I wear short shorts

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I have basically spent every weekend this summer wearing this pair of shorts. I love them and I love how I look in them.

They haven’t always been shorts. They were once a pair of jeans that I cut off when I got bored of them. My Mum suggested I’d cut them too short. I probably rolled my eyes at her.

Once upon a time I used to be self-conscious about wearing short shorts. As you can see, I have quite big thighs and a fair bit of cellulite. But I love my legs. Why? Because they mean I can WALK and RUN and CYCLE and DANCE and a whole load of other things that I am so grateful for. And the more I wear shorts, the more I like how my legs look in shorts.

Other women, including those with much thinner or more muscular thighs than me, have told me how lucky I am to be able to go out wearing shorts. Everyone can wear shorts. Like those widely shared instructions on how to have a bikini body (have a bode, put a bikini on it), my guide to wearing shorts are basically to just fucking wear the shorts. Yes, the first time (and maybe the next) requires some bravery. But it soon feels normal.

And today? I’m wearing shorts when I haven’t even shaved my legs in several weeks. Shocker.

5 things I’ve learnt from not buying new clothes

  1. Mostly, we shop because we can and not because we need to. It’s easy to go out and buy something new when you feel as though you don’t have anything to wear. But also, it’s been quite easy for me to put something together from what I already own. After a “but I have nothing to wear!” meltdown, it takes about two minutes of looking through my wardrobe to find something that I do have to wear. I’ve learnt to stop and think like a rational person, trust my style (rather than faddy fashions) and that throwing money at a problem is not always the best way to solve it.
  2. It’s easy to hide behind new clothes. The times that I’ve broken or seriously considered breaking my no new clothes resolution is because I’ve had a date or a job interview i.e. an occasion where I’ve been trying to impress somebody. Obviously people do judge on appearances, but real confidence comes from your self-esteem and not from a hot new outfit. Within a few days it will become an old outfit, and then you’ll have to buy another to get a new boost. Having to show up in old clothes has been good for building a new kind of confidence.
  3. It’s easy to fix things. Without the option of replacing them I’ve adjusted clothes that didn’t fit anymore, sewn up holes and basically done all the mending that’s been on my to do list for years. It wasn’t as difficult or take as long as I thought it would. It’s quite empowering to realise you don’t have to pay someone else to do this, or pay to replace something. Consumerism is a choice.
  4. Less is more. Weirdly, not buying new clothes has led to me giving more stuff away. It’s as though not constantly adding to my wardrobe has given me the space I needed to evaluate it properly. Instead of solving my lack of inspiration by buying something new, I’ve had to answer the question “why don’t I want to wear this?” Slowly, I’m getting rid of the things I’m not excited about wearing and feeling as though I have more to wear and not less (I guess because I now just see all the good stuff).
  5. You can convince yourself you need anything. But most of the time we just don’t. Not buying new clothes hasn’t been an inconvenience at all. I’ve managed to find myself outfits every occasion that’s come up. Not shopping for new outfits has saved me time, money and headspace – instead of worrying what I need to shop for I know I don’t do that and make do with what I have. There might be something I do need eventually, but having to make do with what I have has made me realise that I could probably keep making do indefinitely. Which is actually a little bit surprising.

How to wear the same pair of boots all winter

PicMonkey Collage

Last Autumn, I decided to invest in a decent pair of boots for winter. I boot them new and spent far more than I would usually on a pair of shoes. But it’s been worth it: I’ve basically worn them every day.

I’m trying to make a move to owning fewer clothes of better quality. Wearing the same pair of boots every day makes my morning easier by taking a choice of out my routine. Having fewer choices about things such as what to wear leaves me the emotional energy to make better decisions about things that matter a lot more, in my work and in my relationships.

Project 333 update and some thoughts on fashion

So I completely failed at Project 333 because a) I moved house half way through and it seemed more straightforward to unpack everything and b) I chose the wrong clothes. There were plenty of items in my original selection that I didn’t wear, but I also gave into the craving to wear things I had packed away and gradually started to pull things out again. I don’t feel too guilty about this because a) why should I? and b) I learnt some lessons about the types of things I want/need in a wardrobe.

I also failed in my attempt to not shop. I treated myself to a couple of investment pieces (winter coat and boots) that made me feel great. Again, I won’t feel guilty about this because life is a bit more complicated than buying stuff=bad not buying stuff=good. While fast fashion and mindless consumerism probably is bad, investing in your own style and self expression in a thoughtful and responsible way is necessary for a good life.

I recently read a wonderful story on the ReFashioner blog, which sums up my feelings exactly:

“I recently bought myself a present: a beautiful pair of washed lambskin Helmut Lang jeans that nearly cut my bank account in half. I’ll be honest, it was wildly irresponsible of me and I’m not advising anyone do the same. But I had just come out of a hard break-up, so I invested in myself and splurged on my now beloved “Freedom Pants.” I suffered no buyer’s remorse because when I close my eyes and envision myself at my happiest and most fulfilled—the person I want to be—well, I’m wearing those pants! 

