nearly over....

Sunday, 16 January 2011

January: A very quiet month

I can safely say that so far this year, I have spent absolutely nothing on clothes, shoes or accessories. What's more I haven't felt the need to at all. Am I the only person who didn't buy anything in the ubiquitous sales?

I have been massively enjoying my Christmas socks and pyjamas and I finally parted with a truly worn out wool cardigan which I had been clinging on to on account of the fact that we are renting a FREEZING cold house and it was my warmest top. But I have taken up layering others and feel much better about myself now I'm not constantly wearing a big, bobbly mess of wool. So now there's even more space in the cupboard!

Due to the comforting warmth of having a laptop on my lap, I have been researching the ethical background of some big companies this month. My thinking is that once I start buying clothes again; I want to invest in a few, quality things which will last (although I will obviously carry on trying to find things from second-hand shops rather than new). So I am going to research the few shops that I really like, and see just how ethical they are. I have started with Marks and Spencer, which is invaluable for stocking up on decent underwear and plain t-shirts etc. Their credentials seem pretty good. I didn't know that the 'Plan A' project was so broad; with the company attempting to change some surprising aspects of production as well as the more obvious 're-use hangers' and 'reduce packaging' efforts. I had read that a few months ago it was discovered that M&S shared a factory with the dreaded Primark. While I'm unsure of the truth behind this, through reading the Plan A documentation, I noticed that they have set up several 'model factories' to promote ethical manufacturing. I also like the fact that they attempt to include a few fair trade and/or organic pieces in many of their ranges. 

Clearly M&S are not the perfect ethical store; no 'supermarket' style store ever will be, but compared to the others at the top, M&S are definitely making the most effort to promote better manufacturing procedures, more sustainable sourcing of materials and ethical trade. This I like, and I will continue to support the company; attempting to buy as much as I can from their fair trade and organic lines. I hope that you will too, as the more people who show an interest, the more likely they are to improve the choice of such products.

Still left to review then, are: Fat Face, White Stuff and Esprit. In the mean time, I'd be really interested to know if anyone else has any opinions or information on any of the shops/companies... I am hoping I won't discover that they are all owned by some horrendous multi-national; but I wouldn't be at all surprised. 

Off to put some more layers on then...

Saturday, 1 January 2011

A new year, the half way mark and a summary so far...

Phew, finally I am up to date and can stop writing in the past! Now everything from my note-book is here and I am really enjoying blogging. I have learnt that I waffle even more than I originally thought, and that some people are massively critical; but mostly I have just enjoyed writing for myself, rather than for work.

Although I have made sure that I have recorded everything I have bought or been given so far, I have no idea how much I have actually spent, so here is a summary of the first six months!

Given new:
top (for birthday)
top - didn't fit - £27 Fat Face voucher (for birthday)
pyjamas (Christmas)
4 x socks (Christmas)
pair of tights (Christmas)
black long sleeved t-shirt (Christmas)
CAT boots (Christmas)
3 x bras (late Christmas present)

Given second hand:
trousers (free from charity shop)

Bought new (£139.31):
Dress £62
Wedding dress £27
Bra £18
5 x pants £6
3 x tights £5
3 x leggings £21.31

Bought second hand (£43):
Skirt £3
Skirt £5 (but had to re-charity)
Skirt £5 (but had to re-charity)
Top £4
T-shirt £3
Skirt £5
Top £1
Cardigan £1
Trousers £2
Dress £7
T-shirt £2
Skirt £3
Jumper to felt £2

£182 spent on clothes in six months. Not bad. This is not the most exciting post of the year but I, at least, have found it really interesting. To be honest it's made me think that I probably didn't even need to buy some of the second hand things. Maybe during the next six months there will be even more savings; I certainly want to make more...

December - Getting Crafty

***Merry Christmas and a Happy Frugal New Year!***

I was slightly anxious about what I might have to write in this entry, anticipating that in all of the Christmas madness I might have resorted to the easy option of high-street shops to get presents. Happily I can say that, although I did have to pay a short visit to a shopping mall *shudder*, the majority of my presents were either hand-made, recycled or useful in some way! Several people received my handmade jewellery or cards ( which I make as a hobby anyway. I gave others gifts that I, or my family, had been given in the past and were new and unopened, but would suit someone else much better. Originally I felt torn - it was an amazing way to recycle, and I knew that some of the recipients would approve - but was it really just a bit cheap? So, in my usual style, I set about some conscience easing and googled 'regift' to see whether it was being slated by others! To my surprise, I found a website devoted to it! (

Other presents included razors, vouchers and a laptop, which most of the family clubbed together to buy for people who decided they would rather receive one gift which they needed, rather than many gifts, which they perhaps didn't need.

I bought R a pair of Jeans from Howies; he's wanted them for ages and will wear them until they disintegrate, so I don't feel bad. I also spent £17 of the closely guarded Fat Face voucher on some lovely wrist-warmers for a friend.

In terms of presents I was given, R has replaced my ancient CAT boots (with a huge hole in each heel) with a new and totally lovely pair, so that I have dry and snuggly feet for 2011. I feel it has been far too long without a shoe picture, so here they are!!

I also got some bits and pieces for the kitchen, a moonstone ring, a few pairs of really lovely socks and thick tights (the kind I couldn't usually justify buying for myself), a pair of pyjamas and a black long-sleeved t-shirt. My mum kept up the make-it-yourself theme and knitted me a hot water bottle cover, which I love!

I suppose the point of listing my presents is to make it clear that I wasn't given an entire wardrobe full of clothes for Christmas! And I certainly didn't buy anything in the sales!

I have bought quite a few things for myself this month; all second hand. At the start of December I had some excellent finds at a car-boot sale in Bristol, I got a black top (£1), a black wrap-over cardigan (£1) and a pair of tie-up trousers (£2). Had to buy some leggings as my one remaining pair had become thinner than tights, so got two pairs of black and one brown from Joe Browns for £23, but got £1.69 cashback on Quidco (my favourite website of 2010!) 

I also satisfied a 'shopping urge' by finding a Uttam butterfly dress on ebay for £7, which I have wanted for years.

At one of the many Christmas markets which I took my jewellery to, I bought a lovely GAP t-shirt, a brown patterned skirt for work and a brown woollen jumper for £7. The jumper is to felt and make into (hopefully) wrist-warmers and a skirt. I've never felted anything before, but have been told I just need to wash it on a hot wash with wool detergent until it has shrunk roughly 30-40% (must remember to measure it first!) Does anyone have any felting tips? I will let you know how it goes.

This is the next phase of the project... if you can't find what you want: make it. I've got lots of projects either planned or part-completed at the moment; felting the jumper is the first, then I plan to decorate the wrist warmers with some crochet flowers (I was also given a crochet book for Christmas and have practised by making a little hat for my friend's new baby). I'm hoping that being able to crochet will also enable me to 'tweak' charity shop finds to make them a bit more individual. I have been knitting for over a year now, but am still just making large squares to make a blanket and practise as many stitches as possible. Hopefully this year I will knit something 'real'! I'm also going to try to dye more things. I've got two white/cream bedding sets which were handed down to us a couple of years ago when we moved into our first flat. White is not a good colour. My refusal to use anything but Ecover washing liquid means that sometimes I don't exactly get the Daz effect with my whites (and no, I am not willing to compromise) so I am going to dye one purple to look at the effect. If it turns out fine I will do the other set and some white towels we have; who knows, I might even get creative with colours and effects! Again, I will report back on the progress!

So, watch this space for knitted, crocheted, felted and colourful creations...