The No New Clothes Challenge Begins to Change

You might recall the adventure I began in May 2009. I was feeling frustrated with the clothing industry and myself.

  • I didn’t know what to buy because I didn’t follow or understand fashion.
  • When I was in stores, I never felt like I was good enough or worthy enough.
  • And to make it full circle, I was annoyed by the number of clothes I owned and kept purchasing.

So I went on strike. I told Martin, “We’re not buying any clothes for the next three months.”

The No New Clothes Challenge snowballed into something that went on for well over two years. It brought some of the greatest changes in my life, and most of them had nothing to do with the actual fabric itself. I hope these discoveries can help you, too.

There’s nothing greater than loving your own skin.

6 Lessons From Not Buying Clothes:

1. Patching clothes is easy with a sewing machine.

When I first got my sewing machine (before the challenge), the shop owner asked our little introductory class, “Do you want me to show you how to use the darning stitch?” My classmates were a bit older than me and all screamed, “Noooo!”

It wasn’t long into the No New Clothes Challenge that Martin and I started getting holes in a lot of things, especially cheaper clothes. I was regretting my silence in class that day until I figured out how stinkin’ easy it is to repair our clothes.

I learned to make fabric flowers from old clothes, mend clothesalter sweaters, and darn socks. And it’s not hard.

biking in clothes over 5 years old

2. The quality of your clothes does matter.

Most of the high quality clothing that we own still looks really sharp (excluding jeans that are being worn and washed to death). The cheaper clothes? Those things become hangar remodeling clothes.

  • The color is faded.
  • Sweaters are pilling into an awful mess.
  • Armpits have holes
  • Threads along the seams are coming undone.
  • These clothes don’t fit. Some parts are stretched out; other parts sag.
  • Sleeves that used to fit no longer do, even while line drying. (Or in one case of mine, one sleeve still fits; the other is too short.)
  • Some areas are really thread bare.

with classmates in Berlin studying German; wearing a sweater from college

3. I started feeling more comfortable being me.

Different, adventurous, living in a house made of tires…

I forgot what was “standard” or “normal” or “acceptable”. Never walking into clothing stores helped. So did constant journaling in my She journal. So did living abroad where all of my classmates had immigrated to Germany from around the world. Our bodies weren’t the same (hello Katie the Giant!), neither was our culture or our language. Why would our clothes be?

4. We saved money that I then invested in my business.

Instead of buying more unloved sweaters than any one girl could wear in a season, I used that same money to buy some incredible tools for my journal making.

5. I found my signature look.

It costs the least. It never goes out of fashion. And for some reason, people really like it. (And everyone in Germany instantly knows: she’s an American.) And no. It’s not a cowboy hat!

love wearing a cowboy hat, pretending like I can pull it off; Columbia jacket from college

6. I started seeing what kinds of clothes and styles I loved and what kinds I didn’t.

You know how how easy it is to pick which house you’d like on House Hunters? It’s easy. You just have to say, “Do I like this one or not?” Clothes were like that for me when I knew I wouldn’t be owning any of the things I saw. I didn’t think about how a skirt would fit me or if it would be long enough; I just thought about what I was drawn to.

Today, a lot of the clothes we wore out during the challenge are perfect for hangar remodeling. We’ve also been adding to our wardrobes, and it’s been a whole new experience that we can’t wait to share with you and discuss in the upcoming season.

Yep! A focus on clothes. It’s back.

How are you feeling about clothes these days? Are you comfortable in what you have? Wishing for something more? Needing to purge? I hope you pause and share how you feel. It’s the best way for us to form ideas (and confidence).

Psst.. another journaling challenge planned for Gadanke’s facebook page this afternoon.