That is how fashion can be powerful: As a form of self-expression, not as mindless consumerism.” Katie Patwell

How to Recycle Clothes That You Buy Travelling…

… when they turn out not to be the kind of thing that you ever want to wear again.  Even though, when in that market in Jaipur,  you convince yourself that they will be.

These were once two floor-length skirts.  While the red one could be rescued by cutting it to knee-length, the other still looked like I was trying to wear a pair of curtains.  Luckily, it looks much better having unpicked the stitching and re-used the fabric to make a cushion cover.

This skirt used to be a pair of baggy trousers that I wore a lot in India as part of a salwar kamise outfit.  After deciding that small-town England was not yet ready for such load trousers, I unpicked the trouser seems, cut a lot of fabric off, and then re-stitched as a skirt.  Much more wearable.

Slow Fashion

Identifying what she sees as the problems with ethical fashion in this week’s Observer Magazine, Polly Vernon says ‘Ethical sourcing and production is a lengthy process.  While main fashion rushes on, defining and responding to the will of the catwalk, the street and Agyness Deyn, ethical fashion plods behind it, hoping vaguely that people will want to wear sun dresses in muted shades of sage the year after next.’

Call me naïve, but this strikes me as a problem with fashion rather than ethical sourcing.  The length of time it takes to source the materials for and to create an item of clothing should be the thing that defines the changing window displays on the high street, as opposed to the changing whims of the fashion industry defining how quickly we can create clothes.  Thinking about it logically, fashion should fit in with our human time scales rather than having us running around in a panic, forcing children in Uzbekistan to be taken out of school to pick cotton and women in Bangladesh to work around the clock without so much as a toilet break (or a living wage).   I’m sure if we all clubbed together we can help stop this nonsense.  You don’t really need to be buying new outfits each season, or even every year.  Those stampedes in Topshop just make us all look a little like idiots.  Come on now girls, really.

Stephen Bayley seems to agree, writing in The Times today, ‘Because it depends on the excitation of new desires that will inevitably, as the system demands, be replaced by even newer desires in three months time, fashion is an affront to all notions of sustainability, decorum or good design.  If something is responsibly made, efficient and beautiful, you would neither want nor need to throw it away.’

Talking of slow fashion, this week I finally finished the skirt it’s taken me about three years to make out of second-hand ties.  There is no reason at all why it should have taken me this long, except for laziness, which I suppose is a good a reason as any.

Excess Consumerism: Is it possible to be an ethical shopaholic?

Today was a day of good charity shop finds.  These shoes cost me £2, and I also bought a white t-shirt for 50p (which I put in the washing machine before I could take a photo).

Anyway.  I could now write about my love of charity shops, but I feel like I’ve done it many many times before.  So I dug out an article I wrote for a campus magazine a few years ago which sums it up quite nicely.

Excess Consumerism: Is it possible to be an ethical shopaholic?

I like to think of myself as ethically minded, but shopping is a serious hobby of mine.  When I voice this dilemma to friends they usually point out that many of the stores I avoid do have ‘ethical’ options.  For example, New Look and Dorothy Perkins stock clothes made from organic cotton, and Marks and Spencer’s have a Fair Trade range.

I’ve always been a little sceptical about this.  What makes me uncomfortable about high street shopping is the amount of new clothes people seem to buy.  Is Fair Trade Cotton the biggest issue when each year the average UK consumer buys 35kg of textiles and sends 30kg to landfill?  Not that I consider fairly traded cotton and sweatshop labour to be unimportant, far from it.  But while these issues are gaining more and more publicity, the need to stop buying new things is often ignored.

How can the current trend for disposable fashion be sustainable?  Our ‘throw away’ mentality highlights a whole number of issues.  Developed countries make up only 20% of the world population but consume over 80% of the earth’s natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth.  Modern consumerism might offer us choice, but people need to realise that it comes at a cost.

In a bid to make my own stand, a couple of months ago I decided to give up new clothes.  As a former Topshop addict I feared this would be no easy task. But despite the temptation posed by mid-season sale posters in shop windows, I have been pleasantly surprised. A key benefit is affordability, and unlike when buying the bulk of your wardrobe from Primark, you aren’t running the risk of wearing the same dress as three other girls in your seminar.  Hunting for outfits in charity shops can also be quite fun, and what you should be wearing isn’t dictated to you in the same way as in fashion stores.  Unfortunately this has meant that I’m actually shopping a lot more, but at least by ‘recycling’ clothes my habit isn’t damaging the environment.  Besides, as I’ve now resigned myself to spending the majority of my student loan on clothes, I’d rather it go to charity that line the pockets of some large corporation.  Although its not strictly anti-consumerist (I still enjoy buying things, even if they aren’t new) I’m happy to find a way of shopping which agrees with both my conscience and bank balance.